Tagged: Ed Malcolm

South Tyneside Charity expands to offer more help to needy and homeless

A charity which provides vital support to some of South Tyneside’s most vulnerable citizens is on the move – and expanding its services.

South Shields-based Hospitality and Hope runs food banks and soup kitchens across the town.

It is currently based at Brinkburn Community Centre and the town’s Living Waters Church at Rekendyke.

But next week it will be moving into the former Hampden Street Day Centre in South Shields, which closed in 2013 as part of a reorganisation of the council’s day centre facilities.

The charity, which is run entirely by volunteers, has been given the premises by the local authority on a peppercorn rent.

It’s a big boost which will enable volunteers to expand the range of help they provide to people in crisis.

The move comes after a year in which demand for borough food banks has risen by 50 per cent.

It’s a need which Deb Stobbs, a volunteer fundraiser with Hope and Hospitality, can only see increasing as the impact of tough benefit changes continue to be felt.

She said: “The reality is that we have outgrown Brinkburn Community Centre.

“At the moment we package the food at Brinkburn and deliver it to different venues, in particular Living Waters.

“Now we are moving out of Brinkburn and Living Waters and consolidating in one building.

“Currently we are only open two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, and this move means we can open more days.

“South Tyneside food banks saw a 50 per cent increase in the use of services last year and this is a crisis situation which is only going to get worse and affect more and more people.”

Food banks are not available for people who just turn up at the door.

Instead, those deemed to be living in crisis are issued with vouchers by organisations such as the JobCentre and referred to the charity.

It was all hands to the pumps this week as supporters from the Prince’s Trust and Asda went along to Hampden Street with paintbrushes and cleaning equipment to get the complex ready to open.

The charity has passed on thanks to some of the other organisations and individuals which have been supportive, including Youth Justice, North East Council for Addictions and Sir David and Lady Chapman, its patrons.

Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said: “The council is delighted to be to able to support Hospitality and Hope by providing a building that has been vacant for some time.”

New volunteers are also invited to help out at soup kitchens in St Bede’s, in Westoe Road, South Shields, on Sunday night, St Michael’s and All Angels at Westoe on Wednesday 
lunchtime and at Harton Methodist Church on Thursday lunchtime.

Source –  Shields Gazette,  12 Feb 2015

Council tax and rents to rise in South Tyneside

Thousands of South Tyneside residents are facing a council tax rise for the first time in five years.

It has also emerged that council house rents in the borough are to rise by about £1.50 a week.

Council taxes have been frozen since 2010, despite the local authority needing to make savings of more than £100m over that time.

But, with another £22m in efficiency savings required during the coming financial year, the council’s cabinet is being recommended to agree a 1.95 per cent rise, from April this year, when it meets next week.

That would equate to an extra 32p a week, or £17 a year, for the majority of borough residents living in Band A properties.

The hike will add £350,000 to the council’s coffers.

The coming year’s budget proposals also include a recommendation for a 2.5 per cent rise in council house rents.

With the average rent currently £78 a week, that works out at an additional £1.50 a week.

More job losses are also inevitable over the next 12 months, despite 1,200 council posts having already been shed since 2010.

Negotiations over the exact number of posts to be axed are continuing, but the numbers are set to be fewer than in previous years as the authority says it is down to its core staff.

A series of value-for-money service reviews across the authority has identified further savings.

The largest of those will be £7.5m from the council’s social care budget, with a greater emphasis being put on commissioning services that enable people to live independently.

Despite those cuts, Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said a balanced budget had been prepared focused on protecting the most vulnerable in the borough and providing more services efficiently.

He said:

“This is the first increase in council tax in five years, and our council tax level remains low compared to other councils and is the second lowest in the Tyne and Wear region. I want to reassure everyone in South Tyneside that this is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is necessary to ensure we can continue to provide vital services over the coming year.

“We believe this budget delivers the best possible deal for the people of South Tyneside in the extremely difficult circumstances we face.

“We will continue to do our best for the borough despite the unfair cuts that have been handed down by the Government.”

Coun Malcolm identified one individual saving which had eradicated an annual outgoing of more than £100,000.

