Saturday, 29 December 2012

Up Date on Council Tax Rise

Press Release
Parishes under pressure in Northumberland
Fears over local services
As part of the 2010 Spending Review the Government announced its intention to cut support for Council Tax from 2013-14 and to reduce expenditure on Council Tax benefit by 10%; they call it the Localisation of Benefit.
The scheme will be implemented by amending the Local Government Finance Act 1992. The new localised arrangements are central to delivering the Government’s commitment to reducing expenditure through cuts, increased devolution of services through Localism and reducing working benefits which both elements of the coalition Government believe will help to stimulate economic growth.
This Government will only be providing a grant to fund 90% of the council tax benefit liability so the localised schemes have to address how to cope with the 10% shortfall in funding.

Liberal led Northumberland County Council chose to simply implement the cuts calling it the national scheme. They believe this will provide local authorities with the opportunity to reform the system of support for working age claimants.
Figures released by the council show that the South East of the County will be hit hardest under Jeff Reid’s proposals (please see attached release).   

Northumberland Labour Group believes this will damage the ability of some Parish Councils particularly the new larger Parishes in the South East of the County to support its constituents as they have done since 2009.
Services such as assistance for Allotment Associations and staging local events may be damaged through this new regime.

The new scheme identifies those who claim Council Tax Benefit (many who are on low wage jobs) and removes them from the criteria for precept thereby lowering the number of homes eligible in the calculation.

Leader of Northumberland Labour Group said
‘This is yet another example of the ConDem government hitting local government and a local Liberal Democrat council sitting back and accepting it without a murmur. I'm very concerned that in smaller Parishes affected by the changes to Council Tax Benefit, claimants may be identifiable, changing a benefit into a millstone. This is yet another attack on low wage workers and their families who are striving to make their way in tough economic times. This County has many hundreds of people on minimum wage who have to claim benefit to support their families. The simple question for Jeff Reid and his Liberal council is ‘how will parishes deal with a 10% cut in their revenues without substantially increasing local taxes?’

Labour councillors and MPs in Northumberland have joined together to condemn the government decision to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board which acted as a ‘safety net’ for wage levels in the countryside.

Press Release
Labour raise fears over wage squeeze in countryside.
No Christmas cheer for squeezed county as government announces abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board
Labour councillors and MPs in Northumberland have joined together to condemn the government decision to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board which acted as a ‘safety net’ for wage levels in the countryside.
Labour group leader, Grant Davey has written to Communities Chair, Councillor Glen Sanderson urging him to act with haste to set up a review and impact assessment on how the abolition will impact on living standards of farm workers in the county.
In a decision, announced only hours before Parliament’s Christmas recess, the Conservative led government announced a decision to scrap the AWB which will, by the government’s own estimates, remove £240m from farm workers over the next 10 years.
The abolition of the AWB will mean employers in the farming sector will be able to pay workers below the National Minimum Wage (NWM) and it is feared it will impact on young people disproportionately. At the moment, the AWB protects wage levels for around 140,000 workers in the agricultural sector nationwide.
The Trade Union, Unite, which represents a majority of workers in the agricultural sector, said Scrapping the Board will save the government a paltry £50,000 per year yet it will see millions of pounds that ought to be workers' wages transfer to the wealthy retailers and big employers’.
The government decision was welcomed by the National Farmers Union who labelled the AWB as ‘outdated and an administrative burden’.
Labour group leader Grant Davey slammed the decision
‘Liberal leader Jeff Reid, in his festive message, has conveniently missed out his government’s role in taking more money out of the pockets of the ‘strivers’ through the abolition of the AWB. David Cameron’s out of touch government supported by local Liberals and Tories have delivered a bitter blow to the rural economy just before Christmas and to thousands of low-paid farm workers who will be worried about their pay falling. We’re worried that this will have a significant impact on Northumberland’s countryside with more money being sucked out of the rural economy and our towns.

Notes for Editors
  • Labour leader Grant Davey has written to Councillor Glen Sanderson as Chair of Communities Committee urging an urgent review and impact assessment of the abolition of AWB on Northumberland’s rural economy.

How to defend the indefensible - A Liberal Guide to 'misleading the voters'.



 How to defend the indefensible - A Liberal Guide to 'misleading the voters'.

Liberal Democrats in Northumberland will be 'learning their lines' after this Xmas 'must do better' from Lib Dem Central Office. I'm sure voters in Northumberland will see through the PR gloss and spin and remember
  • 2500 jobs lost costing the local economy over £45m and plans to privatise the council
  • £2m cut from local budgets meaning 'chaos in the countryside'
No houses built in 5 years even though the council waiting list is now a record 13,600

Friday, 28 December 2012

Parish Capping by Liberal Led Northumberland County Council

Labour Group Fears for Council Tax and Parish Precept Capping

As part of the 2010 Spending Review the Government announced its intention to cut support for Council Tax from 2013-14 and to reduce expenditure on Council Tax benefit by 10%, they call it the Localisation of Benefit.
The scheme will be implemented by amending the Local Government Finance Act 1992. The new localised arrangements are central to delivering the Government’s commitment to reducing expenditure through cuts,  increased devolution of services through Localism  and ravaging benefits which both elements of the coalition Government believe will help to stimulate economic growth. This Government will only be providing a grant to fund 90% of the council tax benefit liability so the localised schemes have to address how to cope with the 10% shortfall in funding.

