Monday, 23 December 2013

REVEALLED: THE TRUE COST OF COALITION CUTS IN NORTHUMBERLAND

REVEALLED: THE TRUE COST OF COALITION CUTS IN NORTHUMBERLAND
Conservatives and Liberal Democrats urged to ’break their silence’ against Tory cuts worth 23% in county funding revealed in run up to 2015 Poll

Labour councillor’s in Northumberland have slammed, what they’ve branded, a ‘shameless trick’ as well respected and independent Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accounting (CIPFA) revealed to true cost of the latest raid on local government finances by the Conservative led coalition government. Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis announced a 2.9% cut in local government funding for 2014-15 in a move which he described as a ‘good day for local government’ this week.
Now CIPFA’s respected journal Public Finance has revealed the true cost of the Tory led government cut as 9.54% http://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2013/12/dclg-funding-for-councils-cut-by-more-than-9/?utm_source=Adestra&utm_medium=email&utm_term=
In a new twist, the accounting body also highlighted even deeper cuts for 2015-16 planned by the coalition government in the run up to the General Election in 2015 with 13.17% raid on county finances.
Labour group and council leader Grant Davey said
‘The cat is out of the bag as the Tory led government’s latest announcement has been described as ‘more spin than substance’ by the independent CIPFA. Not only will Northumberland residents have to deal with a reduction in £259 in services this year, but they face 23% cuts over the next two years. Local services are increasingly stretched and residents will note the silence of the county’s two coalition MP’s and Tory and Lib Dem councillors on the county council on the scale of their government cuts. Residents have a right to expect that local politicians will stand up for their area yet Northumberland’s Tories and Lib Dems choose to stay silent and attack Labour’s attempts to tackle the terrible legacy of a Lib Dem/Tory coalition at County Hall’.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Government ministers like Chancellor George Osborne, Planning Minister Nick Boles and DEFRA Minister Owen Paterson all called for ‘local council’s to create the conditions for economic growth’ and to see greenbelt space as ‘not preserved

LABOUR SLAMS TORY GREENBELT ‘HYPOCRISY’
Coalition ministers press council to ‘create conditions for economic growth’ yet Northumberland Tories say NO

Northumberland Conservative’s opposition to plans put forward by the county’s Labour and Independent administration has been branded as ‘opportunistic and hypocritical’ after it emerged that coalition government ministers like Chancellor George Osborne, Planning Minister Nick Boles and DEFRA Minister Owen Paterson all called for ‘local council’s to create the conditions for economic growth’ and to see greenbelt space as ‘not preserved in aspic’. Labour have also pointed to the fact that the committee which was charged with overseeing the ‘grow Northumberland’ plan had a Conservative majority of councillors yet they didn’t raise any concerns through the planning process.
Local Conservatives in Northumberland led by Guy Opperman and Cllr. Peter Jackson who leads the Tory group on the council have attacked ambitious plans set out by Labour to ‘grow the county population to create the conditions for economic growth, provide thousands of affordable housing to tackle the county’s housing waiting list and protect 96% of the county’s greenbelt. Labour also point to the purpose of the plan to protect 91% of existing greenbelt land for at least 20 years and create an additional 5% new greenbelt land.
Now Labour are have launched their ’12 quotes for Christmas’ which they say show Northumberland’s Tories are out of step with the coalition government. Residents in the county are entitled to ask ‘what do Northumberland’s Tories really stand for?’

A Labour group spokesperson commented
‘We’re determined to make sure we keep our promise to build over 2000 affordable homes across the county but we’re also making sure that, through our plan to ‘grow Northumberland’ will safeguard 91% of existing greenbelt. In addition, we’re consulting on designating a further 5% of land as new greenbelt. Northumberland’s Tories decision to say no to economic growth, no to affordable housing and no to protecting huge tracts of greenbelt for the next 20 years means they’re at odds with their own government. The 12 Tory quotes for Christmas from Tory ministers and supporters show that Northumberland’s Conservatives have left themselves open to charges that they’re ‘playing politics’ with people’s homes and economic growth’.

Notes for Editors
12 Conservative Quotes for Christmas
1. ‘The Government has a ‘moral’ duty to force councils to find land for development to defend Margaret Thatcher’s dream of a ‘property owning democracy’. And he has warned grandparents who oppose new housebuilding risk 'propping up their kids and their grandkids' who cannot afford to buy their home own’. Planning Minister Nick Boles : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2259908/Nick-Boles-Build-green-sites-rich-homes-warns-planning-minister-tells-grandparents-stop-NIMBYs.html#ixzz2hEcisbkr
2. Senior Conservative cabinet minister Francis Maude today describes opposition to the Government's controversial planning reforms – from the National Trust and Tory grassroots – as "bollocks", and says he has no sympathy for their position. Francis Maude http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/top-tory-rounds-on-core-support-over-green-belt-2364448.html
3. George Osborne provoked a backlash from environmental groups yesterday by promising to allow more building in the Green Belt as part of a new "go-for-growth" strategy. Mr. Osborne said he wanted local authorities to do more "land swaps" under which they can allow building in the Green Belt around towns and cities if an equivalent area of land elsewhere is safeguarded. Chancellor George Osborne Independent 3 Sept 2012 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/george-osborne-tries-again-to-free-up-green-belt-land-for-housing-8101482.html
4. ‘The planning minister stood firm on potential green belt housing developments, despite backbenchers warning him Tories were losing votes on the issue. Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate yesterday, Nick Boles refused to back down from his position that more development was needed to combat the housing crisis’. Planning Minister Nick Boles (again) http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/development/planning-minister-stands-firm-on-green-belt-development/6529209.article

5. In comments that will concern home owners living in the countryside, Baroness Hanham, a Communities minister, described the green belt as only “virtually sacrosanct”. Lady Hanham said that the Government believes that affordable homes will now have to be built on green belt land. She said that some of the land is not “absolutely brilliant” and should be used for developments in order to avoid having to build in “real open space”. Baroness Hanham Daily Telegraph 9th Oct 2013 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/hands-off-our-land/9848818/Greenbelt-land-not-absolutely-brilliant-should-be-used-for-development-says-minister.html

6. Nick Boles: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that it is an absolutely core tenet of Government policy that the green belt should be protected. It is also an absolutely core tenet of Government policy that housing need should be met. That is why localism is difficult and not a free lunch for anybody—we are devolving the matter to local authorities, in their communities, to resolve that very difficult tension between competing policy demands. Nick Boles (again) http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130130/halltext/130130h0002.htm#13013065000111
7. ‘Don't block new rural homes, David Cameron tells Tories: Conservatives should stop opposing countryside planning reforms because changes will help children get ahead in life, says Prime Minister’. David Cameron http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/greenpolitics/planning/10458385/Dont-block-new-rural-homes-David-Cameron-tells-Tories.html
8. The National Trust has become locked in a war of words with a planning minister over the charity's 'risible' claims that Green Belt land will be threatened by Coalition planning reforms. Conservative MP Greg Clark accused the charity of 'nihilistic selfishness' after the trust dared to voice concerns over 'damaging development in undesignated countryside'. Conservative Minister Greg Clark http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2028948/National-Trust-blasted-Tory-MP-Greg-Clark-Green-Belt-protection-fears.html

9. "Given a two million increase in our population over the last ten years and historic under-provision of housing we have to be realistic that not all the housing that we as a country need can be on brownfield land," he said. "In some places, this may mean building on low quality, environmentally uninteresting fields. In exceptional circumstances, it may involve a Green Belt review.". It’s that man Nick Boles again http://www.politicsforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=73&t=150943
10. Not content with tearing the Conservative Party asunder and dividing the whole nation over same-sex marriage, it appears that the Tory metropolitan elite are intent on establishing the poverty of their cultural hinterland by concreting over England's green and pleasant land. And once it's gone, it's gone forever - as the party used to intone in the days when it used to care. Tory Blogger: http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/tory-metropolitian-elite-to-concrete.html
11. In an interview on Sunday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he wanted to see more "imaginative" thinking by planning authorities, which could allow building on previously protected land. George Osborne (again) http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/sep/02/george-osborne-deregulation-planning-laws

12. And the final word must go to DEFRA minister Owen Patterson ‘The countryside cannot be frozen “in aspic” and must be built on, the Secretary of State for the Environment has said. Owen Paterson said that the Government’s planning reforms are “clear” on building on the green belt arguing that it was important to build “living communities.” Mr Paterson refused to say that the amount of protected green belt land would not decrease under the current government. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/10459025/The-green-belt-cannot-be-frozen-in-aspic-Owen-Paterson-says.html




Friday, 6 December 2013

Here in Northumberland we have a major housing crisis that we are beginning to tackle through a very aggressive building program.

I am extremely disappointed with one of the headline decisions in yesterdays autumn statement, that of the introduction of carpet bagging agents to severely reduce the amount of social housing stock available to local government.

Here in Northumberland we have a major housing crisis that we are beginning to tackle through a very aggressive building program. This move by George Osbourne to support middle men and encourage the sale of social housing will lead to a further downturn in the supply of social housing in what is one of Englands areas of greatest housing need.
We have seen over the years the downturn in the quality of housing available for rent.

