30 November 2021 – today’s press releases

  • Storm Arwen: Govt “abandoning” rural communities hit by power cuts
  • Zahawi breaks yet another promise as school absences soar by 80,000
  • Bring back work from home to help save Christmas

Storm Arwen: Govt “abandoning” rural communities hit by power cuts

The Liberal Democrats have demanded that the Government provide emergency support to rural communities who have been left without power for days after Storm Arwen.

In a letter to ministers from Liberal Democrat Communities Spokesperson Tim Farron MP, Welsh Party Leader Jane Dodds MS and local North Shropshire candidate Helen Morgan, the party warns that rural communities in areas like North Shropshire are being taken for granted and “abandoned by the Government in their time of need.”

Tim Farron also raised the issue in Parliament yesterday and criticised the Government for failing to make an official ministerial statement on the issue.

The letter calls for ministers to step in and provide food, emergency accommodation and other essential supplies to vulnerable people on the ground impacted by the storm. It also urges the armed forces to be brought in to provide emergency electricity generators to communities until power is restored, and for the Government to provide additional support to engineers working hard to bring back power as soon as possible.

The Liberal Democrats are also calling for new rules requiring electricity companies to prioritise investing some of their profits into local power networks, to help prevent outages in future. The letter states that it is “frankly unacceptable” that people are being left for days without electricity. The plans would require electricity providers to restore electricity to homes as soon as possible when power cuts do occur, or face fines from the regulator Ofgem.

The Liberal Democrat proposals would mean electricity companies like SP Energy Networks in Shropshire, which made £80.7 million in profits last year, would have to invest more in strengthening local power supplies.

Liberal Democrat Communities Spokesperson Tim Farron MP said:

It is a disgrace that families in rural areas have been abandoned by the Government for days following Storm Arwen. Ministers need to urgently step up and provide emergency support to those impacted, while taking action to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

People in our rural communities are fed up with being taken for granted and left without proper support when things go wrong.

We are calling for strict new rules that would force electricity providers to invest more in local power networks, with a duty to restore electricity as soon as possible when power cuts do happen.

Zahawi breaks yet another promise as school absences soar by 80,000

The Liberal Democrats have today accused Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, of breaking more promises as new statistics from the Department for Education (12:00 noon) revealed 216,000 children have missed school over two weeks, a rise of 47%.

Despite the Education Secretary’s promises to tackle these absences “head on” in October, these figures show 1 in 50 students have missed school during the last two weeks.

This is in addition to his broken promises on “investing in schools” to beat Covid, with the Government only stumping up one-third of the recommended catch up funding.

Zahawi also promised to “do far more for vulnerable children”, yet IFS figures show that the most deprived schools have been hit the hardest and the failure of the National Tutoring Programme.

The party also says he has not listened to pupils and families, nor put wellbeing at the centre of his policies by his inability to tackle these rising absences.

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

Nadhim Zahawi promised to “get a grip” but has broken almost every promise he has made in his short time as Education Secretary.

His failures are hurting our children’s learning. Every week that he fails to get to grips with the situation represents thousands of lost learning hours, putting our children’s education at risk and losing the trust of parents.

“He must outline a clear strategy, to avoid school closures and significantly reduce absences before Christmas. After the walking disaster that was Gavin Williamson, children and their parents deserve someone better who will move heaven and earth to put their needs first.

Bring back work from home to help save Christmas

The Liberal Democrats have urged the government to bring back official guidance to work from home where possible, to help keep cases of the Omicron variant down ahead of Christmas.

The government’s SAGE committee has previously said that working from home would have the biggest individual impact on reducing transmission of the virus, but ministers have so far ruled it out.

It comes as head of the UK Health Security Agency Jenny Harries this morning suggested working from home could be introduced if there is a surge in cases of the new variant, but for now called instead on people to reduce their social contacts this winter.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said:

Boris Johnson should bring back working from home now in order to help save Christmas. Everything we know about this virus suggests it’s better to be cautious and act early.

Ministers should listen to their own scientific advice, which found working from home would have the single biggest impact on reducing Covid cases. This could buy us precious extra time while our scientists find out more about the potential impact of this new worrying variant.