Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Free parking proving a divisive issue for Northumberland Tories

Free parking proving a divisive issue for Northumberland Tories
Tory group leader and Town and Parish Council’s set for collision on who should decide local parking as Jackson seeks to play ‘Santa in Sept’.

Northumberland Conservative group leader Peter Jackson has put his group on a ‘collision course’ with Conservative dominated Town Council’s like Hexham after it emerged he had tabled a motion to next week’s meeting of Full Council (3 Sept) calling for the ‘introduction of free parking across the whole county in Dec’.
In a move which sees Councillor Jackson seeking to play ‘Santa in Sept’, his motion has been described as ‘premature and divisive’ by Hexham Town Councillor Dave Clegg.
Hexham Town Council is due to meet with officers of the County Council in the next two weeks to set out a ‘roadmap’ to produce a ‘Traffic Management Plan’ which will allow for the permanent introduction of free parking in towns such as Hexham, Berwick, Morpeth and Alnwick. The council has set up a cross party committee to work out how local communities can manage their traffic flows and the County Council have already pledged to introduce ‘free parking’ as part of the plan if that’s what local communities decide.
Now Councillor Jackson and fellow Conservative councillors on the County Council have been accused of ‘undermining local decisions’ as town council’s in Berwick, Morpeth, Hexham and Alnwick meet to discuss how they want to introduce new traffic schemes including a pledge for free parking if local communities agree.
The motion comes hot on the heels of Hexham MP Guy Opperman’s intervention when he accused the county council of ‘dragging its feet over free car parking’. His comments have attracted criticism as parish council’s such as Corbridge have already indicated that they may not want to introduce free parking because ‘it may create a parking free for all’.

Hexham Town Councillor Dave Clegg, commenting on the motion said
‘I’m unsure why Peter Jackson and Guy Opperman have a problem with local communities making a decision about how they manage their parking and traffic flows. Labour candidates across Northumberland stood on a platform to give local communities the final say over free parking and now the Conservatives seem to want to take that away. Why can’t they learn that County Hall doesn’t have to make every decision?’
A Labour group spokesperson said
‘Peter Jackson’s motion risks upsetting the arrangements that local town and parish councils are going to make on their traffic management plans. We’re seeking his assurances that this motion isn’t designed to upset plans to introduce free parking through local traffic management plans. His motion ignores parish council’s like Corbridge and its key that local communities get to decide their own parking priorities. Free parking has been a vexatious issue for too long and instead of trying to play ‘Santa in September’, Peter Jackson and the Conservative party in Northumberland should be working with their colleagues on town and parish council’s to make sure that local priorities are reflected in their traffic plans. After all, under Labour’s manifesto commitment, free parking will be for all year round not just for Christmas’.


Tuesday, 3 September 2013


New arrears mount as tax begins to bite as Labour calls for cross party support to lobby government

Figures released by the Labour party in Northumberland show the stark reality behind the coalition government introduction of the so called ‘bedroom tax’ as new rent arrears across Northumberland have ‘rocketed’ by 62% (these are families who have never been in arrears prior to the introduction of the bedroom tax).

Figures also show that families in Northumberland will lose an estimated £1.9m as housing benefit is reduced.
An estimated 5,225 families across the county area are affected by the housing benefit reductions. 64% of the families affected are ‘in work’ and receive housing benefit to supplement a minimum income.
It also emerged that despite the much trumpeted coalition government ‘discretionary fund’ which was made available to ‘cushion the impact of the bedroom tax’ has only provided payments to 95 families despite 1,119 families seeking support to meet extra payments which average £12.56 per week.

Now Labour in Northumberland are calling for ‘a common voice’ as it prepares to lobby the government on the problems caused by the controversial tax on bedrooms.
They want to join up with local MP’s and voluntary groups to make the case to show the government’s discretionary housing payment fund is ‘too little, too late’.

A Labour group spokesperson said
‘These figures highlight the misery and human impact of the ‘bedroom tax’ and it’s clear that there are significant problems emerging which will mean tough decisions for families and local government. New arrears have rocketed by 62% since the tax was introduced and it’s clear that the government’s discretionary fund payment is woefully inadequate. This shouldn’t be about party political point scoring and we’re committed to working with everyone and every organisation which wants to lobby the government on behalf of their communities’.