Tagged: Danny Alexander

Letter reveals Nick Clegg’s secret plan for road charging, parking taxes and local beer taxes

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg privately wanted to give councils powers to impose new taxes including road-pricing, workplace parking taxes and local beer and cigarette taxes, it has emerged.

In his role as Deputy Prime Minister he also said councils should be free to impose a tourism tax, such as taxes on visitors staying in hotels, and to scrap existing council tax discounts including the 20% discount for people who live alone.

The proposals were set out in a letter from Mr Clegg to Eric Pickles, the Conservative Local Government Secretary, in 2011 – but were rejected by Mr Pickles.

The latest revelation about the behind-the-scenes debates within the Coalition government comes as Tories and Lib Dems fight a series of pitched battles in marginal seats such as Berwick-upon-Tweed.

While Conservative leader David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband are the only politicians with a chance of becoming Prime Minister after the general election, many of the seats the Conservatives have a realistic chance of gaining on May 7 are held by their Lib Dem Coalition partners.

Mr Clegg wanted councils to have “a much wider range of taxation and charging powers” which they would be free to use.

 

The aim would have been to ensure councils were “self-funding” rather than depending on funding from central government for most of their income, as they do now.

Specific proposals in the letter to Mr Pickles included giving councils “complete freedom over discounts rather than mandating them to offer specific discounts to single people, empty homes, second homes etc”.

The letter continued:

“There is a set of further tax powers that could warrant further consideration, including, but not limited to: fuel taxes; sales taxes; landfill taxes; workplace parking levies; utility taxes; ‘tourism taxes’; local airport levies; duties on alcohol, tobacco and other substances; and stamp duty”.

> He left out a Fresh Air tax. Pay-to-breathe…

And the Government should consider give councils charging powers covering “parking charges; speeding fines; waste collection; road pricing” and more, the letter said.

Mr Clegg told his Cabinet colleague:

“We should drive to ensure that local authorities have the greatest range of revenue raising powers at their disposal and are as unencumbered from central government restraints as possible.”

The letter was written as the Department for Communities and Local Government considered plans to allow councils to retain some of the business rates they collect.

But it has emerged now as the battle between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in marginal seats becomes increasingly bitter, with the two Coalition parties lifting the lid on internal Government discussions from the past five years in an attempt to embarrass each other.

Lib Dems are defending a majority of 2,690 in Berwick.

Both parties have accused the other of secretly backing plans to impose regional pay – which would mean public sector workers such as nurses or teachers were paid less in the north east than those in the south east.

And Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has said that in 2012 the Conservative Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, distributed ideas for cutting the welfare bill which included limiting child benefit and child tax credit payments to two children – cutting up to £3,500 from a family with three children – and means testing child benefit, which would cut payments by £1,750 for a middle-income family with two children.

Mr Duncan Smith also wanted to remove child benefit from 16 to 19 year olds, a cut of over £1,000 for parents of a single child, according to the Lib Dems.

George Osborne, the Conservative Chancellor, retaliated by claiming the proposals were contained in a policy document “that was commissioned by the Chief Secretary himself”.

In a statement responding to the letter’s publication now, a Liberal Democrat spokesperson said:

“This Tory spin shows their true colours.

“They simply don’t trust local people and want to govern every aspect of people’s lives from Westminster.

“The proposals in this letter could give local authorities the power to LOWER these taxes in response to the wishes of local people.

“Liberal Democrats believe the best decisions are taken by those closest to the people those decisions effect.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 Apr 2015

Tory’s secret £8 Billion child benefit and child tax credit welfare cuts revealed

Order Of Truth

torycutThe Liberal Democrats have blown the lid on Tory plans to cut £8 billion from the child benefit bill if they are re-elected.

The Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, made a statement in which he revealed that the plans for the cuts was outlined in a document entitled “Welfare Reforms Quad Summer Reading Pack” by Iain Duncan Smith which was sent to members of Quad (the four most senior cabinet members) in June 2012.

The proposed cuts contained in the document included:

  • Limiting support to 2 children in child benefit and child tax credit, so cutting up to £3,500 from a family with three children.
  • Removing the higher rate child benefit from the first child, an average cut of over £360 for every family with children.
  • Means testing child benefit – cutting £1,750 for a two child middle income family
  • Removing child benefit from 16 to…

View original post 660 more words

Autumn Statement: Greens Slam Osborne’s ‘Ideological Commitment To Austerity’

The Young Greens have heavily criticised the government’s “ideological commitment to austerity”, following Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement.

