By-election under way to replace Labour councillor Lisa Smiles, after her resignation following a benefits fraud conviction left the St Anne’s ward a member down.
Four candidates – representing the Green Party, UKIP, Labour and the Conservative Party – will compete for the role on March 27.
Voters have until Tuesday to register with Sunderland City Council, while applications to vote by post must be received by 5pm on Wednesday
Emily Blyth will contest the seat for the Green Party. The 30-year-old full-time University of Sunderland student and community musician has lived in South Hylton all her life and says she is proud of the area.
She said: “My main priorities would be doing what I can to protect our most vulnerable residents from cuts to vital services, and likewise seeking to support an inclusive community for people of all backgrounds.
“At times of economic difficulty it’s all too easy to scapegoat the poor, the disabled, the migrants, and there are plenty of voices doing that, when in reality such groups are the hardest hit by the destructive cuts agenda.
“I’m also passionate about keeping the NHS in public hands, and for our public transport system to be run in the best interests of passengers, not corporations.”
UKIP candidate Aileen Casey, 58, is a mum-of-two, who lives in Springwell. She is a youth worker who is passionate about supporting young people.
Aileen said: “Labour councillors have held their safe seats for decades. Many people don’t vote because there hasn’t been a real choice or they vote the same way as their parents or grandparents have done.
“Things need to change in Sunderland. Voting for UKIP is the only way to bring about these long overdue changes and to ensure that the wishes of the local people are carried out.
“The current Labour administration just follows the diktats of their London based Party leaders. Elected UKIP councillors always put local residents before Party doctrine.”
Labour’s Jacqui Gallagher lives in Thorney Close. She is a life-long trade unionist who has represented Unison at Sunderland City Council for more than 10 years.“I have worked in children’s services my whole career, dealing with some of the most difficult cases and making a positive difference in some families lives, that has held me in great job satisfaction.
“Over this time I have gained a great insight into how the council works and still have many connections at the city council. I feel that this experience and my training and knowledge of representing people as a union rep gives me a unique advantage over the other candidates in this election to represent the people of St Anne’s ward on the city council.
“I would ask for votes because having brought my family up on a large council estate using the local services myself, I have a clear insight into benefits or problems associated with our way of life. If I am trusted with the community’s vote I promise to work tirelessly for the people within the St Anne’s ward.”
Former opposition leader Tony Morrissey will contest the seat for the Conservatives. The 42-year-old, who lives in Hendon, came to Sunderland from County Cork in the 1990s.
Tony served in the Territorial Army and saw active service in Iraq during the Gulf war. Until 2012 Tony represented the Barnes ward.
“I’m running to give residents a serious alternative to Labour,” Tony said. “The council needs a wake-up call. With the help of the voters of St Anne’s I intend giving them exactly that.”
•Anyone who is not registered or would like further information, should call Electoral Services at Sunderland City Council on 0191 561 1144 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
> No Lib Dems ? Still maybe not their strongest area ( in 2008 their candidate finished last, behind the BNP) and they probably don’t want any more humiliations right now.
You’d think it’d be a fairly safe Labour seat, but it’ll be interesting to see how UKIP fare.
I’m not 100% sure of the boundaries of St Anne’s ward, but only the Green Party candidate actually seems to live in it.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 10 March 2014
A Sunderland city councillor continued to claim thousands of pounds in allowances after being convicted of benefit fraud – despite not attending a single meeting.
Lisa Smiles pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to notify Sunderland City Council of a change in circumstances, when she appeared before city magistrates in September.
She received £2,318 in payments across 12 months, after she did not declare wages and her councillor’s allowance.
She was suspended by the Labour Party, but could not be sacked as a city councillor as she had not been sentenced to at least three months jail, as set out in the Local Government Act 1972.
Smiles, who represented the St Anne’s ward, eventually stood down at the end of January – just days before she faced being booted off the council because she had not attended a single meeting in six months.
But despite attending her last Sunderland City Council meeting on July 24 last year, Smiles continued to claim cash totting up £5,422.99 between her conviction and quitting politics.
The amount is the pro-rata portion during that period, made up of her £8,369 basic allowance, her £6,277 special responsibility allowance as vice chairman of the West Sunderland area Committee, and mobile phone allowance.
Although Smiles has not done anything illegal, she came under fire by members of all political groups on the council.
Conservative Councillor Lee Martin said: “The extra allowance she has claimed is more than the amount she is having to repay for defrauding housing benefit. I’m disgusted.”
Colin Wakefield, leader of the independent group said: “It is incomprehensible that a councillor who has been prosecuted by the council for fraud and thrown out of the Labour group, is still allowed to hold a special responsibility allowance and have her mobile phone bills paid after being effectively ceasing to be a councillor.”
Sunderland Council leader Councillor Paul Watson said: “I wouldn’t condone it at all. I don’t know the reason she hasn’t come in, whether she was just too embarrassed or whatever, I haven’t a clue.
“But if people are not getting the amount of representation the public pay for, it’s the law that needs changing. The law could be expulsion after not attending for a couple of months or a certain number of consecutive meetings. It casts a shadow on all elected members.”
> So all agree it was not a good thing – after the event. Even though it was apparently legal.
What did any of them actually do at the time ? What will any of them do to stop it happening in the future ?
Source – Sunderland Echo, 07 March 2014
Sunderland councillor Lisa Smiles, who was convicted of conning the local authority out of £2,000 after she failed to declare wages and her councillor’s allowance when claiming housing benefit., has resigned from both the Labour Party and the city council.
She admitted receiving £2,318 in payments she was not entitled to over a period of 12 months and was fined £150 when she appeared at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court.
The departure leaves a vacancy in her former ward of St Anne’s , however the council was unable to give details of if and when a by-election would be held.
A spokesman for the council said: “The city council can confirm a notice of resignation has been received from Lisa Smiles.”
A Labour North spokesman said: “Councillor Lisa Smiles was suspended from the Labour Party in September 2013 following her court appearance.
“She remained on suspension pending an internal investigation into her conduct. She has now resigned from the Labour Party and Sunderland Labour Group.”
The Tories, naturally tried to spin things to their own advantage – Tory councillor Lee Martin submitted a written question to council leader Paul Watson, asking whether he thought the “overwhelming majority” of people on benefits are in genuine need and whether cheats should be punished.
The implication being of course that anyone claiming benefits must be a bit dodgy on the grounds that the occasional person defrauds the system, but on that basis you might counter that the “overwhelming majority” of councillors probably fiddle their expenses, because one or two have been caught red-handed ( wouldn’t it be interesting to know what percentage of benefit claims are fraudulent as opposed to the the percentage of expenses fiddled by vcarious politicians ?).
Coun Watson said: “Benefits are there to support those in need,” adding that “abusing that system is diabolical and should be punished”.
He then quoted a section of CS Lewis’ theories on crime and punishment, then referred to “the self-righted retribution that some Tories would advocate.”
Coun Watson said that punishment should be done to deter and lead by example, not to exact revenge, adding that to do so would be “psychologically sick”.
Referring to Lisa Smiles, Coun Martin said there seemed to be “one rule for people in here, and one rule for others.” His comment was drowned out by protests from Labour councillors.
“One rule for people in here, and one rule for others.” Now that’s a dangerous game for a Tory to play ! Still, when your possee of councillors is so, er, compact, that they meet in a phone box, I guess there’s nothing to lose by living dangerously 😉
Source – Sunderland Echo 04 Feb 2014