Ministers have accused North East councils of sitting on unused land and property which they could sell to protect services.
But local authorities facing massive spending cuts of more than £240 million ridiculed the claims – and pointed out that there are strict rules preventing them from selling the land to fund services.
And the comments provoked an angry reaction from Labour, who accused the Government of imposing higher cuts on urban councils in the North East than wealthy parts of the country.
Ministers launched the attack on councils which are reducing services and raising council tax, claiming that they had nobody to blame but themselves.
The Association of North East Councils has warned that crucial services such as care for vulnerable children are in danger of collapse as massive cuts in council funding wipe almost quarter of a billion pounds off budgets across the North East this year.
It says the true impact of Government spending cuts has been hidden because authorities have succeeded in “raiding” other services and diverting funds where they are needed most – but they have reached a point where this just won’t be possible any more.
But Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles issued a statement claiming councils have large sources of untapped revenue including money held in reserve, assets such as property or land, and council tax arrears which have gone uncollected.
And his department published a league table highlighting the worst offenders, with County Durham named as one of the authorities with high levels of surplus assets. The authority is sitting on assets worth £62 million, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
The department also named Gateshead as an authority with high levels of surplus assets, worth £49 million.
Government figures also showed that Northumberland council had reserves of £96.4 million while Newcastle-upon-Tyne had reserves of £78.9 million.
Mr Pickles said:
“Reserves have rocketed up in the past few years and councils could be making better use of assets to keep taxes down and protect frontline services, while at the same time doing more to stop the billions they are losing to fraud and collecting more Council Tax arrears.”
But the claims were dismissed by Councillor Alan Napier, Deputy Leader of Durham County Council, who said:
“We do have surplus assets of £62 million which includes both land and buildings, including former school sites.
“Most of these sites are either being sold, up for sale or in the process of being put up for sale. When sold, our hands are tied as to what we can spend the money on as the receipts are ring-fenced and can only be spent on new capital items such as buildings, vehicles or infrastructure.
“I would have expected Mr Pickles to know that receipts from surplus assets cannot be used to reduce council tax or protect front line services ”
Gateshead Council’s strategic director of corporate services and governance, Mike Barker, said
“£41m illion of assets which have been classed as ‘surplus to requirements’ actually relate to land which has already been contractually committed towards building much needed, good quality, affordable housing across the borough.
“The development of this land is already underway on sites at Deckham, Bensham and Saltwell, and Birtley. Over the next 15 years, the joint venture partnership between ourselves, Galliford Try and Home Group will build thousands of new homes on 19 different sites across Gateshead; bringing jobs, investment, and regeneration to many areas.”
The devastating impact of Government cuts on council services was confirmed in a report by the National Audit Office late last year, which warned that authorities were reaching a point where they couldn’t cope.
“While local authorities have maintained financial resilience overall, some – particularly among metropolitan districts – are now showing persistent signs of financial stress, such as unplanned in-year reductions in service spend.
“Looking to the future, there is increased uncertainty about how local authorities can manage further possible falls in income.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 Feb 2015
Library users, keen swimmers and pensioners will unite to take part in a rally through Gateshead town centre on Saturday.
The demonstration against Gateshead Council’s budget cuts will bring dozens of protestors together, as well as three MPs, who will speak out on Central Government’s current financial deal for local authorities.
Those affected by proposed library and swimming pool closures, and cut backs of hours at Gateshead facilities, will meet with people who use the borough’s older people’s and mental health services.
Gateshead Council’s leader Mick Henry must make up to £46m worth of savings over the next two years and proposals include reviewing how they run the Gateshead Indoor Bowling Centre, Dunston Activity Centre and Whickham Thorns Outdoor Activity Centre.
Other cut backs – including the older people’s service which helps people with their shopping and paying bills on time – could lead to job losses.
Together service users will march from the Gateshead Interchange towards the Civic Centre at 2.15pm on Saturday (07 Feb), in a protest organised by the Gateshead Public Services Alliance which is part of the union Unison.
Speeches will be heard from Labour politicians, Dave Anderson MP for Blaydon, Stephen Hepburn MP for Jarrow and Ian Mearns MP for Gateshead.
Alison Chapel, area organiser for the Public Services Alliance, said: “We have people coming on behalf of the libraries, and older people’s services in Gateshead which are all under threat with closure of the scaling back of hours.
“We know that the council have to make cuts because the Government is reducing their budget.
