Middlesbrough Council is facing the cuts axe again as Ray Mallon unveiled his proposals for another string of cost savings.
At Middlesbrough Town Hall Mayor Mallon set out his proposals for the budget for 2015/16.
Among the key proposals raised were:
:: The budget slashed by £14.1m;
:: 770 jobs affected – including 220 job losses, 350 staff transferring from Mouchel to council and 200 transferring out;
:: Council tax will rise by up to 2%;
:: Funding for books in libraries to be cut by half;
:: More automated systems, fewer staff;
:: Charging for Newport Road bus lane misuse to generate an income of £30,000;
:: Removing funding for speech and language therapy in schools – making schools are responsible for the cost. A saving of £30,000;
> Which will just be transfered to the schools, who can’t afford it either.
:: No subsidies for bus services 12, 28, 29A, 537, 603, 605, 606 and 607.
The budget comprises a list of proposed 45 cuts and charges to generate income for the local authority.
There will now be a consultation period until December 3.
There will be another full council meeting on December 10 regarding the consultation process.
Staff will begin a consultation period regarding their jobs tomorrow morning.
The latest savings come after £15m of cuts in the current financial year.
A further £40m had been slashed from spending in the previous three years, which has seen community centres and libraries closed and services such as grass cutting and street cleaning reduced.
There have been 728 job losses at the council so far – with a further 600 job losses expected between now and 2019/20.
Mr Mallon added that most job losses would be down to voluntary redundancy and retirement.
> Even if they were all met by voluntary redundancy and retirement, that’s still 1328 jobs that no longer exist.
He added that the council would endeavour to keep compulsory redundancies to a minimum.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 22 Oct 2014
Middlesbrough Council has the highest arrears amount – £13m – but Stockton and Redcar and Cleveland councils also saw a rise in the amount they are owed.
All three authorities say the rise in tax arrears is down to Government changes to council tax benefit in 2013 – which led to people receiving higher bills, and some paying for the first time.
Middlesbrough’s Deputy Mayor and executive member for finance and governance, Councillor Dave Budd, said: “The remaining balance will continue to be actively pursued on an ongoing basis.
“Our approach does recognise the impact on vulnerable individuals and those in real hardship.
“It should be noted that nationally, with only a few exceptions, the map of where arrears are highest mirrors the map of high deprivation, greatest cuts to councils and the hardest impact of welfare reform.”
The rising arrears emerged from figures announced from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
This month, The Gazette revealed that almost £9m in council tax went unclaimed in Teesside in 2012/13 – with Middlesbrough having one of the worst collection rates in the country at 93.4%.
The total arrears amount also takes into account unpaid taxes from previous years.
Households in Middlesbrough owe £214 each on average, one of the highest per dwelling amounts in England.
Cllr Budd said that benefit changes “must be taken into account” as Middlesbrough received a £2.6m reduction in Government funding last year, which saw 13,800 residents having to pay more tax – with 10,000 paying for the first time.
Council tax arrears are £5,092,000 in Stockton – a 25% increase on 2012/13 – with households owing £61 each on average across the borough.
Stockton Council’s cabinet member for corporate management and finance, Councillor David Harrington, said: “We collected more than 98% of all Council Tax in 2012/13 and in 2013/14 we collected 96.9%, which is still well above similar authorities.
“It is important to note that the sums quoted do not represent arrears accrued in a single year but those accrued over a number of years and that we continue to work hard to collect outstanding Council Tax amounts after the years in which they first fell due. These figures should also be viewed in the context of the current financial climate and the major changes the Government has made to the welfare system.”
The arrears figure in Redcar and Cleveland is just over £9m – an average of £144 per household.
Norman Pickthall, Redcar and Cleveland Council’s cabinet member for corporate resources, said that the council expected difficulties in collecting tax from those who are struggling, but still collected nearly 96% of council tax last year.
He continued: “Changes to the benefits system mean some people are paying council tax for the first time while others are struggling with dwindling household budgets.
“The council has a statutory duty to collect all debts and will take legal or recovery action as a last resort.
