Tagged: Jim Foreman

Thousands of South Tynesiders not registered to vote

One in every dozen homes in South Tyneside has no adults registered to vote in next week’s elections.

There are 70,696 properties in the borough, and 5,847 have no one registered to vote in either the general or local elections on Thursday, May 7.

Coun Jim Foreman, a Labour representative for the Cleadon Park ward in South Shields, says he is shocked that potentially up to 12,000 people are missing out on having their say on what happens in the borough or whether David Cameron will still be running the country from next month onwards or if he will be replaced by Ed Miliband, Nigel Farage or another challenger.

He believes that while some properties will be empty, and some may house people not eligible to vote through their nationalities, the vast majority of absenteeism is down to those concerned not being on the electoral register.

 Coun Foreman said:
“I am shocked it’s that many, to be honest. I work on the basis that there are at least two voters per home, so that’s potentially up to 12,000 people who won’t be voting.

“In Cleadon Park and Harton Moor, we found there were 186 properties with no voters attached, and only 10 of these were empty. The rest were all home to British residents.

“To be honest, apart from South Tyneside College’s overseas students, I can’t imagine there are that many homes within the borough that have no British people residing in them, so I don’t think that many of the properties can be attributed to this factor.

“Within the Cleadon Park ward there has obviously been the regeneration project going on, and a lot of people have just moved into their new homes, so registering has probably slipped there mind.

“But voting is the main way that people can make a change to their community, especially on a local level.”

Coun Foreman thinks that one of the reasons there are so many houses with no voters registered could be the changes made to the electoral register last year.

Last July, the individual electoral register (IER) was launched, making everyone responsible for their own registration, as opposed to the head of the household registering everyone, as was previously the case.

Nationally, voters were contacted by local electoral registration officers to inform them of what, if anything, they needed to do next.

Under the new system, about 80 per cent of those already on the electoral register were automatically added to the IER.

However, those who were not matched against existing government records needed to provide additional information.

It’s these people Coun Foreman believes may have slipped through the net.

He said:

“Let’s be honest. If there’s something going on in your life, whether it’s work issues, perhaps a family member is unwell, then applying to vote is probably not one of your main priorities.

“For these things to sink in, people do need to be reminded quite a few times before they actually do it.

“I just hope that those who have missed out this time, make sure they register in time for the next election.

“I always say there’s not many things in life you get for free, but the chance to vote is one of those free things, and people should make the most of it.

“I think the change of legislation has thrown people slightly, but people need to realise that their vote does count and the party that they vote for can have an impact on the local community and, of course, nationally.”

Source –  Shields Gazette, 28 Apr 2015

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South Shields candidate’s election leaflet probed by police

An election candidate has been interviewed by police over allegations of campaign irregularities.

 Colin Campbell was an independent candidate for South Tyneside Council’s Cleadon Park ward in South Shields at May’s local elections.

He polled 376 votes, losing to Labour’s Coun Jim Foreman, with 726 votes, and independent June Elsom, in third place, with 673 votes.

But Mrs Elsom, wife of Cleadon Park councillor George Elsom, subsequently made a complaint to the police regarding “lies and factual inaccuracies” in a leaflet Mr Campbell put out.

She also questioned the legality of a poster Mr Campbell put on display in a newsagent’s shop at The Nook during the campaign challenging his opponents to donate their attendance allowances to a local school.

Two detectives subsequently called at Mr Campbell’s home in Cleadon Meadows, Cleadon Village, to make him aware of the complaints.

No formal action has been taken, but Mr Campbell has labelled the allegations “vindictive and petty”.

Mrs Elsom, of Parkshiel, South Shields, said she raised concerns with police because of the “personal nature” of the statements Mr Campbell made in his election literature, labelling some of his comments “misogynist”.

Mr Campbell said: “I had a home visit from two detectives who do election complaints. Apparently, I had made an election misdemeanour.

“I put a flyer in a newsagent’s window at The Nook. It said I would be giving my allowance of £1,000 a month to Ridgeway Primary School and asked whether June Elsom and Jim Foreman would do the same.

“It was claimed that was bribing the public.