The surge of Right to Buy homes from the Thatcher Years have come on to the market to be snapped up at auction by absentee landlords many of whom ignore the basic standard forced onto Local Authority and Housing Associations through the decent homes act in order to maximise profits. Carpet bagging to loosen more homes from the protection of good quality social landlords will simply repeat history until Decent Homes is forced onto all landlords.

This Government should have chosen to assist the purchase of privately developed homes from our major spec builders with a good quality long term low repayment scheme. This would have kickstarted the economy at a much faster rate than predicted and allowed a greater number of young people to train in the much needed building crafts that would support local labour country-wide when we next have to reduce to a maintenance only period in the national economic cycle.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Grant Davey and Allan Hepple, Labour members who are delivering the affordable homes across Northumberland

Grant Davey and Allan Hepple, Labour members who are delivering the affordable homes pledge said
'These homes in Bellingham are a down payment on our manifesto pledge to build over 2,000 affordable homes across the county. Working with our partners, we're addressing the scandal of a housing waiting list which is damaging economic growth in the county. Even though we're dealing with £42m of coalition government cuts this year, we recognise that building the right mix of housing across the county is key to increasing economic growth and then prosperity across Northumberland'
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£1.7m homes scheme reaches completion
15 Nov 2013 08:10 Two Castles Housing Association has welcomed residents into their new homes after work was completed on a £1.7m affordable homes scheme for local people

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Rob Brittain from Two Castles with county councillor Allan Hepple and Trevor Newman, director at Newman Developments
Two Castles Housing Association has welcomed residents into their new homes after work was completed on a £1.7m affordable homes scheme for local people in Bellingham, Northumberland.

The development, Bridgeford View, has delivered 13 energy efficient homes for rent to people with a connection to the village or the surrounding area.

Built in partnership with Northumberland construction firm Newman Developments, Bridgeford View is located on land adjacent to existing Two Castles’ properties at Briar Hill and includes five two-bedroom bungalows as well as a selection of two, three and four bedroom homes.

Property services director at Two Castles Housing Association, Rob Brittain said: “We’re delighted to welcome residents into their new homes at what is a much-needed, affordable housing development for local people in Bellingham.

“There is currently a real demand for building quality affordable homes in communities across Northumberland.

“This is due to a mixture of the high cost of rent and an increase in second home ownership, with many people are being forced to move away from the villages where they grew up because they can no longer afford to live there.”

Built with support from Northumberland County Council and part-funded by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) following an investment of £338,000, Bridgeford View has been constructed to Code for Sustainable Level Three Homes Standards and includes a range of energy efficient features to help make homes even more affordable. To reflect existing properties in the village, each home on the development has been built using traditional building materials such as natural slate roofs as well as stone elevations and rendered walls.

Company director at Newman Developments, Trevor Newman said: “We are once again delighted to have partnered with Two Castles Housing Association on this exciting affordable homes scheme.

“We are committed to re-investing in the communities in which we work and successfully sourced all of our labour, materials and sub-contractors from the local area when building Bridgeford View, which helped us to reduce our carbon footprint.”

COUNCIL leaders in Northumberland are planning to scrap the authority’s Chief Executive post in a cost-cutting drive.

Northumberland Gazette

Senior council jobs to be axed in budget plans at Northumberland County Council
Published on the
14 November 2013

COUNCIL leaders in Northumberland are planning to scrap the authority’s Chief Executive post in a cost-cutting drive.


Northumberland County Council’s Labour Administration has put forward the proposal as part of a radical management re-structure that would see five directorates reduced to three.

The responsibilities of the Chief Executive would pass to one of the three directors, who would become Executive Lead. There would be further job losses in ‘middle management’, where salaries range between £80,000 and £120,000.

The Labour group says the savings will help the council to manage its £42million of budget cuts imposed by the Government.

A Party spokesman said: “The changes to the bureaucracy at Northumberland County Council will put a greater emphasis on frontline services. The full brunt of the £42million cuts imposed on the county by Cameron and Clegg’s Coalition will mean a flatter management structure and we think we can limit job losses to a minimum.

“We’ll be moving from a CEO to an Executive Lead Director, who will work with the Labour Administration to deliver a real step change in service delivery.

“By moving to this new model and taking decisive action, we hope to limit the fall-out from Coalition cuts and we’re calling on opposition councillors to back these plans to defend frontline services and to make sure they stand up for the county with their Government.”

Council Chief Executive Steve Stewart earns between £170,000 and £175,000 a year, while Deputy Chief Executive Kate Roe’s salary is around £140,000 and the four Corporate Directors earn between £125,000 and £135,000. A further 15 officers earn £80,000 or more.

Opposition groups say the cost-cutting plans need further scrutiny, but have not ruled them out.

Northumberland Conservative Leader Peter Jackson said: “This is something we have been highlighting for the last four years.

“The Conservative group has been saying that there is too large a difference between the highly-paid executives and the hard-working people at the bottom of the organisation. This should have been reviewed two or three years ago when the unitary authority came into place.

“Once Labour publishes the detail of this consultation we will be able to make a more focused comment.”

Morpeth Liberal Democrat county councillor Andrew Tebbutt, who was previously Executive Member of Corporate Resources, said: “We think these are very radical proposals, which need very careful examination.

“We knew the council had to save over £40million next year and maintenance of services will always be the priority of the Liberal Democrats, as we have demonstrated throughout the five years of our previous Administration.

“We will, however, await the result of the consultation process and receiving more detailed information before making any further comment.

“Radical proposals must not put management of services at risk because we can’t deliver services without effective management.”

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman and his Liberal Democrat counterpart in Berwick Sir Alan Beith both voted to support the retention of the controversial coalition policy of the ‘bedroom tax’ after Labour forced a Commons vote to scrap the tax.

Tory and Lib Dem MP’s unite to scupper Labour bedroom tax axe
Hexham and Berwick MP’s back controversial ‘bedroom tax’ in Commons vote as figures reveal the ‘hidden cost for low wage families’.

Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman and his Liberal Democrat counterpart in Berwick Sir Alan Beith both voted to support the retention of the controversial coalition policy of the ‘bedroom tax’ after Labour forced a Commons vote to scrap the tax.

An estimated 5,225 families are affected across Northumberland by the government scheme which imposes a charge for bedrooms that are ‘under-occupied’ and Labour are pointing to Conservative MP Guy Opperman in particular, as they’re revealing a ‘hidden’ cost in the ‘bedroom tax’ where 64% of the families affected are in receipt of ‘in work benefits’ but qualify for housing benefit because of low wages.

They’re saying that his vote to keep the ‘bedroom tax’ shows that he’s ‘out of touch’ with the concerns of hard working families across Northumberland. Mr Opperman has courted publicity over his support for the ‘living wage’ but opponents say that he’s got to answer the question ‘why vote to keep a tax which is penalising 64% of families affected by the double whammy of low wages and housing benefit reductions?

A Labour group spokesperson said
‘Coalition MP’s in Northumberland have shown that they want to continue to prop up a ‘raid on the incomes of some of the county’s most vulnerable people’ through the continued imposition of the ‘bedroom tax’. At a time when ordinary families are suffering from David Cameron’s ‘cost of living crisis’, Sir Alan and Mr Opperman dutifully trouped through the lobby to support a ‘tax which is hitting the working poor hardest’. This makes a mockery of claims by the Tories and Lib Dems in Northumberland that they understand the concerns of people struggling to make ends meet’.

Northumberland County Council has announced a new working partnership with national charity, Keep Britain Tidy (KBT).

Sky Tyne and Wear

Keep Northumberland tidy
Posted on Wednesday 13 November 2013 Community & Voluntary, Northumberland

Northumberland County Council has announced a new working partnership with national charity, Keep Britain Tidy (KBT).

Litter and littering behaviour costs local councils in Britain almost £1 billion every year, and costs Northumberland County Council an estimated £2.1 million, driving it to look to new ways of taking the problem on and challenging the behaviour of people who litter in the county.

The partnership with KBT will see the council team up with national campaigns through its LOVE Northumberland initiative to tackle the community problem of littering by highlighting the problems and educating people about the price of cleaning up our streets.

The first campaign to run is called ‘what side of the fence are you on?’ and asks people to consider what streets would look like if the council did not clean them.

Councillor Grant Davey, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “This partnership is a signal of our intent to challenge this problem. We have some very encouraging plans for the future and some campaigns which have a big impact. It’s not just about litter; it includes dog fouling, roadside waste, chewing gum, cigarette ends and graffiti.”

Councillor Ian Swithenbank, policy board member or streetcare and environment at Northumberland County Council, said: “It’s really important that we keep our county beautiful for residents and visitors. It’s such a shame that many public spaces are blighted by litter.

“We hope we can build on the excellent work from our LOVE Northumberland initiative and environmental champions around the county to make a significant difference to our streets, beaches and parks.”

The ‘which side of the fence?’ event is taking place in Ashington from Friday 15 November and will highlight the work the council does to keep the streets clean and offer residents an insight into what the streets might look like without intervention from the council.

The initiative is supported by Keep Britain Tidy and the charity’s chief executive Phil Barton said: “The £1billion bill that we are all paying to clean the litter off our streets, parks and beaches is too high.

