Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Councillor Ilyas launches re-election campaign

On Sunday 22 April, Councillor Mohammed Ilyas launched his re-election campaign in the Queens road neighbourhood centre in Park ward, Halifax.

A packed room listened intently to Councillor Ilyas outline what he has done for the community since he was elected. This included renovations to children's play areas to make them safer and changes to road-markings asked for by residents.

I spoke at the meeting asking those assembled to make sure that hard working Liberal Democrat councillors like Mohammed Ilyas are re-elected, so they can continue the good work they do for communities like Park ward.

Also speaking at the meeting was one of the newest Liberal Democrat Peers, Lord Qurban Hussain. Lord Hussain explained how many issues of importance to the audience including education, immigration and civil liberties were now being pushed forward and dealt with thanks to Liberal Democrats in government.

Admiring libraries in Calderdale

On Saturday morning I had the pleasure to visit Skircoat library in Halifax. The library was having an open morning, which it does quite regularly to introduce the library and its services to people who may not be familiar with it and to update users on new services.

At the open morning, volunteers and library staff greeted visitors with a smile and the offer (for a small fee) of a cup of tea and a piece of cake or a biscuit. I managed to resist the delicious looking flapjacks : )

The library doesn't only provide the local community with books, talking books, CDs and DVDs, but the library is also used for other activities such as book clubs and an Italian conversation group. What a great example of a community resource!

Despite the need to make savings due to the tough economic climate and the huge budget deficit left by the last Labour government, Liberal Democrat run Calderdale Council has been able to protect vital services like libraries and children's centres.

At Skircoat library, I met Liberal Democrat council candidate Stephen Gow. Stephen lives just round the corner from the library and has three young children, so he knows and uses the library well.

I also was very lucky to receive a book ("A tale of two cities" which I've never actually read) from the library. It's not a gift, as after I read it I have to register it on-line and then pass it on to whoever would like it. This is part of World Book Night.


Halifax Lib Dems

World Book Night

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Immunising the world's poorest children

This morning I attended a breakfast meeting on EU development aid and childhood immunisation in the world's poorest countries. The event was organised by the European Parliament Working Group on innovation, access to medicines and poverty-related diseases, a working group coordinated by Médecins sans Frontières (MSF - Doctors without borders).

Childhood immunisation or vaccination is something that we in the UK and other EU countries take for granted. In the UK there is a comprehensive childhood immunisation programme which vaccinates children against diseases such as diptheria, polio, whooping cough, meningitis and measles. The programme is free of charge via the NHS and when a child reaches the age for a particular vaccine, parents are invited to bring their child to their local GP surgery.

However, in some of the poorest countries in the world, many children miss out on vaccinations, which can lead to serious illness (in countries where treatment may be unavailable or unaffordable by many) and even death.

The World Health Organisation estimate that vaccination prevents 2.5 million deaths a year. Organisations like GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) have made significant progress in helping poor countries expand vaccination but there is still progress to be made.

Participants at the event discussed how best the EU can continue to support countries with vital childhood immunisation programmes via development aid, which is currently being reviewed by the parliament. The MEPs present all committed to working to make sure that immunisation remains a priority for EU aid funding.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Living in Leeds tip please!

As you may have understand from previous blog posts/my tweets*, I have recently moved back to Yorkshire, Leeds to be precise. It was an obvious choice for me as I'm a city girl, I went to university in Leeds, and the city is very well connected for getting around the region and for getting to Brussels on the train** (it took me only 5 hours to get from Brussels to Leeds last Wednesday; impressive isn't it?). However, as I graduated from university in Leeds in 1997 (!), the city has changed a bit since then, so I'm quite out of date as to where to go/what to do. 

I'm therefore in need of a few local tips and thought that perhaps some Leeds residents might read my blog and feel kind enough to pass on their tips. In particular, I'd appreciate recommendations on:
  • A good hairdresser that doesn't charge £100 for a cut and blow dry
  • A friendly running club that meets/runs in places accessible to someone without a car
  • An astanga yoga class
  • An osteopath
  • A bike shop that sells all the gadgets a keen bike commuter might need and does repairs at a reasonable price
  • A bakery that bakes its own fresh rye and/or spelt bread
  • Any restaurant doing gluten free pizza

Of course any other Leeds recommendations are welcome! 

