David Cameron has been accused of trying to “bribe” pensioners while saddling younger people with government debt, after he promised to maintain state benefits for all old people.
Mr Cameron said his 2010 promise to preserve winter fuel allowances, free TV licences and bus passes regardless of pensioners’ income would last as long as he remains prime minister. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have promised to restrict the winter fuel payments for better off pensioners.
But critics accused the Conservatives of playing a cynical “generation game” to woo the “grey vote” because the over-65s are the most likely group to vote in May’s general election. Pensioners’ perks cost about £3bn a year and the Tories have pledged to find a further £12bn cuts in welfare if they remain in power.
Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute for Economic Affairs, said:
“Politicians must stop trying to woo elderly voters at the expense of other generations. The elderly cannot remain immune to public spending restraint and abolishing these benefits would help ease the burden on the working age population.”
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said:
“It’s hard to shake the suspicion that austerity stops at 65. The extraordinary debt that politicians have racked up will weigh very heavily on our children and grandchildren, and continuing these policies into the next parliament will only add to that potentially back-breaking burden. Politicians must stop attempting to bribe certain voters with special favours, show some backbone, and think about the long-term health of the nation’s finances by means-testing or abolishing these unaffordable benefits.”
Speaking in Hastings, Mr Cameron claimed that Labour’s plan to withdraw winter fuel payments from pensioners paying the 40p rate of tax would save only £75m a year. He said the Government’s decision to raise the age at which people qualify for the state pension would save more than half a trillion pounds.
The Prime Minister added:
“I don’t think we should break the system of having benefits for pensioners for such a small saving when you are giving up such an important principle and such a reassurance to people in our country.”
“Comfort, independence, companionship, health – these aren’t luxuries; they’re what people who have worked and saved all their lives deserve. The fact is, if something happens to you when you’re old, or to your income, you can’t as easily change your circumstances as younger people can.”
Source – The Independent, 24 Feb 2015
Campaigners have pointed out that rail tickets near the Prime Minister’s own constituency are cheaper that those in the North-East.
Teesside passenger group Coastliners spoke out after David Cameron said the region’s decrepit Pacer trains would be replaced – but fares would have to rise to pay for the new rolling stock.
It was revealed on Friday that the Prime Minister had declared that “those trains are going” when asked about the unpopular Pacers, which run on Northern Rail lines across the North of England.
Mr Cameron rejected his own Government’s suggestion that the 30-year-old carriages could be modernised rather than replaced.
Instead, bidders for the Northern franchise will be asked to draw up plans to replace the trains.
But the Prime Minister said fares must rise to pay for the upgrades when the new contracts start in 2016.
However, research by Coastliners, which represents rail passengers on the Durham coast, suggests it is a myth that North-East fares are cheaper than those elsewhere in the country.
Coastliners’ Peter Walker said:
“Don’t forget that Campaign for Better Transport‘s London-based staff have admitted that we in the North pay as much as if not more than those living further South.”
“Oxford to Tackley, nearly in Mr Cameron’s constituency, is nine miles, and the day return is £3.50, or £3.40 single.
“If the fares level decides what type of rolling stock is provided, his argument implies that Pacers should serve Tackley and Class 166 diesels should be sent to our coast line forthwith.”
Mr Walker pointed out savings to users of the Oyster card meant that many London journeys of similar length similar to, or greater than, those on the coast line were far cheaper :
“London to East Croydon, some 13 miles, works out at £3 single for an Oyster-card holder.”
Mr Walker also questioned the Prime Minister’s claim that Northern Rail fares were the most heavily subsidised in the country.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Nov 2014
A future Tory Government would slash benefits for around 100,000 struggling families and young people to fund more low-paid apprenticeships, Prime Minister David Cameron will pledge on Monday.
Cameron will say that he plans to deliver 3 million more apprenticeships by cutting the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 a year.
The plan would affect 70,000 families in receipt of either in-work or out-of-work benefits and tax credits, saving around £135 million a year. This will include 40,000 households who have so far managed to escape welfare cuts, according to Conservative Party figures released to the Press Association (PA).
Figures released at the end of last year (December 2013) show that for the first time in recorded history more low-paid working households are living on or below the breadline than those who are out-of-work. More cuts to in-work benefits could further exacerbate this issue and cost the Tories votes at the next general election.
The Tories would also remove Housing Benefit entitlement from 18-21 year-olds, affecting 30,000 young people and saving an estimated £120 million a year.
SKY News reports that Mr Cameron has the backing of a number of large firms including Nestle, Airbus, Ford, Balfour Beatty, Fujitsu and the National Grid.