“However, the council will always try to help whenever possible and would urge anyone who is having problems paying their council tax to get in touch.”
Source – middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 18 July 2014
To the dismay and anger of Labour councillors present at a Coventry Council debate on food banks, Cllr Julia Lepoidevin couldn’t wait to get stuck in and demonise local residents who turn to food banks to help feed their families.
The tory councillor for Coventry’s Woodlands ward suggested that people who visit food banks prefer to “choose alcohol, drugs and their own selfish needs” over providing food for their own children. The comment prompted swift calls for her to resign her position.
“But do colleagues in this chamber never have cases where families make a conscious decision not to pay their rent, their utilities or to provide food for their children because they choose alcohol, drugs and their own selfish needs?
“There are families that have enough income and make a choice. It might be a shame but it is true and those very families that I describe are the very families that will not engage with our services early and our services then have to pick up the problems through social care.
“This is why we need to know the impact lifestyle choices are having on our children. Until we know that we are never going to know the proper picture.”
Labour Councillors present at the food bank debate were so disgusted and angered by what they were hearing, Lord Mayor Hazel Noonan had to step in to restore order.
Responding to the comments made by Julia Lepoidevin, Labour Councillor Damian Gannon said:
“Councillor Lepoidevin’s comments were, quite frankly, reprehensible.
“Those in poverty aren’t feckless, they aren’t alcoholics or drug users, they aren’t looking for an easy life on benefits – they are hard-working people, low-income families who are looking to do the best they can for themselves and their families and that’s a fact!”
Labour’s Ed Ruane, cabinet member for children’s services, added:
“Councillor Lepoidevin’s commented that people who use food banks in Coventry do so because of lifestyle choices and because they are feckless.
“If she genuinely believes this appalling slur then she should produce the evidence or resign from the shadow cabinet.”
A furious operations director at a Coventry food bank said Councillor Lepoidevin’s comments risks stigmatising food bank users and could deter the city’s residents from donating to the food bank, which helps feed almost 18,000 local people a year.
Speaking to the Coventry Telegraph, operations director Gavin Kibble said:
“People come to us because they are referred to us by third-party agencies.
“One of those agencies is the agency for people recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol. But you can’t do the drink and drugs and just turn up. People are signposted to us through agencies.
“The food bank does not decide who it gives food to, it works on a voucher referral system from agencies.”
He added: “It sidelines people. We have people referred to us from domestic violence agencies, children’s services, debt issues.
“Are we going to stigmatise every part of society and question every decision they have made before deciding if we help them?
“We are going down a very dangerous road. Where do we stop?”
“It won’t stop people seeking support, but comments like that might stop people donating.
“When councillors make comments like this, for one reason or another, they muddy the water and that doesn’t help.”
Local Conservative Party leader John Blundell later backed his colleagues comments by referring to “some” bank users as being “feckless” sections of the community, who “do not engage” and “take advantage” of the service food banks provide.
He said: “I think she was talking from personal experiences. I think, undoubtedly, there’s a certain section of the community that is taking advantage of food banks just as there is a section which has genuine need. I would stand by that.”
“Her comments are a reflection of the frustration that families do not engage with us because they are feckless, they have issues connected with alcohol and we find it a very frustrating exercise.”
The Coventry Telegraph say that around 50 local people a day are using food banks and the total number (17,663) is up 40% in just 12 months.
Source – Welfare News Service, 27 June 2014
Local councils have been failing to check voter lists by making door-to-door visits – leading to a loss of no less than six million people from the electoral register, the BBC has reported.
This is before a new system comes into operation that will require people to put themselves on the register individually, rather than being registered as part of a household. This has been designed by the Coalition government and it is widely believed that it will discourage people who are not Tories or Lib Dems from registering – effectively rigging elections in favour of the ruling parties.
In addition, it is widely believed that the public in general is losing faith in democracy after being forced to put up with one government after another who have sidled into office with a minority of the vote – most people have voted against them. These governments have then imposed…
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Another £20m of cuts will see councils end their historic “paternal provider” role, a chief executive has admitted.