Liberal led Northumberland County Council chose to simply implement the cuts calling it the national scheme. They believe this will provide local authorities with the opportunity to reform the system of support for working age claimants.

Northumberland Labour Group believe this will damage the ability of some Parish Councils particularly the new larger Parishes in the South East of the County to support its constituents as they have done since 2009. Such service as assistance for Allotment Associations and staging local events may be damaged through this capping regime.

The capping identifies those who claim Council Tax Benefit and removes them from the criteria for precept thereby lowering the number of homes eligible in the calculation.

Leader of Northumberland Labour Group said:"This is simply Pickleism at its worst, I'm very concerned that in smaller Parishes affected by the cap Council Tax Benefit claimants may be identifiable, changing a benefit into a millstone. This is yet another attack on workers and their families and a taster of the attacks to come with Universal Credit. This County has many hundreds of people on minimum wage who have to claim benefit to support their families. But employers who pay the minimum wage will be faced with ever rising recruitment costs and constant turnover of staff if benefits become burdens." "Labour Group are also concerned that a cap on precept may lead to a major rise in reserves through a genuine fear of whats to come as the loss of trust in this coalition Government hits Parishes."

Alnwick.We really believe the town would be really wealthy if we could get free parking but with time restrictions

Councillor hits back over free parking ‘chaos’


Alnwick’s ward councillor has reacted angrily to claims that there was chaos on the first day of free parking in the town, reported last week.

Alnwick Chamber of Trade chairman Carlo Biagioni told the Gazette that a number of people were still paying to park and others were being caught out by time limits last Tuesday.
But Coun Gordon Castle described the comments as ‘misguided and regrettable’.
“It’s not chaos and it wasn’t chaos,” he said. “One or two people might have been caught out by the time limits but they were made very clear.
“The information was in the county council motion and publicised in the Gazette.
“The time limits were in place for the very reason that we wanted to avoid chaos by keeping the traffic moving.
“A lot of people worked very hard to get it done at late notice.
“You cannot please everybody and some traders are among the worst and just moan whatever happens.”
The Lib-Dem administration at County Hall had opposed the week of free parking and warned that there would be chaos if it was put into action.
On Christmas Eve, the last day of the scheme, Mr Biagioni said: “In general, it’s been a really good result. We actually really believe it’s a good idea to have time limits, especially in Bondgate Within.
“We really believe the town would be really wealthy if we could get free parking but with time restrictions

Monday, 24 December 2012

‘Parish’ the thought as Liberals accused of ‘secret parish deal’

‘Parish’ the thought as Liberals accused of ‘secret parish deal’
Parish Councils with greatest need hit hardest in Northumberland
The South East of Northumberland has emerged as the ‘loser’ as local government finances change. The change which is part of a shake-up of the welfare system and local government finance ushered in by the Conservative led coalition.
Labour councillors have demanded Liberal Council leader Jeff Reid ‘come clean’ on how the council will use a government transition grant to help cushion the predicted shock to local finances as the council have refused to disclose whether they will share that grant with the parishes who are hardest hit.
Areas covered by Blyth (14.83%), Ashington (11.83%), Newbiggin by the Sea (21.31%) and Amble (15.16%) are among a number of town and parish council’s which will see their parish precepts rise by over 10% as Liberals in County Hall adjust the tax base of the county. In the west of the county, Haltwhistle and Prudhoe town councils’ also face double digit rises just to stand still.
The council has removed households that receive council tax benefit from its tax base meaning areas which suffer most rely most on welfare and in work benefits. This will re-ignite the row in the authority over the ‘fairness of the council cuts’ agenda’.
Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘This is another example of how Liberal Democrats in County Hall are failing to stand up for Northumberland. Parish and Town councils are now faced with a squeeze on their finances and many will have to consider double digit rises in their precept just to stand still. It’s time Jeff Reid came clean and told his towns and parishes just how much they will have to pay for policies dreamed up in Whitehall and pushed through by local Liberals and Tories on the ground’.



Saturday, 22 December 2012

Labour raise fears over wage squeeze in countryside.

Press Release
Labour raise fears over wage squeeze in countryside.
No Christmas cheer for squeezed county as government announces abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board
Labour councillors and MPs in Northumberland have joined together to condemn the government decision to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board which acted as a ‘safety net’ for wage levels in the countryside.
In a decision, announced only hours before Parliament’s Christmas recess, the Conservative led government announced a decision to scrap the AWB which will, by the government’s own estimates, remove £240m from farm workers over the next 10 years.
The abolition of the AWB will mean employers in the farming sector will be able to pay workers below the National Minimum Wage (NWM) and it is feared it will impact on young people disproportionately. At the moment, the AWB protects wage levels for around 140,000 workers in the agricultural sector nationwide.
The Trade Union, Unite, which represents a majority of workers in the agricultural sector, said Scrapping the Board will save the government a paltry £50,000 per year yet it will see millions of pounds that ought to be workers' wages transfer to the wealthy retailers and big employers’.
The government decision was welcomed by the National Farmers Union who labelled the AWB as ‘outdated and an administrative burden’.
Labour group leader Grant Davey slammed the decision
“It’s typical that the Government sneaked out this announcement just hours before Parliament shuts down for Christmas, ignoring the strong views against abolition expressed in the consultation. David Cameron’s out of touch government has delivered a bitter blow to the rural economy just before Christmas and to thousands of low-paid farm workers who will be worried about their pay falling. We’re worried that this will have a significant impact on Northumberland’s countryside with more money being sucked out of the rural economy and our towns’.