“Apparently, I didn’t say at the bottom of the leaflet who it was promoted and printed by, which is a legal requirement.

“The detective said giving me some advice for the future would be enough and that the bribery claim did not stand up.

“I regard contacting the police over this as just petty and vindictive.”

Mrs Elsom said: “There were two elements to the complaint.

“There were false and inaccurate statements, and there was the inference that, if I was elected I would do what George told me to do, which I regarded as completely misogynist.

“It suggests that I don’t have a mind of my own. The inaccuracies included his statement that George was the leader of UKIP in South Tyneside, which he has never been.

“They were personal statements made by a person I don’t even know. No one should have a right to do that.”

Mr Campell denied he was a mysogynist, saying he was merely questioning how independent a husband and wife councillor team would be.

A spokesman for the police confirmed that Mr Campbell had been spoken to and that no further action is to be taken.

This is the second time police have been asked to investigate events during last May’s election in South Tyneside.

Police also investigated a complaint by Coun George Elsom that Labour leaders in South Tyneside used town hall resources to promote the party’s local election campaign.

Police confirmed last week that they would not be taking any further action after an investigation.

Source – Shields Gazette,  15 July 2014

Ex-UKIP Candidate gives cash-back guarantee to South Tyneside voters

A social landlord has made a cash-back guarantee to South Tyneside voters as he throws his hat into the ring at next month’s local elections.

 Colin Campbell is to stand as an independent for Cleadon Park on Thursday, May 22.

And he is committed not to accept any of the monies he would receive from his role as a ward councillor.

Instead, he will donate the cash – about £1,000 a month – to Ridgeway Primary School, to be spent on equipment and school trips.

Mr Campbell, 61, who has a portfolio of 20 properties for rent across the borough, called on other prospective councillors to make the same commitment.

He said: “I want to get back to what being a councillor should be about – the desire to serve your community.

“I’d challenge other prospective councillors to make the same pledge. Any of the allowances I receive can be used by the school as it sees fit.”

Mr Campbell stood for UKIP at last year’s local elections, finishing a creditable third with 25 per cent of the vote in Cleadon and East Boldon, where he lives.

He said: “I have let my membership of UKIP lapse. If the party had 1,000 Nigel Farages I would have stayed onboard. Sadly, that’s not the case – although I do wish the party well in the forthcoming elections.

“I plan to knock on as many doors as I can. Labour has 49 of the 54 wards on the council, and it’s so important that there is a dissenting opposition in the council chamber. I hope to be that voice.”

Other candidates in the ward are June Elsom (Independent), Jim Foreman (Labour) and Barbara Surteees (Conservative).

Source – Shields Gazette  29 April 2014

South Tyneside – Food banks and advice services feel brunt of welfare reforms

Rising rent arrears, increased use of food banks and soaring demands for advice services are revealed in a shock new report focusing on the impact welfare reforms are having in South Tyneside.

 The Coalition Government’s welfare reform programme represents the biggest change to the welfare state since the Second World War with a raft of changes to benefits and tax credits to help cut spending and streamline services.

A new report by Helen Watson, South Tyneside Council’s corporate director for children, adults and families, outlines the human impact reforms are having in the borough.

It says that, within six months of the bedroom tax being introduced, rent arrears in the borough rose by 19 per cent – £81,000.

In total, South Tyneside Homes rent collection rates have fallen by 21 per cent over the last year, resulting in a loss of £331,000.

There has also been a 20 per cent increase in the demand for advice services since April last year.

Over the same period there has been a big rise in people using the borough’s three food banks, with a 50 per cent hike in referrals over the last 12 months.

There are 2,770 residents affected by the bedroom tax, with Tyne Dock, Victoria Road and Laygate, all South Shields, and The Lakes and Lukes Lane estates, in Hebburn, most affected.

Meanwhile, the number of out-of-work benefits being paid in the borough has been reduced in recent months, with a 22 per cent fall in claims for Jobseekers Allowance since April – 1,556 claimants.

The report makes grim reading for Coun Jim Foreman, the lead member for housing and transport at South Tyneside Council.