He said:

“We had a resident who had been in residential care since he was 18, so we did a revised assessment on him by a panel of professionals, and this gentleman was moved to a supported living scheme, so our costs for that have been reduced from £105,000 per annum to zero.

“There are other examples where we have been paying for care packages that are no longer necessary for the people concerned, so we revised the packages.

“They are still getting the care they need, but it’s been felt they have been getting an over-supply of care.

“We have also been looking at the charges we have to pay the health trusts for care.”

Stuart Reid, the council’s director of finance, said:

“If a resident has health needs, the health bodies are responsible for picking up those costs, and that’s not always been the case as historically, as a council, we have been picking up costs that we probably shouldn’t have been picking up.”

Budget proposals will be put to the cabinet next Wednesday and taken to the full council for signing off on Thursday, February 26.

WHERE THE SPENDING AXE WILL FALL

• £500,000 less on procurement of commercial services.

• £315,00 reduction in early years funding. This involves deleting two vacant posts and a reduction in management and advertising costs.

• £200,000 off street lighting programme and making use of more energy-efficient lights.

• £960,000 reduction in Change4Life budget promoting support to stop smoking, as well as encouraging healthy living and exercise.

• £433,000 saving by integrating the council’s economic growth and adult community learning teams.

• £100,000 less on the council and South Tyneside Homes’ fleets of vehicles.

HOW MUCH COUNCIL TAX YOU’LL PAY

Band A (65.2 per cent of properties): Set to pay £877.81, up from £861.02 this year, an extra £16.79.

Band B (13.6 per cent): £1,024, up from £1,004.53, an extra £19.59.

Band C (11.3 per cent): £1,170.42, up from £1,148.03, an extra £22.39.

Band D ((six per cent): £1,316.72, up from £1,291.53, an extra £25.19.

Band E (2.4 per cent): £1,609.32, up from £1,578.53, an extra £30.79.

Band F (one per cent): £1,901.93, up from £1,865.54, an extra £36.39.

Band G (0.5 per cent): £2,194.53, up from £2,152.55, an extra £41.98.

Band H (0.1 per cent): £2,633.44, up from £2,583.06, an extra £50.38.

Source –  Shields Gazette,  04 Feb 2015

South Tyneside Council faces yet more cuts after losing £7m in funding

The pain is set to continue for South Tyneside Council and the people it serves as a near £7m cut in government funding was announced.

It means the authority will need to find yet more savings from services.

The settlement for 2015/16 – the amount the council can expect from the Government – announced by Local Government and Communities Minister Kris Hopkins yesterday, is £161,662m – compared to £168,482m – in the current financial year.

That is a reduction of four per cent and means the local authority has £6.821m less to spend on everything from waste collection to road maintenance.

That is significantly higher than the national average grant allocation cut of just 1.8 per cent.

Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said:

“The Government has published its provisional grant figures for local authorities.

“We are currently analysing the proposed settlement for South Tyneside in detail to look at how it impacts on the local authority’s finances.

“We have already had to deal with an unprecedented series of budget cuts and have made savings of more than £100m so far. Over recent years, we have redesigned our services for maximum efficiency, improved quality through new models of service delivery and strategically planned ahead for further funding reductions.”

Borough council leaders do at least have an incentive to freeze council tax – for the fifth consecutive year.

Since 2011, the local authority has not increased the levy to its taxpayers by utilising a financial incentive from central government.

The Government has confirmed that incentive will remain in place in 2015/16 – making another freeze more likely.

Merv Butler, branch secretary of the borough’s Unison trade union, who has seen hundreds of his members lose their council jobs over the last four years, accused the Government of targeting areas in the most need.

He said: “This announcement is desperately difficult news for council staff and services.”

The local authority has already made an estimated £90m of efficiency savings since 2010, shedding 1,200 jobs in the process and the latest settlement will have an impact on every home in the borough.

There are 70,329 households in South Tyneside and average council spending on each amounts to £2,395.63p in the current financial year.

Next year that will drop to £2,298.65p – a four per cent reduction of £96,98p per household.

Mr Butler added:

“I expected a difficult settlement and that’s what we got. The fact that the council’s spending power has been reduced compared to the English average shows again that the Government is not giving sufficient grants to areas of need such as South Tyneside.”