Notes for Editors
http://archive.unitetheunion.org/news__events/latest_news/agricultural_wages_board_aboli.aspx
http://www.lowpay.gov.uk/lowpay/research/pdf/IDS_report_on_abolition_of_the_AWB_v04FINAL.pdf
http://www.labour.org.uk/agricultural-wages-board-abolition-amendment-in-house-of-lords,2012-12-20

No Comment from Berwick MP Alan Beith

Dear Sir,
 Only hours before Parliament’s closed for Christmas , the Coalition government announced its decision to scrap the Agricultural Workers Board which will, by the government’s own estimates, remove £240m from farm workers over the next 10 years.

 As a Labour activist in Northumberland, home to some of Britains finest agricultural areas, I cannot believe the gall of the Coalition Government and their wholesale slashing of agricultural workers pay protection. This challenge to bring down farm hands pay was primarily Tory led but was not attacked by our own coalition member Alan Beith.

This of course is a Christmas message from the Tories and their coalition handmaidens, Crop yields have been poor this year so lets reduce the wages of those who toil in all weathers to feed the nation. Lets scrooge the working man for all he’s worth.

This removal of this protection allows employers in the farming sector to pay workers below the National Minimum Wage. At the moment, the Agricultural Workers Board protects wage levels for around 140,000 workers in the agricultural sector nationwide.

The farm workers Trade Union UNITE believe millions of pounds that should be paid to farm workers will find its way into agricultural employers pockets.

Unlike manufacturing or mining, farming can’t be offshored or stopped if employers still want to bank their Euro subsidies, but to maximise their profits further through a potential low wages scheme is wrong.

Grant Davey
Leader, Northumberland Labour Group

Friday, 21 December 2012

Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade Chairman John Beynon said: “I haven’t had any negative comments at all about the free parking. Everybody thinks it is a great idea. A few members of the public have contacted me to say it is fantastic.

Sign up to force debate on county free parking
A PETITION calling for free parking across Northumberland has now gone online.

Last week the Herald revealed that the county’s Labour group was embarking on a new campaign to push for permanent free parking following a successful bid by the Conservatives to introduce it as a temporary measure in the run-up to Christmas.
Both parties now agree it is unfair that charges are levied in the county’s north and west market towns of Morpeth, Alnwick, Berwick and Hexham, while those in south-east Northumberland, such as Blyth, Ashington, Cramlington and Bedlington, have free parking.
And both say a free system should apply countywide, although Labour has suggested that town and parish councils should have the final say for their own communities.
Now the Labour group’s petition has been posted on Northumberland County Council’s website, with hopes that it will attract the required 1,000 signatures to prompt a full debate.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said: “It’s vital that the county council helps businesses and residents in tough economic times and that’s why it’s right that the Labour Party draws attention to a measure that it is clearly unfair.
“I would urge the council to take this matter seriously and do the right thing for Morpeth.”
The group is also challenging comments in last week’s Herald from Liberal Democrat Executive Member for Corporate Resources Andrew Tebbutt that scrapping charges could cost the council up to £5million, saying its figures indicate that the cost would be £1.95million.
Labour Group Leader Grant Davey said: “Instead of defending the indefensible, Coun Tebbutt should stop bandying around voodoo figures and enter into a mature discussion about why it’s ok to levy charges for parking in towns like Morpeth and Berwick and not in other parts of Northumberland.
“His answers so far just aren’t good enough and I hope he takes notice of this petition and campaign. It’s Coun Tebbutt who makes the decisions in County Hall and he needs to acknowledge the importance of this issue.
“I’m sure local Conservatives will back our campaign and I’m calling for them to support the petition and send a message to Coun Tebbutt in County Hall.”
Coun Tebbutt said: “I made my position regarding car parking in south-east Northumberland very clear in last week’s Morpeth Herald. I also made my position clear regarding the aspect of charging.
“Coun Davey is politicising, which is particularly disappointing so close to Christmas.
“The council needs to be financially stable and it is easy for the opposition to make promises, it is not as easy to deliver them.”
Last week Coun Tebbutt said that hard decisions would have to be made to balance the budget if free parking was offered countywide, but no charges will be introduced to south-east Northumberland as the local economies are too weak.
Conservative Group Leader Peter Jackson said: “I take on board that the Labour group has started to take this issue as seriously as the Conservative group has for the last four years.
“We have definitely got to look at the options that are available to bring in a sustainable free car-parking policy for the whole county.
“I would be very keen to have further discussions with Coun Davey. I think the issues will be in the detail of what we are all proposing, but we need to sit down with the council’s highways officers and hammer out the best way of introducing this for the whole county.”
On Tuesday, a week of free parking began after the offer was voted through by the county’s Conservative and Labour groups.
Coun Jackson said: “I had a look around Morpeth and the positive publicity seems to have attracted a lot of people to do their shopping in Morpeth. I think it has been a great success. I didn’t see any chaos.
The car parks were fairly full, but there were spaces around. There were still quite extensive queues at the traffic lights at Telford Bridge, but that was the only sign of chaos I saw.
“Hopefully, it will be the start of a really successful week for Morpeth. What it has done is throw up the question about what we do for the rest of the year.”
Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade Chairman John Beynon said: “I haven’t had any negative comments at all about the free parking. Everybody thinks it is a great idea. A few members of the public have contacted me to say it is fantastic.
“The town seems busier and I think it will be a benefit to traders. It is a great start for the run-up to Christmas.”
The petition for permanent free parking is available at http://committees.northumberland.gov.uk/elps/token/DvDrK4EjXBYjB92jsyA71ai until February 26.
Petition forms are also available for local shops and businesses by email at northumberlandlabour.press@gmail.com
• Around 57 spaces at the Dark Lane car park should be made available again this weekend after being taken up for building work at the supermarket site.
In addition, about 30 spaces of the new underground car park have been released for town centre retail workers. The facility will be fully open by the spring.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Labour group leader Grant Davey said‘Instead of defending the indefensible, Councillor Tebbutt should stop bandying around ‘voodoo figures’ and enter into a mature discussion about why it’s okay to levy charges for parking in towns like Morpeth and Berwick and not in other parts of Northumberland? His answers so far just aren’t good enough and I hope he takes notice of this petition and campaign. It’s Councillor Tebbutt who makes the decisions in County Hall and he needs to acknowledge the importance of this issue. I’m sure local Liberals and Conservatives will back our campaign and I’m calling for them to support the petition and send a message to Councillor Tebbutt in County Hall.