“Because of difficult decisions we will make on welfare, we will deliver three million apprenticeships by 2020. This is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan to secure a better future for Britain.
“It will help give us the skills to compete with the rest of the world. And it will mean more hope, more opportunity, and more security for our young people, helping them get on in life and make something of themselves.
“We have already doubled apprenticeships this Parliament. We will finish the job in the next and end youth unemployment.”
Cameron had previously told the Andrew Marr show:
“All the evidence is the cap is too loose, particularly in some parts of the country, so bringing it down saves money, will mean more families getting into work, and what I want to see – the plan we have for Britain – is to spend less money on welfare and more on helping people into work.”
However, the Tories relentless attack against the young and low-paid has come under criticism from their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.
Leader Nick Clegg used his speech at the Liberal Democrats annual conference to attack the Tories for taking an “axe” to the welfare budget, without showing any “regard for the impact on people’s lives”.
His words will anger millions of people affected by welfare cuts his party helped (voted) to introduce – including the cap on benefits.
Currently the minimum wage rate for an apprentice is £2.73 an hour for 16-18 year-olds. The same hourly rate applies to 19 year-olds who are in the first year of their apprenticeship.
Apprentices over the age of 19, or who have completed their first year, are paid at least the national minimum wage for their age group, with some businesses willing to pay more – if you’re lucky.
The national minimum wage rate for 16-18 year-olds currently stands at £3.79 an hour, £1.06 higher than that for apprentices. Those aged 18-20 receive a minimum wage rate of £5.13 an hour, rising to £6.50 for the over 20’s.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 20 Oct 2014
The region’s MP’s reacted angrily to David Cameron’s plans for a constitutional revolution after Scotland rejected independence – accusing him of a political fix.
Labour MPs warned the plan – “English votes for English laws” – would strengthen the influence of the Conservative heartlands over Westminster, while doing nothing for the North-East.
> Well ? Did anyone seriously expect anything different ?
And they demanded the overhaul instead focus on devolving power down from Westminster, in parallel with firm promises already made to Scotland on tax and spending.
The stance – echoed by Labour leader Ed Miliband – puts the region on a collision course with both Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg, who plan to rush through a solution to the so-called ‘West Lothian’ question.
Under the fast-track timetable, firm plans will be unveiled in January – from a committee headed by Richmond MP William Hague – delighting Tories who fear the rising UKIP threat.
In reality, change looks impossible before the May general election, but the “English votes for English laws” proposal is, nevertheless, a political nightmare for Labour.
Mr Cameron suggested Scottish MPs would lose voting rights over tax issues, potentially leaving a Miliband administration – with 41 Scots MPs currently – unable to pass a Budget.
Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) attacked a “crude attempt to cobble this together on the back of an envelope”- calling on the prime minister to put devolution first –
“In our region, we will find that our position gets relatively worse. It might be a good solution for people in Hertfordshire, but I don’t think it’s a good solution for people in Durham.”
Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) –
“Cameron completely missed the point. He should not be using this as an opportunity to increase the Tory stranglehold over England.”
Kevan Jones (North Durham) –
“Cameron is pandering to his right wing and UKIP – this is not going to help the North-East at all.
Jenny Chapman (Darlington) –
“He should be talking to people in the North-East about what they want and what extra powers they want, rather than making a back-of-a-fag-packet declaration.”
Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) –
“I’m astounded by the naivety of the prime minister in thinking that all he needs to do is change the way Westminster votes.”
Grahame Morris (Easington) –
“A Tory-dominated English Parliament, which continues to concentrate power and resources in the affluent South, will worsen existing regional inequities and frustrate the legitimate desire for greater autonomy for the North East.”
Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) –
“In any settlement, there has to be something for the regions and I think that has to be more powers over economic development.”
But Liberal Democrat Ian Swales (Redcar) – while agreeing devolution must go “further and faster” – said it would be “absurd” not to restrict Scottish voting rights at Westminster.
He said: “We may end up with some form of English parliament, but should first make it work by MPs only being able to vote on issues that affect the country they represent.”
The MPs agreed any notion of a regional assembly was “off the agenda” – arguing instead for new, combined authorities to be strengthened with economic powers.
Some constitutional experts warned of chaos ahead, arguing Westminster could end up with “two Governments” – one for defence and foreign affairs, the other for the likes of education and health.
And the respected Institute for Government think-tank also argued the “debate on English devolution” must be part of the post-referendum settlement.