“The council has to decide how these cuts are going to be implemented and we are trying to show that they are not just dealing with statistics.
“These cuts affect real people because they use the service and they need the service and in some cases, particularly the older people’s service, it’s a false economy anyway because it’s quite a low level service but it means people can stay in their homes and it prevents them taking up beds in hospitals.
“It is Central Government who are cutting the council finances and we do understand the difficulty the council is facing but they need to make the decision in the face of people’s actual experiences and needs.”
Councillor Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council said:
“Setting our Budget is a fine balancing act as we have so many competing priorities. It’s getting harder and harder to continue to protect those services that people want and need, but we will do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable adults and children in our communities.
“We know that in future there will be some significant changes to services that people hold dear, but we need to start making those decisions now as the money simply won’t be there to continue to provide them in the same way.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Feb 2015
A Tyneside community café providing low-cost meals to those who need it the most is now open.
Café NEET, which stands for “Not in Education, Employment or Training”, welcomes adults and children with free soup, rolls, tea and coffee, while friendly dogs receive a bowl of water and a special treat.
The Dunston Drop-in Youth Centre on Clockmill Road, Gateshead, where the café is located, hosted guests for the first time on Monday at a launch event.
Meals start from just £1 and punters will be able to grab a bite every weekday between 11.30am and 1pm.
The idea to provide good quality, healthy and affordable lunches to members of the local community came from volunteer and now café Head Chef, Michael Rayne.
“Café NEET is an excellent idea to provide additional services to those in need.
“Having struggled with unemployment myself I know that those young people who are out of work and have no where to go often need extra support. This café will provide just that.”
The Dunston Drop-In centre is a vital part of the Gateshead community that focuses on the youth and unemployed.
Lots of young people pass through its doors each year, and it is hoping that as many people as possible will come to try out the low-budget snacks, which will include sandwiches, jacket potatoes, and other healthy hot lunches.
The building which houses the café was secured through a 35 year lease from Gateshead Council to offer the community to space in which to come together for various activities and clubs.
Speaking on behalf of the organisation, Mrs Pauline Dillon, Chair of Trustees said:
“The Trustees fought long and hard to get this building so it is important we make it as viable as possible.
“Opening a café in the heart of the community is a great way of bringing people in, not just to feed them but to also see what else is available for them here.”
If you are interested in volunteering at the Community Café please contact Shona Dillon at email@example.com or 0191 4609590.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 04 Feb 2015
The leader of Gateshead Council has spoken of the heartbreak of having to make drastic budget cuts to plug an expected £46m shortfall in its finances over the next two years.
Coun Mick Henry said:
“It’s heartbreaking not just for me but people who work here who have joined me on the council. We’re all from Gateshead, most were born here and we believe in Gateshead.”
The council has already reduced spending by £90.6m since 2010 costing 1,700 jobs but, it says, because of further Government cuts it will have to find further savings of £46m by 2017.
It will mean over the seven year period it will have had to make around £140m in savings. In that time, the council workforce will have been slashed almost in half, from 4,000 to just below 2,000.
Coun Henry admitted: “You can’t lose that percentage of staff without it having a major impact on services.”
He was speaking after a Cabinet meeting which gave the go ahead for a raft of proposals which are now going out to public consultation.
Recommendations could see the equivalent of 275 full time equivalent posts being lost with leisure and housing provision being the areas hit hardest by the jobs axe.
There would also be a significant reduction in road maintenance, a review of library and children’s services and the axing of a free support service for elderly people.
In the arts, there will be a 15% reduction in funding to the Sage music centre and Baltic art gallery as well as a cut in backing for high profile events like the Great North Run.
Coun Henry, who is on the board of both the Sage and the Baltic said the cuts haven’t come as a surprise to them as last year the council outlined plans for a 30% reduction over two years.
“They recognise the need to become less dependant on public funding if they can,” he said.
Speaking about the situation overall, he commented: “I’m extremely concerned, however we just have to get on with it.”
There is a possibility it might have to revise its figures at the end of the year when the council will find out how much it will receive from the Government in the Local Government Finance Settlement.
“We’re not holding our breath about that,” said Coun Henry. “Hopefully there won’t be any surprises. Assuming it doesn’t get any better we’ll be making the decision on the budget in the New Year which will be set in mid February.”
He said he was hoping the public and the trade unions representing workers at risk would get involved in the consultations.
“We’re trying to talk through why we’re having to make these savings and what is the best way of doing this. We’ve started to make progress.
