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The government decision was welcomed by the National Farmers Union who labelled the AWB as ‘outdated and an administrative burden’.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