Mr Hopkins has insisted the funding grants settlement for 2015-16 was “fair for all parts of the country”.

He said:

“Councils facing the highest demand for services continue to substantially receive more funding and we continue to ensure that no council will face a loss of more than 6.4 per cent in spending power in 2015-16, the lowest level in this Parliament.”

Source –  Shields Gazette,  19 Dec 2014

South Tyneside Council to bring in Living Wage

South Tyneside Council has confirmed plans to introduce the national “living wage” for around 1,000 staff.

A meeting of borough council last night saw members agree to move forward with the phased implementation of the Living Wage.

From April, the local authority will delete spinal column points 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the national government pay scale, so that no employee will be paid less than £7.29p per hour.

Following the implementation of phase one, the council will then look towards the implementation of the full national living wage rate (outside London) of £7.85 per hour.

Coun Ed Malcolm, Lead Member for Resources and Innovation at South Tyneside Council, said:

“We are working towards permanently protecting our lowest paid workers for the future.

“This is not about giving staff pay supplement which could be taken away at any point – this is about making significant, lasting changes to our salary structure. Staff affected will not only benefit from the extra money in their wages but also from additional benefits like increased pension provision.

“As a council we are committed to the social justice agenda and trying to bring real change to the lives of people in South Tyneside.

“There is a compelling case to introduce a living wage because it brings dignity and pays families enough to enjoy a basic but acceptable standard of living. However it is important that we consider this very carefully in the context of ongoing Government budget cuts and our commitment to protecting vital services in South Tyneside.”

The council set up an Independent Wage Commission in June last year to examine the benefits and challenges of adopting a living wage in South Tyneside, which found that a living wage would make a positive contribution to reducing poverty and promoting well-being among low paid workers.

It also said that affordability would be a challenge in the current economic climate, with South Tyneside hit by Government funding reductions.

Coun Malcolm added:

“Of course we would have liked to implement the full living wage with immediate effect but given the unprecedented cuts imposed on the authority we have had to take a prudent approach.

“When we have further information on our future funding, we will sit down with our trade union colleagues to consider the affordability of implementing the full Living Wage from 2016 with a view to eliminating low pay across the council’s workforce.”

Professor Keith Shaw of Northumbria University and chair of South Tyneside’s Independent Living Wage Commission said:

“South Tyneside Council’s support for the Independent Commission’s recommendation to introduce a Living Wage will make a real difference to the lives of people living and working in South Tyneside.

“In recommending its introduction, the Commission were convinced that increasing the income of the lowest paid employees would make an important contribution to reducing the scale of in-work poverty, have a positive impact on the life chances of families, young people and women and, by increasing local spending power, also boost the local economy in South Tyneside.

“The council are to be commended for their support of such an important initiative.”

Latest figures show that nearly a quarter of all workers in South Tyneside are paid below the living wage.

The living wage is set independently, updated annually, and is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK.

Source –  Shields Gazette,  05 Dec 2014

South Tyneside Council asks ‘what should we spend cash on?’ as they plan £22m cutbacks

South Tyneside Council bosses want to hear the views of residents as they push ahead with a further £22m of cutbacks next year.

As the local authority prepares its budget for 2015/16, it is calling on people in the borough to take part in a budget survey.

Over the last four years the council has shed more than one thousand jobs, while making savings of over £100m.

But further cuts are needed, and Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for finance and resources, wants the public to identify their priorities before the budget is set.

He said: “It is no secret that due to cuts from central government we are facing considerable financial challenges.

“It is vital that we consult with the people of South Tyneside, to find out what is important to them and where they think spending should be prioritised.

“We are looking at every possible way to reduce costs.

The budget survey is in the latest issue of the Residents’ Newsletter which is being delivered to every home in the borough right now.

Residents are asked to complete the questionnaire in the centre of the newsletter and follow the instructions to stick, fold and post to the FREEPOST address.

Alternatively residents can go online here: www.southtyneside.info/budget

The closing date for comments and questionnaires is Friday, December 5.

The cabinet will consider feedback from this consultation in February before the proposals are debated by the full council.

