It appears that even stanch Conservatives have had enough of the inner-circle of government’s ‘austerity’ measures.
In an unusual move, Conservative led local authorities have formed an alliance with Labour and LibDem led authorities to tell Osborne enough is enough.
The Conservative controlled Local Government Association (LGA) said in a letter to the Observer that they have already imposed cuts of 40% since 2010 and can not afford more cuts.
They state that any further cuts will have more serious ramifications for community life and social care and will have a knock-on effect on other services such as the NHS,
“Councils have worked hard to shield residents from the impact of funding cuts. However, efficiencies cannot be remade or buildings resold,” they say.
“Further local government funding reductions over the next five years are not an option. The new government must consider the consequences that further funding cuts, without radical…
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An election candidate made a brave revelation that she is a victim of rape during a hustings on female issues organised by the Darlington and Durham Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre.
Liberal Democrat candidate Anne-Marie Curry told the large gathering at Darlington Dolphin Centre’s Central Hall that it took her 22-years to accept she had been in an abusive relationship during her early 20s.
She described how she had witnessed some awful treatment of women during her upbringing in Uganda and that she had been threatened with knives when she later lived in Holland.
She said: “I seem to have opened myself up to rather destructive relationships from then on.
“At the age of 21 I was in a relationship and he was emotionally bullying me, hitting me and raping me.
“I didn’t realise that at the time, I only realised that in my 40s.”
Ms Curry’s revelation earned a round of applause and she said she wanted to speak out to bring the issue of domestic violence into the open.
“I can understand that women in that situation can find it really, really difficult to cope with what has happened to them.
“I am now coping, I am strong and I really want to shout about it because it (domestic abuse) is wrong.
Labour candidate Jenny Chapman said she was “blown away” and felt humbled by what Ms Curry had shared.
The hustings, chaired by Durham University professor Nicole Westmarland, touched on a range of female issues including funding problems experienced by rape crisis and support centres and whether more should be done to educate youngsters about domestic abuse.
The problems experienced by many victims of domestic abuse throughout the legal process were also highlighted, with all candidates agreeing that more needed to be done to support them.
All candidates also agreed that abuse and crimes against women were a key issue and Ms Chapman said that Labour planned to scrap Police and Crime Commissioners and would appoint a Women’s Commissioner in parliament.
The hustings was attended by Darlington’s candidates for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Green, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties who all signed a pledge to support women’s services.
UKIP candidate Dave Hodgson could not attend due to work commitments.
> Could he, given his party’s record, have signed it with a clear conscience anyway ?
Source – Northern Echo, 02 May 2015
An election candidate has been advised to vote against himself by a former front bench spokesman of his own party.
Lord Oakeshott, who was Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman from 2001 to 2011, has sent a controversial letter to Liberal Democrats in the highly marginal Stockton South constituency, including the Party’s candidate Drew Durning.
The letter, which has been distributed by the Labour Party, has been condemned as “a bit grubby” by Mr Durning and “sneaky” by Conservative candidate James Wharton.
However, the Labour candidate Louise Baldock stressed the letter bore a Labour Party imprint and was “absolutely not misleading”.
The letter is on yellow paper, the Liberal Democrat colour, and proclaims Lord Oakeshott’s status as the Liberal Democrat’s Treasury spokesman for a decade.
Lord Oakeshott is now an Independent, and the letter explains he is an independent peer in the opening line. He left the Liberal Democrats after being involved in a controversy where he leaked a party opinion poll which showed the Nick Clegg as struggling and was accused of deliberately undermining his party leader.
He has donated to parliamentary candidates for Labour, Liberal Democrat and the Green parties and has declared he wants an anti-Conservative “progressive alliance.” Ms Baldock has received £10,000 for her campaign from Lord Oakeshott.
Mr Durning laughed off the fact the letter was sent to him and dismissed it as “bad organisation.” But he was upset about the use of Liberal Democrat imagery.
He said: “I am annoyed about the approach. It is in yellow and they’re dressing it up as if it’s Liberal Democrat. It’s a bit grubby.”
Mr Wharton said: “It a bit sneaky. It’s obviously misleading: it’s on yellow paper. But, to be honest, I don’t think a letter will make much difference.”
Source – Northern Echo, 30 Apr 2015
Ms Baldock strongly defended sending out the letter.
