Twenty-two Hartlepool council workers are employed on zero hours contracts.
The number has emerged as proposals were made to scrap the deals, with five of the workers also said to be employed on other contracts with the authority.
A motion was put forward to the full council, urging it to carry out a review of the arrangements it has with workers, as well as its contractors.
It set out how within six months a series of points should be adopted, including a right to request a minimum mount of work and compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice.
Putting Hartlepool First member David Riddle, who was among those to sign the motion, said the six bullet point suggestions were taken verbatim from Labour leader Ed Miliband’s proposals to scrap the contracts.
The motion set out that the contracts “are incompatible with building a loyal, skilled and productive workforce,” with Councillor Riddle stating they made it hard for households to plan finances.
He added he had been employed on zero hours contracts himself and took on staff using the deals in his own work.
He said: “There might be 20-odd people in that situation, but that’s 20-odd too many.”
It was also backed by fellow Putting Hartlepool First members Geoff Lilley, Steve Gibbon and Kelly Atkinson and backed by Independent Jonathan Brash.
Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher proposed an amendment to refer the matter to the council’s monitoring officer for a robust appraisal to be carried out of the policy ahead of further discussions, with members agreeing.
The Labour member said discussions had been held with trade unions and some posts within the council needed an element of flexibility among the workforce.
Councillor Paul Thompson, independent, said:
“This will be expensive, that’s why employers use them, because they know it will cost them more money.
“I know the Labour Party wants to abolish them nationally and I don’t always agree with Ed Miliband on occasions, but this is one such occasion and I agree with him.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 10 Feb 2015
An impassioned debate over claims that strict sanctions on benefits claimants are causing severe poverty ended with Stockton Borough Council passing a motion criticising Government policy.
The motion called for a review of the Department for Work and Pensions‘ (DWP) sanctions where benefits claimants, including those on Job Seekers Allowance, who miss an appointment or is late can be left without any money at all for five to six weeks.
Several councillors speaking at the authority’s full council meeting said they had examples of where the policy was being used “unfairly” while deputy leader Jim Beall branded it as a “deliberate, cynical measure” to alter the unemployment statistics.
However Conservative councillor Andrew Stephenson argued against the motion saying the sanctions helped people back to work.
The motion concluded:
“The Council resolves to write to our MPs requesting that they raise this deplorable situation with the responsible Minister urging an immediate review of national policy and guidance on sanctioning.”
Council leader Bob Cook told of a case where a young man got a letter informing him of a morning appointment but didn’t receive it until the afternoon and lost his benefit.
Meanwhile Cllr Norma Stephenson said she knew of 19 families on the Hardwick estate who had been sanctioned while Cllr Barry Woodhouse cited the case of a Billingham resident who lost her disability benefit for having zero points, only for a review to say she had 33 points.
Cllr Eileen Johnson said she had a friend working for the DWP who told her staff had been in tears “because they can’t bear what they are doing.”
> But they carry on doing it nevertheless…
Cllr Norma Wilburn said she had heard a national story on the radio about an amputee who had lost his benefit because he couldn’t answer the phone. She said: “This seems like a coordinated attack on the vulnerable. This is evil.”
Cllr Mark Chatburn, Ukip, said the policy was “deliberate” and “the epitome of nasty.“
> This from the representive of a party who’s members have called for the unemployed to be denied the vote and banned from owning cars.
The motion was passed and Stockton’s two MPs, Alex Cunningham, Labour, and James Wharton, Conservative, will be contacted by the council.
Source – Northern Echo, 22 Jan 2015
Councillors who have forced a debate on a decision to cut school transport have been told it could be “unlawful” to reverse the proposals.
The row over transport for post-16 students in Northumberland reached new heights, with Prime Minister David Cameron wading into the row and all three political parties in the county taking highly-charged potshots at each other.
The council’s Labour administration said a meeting on Friday to discuss the plans would cost £80,000 – a figure rubbished by their rivals – and blamed the coalition Government for forcing £130m of cuts on the authority.
It also emerged that councillors had been sent a letter from council’s lead executive director Steve Mason, in which he warns that a motion from the Conservative group to reverse the decision could leave the council open to a costly challenge in the courts.
Post-16 education transport charges were scrapped by the Liberal Democrats when they ran the council in 2008.
But Labour recently approved plans for a £600 travel charge for students attending their nearest educational establishments where public transport is not available.
Students who can travel on public transport would have to pay the full cost of their journeys. Exemptions would apply to young people already in post-16 education, those with special educational needs and those from low-income backgrounds who attend their nearest school or college.
Council bosses say they were forced to bring back charges as they have to remove £32m from the authority’s budget in 2014/15 and a further £100m over the next three years.
But parents, pupils and politicians from rural areas of the county have accused the council of discriminating against families in such areas, with over 1,200 joining a Facebook group and a protest staged outside an Alnwick school last month.
They had planned a similar protest at a full council meeting earlier this month, only for the authority to cancel it citing lack of business – a move they said would save £18,000.
The council’s Tory opposition demanded an extraordinary meeting, with more than the five councillors required to force such a course of action signing an official request.
The extraordinary meeting was scheduled for Friday, with Labour bosses claiming it would cost £45,000.
Party leaders have now claimed the council’s accountants have put the cost to the taxpayer of Friday’s meeting at £80,000.
Council leader Grant Davey said: “The cost of the extraordinary meeting has skyrocketed and we’ve had to audit the cost.
“It now stands at nearly £9k each for each of the signatories of the motion put forward by their leader Coun (Peter) Jackson. Northumberland Tories have very serious questions to answer – how can they justify calling a meeting that will cost taxpayers £80k while this council has to find £130m in cuts over the next four years? This is a scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Coun Jackson hit back, saying: “It is absolute rubbish. The £45,000 was misleading and was a lie and how they can claim that it is even more than that is beyond me.”
His party had tabled a question to Friday’s meeting demanding a breakdown of the costs when they were put at £45,000.
Coun Jackson said he could not see how the meeting could cost more than £1,000 and added: “You have got to question the administration at County Hall, how they think it is going to cost them £80,000 to have a meeting with 67 people.”
The Journal has seen a confidential letter to members from the council’s lead executive director for corporate resources, Steve Mason, in which he warns of the risks of supporting the motion from the Tories, requesting the authority’s policy board reviews its decision to bring in charges.
In it, Mr Mason expresses “concern” about the passing or debating of the motion on the basis that decisions delegated to the policy board can only be taken by policy board and that it would be “unlawful” for full council to undermine that position.
His letter claims it would be “counterproductive” to discuss a matter the policy board has already determined as reopening the matter “increases the risk of challenge against that decision in the courts.”
Mr Mason says: “I would ask then that you bear this advice in mind when considering and voting on the motion.”
Coun Jackson responded: “It is just another example of bullyboy tactics from the county council.
“We are convinced our motion is entirely legal. We are asking the Labour-run policy board to reconsider its decision. There is nothing illegal about that at all.”
Meanwhile, rumours that the headteacher of the Duchess’s Community High School in Alnwick, Maurice Hall, has been put on gardening leave having distributed literature produced by opponents of the transport charges, have been dismissed.
The Journal reported how Mr Hall had apologised to parents for his actions, while rumours abounded that he he had been put on gardening leave as a result. But school governor Ian Walker said Mr Hall is currently off work for personal reasons and said it was an “unfortunate coincidence” that the literature issue had come at the same time.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 09 July 2014