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’.