“We need to make people realise just how serious it is. It is a double whammy with its effect on the local economy and people’s lives.
“I’ve been in council for 28 years, during the famous days of Thatcher and we’ve never experienced anything like this.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 04 nov 2014
Plans are being floated by Gateshead Council to close all but five of its facilities as it attempts to slash £46m from its budget over the next two years.
The dramatic proposal forms part of a public consultation which will run until November 15 on the future of Gateshead’s £3.2m service.
Previous budget cuts have already seen the council handing over five libraries to volunteer run organisations.
Among the seven options presented to the public in its latest consultation is a plan to keep open only Gateshead Central Library, Blaydon, Birtley, Leam Lane and Whickham libraries with support from the Readers at Home Service and Mobile Library.
This would save the council £400,000 a year and scrap the equivalent of 13 full time jobs.
Another idea is for the council to run the same five libraries with the option of adding a number of ‘prioritised’ local libraries to its network.
Local libraries they could chose to save include those at Chopwell, Crawcrook, Dunston, Felling, Pelaw, Rowlands Gill and Wrekenton, which each cost the council £60,353 a year to run.
This plan would also be supported by the Mobile Library service, however another option suggests scrapping this facility entirely, as well as the Readers at Home and the Audio Visual service saving the council £178,000 a year with the loss of up to seven full-time equivalent posts.
Gateshead Council’s Service Director, Culture Communities and Volunteering, Lindsay Murray, said:
“The Council is undertaking a review of its library service to ensure that it is fit for the future and meets the changing needs of Gateshead residents and changes in technology.
“Gateshead Council has a funding gap of £46 million over the next two years – this review aims to help us design a service that can withstand future financial pressures.
“A series of options have been developed to help us best meet the needs of local communities and the changes in how residents are accessing the library service.
“We want to know what people think about the proposed options and we would like to encourage as many people as possible to give us their views.”
Option 3 presented by the council outlines the potential to expand its volunteer run library network, which currently includes those at Ryton, Winlaton, Sunderland Road, Low Fell and Lobley Hill libraries, which were established in July 2013.
To have your say on proposals visit Gateshead Central Library on Monday November 3 between 4pm – 6pm and Wednesday November 5 between 10am – 12 noon.
Sessions are also being held in all other council run libraries and the five volunteer run facilities up until November 10. For more details visit the ‘Consultations’ page on Gateshead Council’s website.
Source – Newcastle Evening Gazette, 28 Oct 2014
Hundreds of council jobs are at risk as borough bosses prepare for the next round of austerity cuts.
Letters will be sent out to hundreds of Gateshead Council workers next Thursday as the authority slashes £25m from its budget over the next 12 months.
A specialist home support team could be axed under the proposals, while cleaning services at some council-run buildings are expected to be reduced.
Union leaders say private companies might now be brought in to complete tasks that used to be carried out by in-house staff.
More than 650 people are currently employed within the affected departments, according to the council.
Hundreds of staff have already had a verbal briefing, with letters due to be posted home to workers on October 30.
The council has said it does not know final numbers at this stage, however the unions expect several hundred jobs to be under review.
Unison expects jobs to be axed from the council’s library, leisure and housing services, as well as its support provision for older people.
However this could change as the council prepares its draft budget proposals. More details will be heard at the council’s cabinet meeting on November 4.
Dave Smith, branch secretary for Gateshead’s Unison branch, said for some of his members this was the third year in a row they had been told their job is at risk by being sent what’s known as an ‘188 at risk’ letter.
“This is the first time the home support service has been looked at because that’s part of services for vulnerable people.
“It’s just a treadmill, it’s cut after cut after cut. For some people they have had three ‘at risk’ letters over the past three years.
“How do you plan anything? If you’re at risk on a 188 letter, that affects your mortgage as you’ve got to declare it. This has a huge impact on people’s lives.
“Christmas will be cancelled yet again.”
However he said there was always a big difference between the number of people getting letters of being ‘at risk’ and those who will eventually lose their jobs through compulsory redundancy.
One worker, who works within the home support service, said:
“This service is needed. I don’t understand how people can just come in and take it away.
“It’s absolutely shocking. It could happen as soon as January and once we get Christmas out of the way that will be it.”
In 2012 the council scrapped 1,000 jobs, however the announcement for 2015-16 is expected to be considerably less.
A spokesperson for Gateshead Council said:
“Due to reductions in Government funding, Gateshead Council has an estimated funding gap of £46m over the next two years.
