Tagged: Nick Forbes

David Cameron trying to ‘muffle’ voice of the North East with boundary review, it was claimed

The Conservatives are attempting to “muffle” the voice of the North East in parliament, it is claimed, as a shake-up of boundaries could leave the region with three fewer MPs.

David Cameron’s Tories want to redraw the dividing lines of the UK’s parliamentary constituencies and cut the number of MPs by 10% from 650 to 600.

The say it will save money and make the system fairer but now stand accused of trying to “gerrymander” votes by the region’s Labour MPs, who fear their party could be locked out of power in 2020 because of the move.

The proposal was first put forward in 2013. It came after a review by the Boundary Commission, which found there should be three fewer constituencies in the region – one each from Tyneside, County Durham and Teesside.

But the Lib Dems blocked the move after being forced to abandon the House of Lords reform they had campaigned on.

Boundary reform was in the 2015 Conservative Manifesto, however, and the Prime Minister is reportedly ready to defy his backbench MPs, whose own constituencies will be placed under the microscope.

The current boundaries are said to favour Labour because the party tends to do better in urban seats tend be smaller – Newcastle, for example is split into three constituencies – than the suburban seats where the Tories pick up more votes, like the relatively large Hexham constituency.

But Labour say the reduction comes after a switch from household to individual voter registration in December 2014, which saw a million people drop off the electoral roll nationally, and any review must be started afresh.

Helen Goodman, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland, said:

“This is a clear attempt by the Tories to gerrymander the constituencies on the basis of an electoral register from which they deliberately excluded seven million people by implementing individual voter registration.

“It is my contention that the Tories made that change in order to reduce the number of people on the register, just like the Republicans did in America.

“The people that have gone from the register are those in insecure housing, those on low incomes and young people.

“I think everybody knows that the voice of the North East was not heard by the Tory-led Government over the last five years, and this is a further attempt to muffle it.”

 

In the Newcastle City Council area, individual voter registration saw 18,000 people fall off the electoral roll. A local campaign saw 11,000 sign up, but Nick Forbes, the Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, said the North East risks being sidelined.

He said:

“Our region already feels bruised and battered from the last five years of the Coalition Government and it looks like the Tories boundary review could further marginalise us.

“In Newcastle, we have a growing population and yet this isn’t matched by electoral registration statistics as the voter registration system seems deliberately designed to deter people from joining the register.

“Reducing the number of MPs in the North East will work to the Tories’ electoral advantage and make it even more less likely we will have a Labour Government in 2020.”

Mr Cameron appointed his Cabinet this week and is expected to push through a number of policies within the first 100 days of Parliament having won a decisive majority at last week’s election.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 May 2015

Advertisements

Government changes a boost for rogue landlords

Councils could lose powers to clampdown on rogue landlords under new government reforms.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes has slammed government plans to revoke local authorities’ ability to introduce selective licensing of privately rented homes.

Since 2004, councils have had powers to regulate private landlords in areas of low housing demand or significant anti-social behaviour.

In March 2010, rules were relaxed granting councils greater powers.

Now, to avoid a ‘blanket licensing approach’, the government is wrestling back control and Coun Forbes argues this hinders the council’s ability to help residents.

He said:

“It is taking away our abilities as a local democracy. It makes it harder to tackle the problems in some areas of the city.

“Government has created an extra hurdle to jump before we can tackle the issue.

“Despite all of the talk around devolution, central government stripped away important powers from local councils. We have lost the ability to respond to residents.”

The government argue reforms will help councils focus their enforcement where it is needed most and stop good landlords being punished.

But the Labour leader of the council accused Whitehall of being influenced by the powerful private landlord lobby.

He said:

“Up to now local authorities have had the ability to introduce selective licensing successfully, wherever there has been a problem.

“Now the government has taken away that power and forced us to beg for the ability to do it. I can only assume government has been lobbied by the vested interests of private sector landlords.

“There are some really good private landlords but there are some terrible ones. Some privately rented properties end up becoming eyesores, and a blight on otherwise clean streets.

“It’s one of the things people consistently complain about and it is important we are able to licence these properties to ensure the safety of tenants.”

Bruce Haagensen, local representative for National Landlords Association, believes selective licensing has failed in the city.

He said:

“The NLA is fully behind efforts to improve the standard of housing in Newcastle and believe that selective licensing when carried out properly and fully resourced is a useful tool for councils to use.