North Tyneside Council’s most senior official, Patrick Melia, has said the nature of local authorities will change to one that “steps in when people fall”.
The council needs to reduce its spending by 2018 by around £20m, and is now preparing to set out three years worth of spending plans as it looks at the next budget rounds.
Mr Melia said that if his £150m budget is “spent wisely we can still do a lot of good with it”.
Alongside that cash comes health spending, and money for schools, homes and building work which will still see some half a billion pounds spent in the borough, something the chief executive says is “a cause for optimism”.
The council official said that while he cannot rule out job losses at the council over the next three years, he could point to a strong record at the council of avoiding compulsory redundancies, and was hopeful to make the process as painless as possible.
He said: “Local government in the North East has been paternalistic. We have always wanted to care for people, with the recession we have had and the way things are we now have to help people to do these things for themselves, but to be there to catch people if they do it for themselves.
“We will be moving away from being a paternalistic provider of services to one that enables people to look after themselves, and reduce demand for services as a result.”
Mr Melia added: “We are working now on a plan that sees us think three years ahead. If our share of local spending is £150m by then how best do we spend that money?
“It means we have to redesign how we deliver services here.
“I think one thing we need to think about as part of that is we often talk of hard to reach people, but it is the council that can be hard to reach for some people.
“I mean the council knows where people live, but some people will just not come through the door of an official council building, so changing how we provide those services is something we will look at.”
Alongside that will come a continued focus on regeneration, with work continuing on the likes of the A19 Silverlink improvements, the redevelopment of Wallsend town centre and the various projects around Whitley Bay and the coast.
“We need to help businesses as much as people, to get people with the right skills to be where they are needed,” Mr Melia added.
Source – Newcastle Journal 16April 2014
It is easy to get caught up in headlines and forget that the Coalition’s benefit reforms mean people you know will lose their homes.
You know what happens then? PEOPLE YOU KNOW START LOSING THEIR HOMES.
Vox Political was warning the world about this back in 2012 – nearly two years ago – saying the bedroom tax would put people on the streets while homes go empty and warning about the ‘Poll Tax revival plan to take away your home’. It gives me no pleasure at all to report that I was right.
This week I heard about two cases in my Mid Wales town. You may think that isn’t many, but this is a town with a population of less than 5,000 – and I haven’t heard about every case.
The first involves a family that has been living in the same council house for more than 30 years…
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Vulnerable children and adults with disabilities or high support needs may be forced to pay the Bedroom Tax, despite protestations to the contrary by Lord Freud, after it was revealed that creating more protections would cause ‘political embarrassment’.
Current rules mean some supported housing is protected from the Bedroom Tax, benefit cap and the effects of Universal Credit (if a working version ever arrives) – but this accommodation is not exempted if the landlord is not the care provider or when the landlord is a local authority.
This means that, for example, supported housing provider Habinteg has 1,200 wheelchair-accessible properties for the disabled – but only 516 of them are exempt from the benefit changes.
Lord Freud, who is minister for social security reform, said last April that the DWP was working to ensure all supported accommodation would be protected from what he called the “unintended consequences” of the government’s…
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North Tyneside Council has agreed a motion to block payday loan companies websites from its computers – PCs used by all council staff and those available to the public in libraries and Customer First centres – and to prevent such companies setting up business in council-owned commercial property.
The motion also called on the government to legislate and effectively regulate payday lenders (dont hold your breath on that one…).
Mayor Norma Redfearn said: “With the soaring costs of energy and food bills, cuts in benefits and a freeze on wages it’s not suprising that more and more people feel they have no option but to take desperate measures to meet their bills.
“Our research shows that people are now borrowing on average around 326 pounds a month from these credit companies. The interest they charge is absolutely scandalous, so it’s no wonder that many people are caught in a spiral of debt and taking out more loans just to get by.
“This council is taking a significant first step by agreeing this motion, and I can guarantee there will be more action to come.”
No matter how bad things get, there will always be someone waiting to take advantage. It’s to be hoped that other councils might follow this example, as well as promoting Credit Unions as an alternative.