Coun Foreman believes the welfare reforms are having a “tsunami effect” and says the Government is “burying its head in the sand” by denying any direct connection between rising rent arrears and food bank usage and the welfare reforms.

He said: “The Government says there is no correlation between benefit cuts and the rise in food banks but they are just burying their heads in the sand.

“People don’t go to food banks out of choice. They go there because they are living in poverty. Having to use them is an attack on their pride and their resilience.”

Coun Foreman also expressed admiration for the “phenomenal work” being done by borough Citizens Advice Bureau staff and the South Tyneside Homes’ Welfare Reform team in a bid to minimise the impact of reforms.

He added: “It is not just a matter of the benefit cuts themselves but also the sanctions that are imposed if claimants turn up five minutes late for an appointment or don’t fill in a form or don’t make 15 applications for work in a week.

“All this is having a massive impact on the ability of people to provide for themselves and their families.”

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, the driving force behind the welfare reforms, has claimed increased publicity over food banks was the reason for their rising popularity.

He said: “Food banks do a good service, but they have been much in the news. People know they are free. They know about them and they will ask social workers to refer them. It would be wrong to pretend that the mass of publicity has not also been a driver in their increased use.”

The welfare report is due to be presented to the council’s Riverside Community Area Forum at South Shields Town Hall at 6pm on Thursday.

Source – Shields Gazette  22 April 2014

Benefit Sanctions – It Gets Worse

Figures from November last year to June show payments were suspended as a result of benefit sanctions 33,460 times across the North East –  17,470 of those were  in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland and the remainder in County Durham and the Tees Valley.

On Wearside, a total of 3,720 sanctions were put in place, with 2,150 in Sunderland Job Centre,  780 in Southwick Job Centre, 400 in Houghton and 390 in Washington.

In South Tyneside benefits were withdrawn on 1,430 occasions for claimants registered at South Shields Jobcentre and 600 times for clients at Jarrow Jobcentre.

Across Durham and East Durham, a total of 2,820 sanctions were put in place, with 1,060 of those in Peterlee, 810 in Durham, 540 in Chester-le-Street and 410 in Seaham.

Couldn’t find the figures for Newcastle, Gateshead or north Tyneside – if you know, add them to the comments section.

It should be remembered that although the final decision on whether to sanction is made by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP)  many of the cases are actually raised by the private for-profit Work Programme providers, as happened in my case – thank you Ingeus, Sunderland.

Comments from local politicians seem to be a bit thin on the ground (hello Labour MPs ! Anyone awake there ?) although South Tyneside councillor Jim Foreman, a critic of  welfare  “reforms” was quoted as saying :  “If you walk into South Shields Jobcentre, there is generally 700 to 900 vacancies available.
“How many people do we have on the dole in the borough, 6,000 to 7,000? Those are telling statistics.

“The Government makes great play about the work-shy, but people need more support to fill out the complex forms they need to.

“There are many people who are not computer literate, who are not numerically OK. These people are in a lose-lose situation.

“They are at risk of having their benefits cut and falling into the hands of loan sharks. It’s a never-ending cycle.”

You dont have to be too numerate to be able to work out that 6000 – 7000 unemployed into 700 – 900 jobs just wont go. You just cant fit a quart into a pint pot.

Unfortunately this basic fact escapes those responsible for these draconian tactics.   Minister for Employment Esther McVey for example, who stated:  “This Government has always been clear that, in return for claiming unemployment benefits, jobseekers have a responsibility to do everything they can to get back into work.

“We are ending the something-for-nothing culture.”

Uh, pardon me ? I’ve been involved in the often less than wonderful world of work since  before Ms. McVey was even born. I dont know how much I’ve paid out in National Insurance contributions over the years, but I did so on the understanding that by doing so I’d be able to claim help in hard times such as these, and also that others in need would be helped, regardless of whether they’d paid as much NI as me.

So something for nothing ? I don’t think so. And it certainly pales in comparison with MP’s expenses claims. Now that really is the something-for-nothing culture.

McVey, we are told,  has worked in the family business, which specialises in demolition and site clearance.

How appropriate. Now she’s focusing those skills on the poorest in society.