“It is time everyone realised the scale of the task facing local authorities in keeping the places we call home clean and tidy.

“The question we all need to ask ourselves is “When it comes to litter, which side of the fence are you on?”

“The answer to solving the litter problem that blights our country is in our own hands. We need to take responsibility for our own behaviour and do one simple thing – put our rubbish in a bin.

“We are delighted that Northumberland County Council is joining with us in this activity. Local authorities are working tirelessly to deal with the problem of litter but they cannot solve the problem alone. They need support from individuals, communities and businesses.”

To find out more about Keep Britain Tidy’s Which Side of the Fence…? campaign and to sign up visit www.keepbritaintidy.org

For more information about LOVE Northumberland or KBT visit www.northumberland.gov.uk/LOVE

Monday, 11 November 2013

REVEALED: The shocking cost of the Conservative ‘Action Plan’ for Prudhoe

REVEALED: The shocking cost of the Conservative ‘Action Plan’ for Prudhoe
Tory plan for the town which could cost £75m branded a ‘cynical stunt’

A Conservative party ‘blueprint’ for the future of Prudhoe including a proposal to ‘knockdown Prudhoe front street’ has come under fire from Labour politicians in the area as ‘a dangerous fantasy’ and ‘a shot in the dark’ after it emerged one of its key ‘suggestions’ would cost over £75m to implement.
The report which was commissioned and published as a party political report is said to have cost ‘thousands’ to produce and includes comments and suggestions from members of the public in Prudhoe which has a population of around 11,000. Over 5,000 copies of a survey were mailed to residents and 97 were returned.

Now Labour activists in Prudhoe are challenging Hexham Conservative party to ‘back or distance themselves from the controversial idea in the document to ‘demolish and rebuild Prudhoe Front Street’ and are pointing out such a plan would cost around £75m to carryout based on current commercial demolition charges. They’re also raising eyebrows at the MP’s ‘solo attempt’ to speak to residents as it emerged the Town Council was looking at its own consultation about the future of the town.

A spokesperson for the Labour group at the county council said
‘It’s apparent that Labour politicians on Prudhoe Town Council have never been ‘precious’ or party political when it comes to the future of the Town but they were bemused when a ‘survey from the Conservative MP landed on their desks’. Now we find out the survey claimed to be non-political yet it contains how many people will support the Conservative MP in 2015. The survey itself contains a proposal to demolish and rebuild the town’s Front Street which would cost £75m in today’s demolition prices so we’d be interested to see how a Conservative MP whose government has cut £42m from the county council budget this year plans to find the money to implement this proposal?’

Northumberland County Council’s newly created Local Development Framework was created by a ‘cross party committee’ which included three Conservative councillors which has led to accusations that Conservative attacks on the new plan to build thousands of new homes across the county was ‘driven by the need to score cheap political points’ rather than issues about greenbelt development. Labour also pointed to a succession of statements from Conservative ministers who are advocating that council’s ‘have a moral duty to build homes’ after local Tories led by Hexham MP Guy Opperman attacked the county’s new development framework.

‘Tories across Northumberland more interested in ‘politics’ than tackling county wide housing shortage
Labour reveals the ‘silent Tories’ who agreed to new Development Plan

Northumberland County Council’s newly created Local Development Framework was created by a ‘cross party committee’ which included three Conservative councillors which has led to accusations that Conservative attacks on the new plan to build thousands of new homes across the county was ‘driven by the need to score cheap political points’ rather than issues about greenbelt development. Labour also pointed to a succession of statements from Conservative ministers who are advocating that council’s ‘have a moral duty to build homes’ after local Tories led by Hexham MP Guy Opperman attacked the county’s new development framework.

Labour have revealed that the Local Development Framework committee included Councillor Colin Horncastle and Councillor Ian Hutchinson from the west of the county and Councillor Richard Dodd who did not raise any concerns in the committee. Labour are now demanding an answer why no concerns were raised after Northumberland’s Conservatives attacked the draft consultation framework? The framework is tasked to create the conditions to allow the county council to build at least 2000 affordable homes over the next 4 years.
Councillor Scott Dickinson, the Business Chair of the council said
‘Local Conservatives sat on the committee which oversaw the development of our plan to build new affordable homes and create hundreds of good quality construction jobs yet said nothing about their ‘concerns’. The Tories need to answer the charge that ‘they’re playing politics with the greenbelt’ because, first we had Conservative ministers lining up urging council’s to use greenbelt spaces, and now we’ve got three ‘invisible Conservative councillors’ who didn’t raise any concerns about the development framework. Residents will presume that the Conservative party is against a Development Framework which will protect 91% of existing green belt land. The unfortunate conclusion is Northumberland Conservatives would rather ‘spin headlines’ than build affordable homes’.

Notes to Editor
Conservative Councillors who sat on Local Development Framework working group can be found
http://committees.northumberland.gov.uk/aksnorthumberland/users/public/admin/main.pl?op=ListCommitteeDetails&keyid=34


• The housing needs assessment has identified the authority needs to add nearly 2000 (1910) homes to its stock to keep pace and this will mean 380 homes are required in the North of the County, 860 in the more urban South East and 670 in the West of the county in Conservative MP Guy Opperman’s Hexham constituency.
• The first tranche of 313 new developments which are primarily council owned have confirmed funding and another 354 properties built by Housing Associations will form a first wave with building expected to commence within 8 months.
Quotes from Conservative ministers on green belt development
‘Mr Osborne said he wanted local authorities to do more "land swaps" under which they can allow building in the Green Belt around towns and cities if an equivalent area of land elsewhere is safeguarded. ‘Independent 3 Sept 2012’
In comments that will concern home owners living in the countryside, Baroness Hanham, a community’s minister, described the green belt as only “virtually sacrosanct”.
Lady Hanham said that the Government believes that affordable homes will now have to be built on green belt land.
She said that some of the land is not “absolutely brilliant” and should be used for developments in order to avoid having to build in “real open space”. Daily Telegraph 9th Oct 2013
In some cases planning inspectors have ordered local authorities to redraw their Green Belt boundaries for failing to meet building requirements set out in the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), introduced last year to make development easier.
Ministers promised the changes to the planning system would increase the protection offered to the Green Belt.
However, analysis by The Telegraph has found that large areas of land are to be removed from the designation to provide space for more than 95,000 homes under proposals that have been made public by councils.
Several local authorities that control sizeable areas of Green Belt land are still to finish reviews of where they intend to allow development and are expected to allow further building on protected land. Telegraph 3 Oct 2013
Nick Boles will dramatically raise the stakes over the housing crisis, saying the Government has a ‘moral’ duty to force councils to find land for development to defend Margaret Thatcher’s dream of a ‘property owning democracy’. And he has warned grandparents who oppose new housebuilding risk 'propping up their kids and their grandkids' who cannot afford to buy their home own. He has unveiled plans to bribe local communities with hundreds of thousands of pounds in cash to accept new house building. Daily Mail 10 January 2013

Local Development Framework Working Group
2:3:1:2 (two Labour places to Independent, one informal co-optee)
Formed: 1 Apr 2009
Member Details Name Position
P Kelly (Indep. Group) (Chair)
CW Horncastle (Con) (Vice-Chair)
RR Dodd (Con)
MI Douglas (Lab)
JJ Gobin (Lab)
JR Riddle (Con)
JA Taylor (Indep. Group)
RJD Watkin (Lib Dem)
I Hutchinson (Con) (Co-opted Member)
A Hepple (Lab) (Ex Officio)



Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Tynedale snubbed in fuel duty cut experiment

Tynedale snubbed in fuel duty cut experiment
By BRIAN TILLEY

Last updated at 08:37, Wednesday, 06 November 2013
PLEAS from Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman for a cut in fuel duty in rural areas of Tynedale have fallen on deaf ears.

For his Coalition Government colleague Danny Alexander restricted a 5p cut in fuel prices largely to marginal Lib Dem seats in Scotland.

The snub has been pounced on by the Labour administration at Northumberland County Council.

The county council’s business chairman Coun. Scott Dickinson said: “This is a slap in the face for rural households and businesses in our county as we’ve again been snubbed.

“Only a month ago, Guy Opperman was calling on David Cameron to cut fuel duty for rural areas in Northumberland, but Lib Dem minister Danny Alexander has picked seven constituencies in Scotland from a list of 10.

“Clearly, Guy Opperman has been ignored and you’ve got to wonder why Cameron and Clegg’s Con Dem government continues to ignore the needs of our county.”

Seven of the 10 areas where fuel duty is being cut by Treasury Secretary Mr Alexander are Lib Dem seats in Scotland, with the others being in North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Devon.

The measure is targeted to help ‘rural communities who spend more per head on fuel costs’ but the Labour group in Northumberland has raised concerns over why the county has been ignored.

Northumberland is ‘predominantly rural’ with over 79 per cent of its area classified by the government as rural.

It also suffers from lower spending per head than urban areas which, on average, receive over £70 more per head under the government grant formula.

Northumberland also suffers from lower average earnings and Labour is pointing to these factors to show why the county should have been included in the 5p cut in fuel pilot.