A Government source rejected suggestions that Mr Cameron was fast-tracking the ‘English votes’ issue, while devolution was left in the slow lane.
He said: “We believe we have done a lot devolving powers within England, through the likes of City Deals – and they have been welcomed by business and political leaders in the North.”
Source – Northern Echo, 20 Sept 2014
> Well, its understandable – these places north of Watford are all the same, aren’t they ?
David Cameron mixed up his Teesside and his Tyneside as he took to the airwaves to talk up economic growth in the region.
The Prime Minister frequently used examples of economic activity in Tyne and Wear – including investment from companies like Hitachi and Nissan – during an interview with BBC Tees.
Oh his third mention of the Tyne, BBC Tees presenter Lisa McCormick intervened.
“You keep mentioning the River Tyne, that’s not our region Prime Minister,” she said.
“I’m sorry, we are the River Tees, does that mean that you’re forgetting about us?”
For a moment Mr Cameron seemed flustered as he paused.
“Oh, I thought I was doing – oh no absolutely not,” he replied.
“I mean, if I look specifically in terms of the Tees Valley, we’ve got £90m from our local growth fund to boost economic growth.”
It might have been a swift recovery from the PM – but it was not quick enough for some.
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland‘s Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop seized the chance to attack Mr Cameron.
“In isolation this may just seem like a somewhat silly mistake, yet over the last four years we’ve had a Tory peer calling the region ‘desolate’, frequent misspellings of Teesside in official Number 10 letters, and now the Prime Minister himself can’t even take the basic cue of appearing on BBC Tees to get the hint that our river is the Tees and not the Tyne,” he said.
“This just highlights how David Cameron is out of touch and completely uninterested in places like Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar, Hartlepool and East Cleveland.”
UKIP’s North East MEP Jonathan Arnott also took the opportunity to bash the PM.
“This is not just embarrassing for the Prime Minister but also what’s left of the Conservative party in the North East of England,” he said.
“Whilst unemployment figures are going down elsewhere around the country, ours are still going up.
“Perhaps if he knew which area he was talking about, people might have more confidence that he actually cares about local people.”
Defending Mr Cameron was Conservative MP for Stockton South, James Wharton.
“No excuses, but I suspect he was doing a round of local interviews one after the other and these things can happen,” said the MP.
“I will be reminding him when I next see him not only how great Teesside is but of all the things this government has done for the south of our region, from bringing Hitachi to the return if steel making and the announcement of over £90m in local investment only a few weeks ago.
“I am proud of our record of delivering for this area and I am sure the Prime Minister is too.”
The chairman of the Redcar Constituency Liberal Democrats, Councillor Josh Mason, added:“The slip-up by the Prime Minister does not take away from the fact that since 2010 our area has received over five times more government investment per year than it did under the previous Labour government.
“It remains more important than ever for us to keep pushing for more investment and banging the drum for Teesside to ensure it remains on the government’s radar.”
The Prime Minister’s office declined to comment.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 25 July 2014
Depending on who they were, Ministers in David Cameron’s Government were either celebrating promotions or mourning the end of their political career after being invited in to Downing Street to hear their fate in today’s re-shuffle.
With a ruling Coalition that has only four North East MPs – all on them on the backbenches – any re-shuffle is not likely to have an obvious immediate impact on the region.
Yet Mr Cameron’s various moves on the chessboard, widely seen as part of his strategy to try and win the next election, will have been followed by many in the region.
It is a fair bet that many a champagne cork will have been popping in school staffrooms at the re-shuffle’s largest casualty, the Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Being unpopular with teachers is almost a job requirement for Education Secretary, but Mr Gove seems to gone above and beyond that brief, not least with teachers in part of the North East after he attacked schools in County Durham with the slightly odd comment that “when you go into those schools, you can smell the sense of defeatism.”
The re-shuffle effectively saw Mr Gove sacked from his Education job. Instead he will become Chief Whip, responsible for imposing discipline on Conservative MPs, and will represent the Government on television, according to the Prime Minister’s official spokesman – which led to him being dubbed “Minister for TV” at Westminster.
Although Mr Gove is popular with sections of his party, and hailed as a hero by supporters of his school reforms, his departure from the education brief is likely to please some North East teachers and heads.
The new Education Secretary is Nicky Morgan, who became in MP in 2010 and was previously a Treasury Minister. After making it into the Commons in 2010 at the second attempt, the former corporate lawyer was quickly earmarked by Mr Cameron as a potential star and was made a ministerial aide within months, a whip in 2012 and a junior Treasury minister last October.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 15 July 2015