She said: “There is absolutely no intention to mislead. It carries my imprint. It is actually there on the letter, and it will be declared in my expenses. He wanted to write to people in this constituency to express his views and he can do that. This is common practice. Mr Wharton himself did it by distributing a letter from a neurologist.”
At the last election Mr Wharton won by just 332 votes over former Labour MP Dari Taylor and it is the North-East’s most marginal seat.
The full list of candidates are Louise Baldock, Labour; Drew Durning, Liberal Democrat; Jacqui Lovell, Green, Ted Strike, Ukip; Steve Walmsley, Independent and James Wharton, Conservative.
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
SOUTH SHIELDS currently held by Emma Lewell-Buck (Lab)
Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour),
Gita Gordon (Liberal Democrat),
Shirley Ford (Green Party),
Lisa Nightingale (Independent),
Robert Oliver (Conservative)
Norman Dennis (Ukip).
JARROW – currently held by Stephen Hepburn (Lab)
Stephen Hepburn (Labour),
Stan Collins (Liberal Democrat),
Norman Hall (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition),
Nick Mason (Conservative),
Steve Harrison (Ukip),
David Herbert (Green Party).
North Tyneside constituency, currently held by Labour’s Mary Glindon
• John Christopher Appleby, Liberal Democrat;
• Bob Batten, National Front;
• Martin William Collins, Green Party;
• Mary Theresa Glindon, Labour Party;
• Scott Alan Hartley, UK Independence Party (UKIP);
• Martin Terence McGann, Conservative Party;
• Tim Wall, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
Tynemouth constituency, currently held by Labour’s Alan Campbell
• Alan Campbell, Labour Party;
• Julia Anne Erskine, Green Party;
• Glenn Anthony Hall, Conservative Party;
• Gary Matthew Legg, UK Independence Party (UKIP);
• John Paton-Day, Liberal Democrat.
The Liberal Democrat candidate for Stockton South says he is disappointed at Lord Oakeshott handing £10,000 to his Labour rival – but can understand the decision.
Labour candidate Louise Baldock has said she will accept a £10,000 donation from the former Liberal Democrat peer .
Matthew Oakeshott, who sits in the House of Lords as an independent after leaving the Liberal Democrat party last year, has donated £600,000 to Labour and Lib Dem MPs to fight the Conservatives in key marginal seats.
And he has identified Stockton South as a key target and donated £10,000 towards Ms Baldock’s campaign to unseat Tory James Wharton.
Now, Stockton South Lib Dem candidate Drew Durning has expressed his view on the donation.
“I can fully understand why Lord Oakeshott is doing everything he can to fight the Conservatives,” he said.
“But the way to give the best weight to Liberal Democrat values would be to support Liberal Democrat candidates.
“It is obviously disappointing.”
Mr Durning, 56, was picked to stand in the seat only this weekend.
He runs an organic food business in the area, and lives in the Oxbridge Lane area of Stockton with his wife Anna.
Mr Wharton won the seat with 38.9% of the vote in 2010, with Labour coming second with a 38.3% share.
The Lib Dems came third with 15.1%.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 22 Jan 2015
The ‘bedroom tax’ came one step closer to complete abolition today (5 September 2014), after the Tories were defeated in a House Of Commons vote.
Liberal Democrat and Labour MP’s joined forces to deal David Cameron one of his most humiliating defeats so far, by 306 votes to 231.
Under changes introduced by the government in 2013, social housing tenants are required to contribute toward their rent, if they are ‘under-occupying’ their home, through a deduction in the amount of Housing Benefit they can receive. The exact deduction is dependent upon the number of ‘spare bedrooms’ in the property: 14% for one spare bedroom or a 25% deduction in Housing Benefit for two or more.
It’s only the second time the coalition partners have voted against each other and prompted calls for the pact to be broken up immediately. Tory MP accused the Liberal Democrats of being “devious and untrustworthy”, after the party initially voted in favour of the ‘bedroom tax’ when it was first introduced. He angrily declared that the coalition had “officially come to an end”.
Bringing forward the bill, Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George said:
“We have had long enough to tell how these regulations have had an impact. It is quite clear that if we are to ensure that…the vulnerable are properly protected, the rules should be changed so that existing tenants are not penalised when they cannot move into smaller accommodation because this is not available in their locality.”