Despite the failure this time round, Mr Opperman said he would continue his fight for a 5p per litre cut in Tynedale’s petrol bills.

Currently, to qualify for the relief, an area must be a remote rural location, more than 100 miles from a refinery, with a sparse population and high local fuel prices.

The MP said: “Since coming to Parliament I have campaigned for the Government to drop the fuel duty rises that were planned by Labour.

“George Osborne has listened and, to his credit, petrol is now 13p per litre cheaper than it would have been under Labour’s plans.

“This will save an average family almost £150 each year in filling up the family car.

“There has not been a singe rise in fuel duty since this government came to power and a promise to freeze it until the general election means petrol will be 20p cheaper than if Labour were in power.”

The MP said that despite the government freezing duty, petrol costs were still a burden in rural areas.

He said: “ Filling up the car not only hurts the pockets of hard-working people, it also hurts the bottom line of small business in the region.

“Almost a million British families spend a quarter of their income simply on running their car; here in our rural area that often isn’t a choice.

“Fuel duty hits the poorest Brits twice as hard as the rich, and that’s why I am still fighting to bring the extra 5p duty cut for the remotest areas to Northumberland.”

Motorists are enjoying the biggest fall in petrol prices since the depths of the credit crunch in 2008 – cutting nearly £4 off the cost of filling a family car. Average petrol prices in the UK fell 5.49p a litre to 132.16p between mid-September and mid-October, according to the AA.

First published at 07:41, Wednesday, 06 November 2013
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Opinion polls in Berwick show Liberal Democrat support has collapsed

Opinion polls in Berwick show Liberal Democrat support has collapsed
Support for the party in Berwick has slumped to 28%

The Liberal Democrats in Berwick are bracing themselves for a tough fight ahead of the 2014 Euro elections and 2015 General Elections as support for the party slumped in most recent predictions.
The well respected Electoral Calculus website which aggregates the most recent opinion polls has predicted that both Labour and UKIP will be challenging a newly selected Liberal candidate and a Tory candidate. According to the most recent polls Labour now has a better chance than the Liberal Democrats of taking the seat (Lab 27% - Lib Dem 26.1%) and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) are now predicted to take over 14% share of the vote in the General Election.

The figures show a UKIP candidate would quadruple the party share of the vote since 2010. Labour are also pointing to their resurgence from the low point of the 2010 GE as the party overtakes the Liberal Democrats.

Labour’s Scott Dickinson said
‘This constituency is a three way marginal now with UKIP fast stealing the Conservative party thunder in advance of the 2014 Euro poll. Labour are setting out a bold agenda which will see hundreds of new affordable homes built over next 5 years and a crack-down on ‘rip off Britain. Our energy price freeze will give hard working families a boost and our plan to introduce a ‘fair wage across Northumberland’ will give residents across Berwick a boost. It’s clear in Berwick, if you vote for a Liberal candidate you risk letting the Tories in nationally and it’s clear that only Labour is standing up for ordinary people and families against a Tory and Lib Dem double act in government.’

Labour call for government to ‘work closer with Europe’ to tackle ‘excessive red tape in farming’

Labour call for government to ‘work closer with Europe’ to tackle ‘excessive red tape in farming’
‘We need to work harder to cut unnecessary ‘red tape’ and that’s why we need a strong voice in Europe’ – Coun Scott Dickinson, Business Chair Northumberland County Council

Labour councillors in Northumberland have added their weight to a ‘call by a task force set up to cut red tape in the farming industry.

The snappily titled ‘Farming Regulation Task Force Implementation Group’ which was set up by the coalition government and includes experts and representatives from the UK farming industry has published its initial recommendations as a way to ‘reduce the regulatory burden on farmers’ and it recommended that the UK’s engagement in the EU should be greater, earlier and more in partnership with the industry, advising that the government should do more to press the European Commission to apply its own principles in its Communication on Smart Regulation.

Labour in Northumberland have welcomed the task force recommendations and have called for coalition MP’s in the county to ‘lobby harder’ to pressure MEP’s to make the case direct to the European Commission. The Labour administration at County Hall are actively looking at the potential to set up a ‘Rural Issues Task and Finish group to tackle issues faced by the county farming industry and rural communities.

The industry accounts for 18% of the enterprise sector in Northumberland and employs 18,000 employees across the county and is three times higher than the UK average (ONS Inter-departmental Business Register).

Councillor Scott Dickinson who represents Druridge Bay said
‘This non-partisan report shows the price of ignoring the EU and it’s time to stop the political posturing and start to tackle the unnecessary red tape which impedes the growth of the farming sector in Northumberland. We need to be working together to make the case for Northumberland farming and the Labour party in Northumberland will make sure the county council uses its role as a strategic body to support this vitally important sector’.

‘The government’s own guidelines say these telephone lines should not be used for people on low incomes yet Ian Duncan-Smith’s DWP continues to rake in the profits at a time when people are feeling the pinch. It’s not the job of government departments to seek to make a profit off the back of ordinary people and we’re calling for the government to follow the lead of Northumberland County Council and outlaw the use of these telephone lines for government departments’

PRESS RELEASE
Labour says customers are left ‘hanging on the telephone’ as coalition ‘squeezes’ £56m from premium rate racket
‘Northumberland County Council will scrap premium rate ‘call lines’ as figures show most vulnerable hit by govt. high cost ‘help lines’ – Northumberland Labour

The new Labour administration in Northumberland have revealed that it will reverse the former Liberal Democrat administration policy of using premium rate lines to rake in revenue ‘within the next month’. The authority is in the process of setting up and testing new lines which will allow residents to contact the council on ‘ordinary network rates’.

The move by the council came as data released by the National Audit Office revealed the ‘coalition’ government has raked in an estimated £56m from the use of 084 numbers with the Department of Works and Pensions one of the worst offenders and it also reveals that customers spend an astonishing 402million minutes waiting to speak to an advisor.

Over 208m calls were made to central government customer telephone lines in 2012-13 which 63% were made to so-called ‘premium rate numbers’ usually prefixed 084. 59% of the higher rate telephone lines served ‘vulnerable and low income groups’. Labour have branded this ‘a stealth tax on hard pressed people’.

The calls rake in around 5.6p per minute from a landline but rocket to 17.1p from mobiles. The research also showed that callers spent a total of 880m minutes on calls and an astonishing 402m minutes actually waiting to speak to someone. The Department of Works and Pensions was identified as one of the worst offenders.
The report also criticised the government of not doing enough to reduce waiting times and for failing the most vulnerable callers. It identifies vulnerable and low- income households as most likely to use ‘pay as you go’ mobile telephone deals which rack up significant costs on the 084 lines.

A Northumberland Labour group spokesperson said
‘The government’s own guidelines say these telephone lines should not be used for people on low incomes yet Ian Duncan-Smith’s DWP continues to rake in the profits at a time when people are feeling the pinch. It’s not the job of government departments to seek to make a profit off the back of ordinary people and we’re calling for the government to follow the lead of Northumberland County Council and outlaw the use of these telephone lines for government departments’.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Coalition MP’s and councillors in Northumberland have been challenged to justify the current scale of cuts to Northumberland County Council which are three and half times more severe than cuts to Whitehall.

PRESS RELEASE
Labour slam coalition cuts ‘hypocrisy’
Local Government Association reveal that council budgets have been cut by 28% while central government budget cuts only amount to 8%

Coalition MP’s and councillors in Northumberland have been challenged to justify the current scale of cuts to Northumberland County Council which are three and half times more severe than cuts to Whitehall.
As the new Labour administration in County Hall contemplate a cut to this year’s council budget of £42m, Labour group and Council leader Grant Davey has highlighted the imbalance in cuts between Whitehall and ‘County Hall’. He’s drawing attention to the record of Conservative and Lib Dem MP’s in Northumberland who have voted and supported the extended cuts programme which will see Northumberland lose 35% of its total budget by 2017/18.
Now he’s challenging them to ‘stand up for Northumberland’ and join the push to get government to ‘think again’ on the pace of the cuts. Councillor Davey has revealed he’s already raised the issue of the pace and scale of the cuts in a recent meeting with Ed Milliband and now he’s challenging Hexham MP Guy Opperman and Berwick Lib Dem Sir Alan Beith to do the same with coalition ‘double act’, Cameron and Clegg.
Councillor Davey said
‘The coalition government seems to have it in for council’s like Northumberland and seem to see our county as a soft touch when it comes to cuts. We were elected in May to make the case for Northumberland’s residents and that’s what we’ll continue to do. The coalition mantra of ‘there is no alternative’ is hypocritical when LGA figures show that for every 1% of cuts from central government, local government is losing 3.5%. This shows that David Cameron’s sound bite ‘we’re all in this together’ is the worst kind of hypocrisy. It’s high time that coalition MP’s and councillors in Northumberland started to stand up for the county instead of standing up for this Con Dem government’.

Local government provides services like adult social care, education, housing, highways and roads and pavements, environmental services and child protection services.