“We are in the process of drafting proposals that will be put forward to Cabinet on Tuesday, November 4, to consider beginning formal consultation on the draft proposals.
“However, no decisions will be made until our budget is agreed at the end of February 2015. When we are facing funding pressures of this scale, it is highly likely that a number of employees will be directly affected by the draft proposals.
“Where this is the case, every effort will be made to limit the number of compulsory redundancies.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Oct 2014
Library staff are shouldering the burden of helping job seekers and benefit claimants deal with new welfare demands, a council leader has claimed.
Staff in Gateshead libraries are allegedly spending hours helping people to carry out job searches and fill in the online forms they are now required to complete by the Jobcentre Plus.
Today leader of Gateshead Council, Mick Henry, is asking his fellow authority leaders across the North East to unite in lobbying Government to demand payment for the work they’re doing to help people cope with the digital changes to the welfare system.
“It’s possible the job shop isn’t involving itself to the level of job search. Maybe the Government needs to think about paying us for that,” said Coun Henry.
“The libraries are there to provide a service to Gateshead residents. We aren’t complaining about that but we do think that maybe if our budgets are being severely cut then perhaps there is an argument that we are getting to be good at [helping with online tasks] and we have the facilities but perhaps not the resources to fund it.”
Changes to the welfare system mean that more people are now required to carry out and record their online job searches and fill in forms to process welfare payments over the Internet.
However, with Gateshead the 47th worst borough in the UK for digital skills, Coun Henry said the assumption that most people now have laptops and smart phones is misguided.
He said there was a growing sense Gateshead’s libraries and staff are being used to carry out functions the Job Centre Plus should be assisting with.
“It’s very easy to think that everybody has a computer but that is just not the case. We are finding that more and more people are actually using the library service to access job searches from what the statistics are showing us,” said Coun Henry.
“If we are trying to address what future needs might be and if there’s evidence that job search has a lot to do with that, then we would like to make sure that other Government agencies that are meant to be primarily involved with job search are doing it properly and working with us.”
Speaking at a meeting of Gateshead Council’s cabinet yesterday morning, councillor for Bensham, Catherine Donovan, said:
“We couldn’t have imagined how the focus of libraries has changed. People are very easily having their benefits sanctioned and the excuse that you couldn’t get to a computer doesn’t wash.
“We do need to be challenging the Jobcentre Plus on the amount of hours our staff are putting in to help these people.”
Unison branch secretary Dave Smith said the roll out of the Universal Credit trial in Manchester had led to people flooding to libraries to use computers and the situation in Gateshead was following the same trend.
He said: “Around 45,000 people used libraries in Gateshead last year and we know that people using it for ICT has increased. Libraries are being flooded by people on Jobseekers Allowance as they have got to upload CVs.
“Gateshead is the 47th digitally excluded neighbourhood in the country and libraries are key. Gateshead is investing in broadband but even if you have broadband there is a lack of skills and confidence. There is a huge amount of work and support needed to get people to use that connectivity as it comes to their houses.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 08 Oct 2014
A mountain of unpaid council tax is owed to North authorities . . . amounting to a staggering £127million.
Despite many North councils facing severe financial hardship and axing hundreds of jobs, millions of pounds is still outstanding from those who have not paid their tax.
Concerns are growing that with so many people currently facing financial hardship, the current arrears situation will only get worse.
According to figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government, homes in Middlesbrough owed among the most on average, taking into account the number of households.
Calls were today made for a distinction to be made between those who are struggling to pay their tax – and those who deliberately avoid it.
Bosses at the region’s Citizen Advice bureaus say one in five people reporting debt problems to their service has a council tax arrears issue.
Figures show that between January and March this year, council tax debt was the number one debt problem the charity in the region helped with.
Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, said: “For some households council tax bills can be the tipping point that plunges them into debt.”
Council bosses today said they are chasing the outstanding cash while at the same time offering support to those struggling to pay their bills. A Newcastle City Council spokesman said: “The amount outstanding that is owed to us is currently £12.2m – but these debts are more than a year old and in many cases go back as far as six years, and we have arrangements in place to collect some of this debt. We pursue people who refuse to pay these charges vigorously and only stop when it becomes uneconomical to do so.
“We have a statutory duty to collect council tax and business rates which are spent on vital services such as social care. Our collection rates are currently the highest of any core city and even higher than those of many smaller sized local authorities.