Source –  Shields Gazette,  11 Nov 2014

Living wage joy for 1000 South Tyneside Council staff

A thousand South Tyneside Council workers will begin to be paid a national living wage from next year, it was confirmed today.

The authority is the first in the North East to commit to working towards the implementation of the full national living wage value of £7.65 per hour – £1.34 above the national minimum wage of £6.31 an hour.

The historic move is a major financial boost to borough cleaners, school lunch supervisors and catering assistants in schools, residential homes and leisure facilities – 95 per cent of whom are women.

And it means those workers, who are currently paid £6.54 an hour, will eventually see their hourly rate rise by £1.11.

Pending full council approval in December, from April next year the process of introducing the wage on a phased basis will begin.

Today Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for Resources and Innovation, said there was a “compelling case” for making the change, which will cost the authority an estimated £700,000 to implement.

He said:

As a council we are committed to the social justice agenda and trying to bring real change to the lives of people in South Tyneside.

“This is not about giving staff pay supplement – this is about radically changing our salary structure.

“We are working towards permanently protecting our lowest paid workers for the future. Staff affected will not only benefit from the extra money in their wages but also from additional benefits like increased pension provision.

“There is a compelling case to introduce a living wage because it brings dignity and pays families enough to enjoy a basic but acceptable standard of living.

“However it is important that we consider this very carefully in the context of ongoing Government budget cuts and our commitment to protecting vital services in South Tyneside.”

The council established an Independent Wage Commission in June last year to examine the benefits and challenges of adopting a living wage in the borough.

That commission found that a living wage would make a positive contribution to reducing poverty and promoting well-being among low paid workers.

Now the local authority will look to implement a phased introduction of the new hourly rate.

From April 2015 its the lowest paid employees will receive £7.11 per hour – representing an immediate increase up to a maximum of 67p per hour.

Coun Malcolm added:

Of course we would have liked to implement the full living wage with immediate effect but given the unprecedented cuts imposed on the authority we have had to take a prudent approach.

“When we have further information on our future funding, we will sit down with our trade union colleagues to consider the affordability of implementing the full Living Wage from 2016 with a view to eliminating low pay across the council’s workforce.”

Rachel Reeves MP said:

“It’s brilliant that South Tyneside council is making this important commitment. It shows that even in tough times when there is less money around we can make choices that help build a fairer society.”

Professor Keith Shaw of Northumbria University, chair of South Tyneside’s Independent Living Wage Commission, said:

“South Tyneside Council’s support for the Independent Commission’s recommendation to introduce a Living Wage will make a real difference to the lives of people living and working in South Tyneside.

“In recommending its introduction, the commission were convinced that increasing the income of the lowest paid employees would make an important contribution to reducing the scale of in-work poverty, have a positive impact on the life chances of families, young people and women and, by increasing local spending power, also boost the local economy in South Tyneside.

“The council are to be commended for their support of such an important initiative.”

Source –  Shields Gazette,  17 Oct 2014

1,000 South Tyneside Council staff set to get ‘living wage’

Oone thousand low-paid council workers in South Tyneside are today a step closer to receiving a ‘living wage’.

The move – recommended by an independent commission – leaves South Tyneside Council needing to find £700,000 to cover its wage bill if it presses ahead with the plan next year.

The commission has recommended South Tyneside pays its lowest paid workers a minimum of £7.65 an hour – £1.34 above the national minimum wage of £6.31 an hour.

This would help about 1,000 cleaners, school lunch supervisors and catering assistants in schools, residential homes and leisure facilities – 95 per cent of whom are women.

It would mean those workers, who are paid £6.54 an hour, would see their hourly rate rise by £1.11.

It is highly unlikely any change will come into force before April next year – because the council’s budget for the financial year has already been set.

The decision was labelled “historic” today by Merv Butler, the branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, which has long campaigned for the introduction of the living wage.

Mr Butler would favour an immediate introduction of the increase but, if that’s not possible, he will be pushing for a “stepped approach” – with phased rises in the rate paid per hour over the next few months.

He said:

This is an historic day for Unison. We have campaigned long and hard for the council to introduce the living wage. The recommendations of the commission bring that a massive step closer.

“Our task now is to get the council to bring in the living wage as soon as possible, and we have a clear plan on how they can do this.

