Thursday, 27 January 2011

No to AV - Clegg has stated coalitions must mean broken pledges

I have joined the No to AV campaign. I hope it is a worthwhile and enjoyable debate.

One of the principle reasons I am against is in fact the shameful disregard for democracy exhibited by Nick Clegg since the General Election when he has justified the abandonment of any (or all!) Liberal Democrat pledges on the basis that 'we are in a coalition'.

Whilst AV will not necessarily lead to coalition government, it is slightly more likely and is the thrust of the 'fair votes' campaign. Fair votes is meaningless if it only leads to dishonest pledges, and his has done - and proudly advertised so by Clegg when lining up excuses for a serious of wonky u-turns.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

New Government restrictions on the use of EDMO's will achieve little

New Government restrictions on the use EDMO's will achieve little.

It is a policy that appears to be heading in the wrong direction given the limited times that this legislation has been used and the demand for a solution to blighted and empty property.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Government secretly removes an extra £4.5million from Lancashire's Schools

Ed Balls case against Gove as incompetent was right. He is also overseeing unfair and now, secretive cuts

Mr Gove has been trying to trump up in the national media the headline numbers of his flagship academy Schools. At the same time has been unable to provide a list of proposed academy schools that would provide the information for fair and clear education funding.

Gove's unfair guesswork this week resulted in Lancashire being short changed around £4.5million without a hint of transparency.

‘Fish fight’ campaign & overexploitation of fish stocks

Labour has welcomed the ‘Fish Fight’ campaign as drawing attention to the scandal of discarded fish.

Pennine Lancashire: Why it is the right way forward

This Thursday a meeting has been called by Ministers and Civil Servants from CLG and BIS for all the Lancashire MP’s regarding the Local Enterprise Partnership issues in Lancashire.

Several discussions with Senior Civil Servants and Pennine Lancashire representatives over the last few weeks and they have indicated that their advice to ministers is that a two LEP solution for Lancashire is the only realistic way forward, that is - one for Pennine Lancashire and one for the West/Central Lancashire and I understand that this is now the view of the two ministers leading on LEPs.

There have been issues over the past few months regarding the difference of opinion between the majority of Pennine Lancashire authorities and Lancashire County Council.

The position of the Pennine Lancashire councils remains unchanged with the exception of Ribble Valley Council who has stated that their preference is now for a single Lancashire LEP, however, this was based on their understanding that there was no possibility of CLG and BIS approving two LEPs in Lancashire.

The East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and the Pennine Lancashire Business Leaders Forum remain in strong support of the Pennine Lancs proposal and have written to government in December confirming this.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

14,500 police jobs already set to go as cuts start to bite

Almost 14,500 police jobs in just over a third of forces in England and Wales are to be lost, as police chiefs begin to assess the impact of over 20 per cent funding cuts announced by the Conservative-led government just four weeks ago.

The figures come from a survey by Labour’s shadow home affairs team, to be published by Ed Balls today when he gives evidence to a home affairs select committee inquiry on the spending review’s impact on policing.

According to the research, 16 out of the 43 police forces or authorities in England and Wales have made public statements announcing a total of 14,482 police staff jobs will be lost, including 6,257 police officers.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Citizens Advide Bureau Hyndburn: The start of the 'little society'.

Having met the managers of both CAB Rossendale and Hyndburn in the last few weeks I worry that government cuts, rather than produce David Cameron's much vaunted 'Big Society', an ironic juxtaposition to Margaret Thatcher's 'there's no such thing as society', we are hurtling faster than the political speed of light toward the 'little society.

Funding cuts to both local CABs are looking edging toward the 50% mark and as a direct consequence Hyndburn CAB may end face to face debt advice. Alternate and less visible premises may have to be sought and four more people will be added to the seeking work register at JobCentre+.

Rossendale is facing a similar predicament.

The next few weeks we find out is the Treasury who directly fund Financial Inclusion Fund worth £35,000 to Hyndburn will kick the last crutch from under CAB as we know it.

This government are letting people down with reckless cuts. That's as said. However they are deceiving people with 'Big Society'. It is evidentially not big, it is actually getting smaller and much to the detriment of us all. CAB are just another victim of this cruel deceit.