“However this does not seem to be the case in Newcastle.

“The existing scheme has not achieved sustainable tenancies, improved prices or the reduced the number of empty houses and after consulting with interested parties (landlords, tenants, businesses and others in the community) it was found that over 60 per cent suggested there had been no change during the scheme; essentially the scheme has failed.”

The city currently has two selective licensing schemes in Benwell and Byker which have been running since September 2010 and March 2011 respectively.

Landlords have been hit with massive fines for failing to apply for the correct licences.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Apr 2015

Councils in the North East CAN make more cuts, says David Cameron

The Prime Minister has been accused of ‘living in a parallel universe’ after announcing that councils in the North East could make more cuts.

In an interview with us, Conservative leader David Cameron has said that more budget reductions would be imposed – whichever party won the next election.

He insists that councils could make further savings without damaging services, however leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes has said cuts in the North East had already been “savage and brutal”.

Coun Forbes said:

“The Prime Minister is living in a parallel universe The disproportionate cuts his Government have made to northern councils like Newcastle have gone far beyond anything that could reasonably be met through efficiencies – they have been savage and brutal.

“I’d like the Prime Minister to visit Newcastle so he can see for himself the devastating impact of his policies on the most vulnerable in our society – but we’re not his kind of people up here so I doubt he’ll come anywhere near.”

However Mr Cameron said that local councils can continue ‘to find efficiencies’.

He said:

“I think local government has done brilliantly at being more efficient.

“And I think when you look at councils’ finances they can continue to find efficiencies by continuing to work together and sharing chief executives, sharing finance teams, sharing back office costs.

“Most councils have seen a large increase in their reserves over the last four or five years, so they do have financial capacity.

“And just like any business you don’t make efficiencies and then say, right, that’s it, I’ve finished.

“Businesses are always asking, how do I get more efficient next year than last year?

“So I think there is still more efficiency to be delivered.”

The comments came despite claims by local authorities in the North East that they have already been cut to the bone.

For example, Newcastle City Council has set out plans for £40million of cuts in 2015 to 2016, on top of £100m saved from budgets since 2012. The measures will lead to the loss of a further 260 jobs.

Coun Forbes said:

“Newcastle City Council has had to cope with budget losses of more than 40% over six years and has lost 2,200 staff since 2010 – the equivalent of the closure of Virgin Money HQ, or Fenwicks department store, or the shutdown of the entire offshore sector on the North bank of the Tyne.

“If this was the private sector there would be a national task force in place to deal with this scale of job losses but we’ve had to deal with this challenge without any assistance from Government.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2015

New report reveals human cost of Government cuts in North East

A report published today reveals the “human cost” of Government cuts in the North East.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the most deprived areas of England have seen the largest cuts in funding since 2010.

‘The Cost Of The Cuts’ report finds that local authorities have been able to protect front line services by finding new, innovative ways of working, but that capacity for further efficiency savings is fast running out.

Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, who last week oversaw £40million budget cutbacks and a council tax increase which will see the city’s Band B residents paying £20 more a year, said:

“This research highlights the human cost of the cuts to service users and staff and reinforces the case Newcastle has made for a fairer and more equitable settlement.

“We have long argued that disproportionate Government cuts have had a bigger impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people in our community. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have now added their independent voice to the many who now confirm that, sadly this has indeed been the case.

“Whilst we recognise the need for reductions in public spending, the cuts have been implemented far too quickly and at a pace and scale which has led to service reductions which could otherwise have been avoided. This approach is causing real harm to our communities.

“In Newcastle we have responded by doing all we can to safeguard services to the most vulnerable, and to continue to invest in our city to create the jobs and economic growth which are fundamentally important to tackling the inequalities in health, wealth and quality of life which blight our communities.

“More innovative approaches are possible based on greater devolution of public service budgets to places, and multi-year financial settlements which give local councils and their partners greater certainty about their finances. This would allow us to plan ahead together for a more transformative approach to sustaining public services in the face of continuing austerity.”

Analysis of local government expenditure data reveals that the poorest English authorities have seen reductions of £182 more per head than the most affluent, breaking the historic link between the amount a local authority spends per head and local deprivation levels.

In 2010/11, the most deprived councils had an extra 45% of expenditure per head to cope with additional needs. By 2014/15, this had been reduced to 17%.

