General Election 2017: Nick Clegg warns of Brexit's £59 billion blow to public services on visit to St Albans
PUBLISHED: 19:00 23 May 2017
Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has warned Brexit will cost Britain's public services £59 billion.
Now the Lib Dems’ Brexit and trade spokesperson, Mr Clegg was campaigning with St Albans candidate Daisy Cooper ahead of the General Election.
The Herts Advertiser met with Nick and Daisy after they visited several city schools, to talk Brexit, school places, and mental health.
Having promised on a previous visit to St Albans his party would channel £50 million a year into mental health research, we asked Nick what the Lib Dems’ spending plans were for this election.
“The plans are very similar,” he replied. “Because the Liberal Democrats were in government we introduced, for the first time, waiting times in mental health. We put mental health and physical health on the same legal footing in the NHS, and earmarked hundreds of millions of extra pounds for children and adolescent mental health services.
“We also launched the process for greater research in mental health, and that remains one of our priorities.”
Conversation then moved onto the issue of school places, which recently hit the headlines when a group of St Albans parents petitioned the council to build a new school in St Albans.
Nick said: “You have to plan for school places according to what is going to happen to the local population.
“One of the important things is to have an accurate set of assumptions about how fast population is going to grow in the area.
“I am assuming, and Daisy will know better than I do, that lots of folk come to St Albans as it’s an attractive place to live, so the pressure on school places is always outpacing the assumptions about what the pressure should be. The local authority is constantly underestimating the pressure on school places.”
Daisy explained: “We would give local authorities back full control over the allocation of school places as well.
“The system we have at the minute where some schools can run their own admission systems, and some share with the local authority, means you can’t have that proper planning. So it’s not that demand is outstripping the supplies, people do not know what the demand will be.
“We have seen increasingly in the city centre where you have new developments that they do not come with the contribution needed to increase the school places.”
The pair were speaking after a visit to Albany Montessori pre-school, where they met with parents and teachers.
Daisy said: “Mums and dads in St Albans keep telling me how they’re struggling with the cost of child care and how they’re worried about Conservative cuts to education. 95 per cent of our schools will be affected, and headteachers are facing the prospect of cutting teacher numbers, increasing class sizes, or cutting extra support. The Liberal Democrats would reverse those cuts.”
Albany Montessori School’s Tim Hodgson said: “It was great to welcome Nick and Daisy to the nursery.
“We raised the issue of the 30 hours funding, and how the amount we are funded falls short of many nursery school’s hourly rate, and it was great to feel they genuinely listened.”
Finally, we turned to the issue the Lib Dems have been campaigning steadfastly against: Brexit.
Nick added: “Brexit, by the government’s own very conservative estimates, will blow a £59 billion black hole in the public finances. That’s £59 billion less for the NHS, less for schools, and less for public services when the country desperately needs more investment in our public services.
“They will compound the difficulties of Brexit by choosing such a hard version of it, not just taking us out of the EU, but taking us out of the single market and the customs union.
“Our participation in these support millions of jobs across the country, so it seems to us Liberal Democrats to be very irresponsible.”