“Those who get into difficulties paying their charges should contact us as soon as possible so we can make alternative arrangements to help them pay and offer them advice.
“We also work very closely with the Citizens Advice Bureau and other voluntary sector organisations so those in genuine difficulties can get the help they need – but informing us of problems at the earliest opportunity is probably the most important thing a person can do and we actively encourage this.”
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Councils need to be clear why they fail to collect so much in council tax, but it’s hardly surprising that some residents struggle to pay after a decade of hikes.
“Town halls need to differentiate between those who simply try to avoid paying and those who can’t afford to when dealing with cases. The latter should be helped with easier ways to pay, like Direct Debit, while the former should be pursued for outstanding bills.”
> Oh great – Direct Debit is not an easier way to pay if you’ve not the money to start with. But I suppose the kind of advice you’d get from a think-tank founded by a group of libertarian Conservatives.
Bosses at North Tyneside Council say their total arrears figure is “constantly shifting”, although as of the end of March this year it stood at £10.7million.
A spokesperson added: “The council’s overall collection rate for council tax, including arrears, is 99.2 per cent. We have prompt and effective collection strategies in place and balance this with support and assistance for those who may have difficulties in making payments.”
Stockton has arrears of more than £5m according to the figures.
David Harrington, Stockton’s cabinet member for corporate management and finance said: “We collected more than 98 per cent of all council tax in 2012/13 and in 2013/14, collected 96.9 per cent, which is still well above similar authorities.”
John Jopling, Gateshead Council service director for Customer and Financial Services said his authority’s charges for the year 2013-14, are still being collected.
He added: “It’s important to note that over the past two years there have been some significant changes to levels of council tax that is due to be paid. In Gateshead the level of support available for those on low incomes has been reduced, with some of the lowest income families now having to make a minimum 8.5 per cent contribution.
“This is as a result of the Government’s abolition of council tax benefit. Additionally, the council has also made changes to the levels of discount available on empty properties and second homes which have reduced exemption periods and charged premiums on long term empties.
“The effect of these changes is an increase in the amount of council tax due to be collected, which has increased by £4.3m or 5.5 per cent.”
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “We do all we can to maximise council tax collection rates, though recovery can take time and in some cases we are not able to recover the council tax debt in the financial year in which it is due. We currently collect around 98 per cent of overall debt.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 13 July 2014
Arts and cultural bodies across the North East could receive a fairer share of funding in future years, the people responsible for distributing cash have pledged.
Leaders of Arts Council England, which shares out lottery cash for the arts as well as funding directly from the Treasury, said they accepted there was an “imbalance” with London getting the lion’s share while the rest of the country loses out.
But they insisted the situation was improving, with more money going to regions outside London in recent years – and pledged that the trend would continue.
However, giving evidence to a Commons inquiry, the Arts Council also insisted that London organisations had to receive enough money to allow the city to maintain its position as the world’s cultural capital.
And MPs were also told by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey that the arts are “generously funded outside London”.
The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee is holding an inquiry into the work of the Arts Council.
That was in part prompted by a hard-hitting report called Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital which warned that London receives £563.9m a year in culture funding from the Government and the Arts Council – or £68.98 per person – while the rest of the country gets £205.1m or just £4.57 per person.
The study also found that the North East had received £86.22 per head in arts lottery funding since 1995, while Londoners received £165.
The inquiry previously heard evidence from leaders of the North East Culture Partnership, who warned that cash-strapped arts organisations in the North East are spending time filling in grant applications instead of actually taking part in arts and cultural activities.
Speaking to the committee, Arts Council chair Sir Peter Bazalgette said: “You are quite right point to an imbalance.”
He said it should not be surprising that London received the most funding, but added: “We are addressing years of imbalance but we are addressing it carefully.”
London used to get 51% of funding while the rest of the country got 49% – but this had changed so that London now received 49%, he said.
“That trend should continue this summer.
“Those are very important parts of the work we are doing.”
One committee member, Yorkshire MP Philip Davies, accused the Arts Council of indulging “London luvvies” by spending £347.4m on opera over five years and just £1.8m on brass bands.
> Oh lord, another regional sterotype – brass bands, whippits and flat caps !
Arts Council chief executive Alan Davey told him: “I do want us to increase the amount of money we are giving to brass bands because I think it’s a wonderful pastime”.
But Mr Vaizey played down suggestions of a funding gap, saying: “I think it is nuanced. I don’t want a headline saying it is unbalanced because as I say it is a more subtle picture.