Press Release
Fair’s, fair – the free parking petition gets underway
Labour launches car parking charge petition
Labour councillor’s and it’s county party have launched a new campaign ‘fair’s, fair’ to tackle the current council policy on charged parking in Berwick, Morpeth, Hexham and Alnwick which has been branded as ‘unfair’ and a ‘tax on motorists and residents alike’.
Northumberland Labour group are pushing a policy which would give local town and parish council’s, the casting say over whether free car parking would benefit the local economy and environment and have launched a petition on the council’s website aimed at sending a clear message to the Liberal Democrat cabinet which is currently drawing up its budget for next year and beyond. Activists will be collecting signatures around the town and residents and traders can sign the petition on the council’s ‘e-petition' section of the website
The petition will mean that the car parking issue will be subject to a full debate in the council chamber if the website collects over 1,000 signatures. 
MP’s for Wansbeck and Blyth have backed the plan and Labour hope Liberal Democrat MP Alan Beith will also back the call for fair parking in the county by supporting the campaign. Labour is also calling for Councillor Hunter to back the campaign to boost trade in the town. 
Labour is also challenging Councillor Tebbutt, Cabinet member for Corporate Resources who claimed last week ‘that removing charges could cost the council up to £5m’. Comments by Councillor Tebbutt (Berwick Advertiser) seemed to indicate the cost of removing charges would cost between £3m and £5m which are contradicted by figures released to the Labour group which indicated ‘an estimated cost would be £1.95m’. 
Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘Instead of defending the indefensible, Councillor Tebbutt should stop bandying around ‘voodoo figures’ and enter into a mature discussion about why it’s okay to levy charges for parking in towns like Morpeth and Berwick and not in other parts of Northumberland? His answers so far just aren’t good enough and I hope he takes notice of this petition and campaign. It’s Councillor Tebbutt who makes the decisions in County Hall and he needs to acknowledge the importance of this issue. I’m sure local  Liberals and Conservatives will back our campaign and I’m calling for them to support the petition and send a message to Councillor Tebbutt in County Hall. 

End
Notes for Editors
Paper copies of the petition can be requested from northumberlandlabour.press@gmail.com

Monday, 17 December 2012

If we take Northumberland County Council as an example of how that can be achieved. The Lib Dem administration and its Tory bedfellows are about to package up and put out a £400M 10 year facilities management and maintenance contract. Taking the work from a myriad of local contractors and their own Direct Labour Organisation who have served the Community well for many years.

£400M Giveaway Should Be Stopped


 

In these days of austerity caused by bankers and continued by their prime coalition supporters, Councils like Northumberland County Council are facing huge budget cuts, job losses and mass service destruction.


 

Councils of the future will be much smaller, leaner and some unable to provide the services people expect and want from their payments of Council Tax, but with better thinking much of what the people need can be delivered.


 

If we take Northumberland County Council as an example of how that can be achieved. The Lib Dem administration and its Tory bedfellows are about to package up and put out a £400M 10 year facilities management and maintenance contract. Taking the work from a myriad of local contractors and their own Direct Labour Organisation who have served the Community well for many years.