Northumberland’s missed out again as Lib Dem’s opt to cut 5p from fuel duty in Scotland in controversial scheme

Northumberland’s missed out again as Lib Dem’s opt to cut 5p from fuel duty in Scotland in controversial scheme
Labour protest as coalition accused of abandoning Berwick and Hexham

A scheme set to be controversially introduced by the Con Dem government has fallen foul of Labour politicians across Northumberland as it emerged that ‘marginal Liberal Democrat seats in Scotland’ has been disproportionately favoured by a planned cut in fuel duty by 5p. The measure is targeted to help ‘rural communities who spend more per head on fuel costs but Labour in Northumberland have raised concerns why the county has been ignored.
Northumberland is ‘predominantly rural’ in which over 79% of its area has been classified by the government as rural. It also suffers from lower spending per head than urban areas which, on average, receive over £70 more per head under the government grant formula. Northumberland also suffers from lower average earnings and Labour are pointing to these factors which show why the county should have been included in 5p cut in fuel pilot.
Labour councillor Scott Dickinson who represents rural ward Druridge Bay said
‘Danny Alexander’s 5p fuel duty cut for 10 rural areas is a slap in the face of rural households and businesses in our county as we’ve again been snubbed. Only a month ago, Tory Hexham MP Guy Opperman was calling on David Cameron to cut fuel duty for rural areas in Northumberland but now we’ve found out that Lib Dem minister Danny Alexander has picked 7 constituencies in Scotland from a list of 10. Clearly, Sir Alan Beith and Guy Opperman have been ignored and you’ve got to wonder why Cameron and Clegg’s Con Dem government continue to ignore the needs of our county’.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Northumberland County Council have chosen to rejoin the Keep Britain Tidy movement to help with their very demanding budget cuts. The cuts target set by Government reduces the County Councils revenue budget by a third over the next four years, this after four years of major cuts to reduce the budget following the formation of the single unitary council in 2009.

Northumberland County Council to Change the Way People Act

Northumberland County Council have chosen to rejoin the Keep Britain Tidy movement to help with their very demanding budget cuts. The cuts target set by Government reduces the County Councils revenue budget by a third over the next four years, this after four years of major cuts to reduce the budget following the formation of the single unitary council in 2009.

Councillor Grant Davey, Leader of Council said:" many people have got into the habit of simply unwrapping products in the street and dropping packaging expecting the Council to clean up afterwards, the ability to do that in future is being forced down as the severe Government cuts from now until 2017 come into play."

Councillor Ian Swithenbank Policy Board member for Streetcare and the Environment said:" were aiming to raise the awareness of people either through the sympathetic campaigns of the Keep Britain Tidy partnerships or through enforcement action against litter louts. We would rather people thought about their actions and either used the street bins provided or take their litter home than have to be issued with a fine for abusing the trust of those who live alongside them. As the program moves on we will be working with Keep Britain Tidy on their reporting of litter from cars and encouraging commercial companies to clean up outside their businesses. Its everyone's responsibility to ensure we have a clean environment not just the Councils hard working Streetcare teams."

Saturday, 26 October 2013

23/10/2013

23/10/2013

I have just sat down with Guy Opperman MP.
We disagree politically and I wish he would be more supportive of my efforts to sort out the County Council budget which is difficult given the cuts in our support grant. We discussed many other issues that will benefit people. Following a technical debate, transfer of information and a frank exchange of views I will confirm he does not have a second job and is a full time MP, whether I agree with him or not!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Coun Robert Arckless said: “Northumberland County Council has decided to take responsibility for repairing the path across the field from Tyndale Drive into the Horton Grange First School as a matter of urgency.

Parents are celebrating after a school entrance deemed ‘unsafe’ was repaired and reopened by council chiefs.

Last week the News Post Leader reported how pupils at Horton Grange Primary School were having to access the school from Cowpen Road after the pedestrian access from Tynedale Drive was closed to due health and safety fears.
Following the article, Northumberland County Council has now taken responsibility for the path and carried out repairs.

And on Monday children were able to start using the pedestrian access again.
Parent Paula Coulson said she was pleased the gate had been reopened to the school once again.
“Finally something has been done, it’s just a shame it took us to complaining and having it in the paper for them to actually do something about it, it should never have got that far, it should have been resolved within days of being closed and not two weeks,” she said.
“I am now a very happy parent.”

In a statement to parents, headteacher Jackie Chevaugeon said: “We’re delighted to say that the county council has decided to take responsibility for repairing the path across the field from Tynedale Drive to school.

“They will also check and maintain it and have asked us to involve the children in keeping it litter free.”
Coun Robert Arckless said: “Northumberland County Council has decided to take responsibility for repairing the path across the field from Tyndale Drive into the Horton Grange First School as a matter of urgency.
“We have agreed to check and maintain the pathway but have requested that the children be involved to keep it litter free.
“I am sure this will enable children and parents to have a safe route into school.”

“It’s high time that Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors and MPs in the county made their voices heard in Westminster and started to stand up for ordinary families facing a Coalition ‘double whammy’ of service cuts and falling living standards.”

Tynedale: Double cuts whammy hits families hardest
By BRIAN TILLEY- Hexham Courant
Published at 07:37, Wednesday, 23 October 2013
FAMILIES in Northumberland have suffered significantly since the last General Election, according to Labour politicians.
Wages have fallen by an estimated 5.8 per cent in the county and the average family is spending £360 per week just to keep pace with price rises and living costs, such as energy and fuel.

Northumberland County Council leader Coun. Grant Davey has attacked the Government for “sticking up for the wrong people” as figures released by the House of Commons Library show average earnings have fallen by £1,350 since the election.
Labour are also pointing out that in a rural county like Northumberland, families are spending a disproportionate amount of disposable income on the cost of running a car.

Figures released by insurance firm Aviva, show the average cost of running a car has risen to £51 per week.
Coun. Davey said cuts and tax increases are hitting those least able to afford it the most.

He said: “It’s clear where the priorities of this Coalition are with a tax cut for millionaires while increasing VAT, which hits ordinary families disproportionately.
“Coupled with falling living standards that show the average working family has lost £1,350 since the Coalition took power, families in Northumberland now have to face up to the fact that the council has to cut at least £70m as well in the next two years.
“That means every household will lose services worth £222 per year.
“It’s high time that Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors and MPs in the county made their voices heard in Westminster and started to stand up for ordinary families facing a Coalition ‘double whammy’ of service cuts and falling living standards.”
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk

Saturday, 19 October 2013

COUNCIL’S ‘CONTRCATING REVOLUTION’ GATHERS PACE

COUNCIL’S ‘CONTRCATING REVOLUTION’ GATHERS PACE
‘Council aims to increase ‘locally sourced contracts’ by 10%’

The Labour administration at County Hall have signalled their intent to ‘support local business’ by increasing the amount and number of council contracts that are made available to Northumberland’s businesses.
The county spends over £400m a year with around £135m spent in Northumberland safeguarding and creating an estimated 2,000 private sector jobs but now the new Labour administration has signalled its intent to increase that by over £13.5m. The moves come as the council prepares to launch an ambitious house building programme worth an estimated £330m over the next 10 years which is expected to create at least 300 construction jobs each year.
While the next round of cuts imposed by the coalition government will mean tough decisions, the Labour leadership believe this will signal their intent to ‘support and create new private and public sector jobs’ and will mean that ‘the council will become more relevant to its communities’.
Labour group and council leader Grant Davey said
‘We’ve estimated that the county economy benefits to the tune of £135m from council contracts but we promised in the last election that we’d seek to increase that figure. We think we can make more contracts available and we’re aiming to open up another £13.5m for local companies. We’ve estimated this will mean at least 300 new or secured jobs within the supply chain and that will mean that we estimate council contracts have an impact on over 2,500 private sector jobs across Northumberland’.

The Labour administration have also acknowledged that moves by the previous Liberal Democrat administration to ‘suck services and jobs to Morpeth’ have had an adverse impact on both service delivery and local economies. The council is now looking at how they will open up new ‘service hubs’ in local towns like Hexham, Alnwick and Berwick
WE’RE BACKING BERWICK PLEDGE FROM NORTHUMBERLAND LABOUR GROUP
New ‘customer hub’ planned as council releases staggering figures that show Northumberland saw £704m boost to county economy through tourism

Northumberland’s Labour group and the Council’s Business Chair Scott Dickinson today welcomed the news that the county economy had received a much needed £700m boost from tourism in the last year (figures released by Office of National Statistics) and set out their pledge to ‘invest in Berwick and to help the town take a bigger slice of the ‘tourism pot’.
They also revealed that they were ‘actively scouting’ potential locations for a new council service centre which has been dubbed a ‘customer hub’. The new ‘hub’ is expected to mean over 80 council employees will return to the town centre bringing with it an estimated boost of £13m to the local economy.
One location believed to under consideration is the town’s redundant ‘Kwik Save’ site. The Business Chair Councillor Dickinson also revealed that the council have also started looking closely at a potential site to allow visiting coaches from across the country (and Scotland) to park up and spend some time in the town. The move to introduce parking for coaches is welcomed by the town’s Chamber of Trade as a ‘chance to increase footfall and spending in the town’s shops’. Councillor Dickinson is also exploring how the council can make it easier for local businesses to bid for council contracts as part of what he called ‘delivering Labour’s promises made at the last election.
Scott Dickinson who is the Labour councillor for Druridge Bay said
‘We promised at the last election that we would try to breathe life into the county town centres and this is the start of delivering the promise. We’ve given the powers to town council’s like Berwick to offer free parking to attract shoppers, we’re actively looking at possible sites to locate a ‘customer hub’ which will mean the council will be less remote and local economies will see a boost to footfall and we’re committed to providing a dedicated coach space to allow coaches parties from around the country to sample the delights of Berwick. We’ve also agreed in principle, a scheme which will see the signage around the town ‘refreshed’ and we’re determined that we’ll help the town ‘grab a slice of Northumberland’s £700m tourism pie’.
End

Friday, 18 October 2013

Ronnie Campbell MP for Blyth Valley can remember this statement.