“The report shows that 1,195 job holders are paid below the living wage and nearly 95 per cent of these are women.

“This proposal will make a real difference to our members. It will put money into the local economy as well.”

Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, will now work over the coming months with finance officers to look to identify funding for the change.

He said:

“As a council, we are committed to social justice and trying to bring real change to the lives of people in South Tyneside.

“This is why we welcome the commission’s report into the impact of introducing the living wage in the borough.

“There is a compelling case to introduce a living wage because it brings dignity and pays families enough to enjoy a basic but acceptable standard of living. However, it is important that we consider this very carefully in the context of ever decreasing budgets and our commitment to protecting vital services in South Tyneside.”

Coun Joan Atkinson, the council’s lead member for children, young people and families, described the living wage as a “priority” and a chance to take struggling families out of poverty,

She said:

“It is going to be hard.We don’t have a hidden pot of money but, through innovative measures savings are being made. This is a priority and we need to find a way of funding it.”

Coun Malcolm added:

“We would like to thank Professor Keith Shaw and his commission members for the wealth of work they have done on this issue.

“They have produced a very comprehensive report exploring what we can do as an employer to lift more people out of low pay and support local families.”

Source –  Shields Gazette, 05 Sept 2014

350 jobs under threat at South Tyneside Council

UP TO 350 council jobs are under threat as a local authority looks to make £22m of savings.

South Tyneside Council has made the announcement as officials look to begin formal discussions with the trade unions.

However, while the council say up to 350 jobs could be lost the final figure will not be known until later in the budgeting process.

The council is now informing the government of the number of jobs that could be affected and is in the process of submitting a HR1 form to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to enable consultations to take place with staff and trade unions over any potential redundancies.

The £22m of savings is in addition to over £100m that it has saved over the past four years.

Coun Ed Malcolm, lead member for resources and innovation said: “Let me start off by emphasising that we will do everything we can do to reduce the 350 figure and wherever possible avoid compulsory redundancies. We appreciate this is a tough time for our staff and we will work with them and the Trade Unions to lessen the impact wherever we can.

“The HR1 form is a legal requirement and a formal process we must undertake. Our estimate is that up to 350 council jobs could be affected in the budget-setting process and we have now informed the Government of that figure.

“We are still working on our budget for next year and we do not relish having to put a figure on the potential number of jobs that might be affected relatively early in our budget planning process. As everyone knows we continue to be subjected to unprecedented Government cuts and are doing all we can to minimise the impact on frontline services.

“We are not yet in a position to confirm a definite number, as this is obviously dependent on the decisions made by Councillors around the budget.”

Source – Shields Gazette, 08 Aug 2014

South Tyneside – Frontline council jobs to be axed as cuts bite deeper

More than 30 frontline South Tyneside Council jobs are to be shed in a new bid to streamline services.

 The council needs to cut 33 posts in the areas of housing services, community safety and street cleaning – reducing staff from 150 to 117.

It is hoped the majority of jobs will go through voluntary redundancies, redeployment and early retirement.

The plan is to establish a new streamlined housing and area management team to be overseen by South Tyneside Homes.

Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said the new approach was part of a bid to “deliver frontline services in the most efficient way possible”.

But Merv Butler, branch secretary with Unison South Tyneside – which is now in consultation over the changes – described them as “worrying”.

One employee affected by the switch said frontline services would “inevitably” be cut as a result.

Among the posts threatened are housing officers on various grades, tenant enforcement officers and community wardens and street cleaning managers, supervisors and workers.

Coun Malcolm said: “In the face of unprecedented financial challenges, we have to continue to look at ways of delivering frontline services in the most efficient way possible, without compromising on quality.

“We’ve identified a range of housing, community safety and area management functions across South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Homes that would benefit from being integrated through one single organisation.

“The integration of street cleaning and estate maintenance functions will build on the highly successful Handy Estates pilot that has been in operation across the council and South Tyneside Homes since April 2013, and has received very positive feedback.

“We are confident that this new model will deliver an improved public service by concentrating our resources where there is a proven track record of expertise.”

He added: “We are very conscious that changes of this nature can be unsettling for the staff involved.