 

As any builder will tell you F&M Contracts are some of the best profit makers and the trade will go wild to get one of this size. Yet by retaining this work in-house the Council can recycle the profits from this work, take the pressure off other budgets and deliver Clean and Green, Streetlighting, Streetcare and Highways repairs without having to wait for the next Government handout if and when that ever comes.


 

Northumberland Labour Group Leader Grant Davey said: " Through the major cutbacks of the last few years and with much more to come, I challenge the administration to come up with a better way of supporting service delivery of all their building and streetcare services. This £400M F&M contract can be delivered in-house, does not need to be packaged up and put out to tender. The Council can upskill and recruit in this field easily at this time as other Councils are laying off expert staff due to their own cutbacks. The Libs and Tories have let down Northumberland for the last four and a half years, they now need to show some support for their own workforce and the general public and retain profitable work like this in order to plough the benefits back into services."

 

Grant Davey

Leader, Northumberland Labour Group


 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

They say a week is a long time in politics – it clearly is for Councillor Hunter given her ‘forgetfulness’

BERWICK CAR PARKING LATEST
‘The Liberal Democrats can’t have it all ways on free parking’ –Grant Davey
In the latest ‘twist’ on Berwick car parking charges and their temporary ‘lifting’ for 7 days, Liberal Democrat Councillor Isabel Hunter seems to have got herself in a terrible twist.
First, her colleague and the newly christened ‘Cabinet Member for Car Parking, Morality and Responsibility, Councillor Andrew Tebbutt ( Sat 8 Dec) said the Tory motion which was supported by Labour to introduce ‘free car parking for Christmas’ was ‘immoral and irresponsible’. Leaving aside the view on the fairness’ of the current Liberal policy to charge the likes of Berwick, Hexham, Alnwick and Morpeth and not charge other areas, it seems levying a massive amount on the charged areas (between £1.95m and £5m depending on Councillor Tebbutt’s ‘figures’ for that day) is okay.
Secondly, only 48hrs later, Councillor Hunter was out welcoming ‘the relaxation of charges’ contradicting Councillor Tebbutt and official Lib Dem policy (if there is one).
Thirdly, she is now saying she doesn’t welcome the charges because she wasn’t at the meeting of the council where the motion was debated? She says ‘so Coun Davey’s claim that I back this so-called ‘free car parking plan’ is totally inaccurate’. She seems to have forgotten her position, in print, of only 72hrs ago.
The Berwick Advertiser said ‘Coun Hunter, member for Berwick West with Ord, welcomed the reduction in Berwick’s parking charges to put them in line with other market towns, as well as the removal of Sunday charges’.
So does she or doesn’t she back our ‘fair’s – fair’ campaign or does she think that it’s fair to ‘tax’ local businesses and residents with a car parking policy which says it’s okay for some parts of Northumberland to pay ‘ a tax on parking’ and others to get away with paying nothing’?
Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘Clearly, the Liberals are split on car parking charges and Councillor Hunter’s position is unsustainable. She either welcomes free car parking or she doesn’t, she either agrees that this measure will help the local economy or she doesn’t and she either backs her Liberal colleague’s policy on car parking or she doesn’t? She can’t have it all ways. She needs to be honest with her residents and stop the ‘flip flop’.
Labour’s policy is crystal clear – we don’t think the Tory motion went far enough but it’s a start – we are committed to working with town and parish council’s to decide if their communities will benefit from free parking as part of a wider traffic management plan. Councillor Tebbutt, the man in charge of this policy has decided that the commitment is ‘immoral’. We disagree and a policy which ‘taxes’ some areas while not others is unfair. It’s time for the Liberal Democrats to come clean about their ‘stealth tax’ on Berwick, Morpeth, Hexham and Alnwick and it’s time for Councillor Hunter to level with the people and businesses of Berwick and tell them exactly why they should pay a ‘tax’ and others shouldn’t?
They say a week is a long time in politics – it clearly is for Councillor Hunter given her ‘forgetfulness’. 


Published on Monday 10 December 2012 Berwick Press “It’s encouraging that despite the savings the council needs to make, it has found a way to scrap Sunday parking charges in Berwick. This move will encourage more people to come into the town on Sundays to eat, shop and socialise and will be a real boost to the town’s traders. A statement carried by the Berwick Advertiser made by Coun Isabel Hunter

 Berwick Advertiser
Published on Friday 14 December 2012 14:00

LABOUR politicians have called on Berwick Lib Dem Isabel Hunter to back their campaign to end ‘the unfair lottery of car parking charges’.