Services such as housing and planning have been worst affected across the country, seeing cuts of around 40%.

The report highlights an important difference between the situation in England and in Scotland. It claims the slower pace of cuts in Scotland may have given local authorities more room to invest in preventative measures, which could drive down costs in the medium term by reducing the need for services in future years.

Professor Annette Hastings from the University of Glasgow said:

“Local councils find themselves in an incredibly difficult position. At a time when the agenda is about how to make public services work better, particularly for those that need them the most, councils are being subjected to year on year funding cuts.

“Their capacity to deliver positive change is being reduced just when it is needed the most.”

Josh Stott, policy and research manager at the Foundation said:

“The cuts have forced the pace of local service reform and there have been some positives, in terms of service redesign and new ways of working.

“However, we are now beginning to see the impacts of the cuts filter through on to the quality of local services. There is a general consensus that we are only half way through the cuts and, if we continue on this course, it seems inevitable that the poorest people and places will be even harder hit.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 11 Mar 2015

Pressure on North East foodbanks could be eased by £22m EU fund, politicians tell PM

North East politicians are calling for government to tap into a £22m EU fund to ease pressure on foodbanks.

David Cameron has been criticised for allegedly failing to take the money over fears it reveals the UK’s dependency on the EU and weakens his position going into a potential in/out referendum in 2017.

However the Conservative Party have said they are not missing out on EU cash and have £2.9m to spend, and they – not Europe – will decide where it goes.

Labour MEPs have now written an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him to lift his block on support for the country’s most vulnerable people for what they consider is solely for ‘ideological reasons’.

The European Aid to the Most Deprived Fund is worth £2.5bn, and is available to all EU member countries to dip into to help people who are most in need. Foodbanks would have been able to apply for funding from the pot. However David Cameron decided to opt out of the scheme in 2013, which Labour members believe could have eventually totalled £22m for the UK between 2014 and 2020.

The Government has previously said it believes individual member states are best positioned to deliver social programmes for the poor through regional or local authorities. They’ve said they will take their Most Deprived Fund subsidy (£2.9m) and deduct it from their ‘structural fund’, the cash pot they would prefer to see money delivered through.

The North East’s two Labour MEPs, Jude Kirton Darling and Paul Brannen have said in their joint letter to David Cameron that he should ‘remove opposition’ to support for foodbanks. The letter has also been signed by leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes,  and leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig.

Jude Kirton Darling, MEP, said:

“People are under intense financial pressure at the moment and many people will have used food banks this year. 

“As the weather turns colder and people face increased heating bills we feel now is the time for the Government to remove its opposition to support for food banks.”

Paul Brannen MEP added that as well as accepting more money from the EU, in the medium term he would like to see food bank use decline through an increased minimum wage, less use of zero hour contracts and a youth job guarantee for young people.

A Conservative party spokesperson, said:

“We aren’t losing money – any funding the UK receives from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will be taken off our structural fund allocation.

“Instead we will use our structural funds to support local initiatives to train and support disadvantaged people into work. We have not yet decided how the €3.5m euro pot (£2.9m) will be spent – food aid is just one of the options for spending the money.”

> So nothing will happen this side of the General Election. Probably not after it, either.

In 2013, British MEPs alongside two other member states formed a blocking minority which meant the initial European-wide fund was spilt into two, with one fund for ‘material assistance’, which would have seen the UK receiving food and items like sleeping bags directly, and another for ‘immaterial assistance’ which could go towards the budgets of social programmes.

Britain chose to draw down only on the second fund ‘immaterial assistance’, and while it accepted a share of £2.9m – the same as the smallest EU member Malta with a population of just 450,000 – neighbouring country France accepted has taken its full €443m allowance.

The letter to Mr Cameron written by the pair, said:

“We feel now is the time to remove your opposition to support for food banks.

“We understand your opposition to the European Union but the fact is that the money is available and should be used as there is clear and desperate need. It is wrong to block support for the most vulnerable people for ideological reasons.

“You have claimed that support for food banks should be a national decision, yet the decision of your government is to not support food banks at all. We do not believe that is right.”

The Government announced in October that it plans to use some of the UK share of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived to provide additional support for school breakfast clubs in England. Under the plans, which will be led by the Department for Education, this money would be allocated to schools with particularly high rates of disadvantage, as measured by free-school meal eligibility. This still needs to be agreed by the EU Commission.