“We are doing all we can to minimise uncertainty and have already held a series of briefing sessions with affected members of staff and trade unions representatives.

“Consultation, including one-to-one sessions with affected staff, will be ongoing. While this review will result in an overall reduction in the number of posts, we will ensure that this impacts on staff as little as possible, through management of redeployment opportunities, early retirements and voluntary redundancy.”

Mr Butler said: “The public need to understand the implications of this, particularly in the area of community safety as it could see a reduction in the number of community wardens.

“It is very worrying. The council does have difficult decisions to make but we want to see frontline services protected and our members jobs maintained.

“They see this as the best way of doing this is by creating this new structure. We just hope they are right.”

Although pay protection is in place, one employee, a multi-skilled operative, told the Gazette he believes his salary would be reduced from £19,000 to £14,000 a year under the proposals.

He said: “I just couldn’t exist on that and would to have leave the authority.

“I’m already looking for a new job.

“It’s particularly upsetting because these are workers on the frontline who are dealing with the public on a day-to-day basis, not faceless back office staff

“Those frontline services will inevitably be reduced as a result.

“We feel we have been unfairly selected.”

Source –  Shields Gazette,  12 June 2014

South Tyneside rents to rise as £18m budget cuts bite

RENTS for 18,000 council tenants in South Tyneside are to rise by an average of £5.50 a week, it has been revealed.

However, there was better news for residents in the borough as South Tyneside Council boss, Coun Ed Malcolm, revealed that Council Tax bills are to be frozen for the fourth consecutive year.

The details emerged from the local authority’s budget plans for the coming 12 months in which it needs to find another £18m worth of savings.

That is made up of a £9m reduction in Government funding and another £9m in other areas – particularly services for the young and elderly.

Savings need to be identified out of a revenue budget – made up from government funding and Council Tax payments – of £148m for 2014/15.

Despite the pressures, the council is committed to spending almost £5m improving borough highways and footpaths.

It is pushing ahead with selling off council buildings which are regarded as being “surplus to requirement” – with profits 
re-invested in capital programmes.

As a result of a Council Tax freeze, the owner of an average Band C property in the borough will pay an estimated £1,290 for the year from April.

Meanwhile, council rents will increase by 6.8 per cent, which is in line with Government guidelines.

That would mean the average weekly borough rent, which currently stands at £78.34 over a 48-week period, rising by about £5.50 – which still represents the lowest level in Tyne and Wear.

It’s estimated the hike will add an additional £4.7m to the council’s coffers.

Coun Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, today pledged that “no one would suffer” as a result of the budget proposals he has overseen.

There was also a commitment that job losses at the council will be less than in previous years – with more than 1,000 posts shed since 2010.

He said: “Even though we have had £18m of budget cuts to find this year, I’m confident that this budget will mean we can still provide services to anyone who wants them, anyone who needs them.

“No one will suffer because of this budget. As a Labour council, we remain committed to social justice.

“The key message is that is that we are continuing to get funding reductions, we’ve got nine per cent less core funding and we still have the standstill financial pressures on top.

“We’re going to be freezing Council Tax for the fourth consecutive year and that means we will have the third lowest in the North East, and we remain committed to our ambitious regeneration of the borough.

“We face £18m worth of savings in the year ahead. The days of salami-slicing budgets are over.

“We’ve looked at integration, working with partners in the private sector, the public sector and the voluntary sector on Adult and Social Care.

“The council has a lot of buildings which have passed their sell-by-date and I think we can work more efficiently by redesigning the town hall and have the majority of staff transferred there.

“Then we have the community hubs which will provide a majority of services under one roof.”

Coun Malcolm added: “There will still be job implications but we will endeavour to keep away from compulsory redundancies.

“Because we are redesigning services there will be redundancies but we envisage there will be less than in previous years. We
 are also putting substantial investment in highways and pathways and increasing amount of money going to Community Area Forums by £50,000.”

Merv Butler, branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside, said: “Jobs-wise, next year we are hearing that there will be a little bit of respite in terms of a large number of job losses.

“But there are still going to be job losses in the area of business support and the merger of some other services together.”

Source – Shields Gazette  05 Feb 2014