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'
.

£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

Share on printShare on email
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)