Just remember it was George Osborne who said "we are all in this together" and "the burden of debt should not fall on the shoulders of the poor" and it was David Cameron who promised 'no front line cuts'. It was Nick Clegg who promised a "fairer society" mind you at least Clegg has been 'outed' as someone who will say anything and it means nothing.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Two LEP solution on the cards?

Noises coming out of Westminster suggest that Lancashire will have a two LEP solution. Pennine Lancashire and west Lancashire.

A two LEP solution for Lancashire is a much better solution to economic cooperation in the county. Pennine Lancashire has a partnership infrastructure in place and shares common issues. Both inwardly with education, transport and outwardly in travel to work, economic ties to Manchester.

Personalties have damaged the Lancashire County Council bid. The same personalities who are riding roughshod over Lancashire voters. Whilst I thank CC Charlie Briggs for defending the libellous comments made about myself, they are the sort of child's play that ill serves the people of Lancashire.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Extra Grit Boxes? - 'Blue Box' Grit Scheme

For the past 6 months I have been working towards extra grit boxes, particularly as County Councillor in the area of Baxenden.

The problem with extra grit boxes is that if they are not provided by a uniform, equal method of need, ambulance solicitors file claims for an 'absence of gritting service' with liability on the County Council and the council tax payer. There has to be uniform provision based on fixed, measured criteria.

In reality there are places that require gritting, or are a long way from any grit box. Funding extra 'private' grit bins is not a problem. Placing them on the highways without insurance and permission is.

Private Landlords evade £49.7million in taxation

Figures from HMRC reveal private landlords have underpaid £49.7million in tax between 2007 and 2010.

With 650 constituencies that equates to £76,000 per constituency. Given a constituency like Hyndburn where there are large numbers of landlords, as opposed to Buckinghamshire for example, we can probably expect underpayment of tax in this area to be nearer £200,000.

Graham Jones (Hyndburn, Labour)

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs has made of the (a) level of outstanding, (b) unassessed and (c) undeclared tax liabilities by private landlords in each of the last four tax years; and if he will make a statement.
* Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 13 December 2010, c560W)

David Gauke (Exchequer Secretary, HM Treasury; South West Hertfordshire, Conservative)

HMRC does not hold the information requested by the hon. Member. The self-assessment regime provides for liabilities to be returned and assessed by the taxpayer.

However, the risk of potential loss of tax from private landlords was targeted by the National Property Project which ran between May 2007 and July 2010. The additional cumulative yield from 18,405 interventions settled to date is not split into separate years and totals £49.7 million. This figure is projected to reach £61 million once all inquiries from this project are concluded.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Rossendale bailiffs caught operating underhand tactics

A constituent who found himself on hard times and defaulted on his Council Tax for the first time became the victim of Council incompetence and underhand practices by bailiffs.

A missed payment of £100 became a default notice of some £1100 after unregistered visits to his property where levied on his account.

After 18 months campaigning with Rossendale Citizens Advice, help from his MP, The Local Government Ombudsman found in favour. Bailiffs were found guilty of malpractice by; failing to provide an inventory list after levying a charge, levying that charge against a motor vehicle outside that was not the victims - one just picked at random even after the victim the bailiffs it was not his car but someone else's; failing to record information (such as time and details) about the visits to the victims property to seek asset recovery.

Rossendale Council were identified by the LGO as failing to administer bailiffs correctly and they were advised by the LGO to under take a review of the way they deal with people.

Quite simply Rossendale Council have neglected a duty of care and have allowed bailiffs under their authority to engage in sharp practices. How more victims are there out there who have been neglected and dare I say, had money fraudulently added to their costs.

Citizens Advice Rossendale have informed me that this practice is more common that this one of case. That it is a scam to just to turn up and pick a car, any car, and levy a charge on it. They are concerned about the numbers of people who haven't had the strength of mind to find this injustice and despite having fallen on hard times, had to find hundreds of pounds to pay off bogus charges.

Having worked with the victim on this case I find it absolutely shocking that bailiffs can turn up and use underhand and devious means to escalate a debt form a hundred pounds to thousands of pounds.