The call comes after Coun Hunter, member for Berwick West with Ord, welcomed the reduction in Berwick’s parking charges to put them in line with other market towns, as well as the removal of Sunday charges.
Labour leader Coun Grant Davey issued a statement claiming that Coun Hunter defied her Lib Dem colleagues to come out in favour of a parking charges amnesty the week before Christmas.
Coun Davey said: “We’re now seeing the true face of Northumberland’s Liberal Democrats. In one breath, they label free car parking ‘immoral and irresponsible’ and in the next breath, they back the plan ‘as good for local businesses’.
“The truth is the Liberal Democrat car parking policy which rakes in nearly £2m from some areas of Northumberland is unfair and it’s time for them to cut their losses and admit they are wrong.
“Our policy is crystal clear – we’ll introduce free car parking, in a planned manner, working with towns and parishes because we think they are best placed to judge whether free car parking will benefit an area not politicians in County Hall.”
Labour has now launched a ‘fair’s fair’ campaign to highlight inequality and unfairness in car parking charges.
Coun Davey said: “We think this is a simple matter of fairness and it’s not political. Towns like Morpeth, Berwick and Hexham shouldn’t be hit with, what amounts to, a stealth tax on motorists. At a time when businesses and customers are facing an unprecedented squeeze, we think the council should play fair with the whole county.”
However, Coun Hunter has dismissed Labour claims that she defied her party to back a decision which introduced free car parking in Berwick the week before Christmas as ‘totally inaccurate’.
She said: “I was not at the last meeting of Northumberland County Council and therefore didn’t take part in the vote on Conservative leader Peter Jackson’s cobbled together motion, so Coun Davey’s claim that I back this so-called ‘free car parking plan’ is totally inaccurate.
“The Liberal Democrats running Northumberland have always been clear that charges exist for traffic management purposes and, as there is less traffic to manage on Sundays, it is possible to remove charges without causing the utter chaos that the Tory/Labour week of ‘free’ parking will cause.
“The council has been given very little time to try and implement it by the other two parties.”




Thursday, 13 December 2012

FREE parking will be offered in Morpeth in the run-up to Christmas – and fresh moves are afoot to make it a permanent arrangement

Morpeth Hearld

Free parking but ‘now not just for Christmas’

Published on Thursday 13 December 2012 10:50

FREE parking will be offered in Morpeth in the run-up to Christmas – and fresh moves are afoot to make it a permanent arrangement.

In a dramatic debate at County Hall last week, Northumberland County Council members voted 23-22 to waive parking charges in the week before Christmas to give a boost to market town traders. The Conservative motion was backed by the Labour group and will see free parking offered in Morpeth from next Tuesday to Christmas Eve.
Now Labour councillors are following up the victory with a new campaign and petition calling for parking charges to be scrapped permanently, unless town and parish councils specifically request them for their areas.
Group Leader Grant Davey said: “We think this is a simple matter of fairness and it’s not political.
“Towns like Morpeth, Berwick and Hexham shouldn’t be hit with what amounts to a stealth tax on motorists and soaked up by the county council to the tune of nearly £2million.
“At a time when businesses and customers are facing an unprecedented squeeze, we think the council should play fair with the whole county.
“We hope that residents and businesses will get behind our ‘fair’s fair’ campaign, which sends a message to the Liberal Democrats, particularly the three councillors in Morpeth, that the town deserves a helping hand in tough times, not a kick in the teeth.”
The group says the council has raked in more than £1.95million in fees and charges from car parks in the north and west towns, including Morpeth, while offering free parking in the south-east areas.
But Coun Davey said members are concerned that charges will be introduced to the likes of Blyth, Ashington and Cramlington in the Lib Dems’ budget proposals.
County Executive Member for Corporate Resources and Morpeth councillor Andrew Tebbutt said there are no plans to introduce parking charges to south-east Northumberland. And he said the free countywide parking proposal would cost the authority up to £5million.
“Clearly there is an election coming up so I’m not surprised by this campaign,” he said.
“The Labour group has always put forward budget proposals that I don’t think are achievable. My constant position ever since the first proposal for free parking across Northumberland was put forward is that I think they will find that with the pressure on local government finance they will have to make some very hard decisions in relation to other services if they persist with this. I think they will find that those cuts are unacceptable.
“The Liberal Democrat position is that car-parking charges are primarily about traffic congestion, they are not about income raising, but the service has to be funded. If we had free parking we would need more staff because the pressure on congestion will be greater. I suspect that we may be talking about finding £3.5million, but it could be as much as £5million.
“This proposal goes against the trend in the rest of the country where they are increasing charges in car parks because they know that is the only way they can fund good car parks.”
Coun Tebbutt added: “We are not putting charges into south-east Northumberland, that is a load of rubbish. The Labour group does not know what our budget proposals are, but we are certainly not proposing car-parking charges in south-east Northumberland because it is not viable to do so.
“The economies of Blyth and Ashington are the worst of all the key settlements in Northumberland. I would be delighted to see them creating sufficient traffic congestion that charges could be justified, but I don’t think we will see it in the current climate.”
The county’s Conservatives have already proposed free parking for all of Northumberland’s residents.
The Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade has welcomed the latest campaign for permanent free parking.
Chairman John Beynon said: “It is good news. I think everybody apart from the Liberal Democrats seems to recognise that parking charges do affect trade in the towns and it is unfair on the towns that do have car parking charges, such as Morpeth.
“The Liberal Democrats keep saying it doesn’t affect businesses. I don’t know how they know that because they don’t ask the traders.
“We are a non-political organisation, but we are supporting the Conservatives on their initiatives with car parking and the traffic lights, and any other political group that comes along with a proposal for free car parking we would support.”
Mr Beynon also spoke of his delight that parking charges will be dropped for the week before Christmas, especially as the chamber has been given assurances that time limits and other restrictions will still be enforced.
“It was a surprise to get this because we have never been given free parking for Christmas before, but anything that can help the traders is great,” he said. “We have written to the Parking Manager Lynne Ryan to say we hope that policing of parking will still be going on in the car parks to make sure that time limits are applied. We have been told that parking will be free, but the time limits will still apply. Our worry was that parking officers would be pulled out of the towns, but we have been assured they won’t be.
“I know the Lib Dems say this will cause chaos, but they can hardly say that when we have the Telford Bridge traffic lights causing as much chaos every day. It will be the lights rather than the car parks that cause chaos.”
The free Christmas parking offer was proposed by the Conservatives at a meeting of the council last Wednesday.
Conservative Group Leader Peter Jackson said: “One week of free parking ahead of Christmas will be a welcome festive boost for residents and businesses in Morpeth.
“In a world of internet shopping and free parking at out-of-town shopping centres, it is out of touch to expect people to pay for the privilege of parking to shop in our towns.
“Our proposal for free parking at Christmas has been warmly received by local traders, many of whom are now planning special promotions in order to make the most of the extra trade they expect free parking will attract.
“It is hard to understand how the Lib Dems could be so ungenerous as to oppose this and so arrogant as to tell our traders and residents that they are wrong to want free parking. We have got free parking for one week in the year, now we need free parking for residents all year round.”
The council’s Liberal Democrats have hit out at the Labour group for supporting the initiative after Coun Davey previously said it was ill-judged, too late and not thought out.
Coun Tebbutt said: “I am very disappointed with the attitude Labour has shown. They had initially planned to vote against this motion for sound reasons, but have completely contradicted themselves and decided to back the Conservatives’ ridiculous plan because it is more politically expedient.
“Now that the council has passed this policy we will have to find £40,000 from somewhere within our budget to fund it. I’d be interested to know what Labour and the Conservatives would like to cut to pay for this.”
A spokesman for the Labour group said: “Labour put forward a fully-costed motion seeking to introduce free parking last year and it was defeated. The Conservative motion introducing one week’s free parking didn’t go far enough, but we felt it was a start.”