Figures from by the Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks, show that between April and September 2014, over 25,000 people were helped by the charity’s Gateshead, Newcastle East and Newcastle West End food banks alone.

That breaks down to 4,289 a month – more than treble the 1,316 people per month in Newcastle and Gateshead who accessed a foodbank in the nine month period between April 2013 and December 2013.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 22 Jan 2015

Spending on buses goes up in urban areas but down in rural parts of North East

Spending on buses is going up in urban areas while it dips in rural parts of the North East, figures reveal.

Data released by the Campaign for Better Transport showed spending on subsidised bus services has risen by 14.3% since 2010 in Tyne and Wear.

Meanwhile, in County Durham and Northumberland councils are spending 29.8% and 15.3% less, respectively.

Martin Abrams, from CBT, said elderly and disabled people are those that suffer.

He said:

“Every single local authority is in a difficult financial position.

“This report isn’t about beating up local authorities – we want to highlight the fact that councils are really, really suffering from the funding cuts imposed on them by central government – but some councils are finding ways of funding services.

“We are concerned for elderly people in rural areas as this will have an impact on them, especially.

“A lot of elderly people take the bus to the shops and they meet their mates. If you take that away then people will be left in isolation and it will have an impact on the social fabric of the country.

“It is the big rural counties rather than urban areas that are making big cuts and it is very worrying.”

 

 Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council and transport lead on the North East Combined Authority, said Nexus, which manages transport in the Tyne and Wear area, is dipping into reserves to avoid the funding cuts seen in other areas.

The combined authority has voted to operate a Quality Contract Scheme (CQS) which would see councils take control of fares and services.

He said:

“About 10% of local bus services in Tyne and Wear are paid for by local authorities through Nexus, and that includes all our school buses and special routes for early-morning shiftworkers, as well as many journeys in the evening and at weekends.

“Tyne and Wear has been able to avoid the severe cuts to local bus routes seen in many parts of the country thanks to good planning by local councils and Nexus up to now, but the fact is Nexus is spending the last of its financial reserves to keep these vital services on the road.

“This cannot go on much longer and that is why the North East Combined Authority is pushing ahead with a planned Quality Contracts Scheme, in which some of the large profits made by bus companies in the region are re-invested to protect and improve all local services.

“This will not only protect routes but mean lower fares for passengers, a universal smart ticket like Oyster in London and savings for the local taxpayer.

“Without a Quality Contracts Scheme local people should be under no illusion that local buses face cuts due to the enormous pressure on council spending.”

Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said cutting the bus budget in County Durham had been unavoidable in the backdrop of severe cuts to local authorities.

He said following a consultation in 2011 funding for evening and weekend services had been scaled back to protect those operated during the day.

He added further cuts would make it harder to protect services.

Councils in other parts of the region, such as Darlington and Stockon, have cut funding for subsidised bus routes altogether.

He said:

“There has not been much of a reduction over the last few years, however, as with everything else, given the cuts that are being made by George Osborne that will become more and more difficult.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 13 Jan 2015

Newcastle City Council jobs axe is a return to out-dated ‘salami-slice’ policy, says union boss

A council leader has been accused of reneging on his promise to not ‘salami-slice’ authority jobs.

Unison have said Newcastle City Council’s draft budget plans which will shred 260 jobs across a range of departments, from highways to adminstration staff to family service workers, fails to come up with a new model for how the authority will be run.

Council leader Nick Forbes has previously said annual ‘salami-slicing’ of budgets, where a handful of jobs are taken from a range of departments, is ‘no longer adequate’ when faced with large cuts from Central Government. The key to future services is instead, he argued, to transform the status quo.

However Paul Gilroy, Newcastle branch member for Unison, said:

The council talked two years ago about how Newcastle would look in 2020 and they talked about transforming the city council. They have done only elements of that. The Family Services Review has transformed what’s delivered to families but in other parts of the authority there isn’t a significant amount of evidence of transforming services.

“There still is an element of ‘salami-slicing’ and people are bothered by it. An example is the decision to shut the Tourist Information Centre. In 2012 the council talked about transformational change but we are struggling with what that means.”

Details of Newcastle City Council’s Family Services Review, which includes changes to the Sure Start service, will be released in January.

