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.”