Last year when Osborne asked all departments to make cuts by 5%, Eric Pickles Local Gov. Minister, went one better and was proud to give 10% cuts in local gov. I can remember him getting a big pat on the back, for the extra 5%.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Massive cuts to council budget as coalition cuts take chunk from households

Massive cuts to council budget as coalition cuts take chunk from households
Labour warns Conservative and Liberal Democrats in Northumberland that they need to stand up for constituents and stop doing governments ‘dirty work’

Conservative and Liberal Democrat silence about the scale of government cuts to Northumberland has been slammed as ‘deafening’ by Northumberland Labour group as the county council prepares to implement the latest increased slice of coalition government cuts which total at least £132m. The latest cut facing the county council will mean cuts to the level of services to households across the county of £260 per year. This is in addition to cuts already implemented totalling £118m and now Labour politicians are turning up the pressure on Conservative and Liberal Democrats who’ve so far refused to condemn the cuts to local families.
Labour is also pointing to the ‘coalition cost of living crisis’ as families across the county have seen their wages fall by over £1200 (House of Commons Library calculations) since David Cameron’s government took power in 2010.
Now Labour are calling for the ‘so called ‘local coalition’ of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to make it clear to the government that the cuts are damaging their constituents.
A Labour group spokesperson said
‘The silence from Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians in Northumberland has been ‘deafening’. While families are struggling as the double whammy of coalition cuts and falling real wages bite across Northumberland, we’ve not heard a squeak from the coalition representatives in the ‘provinces’. We’re calling for them to put aside their party political allegiances and join Labour in making the case direct to David Cameron’s out of touch government that the cuts and squeeze on living standards need to be addressed quickly. This is a simple choice for them – decide about whose side you’re on – government or your constituents?’

End

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Safety fears as ‘Prison privatisation’ leads to loss of 200 jobs

Safety fears as ‘Prison privatisation’ leads to loss of 200 jobs

‘Community seeks assurances as prison staff raise key questions on impact of job losses’ – Councillor Scott Dickinson
Coalition plans to privatise the justice system took a further step as the Ministry of Justice announced an agreement which will see HMP Acklington in Northumberland hived off to controversial private sector ‘justice’ specialist Sondexo.

The move will mean the loss of 200 jobs in the tight knit community and local councillors have raised fears that the ‘sell off’ has put ‘profit before public safety’.
Sondexo indicated that they would seek to reduce the workforce by nearly 40% and are now facing calls to release their ‘risk assessment’ for the prison contract as fears rise that prison officers will be put at risk. The number of prison officers supervising the 1300 inmates will fall from 1 officer per 3 inmates to 1 officer per 5 inmates.

Local Northumberland County Councillor Scott Dickinson whose ward includes HMP Acklington said
‘The decision to sell off HMP Acklington by this coalition government is a body blow to a local community which has already faced huge job losses with the closure of Alcan and Northumberland Foods. Now a further 200 jobs will be sacrificed at the altar of Tory ideology and Liberal Democrat complicity. Unions and the community are right to raise concerns about the impact of such swingeing cuts on public safety and I’m calling for Sir Alan Beith to join with the Labour party to ensure that Sondexo publishes its risk assessment on the impact of the job cuts’.
End

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Northumberland County Council has agreed to get tough on payday loan firms by blocking their websites on public computers

Northumberland County Council blocks payday loan website
3 Oct 2013 Brian Daniel Journal
Northumberland County Council has agreed to get tough on payday loan firms by blocking their websites on public computers

Residents in Northumberland will no longer be able to access payday loan companies’ websites on public computers after councillors backed a motion.

Northumberland County Council yesterday unanimously agreed an amended motion which will see blocks placed on computers in its libraries, workplaces and other authority buildings preventing users accessing short-term loan firms’ websites.

The council will also investigate the use of planning law to regulate the growth and spread of such companies.
It became the second authority in the region to take such a stance, with Newcastle City Council having already agreed to block access to websites boasting quick loans with high interest at its libraries and customer service points.
The row over online, short-term loan companies – known by many as “payday” lenders – came into the public eye after Wonga was named as sponsor of Newcastle United.

The motion to the Northumberland council came from Labour member for Cramlington Eastfield, Laura Pidcock, vice chairman of its South East area committee and elected for the first time in May.
She told a full meeting of the authority at County Hall in Morpeth yesterday afternoon: “I think it is only right that Northumberland Couty Council in no way facilitates the problem of its residents buying and receiving a payday loan.

“In resolving to block access to over 100 websites on Northumberland County Council computers, we are setting out clearly that we do not condone it.”
Her motion, which drew applause from the chamber, also called on the authority to become “a bastion of responsible loans” and to advertise credit unions.
Leader of the Conservative opposition group Peter Jackson tabled the supported amendment, which stated that those looking for a payday loan on a council computer be automatically directed to information about credit unions, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and government
advice sites.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

‘We’re actively considering locations for council ‘customer hub’ and drawing up plans for new bus station and we’re promising the residents of Hexham that the ‘council is coming home’ – Grant Davey

TOWN CENTRE BOOST AS SENIOR OFFICERS and POLITICIANS VISIT HEXHAM TO ‘SCOUT’ POSSIBLE LOCATIONS FOR ‘CUSTOMER HUB’
‘We’re actively considering locations for council ‘customer hub’ and drawing up plans for new bus station and we’re promising the residents of Hexham that the ‘council is coming home’ – Grant Davey

Senior council officer and Labour politicians visited Hexham last week to ‘scout’ potential locations for a new service centre dubbed the ‘customer hub’ as a return of council services to Hexham came a step closer. They also set out to ‘revamp the town bus station’ as part of a comprehensive package to ‘regenerate’ the town.
Locations visited and assessed include Tynedale House and other ex-Tynedale Council buildings and it can be revealed that the council’s preferred option would be in or near to the Town Centre. The relocated services will mean a jobs boost of at least 50 jobs in the town centre and a pledge to ‘make it as easy as possible for local businesses to bid for council contracts.

The new bus station design is likely to include a Tourism Centre which will be digitally linked to the ‘customer hub’ and the council have begun discussions with a view to securing permissions to provide enhanced access for busses.

The estimated boost for local business is likely to top £10m and Labour group and Council Leader Grant Davey revealed that ‘while the county council had to make massive cuts to its budgets as a result of government cuts, his plans for ‘customer hubs’ towns across Northumberland are another promise delivered’.
He said
‘We think the previous Liberal Democrat administration made a false economy when they ‘retreated to county hall’ and local communities like Hexham have paid a price. Not only did local businesses have to contend with a global recession but they were left to fend for themselves. That’s why Labour promised to return the ‘council to local communities’ and that’s why we’ve been looking at possible sites. We think this will mean that the council is more accessible and it will mean a multi-million pound boost to local businesses. It’s no secret that local residents would prefer to see the ‘customer hub’ located in the town centre and that’s exactly where we’re looking. We’ll be making further announcements over the next six weeks and I’m excited to say ‘the council’s finally coming home’.
The previous administration led by the Liberal Democrats closed a series of council facilities across Northumberland as part of a cuts agenda and council services in Hexham have disappeared over the past three years.

Note for Editor


For publication
• The county will be announcing in the next week that figures calculated by the ONS will show Northumberland as a county benefitted to the tune of £704m over the last year from Tourism. This means tourism is the county’s biggest business.
• The council will be announcing how it will build tourism activities and opportunities into its business model and how places like Hexham will be marketed through a ‘new deal for tourism’ in Northumberland.

WE’RE BACKING BERWICK PLEDGE FROM NORTHUMBERLAND LABOUR GROUP

WE’RE BACKING BERWICK PLEDGE FROM NORTHUMBERLAND LABOUR GROUP
New ‘customer hub’ planned as council releases staggering figures that show Northumberland saw £704m boost to county economy through tourism

Northumberland’s Labour group and the Council’s Business Chair Scott Dickinson today welcomed the news that the county economy had received a much needed £700m boost from tourism in the last year (figures released by Office of National Statistics) and set out their pledge to ‘invest in Berwick and to help the town take a bigger slice of the ‘tourism pot’.

They also revealed that they were ‘actively scouting’ potential locations for a new council service centre which has been dubbed a ‘customer hub’. The new ‘hub’ is expected to mean over 80 council employees will return to the town centre bringing with it an estimated boost of £13m to the local economy. One location believed to under consideration is the town’s redundant ‘Kwik Save’ site. The Business Chair Councillor Dickinson also revealed that the council have also started looking closely at a potential site to allow visiting coaches from across the country (and Scotland) to park up and spend some time in the town. The move to introduce parking for coaches is welcomed by the town’s Chamber of Trade as a ‘chance to increase footfall and spending in the town’s shops’. Councillor Dickinson is also exploring how the council can make it easier for local businesses to bid for council contracts as part of what he called ‘delivering Labour’s promises made at the last election.