* You can follow me on Twitter via @RTaylor_MEP

** Yes I know it's possible to fly directly from Leeds-Bradford to Brussels, but I don't like flying short-haul because of the carbon footprint, and all the faffing around getting to the airport, checking in, getting your shampoo confiscated because it's 10ml too much etc etc. Due to high speed rail connections, travelling from Leeds to Brussels by train isn't that much slower than flying and is a more productive way to travel (unlike flying you can get tons of work done on a train) . I also think (not everyone shares my opinion) that it's a nicer way to travel : )

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Out and about in Todmorden

This morning, I've been out and about in Todmorden with some local Liberal Democrats including Council Leader Janet Battye, council candidate Olwen Jennings and local activists Michael Taylor* and Chris Baksa. I was born and grew up in Todmorden, so I know a few people there : )

First stop was the Methodist central hall coffee morning, where my former primary school teacher the delightful Betty Crabtree (whom I always knew as "Mrs Crabtree" of course) was serving up tea and coffee to visitors. I remember her being much taller than me, but then again she taught me from ages 3-5, so I was a bit shorter then : )

I visited the markets picking up some some locally made creamy Lancashire cheese (it's the best Lancashire cheese going and great for cheese on toast) at the Crumbly Cheese on the inside market, and some fresh figs from the fruit and veg stall on the outside market.

It was then time to pop in to the Age UK Todmorden open day. Having worked closely with Age UK in the past (during my time at ILC-UK), it's always great to see the wide range of services and assistance they offer to older people and their families. However, people are not always aware of the help they can get, so open days are a good way to spread the word (and there was tea and cake on offer too).

After a quick lunch, it will soon be time for some canvassing; wonder how many voters I'll meet that I know?

* Also known as my Dad : )

Friday, 13 April 2012

Good news for rail users in Mytholmroyd

On Monday morning, I met with Councillor Christine Bampton-Smith, Councillor John Beacroft-Mitchell and Jade Smith from Mytholmroyd Liberal Democrats to welcome improvements to rail services in the town.

The Calder Valley train line on which Mytholmroyd station sits is one of the lines that will benefit from the "Northern hub rail scheme" announced in the March government budget (see my blog post on the budget), which will upgrade various train lines in the North of England to allow for faster journey times.

I personally use the Calder Valley train line rather often as I have family in Todmorden, which is also on the train line. The Todmorden loop, which links Todmorden and Burnley and was closed by Beeching in the 1960s, will also re-open as part of the Northern hub rail scheme. Throughout my life (I was born in Todmorden in 1975) there has been talk about re-opening it and now finally it will happen, thanks to Liberal Democrats in government. Burnley LibDem MP Gordon Birtwhistle who campaigned hard for the loop to be re-opened, was particularly pleased as it gives people in Burnley a direct rail connection to Manchester for the first time in over 30 years.

LibDem councillors in Mytholmroyd would also like to build a car park on wasteland by the station in order to increase the car parking capacity and make it easier for more people to travel by rail. The roads in the Calder Valley are very congested during peak times, so getting people out of their cars and on to trains is entirely sensible. Unfortunately, local Labour councillors voted against funding for the car park, but my Mytholmroyd colleagues will continue to campaign for the car park to be built.

I also admired the recently upgraded Mytholmroyd station with its new electronic display boards and ticket machines. As the station has been "adopted" by a group of local volunteers, it also benefits from lovely floral displays tended by the volunteers themselves. A good example of community action!


Thursday, 5 April 2012

An act of kindness (by a taxi driver)

Although not particularly related to being an MEP, I feel compelled to report on an act of kindness I experienced yesterday.

Yesterday evening I went running with my (soon to be ex) running club London Heathside. During my run, I managed to trip over a tree root (the club run was on Hampstead Heath, a park that is more like a swathe of countryside), and twist my ankle. Unfortunately, neither I nor the other runner I was with had any money or an Oyster card (public transport ticket for London). I therefore got out of the Heath and on to the road and started to walk (hobble) back to the recreation club (a couple of miles away).

Walking with a just sprained ankle is not very comfortable, so I hailed the first empty black cab I saw, explained my situation i.e. that I had hurt myself running, had no money, but that my wallet was in a locker in the recreation club I wanted him to take me to, and that if he would take me there, I would leave my i-pod with him while I went inside to fetch my wallet to pay him.

If I was lying then I'd gone to a lot of trouble (being dressed in mud-smeared running gear and limping), but nonetheless, I wasn't sure if I presented as desirable customer. Anyhow, the kind cab driver agreed to take me back to the club (a little over 5 minutes in a taxi) whereupon arrival he said that I didn't need to pay him. I persisted saying that it was no problem for me to pop (hobble?) inside and get my wallet, but he insisted on waiving the fare. 

Kind London cabbie (cab no 13950 if I recall correctly) is my hero of the month!