Virtually every Labour MP was present for today’s crucial vote, said the Shadow Defence Minister Vernon Coaker, and the victory will now path the way for the bill to move to the next stage. The BBC’s parliamentary correspondent Mark D’Arcy said that there was a “fighting chance” the ‘bedroom tax’ could now be completely abolished, before the next general election.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, has reiterated Labour’s pledge to scrap the ‘bedroom tax’, if the party wins an outright majority in next years general election.
“The Government should scrap the hated Bedroom Tax following the overwhelming vote by MPs against the cruel tax on bedrooms today”, she said.
“David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s cruel and unfair Bedroom Tax has hit hundreds of thousands of people across the country causing misery, hardship and forcing families to rely on food banks. If the government won’t ditch the Bedroom Tax, then the next Labour government will.”
> Great that its happened… just a shame that the Lib Dems and Labour only find they had consciences when there’s a general election in the offing. Earlier action might have saved a lot of heartache for many people.
Source – Welfare News Service, 05 Sept 2014
Liberal Democrats have been accused of “unbelievable hypocrisy” after they announced they want effectively to axe the bedroom tax.
The change of heart follows a vote at last year’s Liberal Democrat party conference when delegates backed a motion proposed by North East activist Julie Pörksen which condemned the policy for “discriminating against the most vulnerable in society”.
Mrs Pörksen, who is set to be the party’s candidate in Berwick, Northumberland, next year, welcomed the Lib Dem announcement, saying: “The whole premise behind the policy was flawed.”
But as recently as February, the party’s MPs failed to back calls led by a North East Labour MP to axe the bedroom tax.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery proposed legislation to end the policy, but just five Liberal Democrat out of 56 voted for it.
The recent u-turn came after a paper produced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – but published on the same day David Cameron conducted a high-profile Government reshuffle – highlighted the hardship caused by the policy.
Mr Lavery said: “I’m completely lost for words. Is it any wonder that the public question the honesty and integrity of politicians and the political parties?
“This is obscene electioneering from a party whose credibility has vanished. The Liberal Democrats supported the bedroom tax with equal passion as the Tories – it’s a matter of public record.
“They failed to support my 10 minute rule bill, which highlighted all the problems they now wish to raise.”
And Newcastle East’s Labour MP Nick Brown said: “It’s completely hypocritical. If they hadn’t supported the Tory government in the first place then this misery wouldn’t have been inflicted on public sector tenants.”
Known officially as the removal of the spare room subsidy, the ‘bedroom tax’ involves cutting housing benefit by 14% for many tenants in council or housing association properties if they are considered to have a spare bedroom, or by 25% if they have two or more spare bedrooms.
Officially, the goal was to encourage them to move into smaller properties.
But the DWP paper reveals that only 4.5% of households affected in the North East have managed to find a smaller council or housing association property to move into.
Others had simply been forced to pay the extra rent. The paper said: “57% of claimants reported cutting back on what they deemed household essentials and 35% on non-essentials in order to pay their shortfall.
“A quarter of claimants (26%) said they had borrowed money, mostly from family and friends (21% of all claimants); 3% had borrowed on a credit card and 3% taken payday loans.”
Despite this, only four out of ten households affected had managed to keep up with their rent – while the rest went into arrears.
The new Liberal Democrat policy is to cut benefits only for people who are actually offered a smaller home and refuse to move, which means the cut is simply axed for the overwhelming majority of people currently affected.
But despite being part of the Coalition government, it remains to be seen whether Liberal Democrats will succeed in actually changing Government policy.
Mrs Pörksen said: “Liberal Democrat ministers now need to persuade the Tories to agree with them and bring some humanity back into the welfare state.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 July 2014
Evidently a man who can see which way the wind is blowing, Redcar MP Ian Swales is to stand down at the next General Election.
The Liberal Democrat, who was elected in 2010, said the decision was due to “personal reasons”.
He stood for the Lib Dems in Redcar at the 2005 General Election and finished second.
But in 2010, it was a very different story, overturning a 12,000 Labour majority to take the seat from under-fire Vera Baird in one of the shock results of the night.
At the time, he said: “My whole intention in this is to be a strong local MP, based here, going off to London to work when I have to, and using my position to work hard for local people.”
But even a recent internal Lib Dem poll suggested his efforts would prove in vain at the 2015 General Election.
The survey suggested he might end up THIRD behind Labour’s Anna Turley and Ukip – even though 56% of the 500 people surveyed felt he was doing a good job in the role.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 12 July 2014