He said
‘We promised at the last election that we would try to breathe life into the county town centres and this is the start of delivering the promise. We’ve given the powers to town council’s like Berwick to offer free parking to attract shoppers, we’re actively looking at possible sites to locate a ‘customer hub’ which will mean the council will be less remote and local economies will see a boost to footfall and we’re committed to providing a dedicated coach space to allow coaches parties from around the country to sample the delights of Berwick. We’ve also agreed in principle, a scheme which will see the signage around the town ‘refreshed’ and we’re determined that we’ll help the town ‘grab a slice of Northumberland’s £700m tourism pie’.
End

Monday, 30 September 2013

LABOUR URGE CHIEF EXECUTIVE TO INVESTIGATE COUNCILLOR ‘SCARES’ OVER FOOD SAFETY

LABOUR URGE CHIEF EXECUTIVE TO INVESTIGATE COUNCILLOR ‘SCARES’ OVER FOOD SAFETY
‘I’ve written to seek assurances from CEO on food safety and to investigate ‘scare stories’ circulated by Conservative councillors’ – Grant Davey

Leader of Northumberland’s Labour group and the County Council Grant Davey has written to Council Chief Executive Steve Stewart to ‘seek assurances over stories circulated by Conservative group leader Peter Jackson and his colleague Councillor Wayne Daley about the county food safety regime’.

The comments by Jackson and Daley have been branded as ‘scare-mongering’ amid fears that county wide trade and businesses could be affected and Davey has revealed that the councillor’s concerned failed to raise any concerns about food safety at a meeting on 11 Sept yet have raised further issues in the local newspapers and media.

Councillor Daley also suggested ‘people in Northumberland could be poisoned’ because of weaknesses in the food standards inspection regime but the county council officially disputed these comments highlighting that officers had visited and assessed 2,946 food establishments in 2012/13. The council also revealed that it had increased the number of staff in the area by 20% since 2011 and had instituted an action plan after a damning Food Safety report was issued by the Food Standards Agency under the previous Liberal Democrat administration which was ‘on target to be completed in the agreed timescale’.

Grant Davey said
‘The people of Northumberland will rightly expect that our food standards regime is working effectively which is why I was disturbed to read the comments made by Councillor’s Jackson and Daley. I’ve asked the CEO to investigate whether their comments were justified and whether they have breached the councillor Code of Conduct. My worry is that this issue has been used to score cheap party political points and it has raised concerns that will alarm people across the county. These comments by the Conservative group risk undermining confidence in local businesses and the county food standards regime and I’m seeking an answer to the very basic question – if the councillor’s had concerns, then why didn’t they raise them here first rather than run to the local media?’.

Northumberland County Council is being urged to support a motion which would see blocks placed on computers in its libraries, workplaces and other authority buildings preventing users accessing short-term loan firms’ websites.

By Brian Daniel Journal
Northumberland County Council urged to act on payday loan firms
30 Sep 2013 09:50 Northumberland County Council is being urged to support a motion which would see blocks placed on computers in its libraries and other authority buildings

A second North council looks set to get tough on payday loan firms.

Northumberland County Council is being urged to support a motion which would see blocks placed on computers in its libraries, workplaces and other authority buildings preventing users accessing short-term loan firms’ websites.

The motion also proposes the council investigate the use of planning law to regulate the growth and spread of such companies.

It comes on the back of Newcastle City Council having already agreed to block access to websites boasting quick loans with high interest at its libraries and customer service points.

The row over online, short-term loan companies, known by many as ‘payday’ lenders, has come into the public eye since Wonga was named as sponsor of Newcastle United.

The motion to the Northumberland authority comes from Labour member for Cramlington Eastfield Laura Pidcock, vice chairman of its South East area committee and elected for the first time in May.

It goes to a full meeting of the council at County Hall in Morpeth on Wednesday afternoon.

The motion states: “The rising cost of living and falling income is causing genuine problems for people with their finances. Among those who borrow from high cost credit companies on average borrow around £326 per month.

“The interest paid on this money is punishing – many are unable to make the repayments.

“This council resolves to block access to payday loan websites through the public PCs in libraries and other council buildings across Northumberland and from its employees’ computers unless and until the industry, including its advertising practices, is effectively controlled.

“This council pledges to investigate the use of planning law to regulate the growth and spread of payday loan companies and pay weekly furniture providers who force maintenance and insurance agreements on customers, on our high streets.

“This action should be taken to enable the council to protect people from taking out high interest loans from companies that fail to check that they can repay the loan, often leading to them becoming trapped in a spiral of debt.

“This council is committed to strongly support recognised credit unions within our county as a sustainable alternative to high cost, short-term credit.

“We also call on this government to legislate and effectively regulate payday lenders and protect our communities from the growth in easy debt to bring closure on austerity as early as possible.”

Coun Davey pointed out that alongside ‘falling living standards that show the average working family has lost £1,350 since the Coalition took power, families in Northumberland now have to face up to the fact that the council has to cut at least £70million in the next two years’.

Families ‘facing a squeeze’
Published on the 27 September Northumberland Gazette

The leader of the county council has called on opposition councillors and MPs to stand up for families that are being hit by ‘falling living standards’.


Labour’s Grant Davey has attacked the Coalition for ‘sticking up for the wrong people’ as figures released by the House of Commons Library saw average earnings fall by £1,350 since the last General Election, based on the average median weekly wage for all employees from 2010 to 2012.

According to the party, wages have fallen by an estimated 5.8 per cent in Northumberland and the average family is spending £360 per week just to keep pace with price rises and living costs such as energy and fuel.

Labour is also pointing out that in a rural county like Northumberland, families are spending a disproportionate amount of disposable income on the cost of running a car.

Figures released by Aviva show the average cost of running a car has risen to £51 per week.

Coun Davey pointed out that alongside ‘falling living standards that show the average working family has lost £1,350 since the Coalition took power, families in Northumberland now have to face up to the fact that the council has to cut at least £70million in the next two years’.

“That means every household will lose services worth £222 per year,” he added.

“It’s high time that Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors and MPs in the county made their voices heard in Westminster and started to stand up for ordinary families facing a Coalition double whammy of service cuts and falling living standards.”

Friday, 27 September 2013

Leader of Council Grant Davey said; "I will ensure that the Chief Executive of the Council, Steve Stewart fully investigates the antics of these Councillors and if it found they have breached the Standards procedures they will be brought to justice. I believe he needs to get them to explain why they have tried to frighten the public without reason and apologise unequivocally to businesses and customers across Northumberland who's trade may have been damaged through their childish attempts to make political gain at the expense of others

Labour Group members in Northumberland can’t believe the press statements of Tory Councillors today regarding the food standards audit report which took place in October 2012 whilst they were in charge of scrutiny on behalf of the coalition parties.

Their comments may have rendered untold damage onto the food industry across Northumberland and the unsubstantiated remarks made by them may have breached the Councils strict standards procedures.
The council took immediate action before receiving the audit findings in December 2012 to address areas highlighted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in an audit conducted in October 2012.
In addition to developing a comprehensive audit action plan, the detail of which has been agreed by the FSA and the majority of actions now implemented, the public protection service continues to proactively develop service improvements so residents can be confident about food safety in Northumberland.

In 2012/13, officers undertook a total of 2,496 visits to food establishments, including programmed food hygiene inspections and food sampling visits.

Since the creation of the commercial Food Team in 2011, there are currently nine trained and qualified people working in food hygiene, which is an overall increase of two since 2011.Overall, we have a very good standard of food businesses within Northumberland, with 94% of those businesses that supply food direct to the consumer achieving a three, four or five star rating under the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

Labour took up office on May 22nd this year and had a report brought to the June Policy Board for clarification on this issue, that report indicated the work to bring the Council up to the standards stated in the FSA Auditors report was on track

Leader of Council Grant Davey said; "I will ensure that the Chief Executive of the Council, Steve Stewart fully investigates the antics of these Councillors and if it found they have breached the Standards procedures they will be brought to justice. I believe he needs to get them to explain why they have tried to frighten the public without reason and apologise unequivocally to businesses and customers across Northumberland who's trade may have been damaged through their childish attempts to make political gain at the expense of others"

Notice of Motion on Pay Day Loan sites.Council resolves to Block Access to Pay Day sites on Council buildings

NOTICE OF MOTION

(a) Notice of Motion No.1

In accordance with Rules of Procedure No.10, Councillor L. Pidcock to move the following motion, received by the Committee Services Manager on 24 September 2013:-
"The rising cost of living and falling income is causing genuine problems for people with their finances. Among those who borrow from high cost credit companies on average borrow around £326 per month. The interest paid on this money is punishing; many are unable to make the repayments.

This council resolves to block access to Payday loan websites through the public PC's in libraries and other council buildings across Northumberland and from its employees' computers unless and until the industry, including its advertising practices, is effectively controlled.