The victim has highlighted the the language used. That people may be being misled in to thinking the Council's debts has been sold on to the bailiffs or another company. Kester Dean of Citizens Advice Rossendale has stated this practice is illegal. That Council Tax debt is always the Council's debt and bailiffs are always just agents of the Council.

The disappointing aspect of all this despite the LGO finding against Rossendale Council and the bailiffs concerned is that lack of any compensation for the harassment and time spent by the victim correcting this injustice. It is almost a cost free risk to bailiffs to Council's to pursue debts aggressively and in a fraudulent way.

Local Government Ombudsman Complaint Reference '09 003 990/JEM'
Contact information;  To order reports not on the website call: 020 7217 4683

LEP: LCC Leader keeps a straight face whilst misleading the public

The raging debate on a Lancashire LEP continues. Frosty relations between Lancashire Town Halls.

On the 16th December at Lancashire County Council's Full Council a vigorous exchange took place between Burnley Council Leader and LCC's leader made numerous inaccurate comments.

25 minutes into the video of proceedings The County Council Leader makes a claim that there is only one Lancashire LEP bid. On the 8th December the Minister has received two bids as noted in the letter from Mark Prisk.

CC Driver, the Lancashire Leader also claimed Hyndburn is not supporting a rival Pennine Lancashire LEP bid which it is. It is about time Lancashire County Council plays a fair game or raps up it's bid.

It's about time we had a new kind of politics. County Councillor Driver should tell the truth or resign. There is no leader who is worth his position who cannot tell the truth.

Big Society collapsing: Home Start Hyndburn, a charity helping young familes close to collapse

David Cameron's Big Society is collapsing. There was never any doubt that cutting the government budget equated to huge cuts in the voluntary and charitable sectors.

My own view is this is sheer madness. Volunteers by their very name give hours of public service and help draw in £millions of private contributions and a significant proportion of this is going just just be allowed to wither and die just to save a much smaller amount in the governments own budget.

Today I learned that Home Start Hyndburn, a charity helping young familes is close to collapse. They have an emergency fund raising event on Friday 21st January, 8pm at the Brookes Club on Infant Street.

Home Start as an organisation help families with young children. People who will be in most need as the Tory led governments' austerity bites.

When Mervyn King was critical of Osborne and Cameron, he didn't need to just confine his comments to the economy, he could have extended his critique all the way up to Cameron's own flagship idea, his Big Society.

The reality is, it is the old Tory way; every person for them self and if your one of the unfortunate, unlucky.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Government’s attack on Education

I recently spoke out in a debate in Westminster on the Government’s decision to cut support for helping students into education.

The Government’s decision to axe the Educational Maintenance Allowance has demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the challenges that young people from poorer backgrounds face. Cutting EMA combined with the decision to treble Tuition Fees will only make getting into further education harder for young people across this country.

You can see my contribution to the debate below.

Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Clark, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) on securing the debate. I shall try to keep my comments brief, because I know that others wish to speak.

The discretionary learners support fund is a mere 13% of the money provided under the educational maintenance allowance. Do the Government estimate that the number of people in need of financial support through further education is only 13% of what it once was or are Members arguing, as has been suggested, that youngsters will still go to college, but they will go impoverished?

Nearly 19,000 students in Lancashire rely on the EMA to give families the financial flexibility that allows them to continue to study. My hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson), who is no longer in his place, and my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), noted that students in receipt of EMA outperformed other students-by 7% in Sefton and 6% in Hull East, I think. In areas such as my constituency, the EMA often means the difference between going on to further study and not doing so.

Stephen Carlisle, the principal of Accrington and Rossendale college, which is our local college, told me that he is expecting a big drop in numbers. He believes the withdrawal of the EMA

"will impact on the ability of poorer students to go to college".

The college will have to use its already stretched budget to help those disadvantaged students because, as Mr Carlisle said:

"We can't cast them aside and just educate those who can afford to go".

The experience in the college reflects the comments of a lot of other principals; it is not only Mr Carlisle who is expressing that opinion, and when it comes from the educational establishment, I think we should listen.