Up to 27 jobs will go when the council embarks on creating new ‘community family hubs’ across the city after having its budget cut by £5m.

Leader of the council Nick Forbes, who works at a national level to come up with ideas on how to change public services within the Core Cities organisation, believes significant changes are being made.

He said:

“Our budget demonstrates a transformational approach to public services and we know that we need to go further in years ahead. But it is the Government that is holding back true transformation through its unceasing and savage cuts to public services.”

He said there were many examples of transformational proposals for services in the council’s draft budget for 2015-2016 and the authority has already been financially rewarded for its innovation in its social services department.

Councils are awarded financial grants from Central Government if they demonstrate ways in which they have tackled delivering public services differently and in the past Newcastle has received a grant for its work redesigning family mental health services.

Councillor Forbes, said:

“We have also worked with our partners to save many of our libraries from closures and have set up a fund independent of council that guarantees funding for the arts.

“We are also looking at setting up a trust to manage many of our parks and heritage assets.”

In the future we are looking to save money through digital transformation by making many of our services available digitally, and we are looking to integrate our health and social care services.”

He said ‘true transformation’ of services requires a fundamental change from the current top-down ‘Whitehall knows best’ approach and more upfront funding for local innovation, which is what Newcastle City Council is lobbying for.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  23 Dec 2014

Government slammed over decision to reject EU hand-out while folk go hungry

The North’s poor are going hungry after the Government rejected a £22m food fund from Europe, it is claimed today by the region’s Labour MEPs.

David Cameron has been criticised for allegedly failing to take the money, which could directly go to foodbanks in the region, over fears it reveals the UK’s dependency on the EU and weakens his position.

However the Conservative Party have dismissed Labour’s claims, saying people are not missing out on the EU cash and have £2.9m to spend.

Labour MEPs have now written an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him to lift his block on support for the country’s most vulnerable people for what they consider is solely for ‘ideological reasons’.

The European Aid to the Most Deprived Fund is worth £2.5bn, and is available to all EU member countries to dip into to help people who are most in need.

Foodbanks in the North East would have been able to apply for funding from the pot.

However David Cameron decided to opt out of the scheme in 2013, which Labour members believe could have eventually totalled £22m for the UK between 2014 and 2020.

The Government has previously said it believes individual member states are best positioned to deliver social programmes for the poor through regional or local authorities. They’ve said they will take their Most Deprived Fund subsidy (£2.9m) and deduct it from their ‘structural fund’, the cash pot they would prefer to see money delivered through.

Today North East’s two Labour MEPs, Jude Kirton Darling and Paul Brannen have said in their joint letter to David Cameron that he should ‘remove opposition’ to support for foodbanks.

The letter has also been signed by leader of Newcastle City Council Nick Forbes and leader of Durham County Council Simon Henig.

Jude Kirton Darling, MEP, said:

“People are under intense financial pressure at the moment and many people will have used food banks this year.

“As the weather turns colder and people face increased heating bills and Christmas approaches we feel now is the time for the Government to remove its opposition to support for food banks.”

Paul Brannen MEP added that as well as accepting more money from the EU, he would like to see food bank use decline through an increased minimum wage, less use of zero hour contracts and a youth job guarantee for young people.

A Conservative party spokesperson, said:

“We aren’t losing money – any funding the UK receives from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will be taken off our structural fund allocation.

“Instead we will use our structural funds to support local initiatives to train and support disadvantaged people into work. We have not yet decided how the €3.5m euro pot (£2.9m) will be spent – food aid is just one of the options for spending the money.”

In 2013, British MEPs alongside two other member states formed a blocking minority which meant the initial European-wide fund was spilt into two, with one fund for ‘material assistance’, which would have seen the UK receiving food and items like sleeping bags directly, and another for ‘immaterial assistance’ which could go towards the budgets of social programmes.

Britain chose to draw down only on the second fund ‘immaterial assistance’, and while it accepted a share of £2.9m, the same as the smallest EU member Malta with a population of just 450,000, neighbouring country France accepted has taken its full €443m allowance.

The letter to Mr Cameron written by the pair, said:

“We feel now is the time to remove your opposition to support for food banks.

“We understand your opposition to the European Union but the fact is that the money is available and should be used as there is clear and desperate need. It is wrong to block support for the most vulnerable people for ideological reasons.