This Council pledges to investigate the use of planning law to regulate the growth and spread of Payday loan companies and pay weekly furniture providers who force maintenance and insurance agreements on customers, on our high streets

This action should be taken to enable the Council to protect people from taking out high interest loans from companies that fail to check that they can repay the loan, often leading to them becoming trapped in a spiral of debt.

This council is committed to strongly support recognised Credit Unions within our county as a sustainable alternative to high cost, short term credit.

We also call on this Government to legislate and effectively regulate Payday lenders and protect our communities from the growth in easy debt to bring closure on austerity as early as possible".

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

LABOUR WILL REPEAL THE BEDROOM TAX, WITHOUT EXTRA BORROWING

LABOUR WILL REPEAL THE BEDROOM TAX, WITHOUT EXTRA BORROWING

At a time when this Government is standing up for a privileged few by giving a tax cut to millionaires, it’s appalling that vulnerable people, many of them disabled, are being plunged into arrears and debt as a result of David Cameron’s Bedroom Tax.

Labour has announced that in Government we will repeal the Bedroom Tax. We’ll pay for that by reversing Government measures including the recent tax cut for hedge funds, the shares for rights scheme (which opened up a massive £1 billion tax loophole) and tackling tax scams in the construction industry.

This will provide a glimmer of hope to the over 400,000 disabled people hit by David Cameron’s cruel and unfair measure.

The move also demonstrates what life under Labour will be like. Not borrowing more in these tough times, but using Labour values to guide a different set of Labour priorities.

The fact remains that the Bedroom Tax does not deal with the problem that it’s supposed to solve, that of under-occupation. In fact, the Government’s costings on the amount raised from the Bedroom Tax explicitly assume that people do not move into smaller properties.

Labour will deal with under-occupation by funding local authorities who are able to help people with the costs of moving to suitable accommodation, using the funding set aside by the Government through Discretionary Housing Payments for dealing with the problems caused by the Bedroom Tax.

In tough times, Labour will make tough choices on all spending – including social security. Ed Miliband has set out that we won’t borrow to pay for this or any social security change.

It is because Labour is serious about getting the social security bill down that repealing the Bedroom Tax is the right thing to do. As well as being cruel and unfair, growing evidence shows that the Bedroom Tax costs more than it saves, partly because those forced to move to the private rented sector will end up costing more in Housing Benefit.

Housing Associations say that tens of millions of pounds are likely to be lost through the build up of arrears.
There will be many tough choices ahead for Labour, like cutting the winter fuel allowance for the wealthiest pensioners.

But what is distinctly Labour, is our belief that we need a recovery that benefits everyone, not just a few at the top.

Our approach to bringing social security down will be to ensure that more people are in work. That is why we want to help to make work pay by introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax – paid for by a mansion tax – and to repeat the tax on bankers’ bonuses to pay for a compulsory jobs guarantee for young people.
I’m ready to make tough choices. But it will be in a distinctly Labour way.

Families in Northumberland facing the ‘big squeeze’

Families in Northumberland facing the ‘big squeeze’
‘Coalition priorities are targeting the wrong people’ – Grant Davey

Northumberland County Council leader Grant Davey has attacked the governing coalition for ‘sticking up for the wrong people’ as figures released by the House of Commons Library saw average earnings fall by £1,350 since the last General Election. In Northumberland, wages have fallen by an estimated 5.8% and the average family is spending £360 per week just to keep pace with price rises and living costs such as energy and fuel.
Labour are also pointing out that in a rural county like Northumberland, families are spending a disproportionate amount of disposable income on the cost of running a car. Figures released by Aviva, show the average cost of running a car has risen to £51 per week.
Now Grant Davey, the Labour group leader and the leader of Northumberland County Council has waded into the cost of living debate by highlighting how coalition cuts and tax increases are hitting those least able to afford it the most.
He said
‘It’s clear where the priorities of this coalition are with a tax cut for millionaires while increasing VAT which hits ordinary families disproportionately. Coupled with falling living standards that show the average working family has lost £1,350 since the coalition took power, families in Northumberland now have to face up to the fact that the council has to cut at least £70m as well in the next two years. That means every household will lose services worth £222 per year. It’s high time that Conservative and Liberal Democrats councillors and MP’s in the county made their voices heard in Westminster and started to stand up for ordinary families facing a coalition ‘double whammy of service cuts and falling living standards’.


Notes for Editors

1. £1,350 average wage fall – House of Commons Library – Based on average median weekly wage for all employees – 2010-12 adjusted by RPI
2. Aviva Household Spending Data here




Friday, 20 September 2013

OPEN LETTER FROM LGA

Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP, Local Government House
Leader of the Labour Party, Smith Square
House of Commons, London
London SW1P 3HZ
SW1A 0AA
19/08/2013

Dear Ed,
We are heartened to hear reports that Labour might commit to scrapping the Bedroom Tax at Party Conference this week. We are writing to offer you our support in making that commitment.
As Leaders and Mayors of Councils we know how hard people are being hit by rising bills, frozen or cut wages and cuts to the services they rely on. We know how hard the Government’s benefit cuts are hurting the most vulnerable in our society. We also understand the difficult financial constraints a future Labour Government would have to work under. We know that Labour will not be able to get the economy on track straight away, that the cuts will continue to bite and that the welfare reforms will continue to hurt people long into a Labour Government. As leaders we know that difficult and unpopular decisions sometimes have to be made. And we know that you will have tough messages to give our supporters in the months to come. But people need hope
That is why we are writing, to ask you to announce at this year’s conference that if Labour wins the next General Election it will scrap Bedroom Tax at the earliest opportunity.
Our Party’s current public position is that Labour wants the Government to scrap the Bedroom Tax, but as we won’t say what we will do if we win the next election our position seem disingenuous. It gives space to our political opponents from parties who are not in Government to attack our party for a policy we oppose, it is demoralising for our activists and most importantly it allows our potential supporters to say that there is no difference between us and the Conservatives. 2

Announcing our position on this now will galvanise our activists, give us a real dividing line for the European and local elections and most importantly give the people who are being hurt by Bedroom Tax something to believe in.
We know that rightly you want to make sure that our Party has a strong reputation for financial responsibility. We all know that the Government has never made a proper financial analysis about the hidden costs of bedroom tax. Forcing people to move from a socially owned property to a privately owned property costs more in housing benefit. Chasing people for small debts can cost a lot more than it brings in. Evicting people for not paying rent and rehousing them is very expensive. Some councils and housing associations are no longer able to let out three bedroom properties and this is hurting our rental income and our ability to finance more property building.
We will supply you with whatever cost information you need be we also know that whatever financial argument we make for the abolition of the Bedroom Tax the Conservatives will not listen to it and they will go on the attack.
For us the finances are not the main issue. This is an argument about principles, the true costs of the bedroom tax are human and are far worse.
We know that that the Bedroom Tax is disproportionately hitting disabled people, 420,000 people who need space for carers, washing space and equipment are being affected by it. People are getting into arrears which is causing them anguish. They are forced to move out of their neighbourhoods and away from their support base because there is a shortage of one bedroom properties - a situation that has built up because councils listened to governments of all parties and built properties big enough for families. We know that the Government gave local authorities discretionary housing payments but that money only covers £1 in every £7 cut from the benefit changes and in many councils it has already run out. We know that many of our residents are not getting in to arrears yet because they are turning to pay day leaders and we know what the impact of that will be. The Bedroom Tax is forcing people who cannot work out of their homes and in to debt. The Bedroom Tax hits the most vulnerable in our society and it hits them hard. We cannot have a One Nation Britain while Bedroom Tax exists.
Committing to repealing the Bedroom Tax also sends an important signal to our supporters; We know times will be difficult but Labour will do things differently. Labour will offer hope.
We offer our full support in making your announcement and working with you to repeal the Bedroom Tax. 3

Monday, 16 September 2013

Allan Hepple Policy Board member for Housing and Regeneration said:"Cambridge doesn't have to drain or build on its areas of outstanding natural beauty to accommodate additional companies, those companies simply need to think about the advantages moving to the clean north east can bring to their industry, facilities and their family lifestyles."

Northumberland County Council are interested in the Silicone Fen 'outgrowth'

Through Councils networks, information that the Silicone Fen scheme in Cambridge has outgrown its planned borders and may have to drain AONB's and greenbelts to grow is very interesting for regeneration and planning officers in Northumberland.

Northumberland has become the hub of high technology, clean chemical and pharmaceutical industries at its Ashington, Blyth and Cramlington estates and has enormous room to grow even further using its asset of pure clean air as well as being a prime place to reside, as a catalyst for attracting Silicone industries into the North East.

Other LA7 Councils have tended to attract slightly heavier manufacturing industries to their sites such as automobile production and heavy chemical producers, Northumberland however has been found attractive to progressive organisations such as NAREC and GE Energy, Silicone Technology companies would find their needs comparably met.

Allan Hepple Policy Board member for Housing and Regeneration said:"Cambridge doesn't have to drain or build on its areas of outstanding natural beauty to accommodate additional companies, those companies simply need to think about the advantages moving to the clean north east can bring to their industry, facilities and their family lifestyles.
"