George Osborne renewed the government’s commitment to control welfare spending by “freezing Universal Credit work allowances for a further year, cutting tax credits when overpayments are certain, and ending unemployment benefits for migrants with no prospect of work.”

The Chancellor also reiterated David Cameron’s pledge to freeze working-age benefits for 2 years, if the Tories win a majority in the next general election.

Georgia Elander, of the Young Greens’ National Committee, said:

“It’s clear that austerity isn’t working for anyone. The government borrowing forecast for this year has been raised from almost £87bn to £91.3bn, and Danny Alexander has attributed this to falling tax receipts due to people being in lower-paid jobs.

“Meanwhile, young people across the country are struggling to get by on low wages and zero-hour contracts, seeing their benefits stripped away, and being forced into workfare in order to claim any welfare at all.

“This isn’t good for the economy, young people, or the rest of the country. George Osborne’s dogged insistence on pursuing the spending cuts and deficit reduction policies of the last five years, despite their clear failure, illustrates this government’s dangerous ideological commitment to austerity.

“Osborne’s continued refusal, too, to raise taxes on the wealthiest in society shows once again that this government operates for the benefit not of the many but of the wealthy few.”

She added:

The Green Party would implement a wealth tax on the top 1% and a financial transaction tax, to make sure that it is the richest individuals and corporations and not the poorest who contribute the most to funding vital public services.”

The Young Greens say austerity measures are also having a wider impact on young people’s mental health, with low wages, unemployment and welfare cuts leading to an increase in stress, depression and suicide.

They welcomed the government’s pledge to invest £150 million in tackling mental health problems, particularly for children who suffer from self harm and eating disorders, but added:

“Mental health provision in this country is grossly underfunded, and while this funding pledge is a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done.

“We need to improve access to mental health services, and work to remove the stigma around mental health, so that children and young people with depression and other mental health problems can be diagnosed and treated before they resort to self-injury.”

What about child poverty?

Responding to today’s Autumn Statement, Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:

It’s striking that the only giveaway for children was for families who can afford to fly them abroad on holiday. For millions more children, today’s Autumn Statement is about staying the course for poverty rather than prosperity.

“The Chancellor once again failed to mention child poverty – it’s now two years since an Autumn Statement or a Budget mentioned child poverty, despite the Government’s binding legal obligation to reduce it and IFS projections warning that the Government is on course to rapidly increase, not reduce, child poverty.

“By cutting Universal Credit once again, the Chancellor is in very real danger of torpedoing Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship policy. Freezing the work allowance will harm work incentives and hit low paid families hard. Two thirds of poor children live in working families; we should be redistributing help towards them, not away from them.”

Britain needs a pay rise

Responding to the Autumn Statement, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The living standards crisis has wrecked the Chancellor’s strategy.

“He has failed his deficit reduction pledge as low-paid Britain is paying much less tax than expected. And businesses won’t find the customers they need if consumers do not have money in their pockets.

“Nothing in today’s Autumn Statement will give Britain a pay rise, and Conservative plans to effectively outlaw strikes will help make Britain permanently low-paid. Wrapping up last year’s infrastructure presents and giving them to us again will not give the economy the extra boost it now needs.

“Today should have seen policies for growth, but the Chancellor has boxed himself in with a rigid and artificial deficit reduction timetable. If he continues in office that will mean eye-watering spending cuts straight after the election. These would knock the recovery sideways, deter investment and lead to great damage to our social fabric.

“The way to heal the public finances is to build a strong growing economy in which successful companies and well-paid workers pay fair taxes. Pre-election giveaways today under this Chancellor will lead to even bigger spending cuts now that the global economy looks increasingly fragile.

“This is economic self-harm, threatening a vicious circle of further decline. That would be Groundhog Day all over again – the same mistake that the coalition made in its first two years.”

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  03 Dec 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/autumn-statement-greens-slam-osbornes-ideological-commitment-austerity/



North East councils picked to pilot expansions of ‘troubled families’ scheme

North East councils have been picked to pilot an expansion of the Government’s scheme to help “troubled families”.

They were chosen for the because they are among authorities which have been successful with the existing troubled families scheme, according to the Government.

The programme is designed to help families which have problems with truancy, crime, anti-social behaviour or unemployment.

But it is to be expanded to include families which have suffered from domestic violence or poor mental and physical and health or debt. It will also be expanded to include children under five, whereas previously only school-age youngsters were included.

Gateshead, Newcastle, Durham and Middlesbrough are all to pilot the expanded scheme.