Labour’s policy on car parking is based on a motion to Full Council last year. It wasn’t supported by the Conservative or Liberal groups.The Labour party in Northumberland wants to introduce free parking in partnership with town and parish council’s and as part of an overall ‘traffic management plan’.

Press Release
Labour launches free parking campaign for Morpeth
‘Fair’s Fair’ campaign targets Liberal Democrat ‘stealth tax’ on motorists
Labour has launched a campaign to highlight inequality and unfairness in car parking charges in Morpeth as pressure grows on the council’s ruling Liberal Democrat group to lift their so-called ‘tax on motorists’.
At a meeting of full council last week, Labour backed a Conservative motion which lifted car parking charges in Morpeth, Berwick, Alnwick and Hexham for one week from 18-24 Dec. The motion was described as ‘irresponsible and immoral’ by leading Liberal Democrat and Morpeth councillor Andrew Tebbutt after Labour decided to back the Conservative motion even though it felt ‘it didn’t go far enough’.
The meeting was also told that the council ‘raked in’ over £1.95m in fees and charges from some towns in Northumberland while offering free car parking in other areas. Sources have indicated that Liberal Democrat leader Jeff Reid and his Cabinet are considering whether to scrap free parking in the South East area as part of their budget proposals.  
Labour is hoping that their campaign which will include a petition will attract widespread support and have highlighted that their proposals would mean town and parish councils would be able to decide if free parking was appropriate for their area.
Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘We think this is a simple matter of fairness and it’s not political. Towns like Morpeth, Berwick and Hexham shouldn’t be hit with, what amounts to, a ‘stealth tax on motorists’ and ‘soaked’ by the county council to the tune of nearly £2m. At a time when businesses and customers are facing an unprecedented squeeze, we think the council should play fair with the whole county. At the same time, we’re dismayed to hear the Liberals may be considering introducing parking charges in areas in the South East. We hope that residents and businesses will get behind our ‘fair’s- fair’ campaign which sends a message to the Liberal Democrats, particularly the Three councillors in Morpeth, that the town deserves a helping hand in tough times not a kick in the teeth’.
Labour MP for Wansbeck, Ian Lavery said
‘It’s vital that the county council helps businesses and residents in tough economic times and that’s why it’s right that the Labour party draws attention to a measure that is clearly unfair. I would urge the council to take this matter seriously and do the right thing for Morpeth’.

End
Notes for the Editor
·         Labour’s policy on car parking is based on a motion to Full Council last year. It wasn’t supported by the Conservative or Liberal groups.
·         The Labour party in Northumberland wants to introduce free parking in partnership with town and parish council’s and as part of an overall ‘traffic management plan’.    

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Liberal councillor backs free car parking plan

Press Release
Labour slam ‘Liberal double standards’
Liberal councillor backs free car parking plan
Labour has today called for Liberal councillor Isabel Hunter of Berwick with Ord ward to back their campaign to end ‘the unfair lottery of car parking charges which penalise Berwick and Hexham’.
The call comes as Councillor Hunter defied her party and backed a decision which introduced free car parking in Berwick for a week from 18 Dec to 24 Dec. The Liberal Democrat cabinet member for resources, Andrew Tebbutt had branded the motion put forward by the Tories and backed by Labour as ‘irresponsible and immoral’ but it seems that view is not shared by members of his own party.
Now Labour are stepping up the pressure on Liberal councillors who represent wards which still have car parking charges after it emerged that the council was ‘raking in’ £1.95m in fees and charges alone.

Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘We’re now seeing the true face of Northumberland’s Liberal Democrats. In one breath, they label free car parking ‘immoral and irresponsible’ and in the next breath, they back the plan ‘as good for local businesses’. The truth is the Liberal Democrat car parking policy which rakes in nearly £2m from some areas of Northumberland is unfair and it’s time for them to cut their losses and admit they are wrong. Our policy is crystal clear – we’ll introduce free car parking, in a planned manner, working with towns and parishes because we think they are best placed to judge whether free car parking will benefit an area not politicians in County Hall’.
 Berwick Coun Isobel Hunter Lib Dem supports free Parking in Northumberland
Published on Monday 10 December 2012 14:18 Berwick Press
FREE Sunday parking will come into force in Berwick and other parts of the borough from December 16.
The news comes a month after the planned change was first confirmed by Northumberland County Council, along with reductions in the charges levied on other days in Berwick’s car parks to put them in line with other market towns across the county.
Coun Isabel Hunter, Lib Dem member for Berwick West with Ord, said: “It’s encouraging that despite the savings the council needs to make, it has found a way to scrap Sunday parking charges in Berwick. This move will encourage more people to come into the town on Sundays to eat, shop and socialise and will be a real boost to the town’s traders.
“I am pleased that this is going to be implemented so soon, meaning there will be plenty time for people to get their Christmas shopping done on Sundays. Taken together with the huge cut being made to charges on other days, this is very good news for visitors to Berwick.”
A report to the county council’s executive last month stated that the move “would further reinforce the council’s commitment to supporting local businesses”.

Under pressure from Labour and Tory councillors, the Liberals have adopted a 1 week free period for the whole county over the Christmas period.

Press Release
Labour slams Liberals over ‘car parking stealth tax’
Labour calls on council to think again on free car parking
Labour councillors on Northumberland County Council have urged the Liberal controlled council to ‘think again’ on car parking charges as figures show the council has ‘raised’ £1.95m in fees and fines from towns like Hexham and Berwick.
Under pressure from Labour and Tory councillors, the Liberals have adopted a 1 week free period for the whole county over the Christmas period.
Labour are now urging the Liberal administration ‘stop playing politics’ with car parking and equalise free parking across the whole county in line with free car parking enjoyed by the South East area of the county.
Labour says it is unfair and an ‘effective stealth tax’ for areas without free car parking and ‘the shoppers permit has been ineffective, costly and bureaucratic’.
Labour group leader said
‘The arguments put forward by Jeff Reid and his Liberal party show how reliant this administration has become on car parking fees and fines. By taking, £1.95m out of the local economy, they’ve effectively levied a ‘stealth tax on motorists’ which hits local economic activity. At a time when the council should be supporting local economies like Berwick and Hexham, it’s counting on money raised through fines and fees. This is a question of fairness and we’re urging the Liberals to adopt our original plan to let local towns and parishes decide whether free car parking is good for their communities. This shouldn’t be a decision for County Hall’.     

Monday, 10 December 2012

I was saddened when hearing that Northumberland Lib Dems wish to remove the costs of greenkeeping at Tynedale Golf Club from their forthcoming budget, placing another Leisure outlets future in jeopardy.

                   11 Craigmill Park,
10 December 2012                                       Blyth,
                                                                   Northumberland,
                                                                   NE24 5JL.
                                                                   01670 369725

Dear Sir,


I was saddened when hearing that Northumberland Lib Dems wish to remove the costs of greenkeeping at Tynedale Golf Club from their forthcoming budget, placing another Leisure outlets future in jeopardy.

The Liberal Democrats attack on Clean and Green services in Northumberland has been consistent in its application, their keep everything dirty and unkempt then maybe Parish Councils will take the strain, has been their regrettable policy from Day One, when the people of Northumberland gifted them with the chance to create something worthwhile, An all purpose UNITARY County Council.

Over the last four and a half years they and their Tory partners have kept an outdated management system in place in order to run a past its sell by date Executive and a Tory second administration through scrutiny. They have jointly attempted to destroy all of the good works undertaken by District Councils from 1974 to return Northumberland into a strategic authority that can plan but can’t deliver.

Northumberland Labour Group believe that Leisure outlets should be affordable and accessible to all whatever income bracket they fall into, yet here we have a Golf Club supported by a former District Council struggling to survive the ravages of the policy makers.

Keeping Northumberland’s population fit and healthy is also a responsibility of the County Council and here we have a leisure Service being cut to save on greenkeeping when we should be paying through public health to maintain facilities that will assist in keeping our population away from GP’s surgeries and hospitals.

Therefore Jeff Reid and Peter Jackson I challenge you both to speak Cross department and cross administrations to resolve this ridiculous debacle you’ve caused through your joint cheap jack thinking.


J Grant Davey

Leader, Northumberland Labour Group