Tagged: Michael Fallon

Tory website leak reveals list of “non-target” seats

The Conservatives appeared to write off their chances in a swathe of North-East constituencies, in a leak on the party’s own website.

Eight seats in the region are described as “non target” for the May general election, suggesting little effort will be put into trying to win them.

Unsurprisingly, the eight include some ultra-safe Labour seats where the Tories are miles behind, including North Durham (12,076 votes), North West Durham (9,773) and Sedgefield (8,696).

In others, the Conservatives were in third place in 2010, so face an even bigger mountain to climb in May, in City of Durham (14,350 votes behind) and Redcar (13,165).

However, the list also includes Darlington, where Labour’s Jenny Chapman finished just 3,388 votes ahead of her Conservative opponent five years ago.

Furthermore, Darlington was a Tory seat until it was lost by Michael Fallon – now the Defence Secretary – at the 1992 general election.

Ms Chapman said: “I am surprised. They need to change their attitude, because this is the kind of high-handed assumption that drives voters away from politics.”

But Peter Cuthbertson, the Conservative candidate in Darlington, said: “I think there’s every chance of victory – I’m picking up enthusiasm for change in Darlington.

“I have seen this list, but I have not had any communication with my party about it, so I don’t know whether it is true.”

Asked what help he was receiving from Conservatives headquarters, Mr Cuthbertson said: “It’s down to local people to muscle their own resources. I’ve got no expectation that they will campaign for me.”

Stockton North is also on the list, although Labour’s majority is only 6,676, as is York Central (6,451), where sitting Labour MP Hugh Bayley is standing down.

Other constituencies are described as “non target” because they have big Tory majorities, including Richmond (23,336) and Thirsk and Malton (11,281).

The blunder occurred when a staff member at Conservative HQ uploaded the photographs of hundreds of Tory candidates, of which 112 were categorised as “non target”.

 The leak implied the party had also given up on Rochester and Strood, where the MP Mark Reckless deserted the Tories and won a by-election for Ukip last year.

The mistake was later corrected, but not before the list was recorded by a freelance journalist, who published the information.

Source –  Northern Echo,  12 Feb 2015

Land Registry sell off abandoned (for the moment)

The controversial sell-off of the Land Registry was abandoned yesterday (Monday, July 14), after ministers admitted it had run into overwhelming opposition.

The likely £1bn privatisation of the 150-year-old institution – which employs more than 400 civil servants in Durham City – was suspended indefinitely, MPs were told in a statement.

The decision followed strong criticism from solicitors and trades unions about putting a private firm in charge of all land and property data and the threat of higher charges for the public.

Yesterday, the Department for Business (BIS) admitted that 91 per cent of respondents to its consultation did not believe the shake-up would deliver services “more efficiently and effectively”.

In addition, 88 per cent of respondents “did not agree that the overall design provides the right checks and balances to protect the integrity of the register”.

In recent weeks, the Liberal Democrats had made clear they were getting cold feet – over a deal that the Conservatives hoped would raise substantial funds for the Treasury.

Business minister Michael Fallon told MPs: “Given the importance of the Land Registry to the effective operation of the UK property market, we have concluded that further consideration would be valuable.

 “Therefore, at this time, no decision has been taken to change Land Registry’s model.”

However, Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods – while welcoming the move – urged ministers to come clean about their long-term intentions for the Land Registry.

Although officials briefed that the sale had been “abandoned”, BIS also said it still favoured privatisation and would continue to “develop the policy”.

Ms Blackman-Woods said: “I want them to scrap the whole idea, not just put it on hold this side of the general election.

“I will be writing to Vince Cable and Michael Fallon, asking them to accept the overwhelming evidence that this privatisation would create a conflict of interest and that people would not trust the data as much.”

Leading City firms had been approached for their advice on setting up a joint venture between the government and a private company, to take charge of the Land Registry.

BIS also considered turning it into a state-owned company that could be sold off, or letting a private company run the body as a so-called ‘GovCo’.

Yesterday, officials denied the U-turn was connected to fierce criticism of Dr Cable over the sell-off of Royal Mail – allegedly at a £1bn loss.

BIS also made clear that the Land Registry would press ahead with creating a single register, instead of separate lists maintained and delivered by 348 local authorities.

It said standardising fees and turnaround times would end the situation where fees vary between £3 and £96 across the country – and turnaround times between one and 42 days.

Source –  Durham Times,  15 July 2014

Keep Land Registry public campaign wins 100,000 backers

More than 100,000 people have backed a campaign to keep the Land Registry in public ownership.

The Government held a consultation on the future of the 150-year-old institution, which handles land and property data and employs more than 400 civil servants in Durham City, earlier this year, with critics warning privatisation, huge job cuts, loss of confidence and higher charges for the public could follow.

At the weekend, a national newspaper reported Business Secretary Vince Cable had vetoed any sell-off, said to be worth around £1.2bn, as ‘just too complicated’.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the Government would publish its response to the consultation shortly.

Now Durham City Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods has joined Labour’s shadow business minister Toby Perkins, leaders of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and campaign group 38 Degrees in presenting a 100,000-name signature calling for the Registry to remain in the public sector to the Government.

Durham’s Land Registry office is said to be worth £10m a year to the local economy.

Dr Blackman-Woods said: “The Land Registry office in Durham provides many good jobs that we need locally and I don’t want this to be diminished in any way by potential privatisation.”

 Previously, business minister Michael Fallon said giving the Land Registry more flexibility would allow it to support economic growth in the wider economy.
Source –  Durham Times,  02 July 2014