“A lot of the organisations with London postcodes have national profiles and do national work.
“The picture is by no means as bleak as some people would wish to paint it. A great deal of funding has gone to arts organisations outside London and a lot of funding that is supposedly ‘London funding’ is in fact national funding.”
Mr Vaizey praised Gateshead Council for backing the Sage Gateshead concert venue and musical education centre as well as the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, and said he wanted other councils to follow suit.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 14 June 2014
> The rest of the results from Tyne & Wear…
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE
It was a day that promised much for UKIP with rumours of winning a seat in Woolsington early on. Flopped again, though.
They did come second in a number of seats, registering particularly highly in Walkergate with 843 votes and Benwell and Scotswood with 823, however outright victory eluded it.
In all 27 seats were up for grabs at Newcastle City Council, 16 previously held by Labour and 11 by the Lib Dems.
At the end of the count it was almost a case of “as you were” with Labour winning 17, the Lib Dems nine and Independent candidate Bill Corbett landing a spectacular success in Westerhope, taking the seat from Labour.
In some wards the Lib Dem vote collapsed but overall party leaders were visibly relieved that its support held up well compared to other parts of the country.
However its Chief Whip Tom Woodwark was the major casualty of the day when he lost out to Labour in South Jesmond.
Overall Labour won 45% of the vote, the Lib Dems 21.7%, UKIP 13.5% and the Tories 9.9%.
North Tyneside’s former elected mayor Linda Arkley failed to make a civic comeback after losing in the Tynemouth ward to Labour’s Sarah Day.
The seat was one of the most hotly contested and the Conservative candidate missed out on being elected by just 37 votes.
Current mayor Norma Redfearn said she was “overjoyed” Labour had managed to retain overall control of the council as well as gaining two additional seats in Wallsend and Chirton.
She said Labour had weathered many a protest vote in the past and were not worried about UKIP coming second in nine wards.
Their surge was down to the current Government’s record on job creation and the bedroom tax, she added. UKIP gained a 20% share of the vote overall although failed to win a seat.
Party member Marianne Follin, who also stood in Tynemouth, said: “It’s been said we are the fourth political party and we’ve proved that now.”
> What ? That you’re in 4th place ? Behind the Lib Dems ? Nothing to boast about there !
The council is now made up of 44 Labour councillors, 12 Conservative and 4 Lib Dems.
Labour remained in control of Gateshead Council despite a strong UKIP showing.
Leader of the council, Mick Henry, thanked the public for their support to his party despite the Government cuts his borough currently faces.
He said: “Nothing has changed. Considering that we are suffering a 37% cut in the budget and we have had to take actions as a council, I am pleased that the Gateshead public have shown support for us in the circumstances.”
When asked about the number of votes secured by UKIP, Mr
Henry said: “Next year will be different.
“The European elections have helped them on this occasion and we are hoping it will be different next year.
“It’s the Liberal Democrats we need to worry about, and the actions of the Government.”
> It’s the Liberal Democrats we need to worry about – not a phrase you hear very often…
> The national media seems to be intent on boosting UKIP on the basis of these local elections, and even locally the Newcastle Journal was making statements like:
“Asked for his response to Ukip’s success in Sunderland and the Yorkshire town of Rotherham, where the party won ten seats, Mr Balls said: …”
Pardon me ? Ukip’s success in Sunderland ? Did I miss something ?
They didn’t win a single seat ! That’s success ?
Neither did the Greens or Lib Dems, so they must be doing very well too, right ?
The truth is – and the Newcastle Journal and other local media have failed to point this out – before these elections UKIP had 2 local seats across the whole of Tyne & Wear, both in South Tyneside.
After these elections, they only have 1… and that perhaps only because that particular seat wasn’t up for election.
So across Tyne & Wear, which UKIP had been making noises about targeting, they won nothing and actually lost 50% of what they did hold.
Now there’s success and there’s success… and there’s also dismal failure. I think I know which category UKIP’s performance falls into.
As I interupted Ed Balls earlier, perhaps we should return to him for a moment…
“So we have to understand that challenge (of UKIP). People want to know we will have tough controls on immigration, that you’re not going to be able to come here to work in our country and send benefits back to families at home “
In other words, some people are voting for UKIP, so lets steal their policies and hijack the closet racist vote.
Surely they learnt their lesson with New Labour’s desperate attempts to win the middle class vote ?