Tagged: Government grants

Socialist group sets up food bank in Middlesbrough – but are accused of “hijacking” event for political point-scoring

After the growth of food banks, a clothes bank is now due to be opened on Teesside by an anti-Government organisation.

Teesside Socialist Clothing Bank will open its doors this Saturday, at the John Paul Centre in Middlesbrough after organisers said those on Jobseekers Allowance were sometimes unfairly having their benefits cut.

However that has been countered by the town’s parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party Simon Clarke who said that in fact benefits are being processed more quickly under the Conservative-led government.

One of the organisers of the clothing bank, Anna Thorne, said statistics showed that 46 per cent of dole claimants in Middlesbrough had been sanctioned for being late or missing an appointment for sometimes valid reasons. That can lead to claimants having their benefits cut for six weeks to three months which was causing hardship.

> If that figure is true – and it could well be – that means almost half of benefit claimants in middlebrough have been sanctioned !

She also pointed to cuts at Middlesbrough Borough Council caused by reductions in Government grants, including the fact the council had stopped helping schoolchildren in poverty buy school uniforms to save £13,000 a year.

Free hot food and entertainment will be provided between 11am and 2pm on what will start as a monthly event.

 MsThorne said:
“There was a council-run event before Christmas where people could get food and advice and I noticed they were giving away a bag of clothes to people and everyone was saying how much demand there was. We’ve had so many people donating that we can’t actually take any more at the minute. We’ve got eight volunteers and it shows people do have a feeling of solidarity.”

A press release by Teesside Solidarity Clothing Group also criticised the Government saying that:

“The project locates the Government’s vicious austerity agenda as resulting in the most vulnerable suffering the most hardship. Set against a landscape of benefit sanctions and a diminishing welfare state the project emphasises that being hard up is not a crime.”

Conservative parliamentary candidate for Middlesbrough, Simon Clarke, said the clothing bank shouldn’t be used for political point-scoring. He said:

“I welcome any initiative that helps vulnerable people and I wish the new Teesside clothing bank every success. However, it is disappointing that some people involved with this project feel the need to hijack its launch to try to score political points using rhetoric that simply doesn’t square with the facts.

 “The best way to solve poverty is to help people into work and the Government is delivering on this. Unemployment in Middlesbrough is down by 30 per cent in the last year…
> That’ll be due to that 46% of sanctions !
… and nationally 1.75 million more people are in work since 2010. For those out of work, benefit processing has improved under this Government: 93 per cent of benefits overall are processed on time, up seven per cent since Labour was in office.”
Source –  Northern Echo,  06 Jan 2015

£250m: What Durham council must cut by 2019

The North-East’s biggest council expects to have to cut its spending by more than quarter of a billion pounds by 2019, it announced today (Tuesday, January 6).

Financial experts at Durham County Council have been frantically crunching the numbers since Chancellor George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement and the Government announced its local government funding settlement for 2015-16 in December.

While the budget reductions announced by the Chancellor were widely predicted, the extension of austerity means by 2019 central government grants to Durham will have fallen by 60 per cent since 2011 and the cuts total will have topped £250m.

The Labour-led council also had to cut £18m following the Coalition’s emergency budget in late 2010.

Previously, council leader Simon Henig claimed another Tory-led government would mean “the end of local council services as we recognise them”.

Today (Tuesday, January 6), he said the authority was “largely on track” to deliver the required savings, but added: “There is no doubt that facing these continued cuts we will no longer be able to protect frontline services.”

The council is expected to cut £16.2m and spend £10m of its reserves in the year from April and the budget will be top of the agenda when the cabinet meets in Durham Town Hall next Wednesday (January 11).

A council tax hike of two per cent, the biggest allowed without a local referendum, is expected in the 2015-16 budget, which will be finally agreed in February.

The council’s opposition groups are expected to announce alternative proposals shortly.

Northern town halls are furious that poorer areas are being hit hardest by austerity.

While December’s funding settlement saw councils lose an average 1.8 per cent of their spending power across the country, Durham was down 2.7 per cent, Newcastle by 4.9 per cent and Middlesbrough by 5.6 per cent.

In contrast, Surrey’s spending power grew by 3.1 per cent. North Yorkshire will gain 1.1 per cent.

Durham expects to have cut £136.9m from its spending by April, leaving £88.5m-worth of savings still to find by 2018.

Local government minister Kris Hopkins said the Coalition had been vindicated, because councils were still delivering good quality services with a reduced amount of money.

> There’s Tory thinking for you… and if you continue to cope, they’ll cut funding further because obviously you don’t need it.

If you don’t cope, they’ll cut funding anyway, because you’re in the North and don’t vote Tory, unlike Surrey and North Yorkshire.

Source – Durham Times,  06 Jan 2015

Newcastle City Council passes £38m cuts package

A £38m cuts package has been passed as a city leader says to do otherwise would be to hand council control to the Government.

Newcastle’s Nick Forbes said he had no choice but to pass the latest round of budget cuts despite calls from some protesters to pass an “illegal budget” in which services are ran into debt.

The council cuts are the latest in a three-year budget made up of a reduction in Government grants and a rise in spending pressures.

As a result, libraries are being passed on to volunteers, leisure centres face the axe and some 1,300 jobs will go, 350 of them in the next financial year.

The cuts were debated as ‘bedroom tax’ protesters called on the council to stand up to the Government. Insisting he had no choice on the budget, Mr Forbes said: “I’m not prepared to countenance futile political gestures, or handing over direct control of this council to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

“I will not apologise for behaving responsibly and taking tough decisions to balance the books.

“Doing anything different would make Newcastle a target for national disgrace, and would deal a devastating blow to the image and confidence of this city.

> The revolution will not start in Newcastle…official.

“Nor, however, am I prepared to give up the fight for our missing £38m – money which has, in the large part, been collected from the businesses in our city through business rates and redistributed to other, more affluent, parts of the country. Any business being shortchanged by the amount that we are would be – rightly so – fighting its corner in every way possible. I will not apologise for standing up for the interests of this city. For seeking to protect the people of Newcastle from this Government, which seems hellbent on attacking those least able to stand up for themselves.”

> But you’re still making all the cuts that affect least able to stand up for themselves anyway ?  I could be wrong, but it does tend to look like they’re talking big and disassociating themselves from blame, then going away and initiating ConDem policies anyway.

Liberal Democrats said the figures being debated were misleading, with former council leader David Faulkner saying councils had always had to cope with cost increases.

Source – Newcastle Journal,  06 March 2014