So far, Newcastle has “turned around” 652 families out of 1080 “troubled families” identified, according to official figures. This means it has helped the families deal with at least one of the problems facing them.

Durham has helped 676 out of 1,320 families, Gateshead has helped 301 out of 595 and Middlesbrough has helped 303 families out of 570.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “The Troubled Families Programme is an excellent example of how re-thinking public services can have a huge positive impact on the lives of families across the UK.”

The Department for Work and Pensions will provide 300 specialist troubled families employment advisers.

The troubled families programme was launched in 2011, following riots in the summer, when David Cameron vowed to turn around the lives of 120,000 problem families by 2015.

But a report last year by the National Audit Office raised concerns including the fact that only 62,000 families were currently in the programme nationwide, 13 per cent below the number that “might reasonably” have been found, and a family can be counted as being “turned around” if it shows improvement in just one area.

> Perhaps there just aren’t so many “problem families” as politicians would have us believe ?

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  19 Aug 2014

Public Support For Axing ‘Bedroom Tax’ Has Never Been Higher

Nearly half of the British public are now opposed to the controversial ‘bedroom tax’, a poll by YouGov has revealed.

The  poll for The Sun found that 49% were opposed to the bedroom tax in July 2014, compared to 41% who still support the housing policy. This is in stark contradiction to March 2013, when 49% approved of cutting Housing Benefit for people under-occupying their social home and 38% disapproved.

Public support for the  tax has not been higher than 42% since November 2013, while opposition to the policy is now at its higher ever level, according to the poll.

 The poll comes after Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg announced a dramatic U-turn on his party’s earlier support for the  tax. He said his party would seek to overhaul the policy, if it is still in government after the 2015 general election, by only penalising social housing tenants who refuse a smaller property.

 Clegg would also seek to exempt sick and disabled people who need an extra bedroom.

> Well he says that now. Come the 2015 election, should he by some unexplainable cosmic oversight still find himself in power, it might well be a different story.

Ditto all the main parties. They’ll tell you what they think you want to hear, right up to the moment they’ve got your vote. Beyond that, there’s no guarantees.

His U-turn was slammed by Labour who accused him of “unbelievable hypocrisy”, after the party voted in favour of the bedroom tax and paved the way for its introduction. Without the support of  Clegg’s party the policy would have fallen at the first hurdle.

Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander (Lib Dem MP) yesterday apologised to social housing tenants who had been evicted from their homes after fallen behind on their rent, as a direct result of the tax.

Under changes to housing benefit, introduced by the tory-led coalition government as part of widespread welfare reforms, social housing tenants deemed to be under-occupying a property must downsize to a smaller property, or contribute to their rent through a deduction in the amount of Housing Benefit they receive. The exact deduction depends upon how many spare bedrooms an affected household has in their home: 14% for one spare bedroom or 25% for two or more.

A study by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), sneaked out during David Cameron’s cabinet reshuffle, revealed that 59% of families affected by the bedroom tax are in arrears with their rent and less than 5% were able to downsize to a smaller property.

Despite the apparent failure and hardship caused by the under-occupation penalty, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP, somehow managed to hold on to his job – to the shock and dismay of many of our readers.

However, this sharp rise in the number of people opposed to the bedroom tax  may at least give some of our readers hope that one day we will see the back of this hated housing policy.

YouGov surveyed 692 adults between 16-17 July 2014. The results were ‘weighted’ to provide an accurate picture (as possible) of wider public opinion.

 Source – Welfare News Service,  18 July 2014
http://welfarenewsservice.com/public-support-axing-bedroom-tax-never-higher/

Concern over rising unemployment figures in the North East

Fears that the region was “out of sight and out of mind” for the Government have been voiced after the latest jobless figures revealed the only place in the UK where unemployment was going up was the North East.

The overall national rate has dropped to 6.6% in the three months to April, the lowest since January 2009, causing Chancellor George Osborne to hail the news as an important step towards the goal of full employment, while Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “Britain is bouncing back.”

Yet the figures they were celebrating, published by the Office for National Statistics, revealed unemployment in the North East had risen 6,000 to 131,000 from February to April, putting the jobless rate here at 9.8%, again the highest in the UK and by some distance.

Chi Onwurah, Labour’s Newcastle Central MP, said: “They are talking like it’s mission complete but the fact is the North East is still seeing unemployment on the rise.

“It shows that the North East is out of sight and out of mind of this Coalition Government.”

The next lowest figures in the UK are Yorkshire and Humber with 8.2% and the West Midlands with 7.5%. Even Wales, which has suffered economically like the North East because of the collapse of traditional industries like mining, boasts an unemployment rate of 6.6%, the same as the national average.