“You have claimed that support for food banks should be a national decision, yet the decision of your government is to not support food banks at all. We do not believe that is right.”

The Government announced in October that it plans to use the UK share of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived to provide additional support for school breakfast clubs in England.

Under the plans, which will be led by the Department for Education, this money would be allocated to schools with particularly high rates of disadvantage, as measured by free-school meal eligibility. This still needs to be agreed by the EU Commission.

Source –  Sunday Sun,  21 Dec 2014

Parents out in force in Newcastle City Council cuts protest

Battling parents were on song yesterday in their fight against cuts which could see vital services for their kids cut.

A group of around 30 mums, dads and their children braved the chilly weather to take part in a street theatre event at the Centre for Life and later Central Station in Newcastle city centre.

For it, they also re-worked a few well known Christmas tunes to highlight their cause.

These included ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ which detailed what they saw as the effect on services of proposed city council cuts.

Lines included ‘On the first day of Christmas the council took from me, a future for my family’.

Meanwhile Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ and ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ by Shakin’ Stevens also got the treatment.

It was the latest in a series of high profile events by The Parents against Cuts group which have resulted in at times heated clashes with city council leader Nick Forbes. Some wore Nick Forbes face masks for the event yesterday.

Last week the council announced proposals to cut its budget by £40m in response, it says, to Central Government austerity measures.

The PAC group was set up when plans to reduce the number of Sure Start Centres, which provide early educational and play facilities for pre-school children from the poorest backgrounds to save around £4.7m as part of these measures, were first made public.

Shannon Sherman, who helped organise the event, said:

“We’re still waiting to hear which Sure Start centres are to go.

“We were told it was to be this month, now the council is saying it’s in January.

“Christmas is a busy time for parents but we’ve got a good turn out.

“We have another planning meeting next week to decide what to do next.”

Those attending the event laughed off a suggestion made by Mr Forbes last week of a link between PAC and the Revolutionary Communist Group.

In an interview the council leader said:

“The Revolutionary Communist Party website clearly claims responsibility for a number of actions that Parents Against Cuts is taking.”

Vanessa Cutter of PAC denied the link. She said:

“I think it shows the council leader had been rattled by our protests.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Dec 2014

Newcastle parents group rubbish Revolutionary Communist Party link made by Nick Forbes

A campaign group fighting against cuts which will see child provision in Newcastle slashed has slammed city council leader Nick Forbes for linking them to the Revolutionary Communist Party.

Parents against Cuts was set up when plans to reduce the number of Sure Start Centres, which provide early educational and play facilities for pre-school children from the poorest backgrounds to save around £4.7m, were first made public.

The group has since arranged a number of high profile protests while Mr Forbes has been heckled at meetings and protests have been staged outside his council surgery.

In an interview the council leader said:

“The Revolutionary Communist Party website clearly claims responsibility for a number of actions that Parents Against Cuts is taking.”

He also said he wasn’t going to engage in playground politics with people who shouted and threw things.

Vanessa Cutter of PAC said: “I was astounded that the leader of the council could come out with such ludicrous comments.”

She described the link with the Revolutionary Communist Party as “completely unfounded”.

Details of the group’s action have appeared on the party’s website.

Ms Cutter added:

“They have also appeared on the Unison website. Does that make us a front for Unison too? The Revolutionary Communists are an anti-cuts party so it is natural that they report on us, an anti-cuts group.

“I think Mr Forbes is feeling the pressure of our campaign.”

> Parents against Cuts have appeared in this blog before too ! Whatever can it mean ?

However the city council leader hit back saying:

“There is strong evidence that the Revolutionary Communist Party is claiming the credit for the disruptive activities of the Parents Against Cuts group.”

He claimed the PAC had called for the setting of an illegal budget which would bring the city into disrepute.

> Which otherwise might be seen as making a stand against central government austerity policies.

Ms Cutter has also attacked the details released in this week’s £40m budget cuts announcement which has still left those parents who will be affected by the reduction of the Sure Start service in the dark as to the extent of them.

She said:

“We were told they would tell us which centres would be closed on December 1, then December 5, then December 17 and now it could be next week.

“I think it is very strategic as we believe he wants to delay the announcement to closer to Christmas as it will be harder to build resistance.”

However Mr Forbes denied this saying it was always the intention for the final decision on Sure Start provision to be decided at the council’s Cabinet meeting in January.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 Dec 2014