And while the Government highlighted the news that the number of people in employment in the region had gone up 15,000 from February to April to 1,206,000, there was bad news on the wages front too.

The ONS figures showed the average salary of those in work in the North East has fallen 7.3% year-on-year with women particularly hardest hit with a 10.7% drop. Meanwhile the current CPI rate of inflation is 1.8%.

Mark Stephenson of the North East Chamber of Commerce concentrated on the rise in employment rates in the region and the fall in the claimant count.

He said: “It’s great to see North East employment estimates rising at the fastest rate in the UK for the second consecutive month. Hopefully we are starting to see a trend develop that will see our region make ground on other parts of the UK that experienced these rises earlier in the economic recovery.”

However he added: “The long term measures for employment and the claimant count are positive signs, albeit the total number of unemployed in the North East remains high – especially at the younger end of the labour market. The challenge isn’t abating and casts a shadow over the positive figures we see elsewhere.”

> Bloody hell – where does he buy his rose-tinted glasses ?

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  12 June 2014

Austerity IS NOT working!

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

austerity has failed to create jobs or economic growth. As  predicted, the government has attacked jobs, pensions and pay, threatened privatisation and attacked and demonised those entitled to welfare. Yet all of this has worsened rather than improved the economy and people’s lives. 

Unemployment is rising, living standards are falling, and in early 2012 official estimates confirmed what our communities have experienced: that the economy is back in recession. 

You might wonder why, in the face of such overwhelming evidence of failure, government ministers have not changed course. It is because they want the public sector reduced and privatised, and wages driven down. This is exactly what David Cameron promised, when he said his government would “tear down” what he described as “big government bureaucracy”. 

The government has pledged to cut 730,000 public sector jobs by 2017 and to cut spending by £80bn. For millions, their jobs, pay and pensions…

View original post 2,390 more words

Government threatens support for deprived students

Universities and colleges in the North East could be stripped of millions of pounds in funding used to give students from poorer backgrounds a fairer chance of getting a degree.

The cash is at risk because the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is responsible for higher education, needs to make savings of £1.4bn.

Teesside University currently receives £5.9m each year, the University of Northumbria at Newcastle receives £3.5m, University of Sunderland receives £3.3m, University of Newcastle upon Tyne receives £1.1m, University of Durham receives £660,000, Newcastle College receives £959,00 and New College Durham receives £637,000.

The money, known as Student Opportunity funding, is allocated to universities and higher education colleges which succeed in attracting students from neighbourhoods where few people have traditionally taken part in higher education.

It also goes to institutions which succeed in retaining students who would statistically be more likely to drop out, and to those that recruit students with disabilities.

Leaked documents have revealed that the Department for Business is looking for ways to save £570m this year and a further £860m after the election.

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is reported to be pushing for Student Opportunity funding to be abolished, while Business Secretary Vince Cable and Higher Education Minister David Willets are lobbying to keep it.

Asked to comment on the reports, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said in a statement: “The Department is going through the process of allocating budgets for 2014-15 and 2015-16 and will set out plans in the usual way.”

Prof Peter Fidler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, was one of nine university leaders across the country to write a public letter warning: “The removal of this fund will damage economic growth and have a wider impact on sectors beyond higher education.”

The letter said that axing the fund “suggests that the Government is willing to abandon the cause of social mobility in higher education.”

The future of the fund was raised in the House of Commons by Labour’s Shadow Higher Education Minister Liam Byrne as MPs discussed funding for engineering students. He said: “On top of the huge cuts for educating 18-year-olds in college, we now hear rumours that the student opportunity fund that helps poorer future engineers will be completely axed.

“Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to promise the House that he will not sacrifice social mobility to pay for the chaos in his Department’s budget?”

In reply, Business Secretary Vince Cable highlighted £400m in funding for science, technology, engineering and maths courses – but did not comment on the future of the Student Opportunity Fund.

The National Union of Students has launched a campaign to preserve the funding.

Toni Pearce, NUS president, said: “Cutting the Student Opportunity Fund is an absolute disgrace and, in the wake of cuts to the National Scholarship Programme, looks like the Government is backtracking on its commitment to support social mobility in favour of balancing the books on the backs of the poor.”

Mr Byrne said: “The Department for Business budget is a complete mess because high paying students at private colleges got access to the state student loan system. Now it looks like help for poorer students will be axed to pay for it.”

Source – Newcastle Journal, 25 Jan 2014