Tory minister Eric Pickles launched a fierce attack on Tyneside Labour councillors for “lining their pockets” as they pass £40m of cuts –while accepting a 24% hike in allowances.
The Communities Secretary said the move by North Tyneside Council members “beggars belief” and insisted the authority’s Conservatives will not be claiming the allowance boost – worth almost £10,000.
Bob Neill, vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, also waded into the row, branding North Tyneside Labour MP Mary Glindon a hypocrite.
He lashed out at the MP for slamming Government cuts in Parliament while her husband – North Tyneside Labour councillor Ray Glindon – agreed the hefty rise last year, which will come into effect on April 1.
Labour, however, was quick to hit back at the extraordinary outburst by accusing the two Tories of “political game-playing”.
A spokesman for Ed Miliband’s party said Coalition cuts disproportionately hitting North East councils left members with no choice but to slash services.
Eric Pickles said:
“At a time when rank and file council workers have faced pay freezes and pay restraint, it beggars belief that the Labour council is lining the pockets of its Labour councillors with a 24% hike in councillor allowances.
“To add insult to injury, the council is hiking stealth taxes on local residents to pay for it. I commend local Conservatives for their robust opposition, standing up for hard-working people of North Tyneside.”
Last week, the authority, led by Mayor Norma Redfearn, voted to cut £40m of cuts, which could see 350 council jobs disappear in the coming months. The allowance rise – worth up to £9,759 – comes into effect on April 1.
The council defended the allowance hike by saying the move was recommended by an independent body.
Bob Neill said:
“Mary Glindon is behaving completely hypocritically. She’s very quick to attack Government cuts – but stays mute when her husband and his Labour council chums hike their salaries while proposing hundreds of job cuts.
“The truth is, it’s Labour’s record that needs to be held to account. They left Britain’s economy in a mess, with record peacetime deficit and increased unemployment.
“Meanwhile the Conservatives, working through their long-term economic plan, have seen 1,000 jobs created every day since they came to office.
“The choice in May is clear: between a competent Conservative Government and the chaos of Labour and the rest.”
A spokesman for North Tyneside Labour Group said:
“As with all local authorities, allowances for members are recommended by an external independent remuneration panel.
“North Tyneside Council had some of the lowest councillor allowances in the country and the independent panel recommended that these be brought in line with the average of the other Tyne and Wear authorities.
“This is just political game-playing by the Tories. The real damage to local services is being caused by a Tory-led government who have cut the funding to councils like North Tyneside whilst increasing funding for councils in more affluent areas of the country.”
Mary Glindon was unavailable for comment.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 24 Feb 2015
More than 150 jobs could be cut as council bosses deal with the continued pressure of government cuts in funding.
North Tyneside Council is looking to make £14m of savings in its 2015-16 budget, with one initiative being a more efficient management structure and 160 job losses.
But officials say it is unlikely any compulsory redundancies will be required, with the losses coming through natural wastage and voluntary redundancies.
Mayor Norma Redfearn said that as a result of the savings, the council is able to protect frontline services with no key facility being considered for closure.
She said: “We have been listening to the people and addressing their concerns.
“We won’t be closing any libraries or leisure centres. Over the last two years, attendance at leisure centres have been increasing.
“With the level of cuts imposed on the council, not all services can continue in their present form.
“However, this budget seeks to protect those services residents have told me are important to them.”
Coun Bruce Pickard added “We started re-organising the council last year.
“We said there is no more than six layers for frontline services and four layers for other services. That is one of the biggest savings in the council.
“We are looking at 160 proposed job cuts. We’ve introduced an enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme and had well over 100 people apply.
“Last year, out of the 150 job cuts, only eight were compulsory.”
Mrs Redfearn added: “We’re a public service. We have to think about what’s important to the people we’re serving. That is education, care and living in an environment that is decent.
“As a listening Mayor, in presenting this budget I have taken into account the issues raised and the hardship being experienced by many residents of North Tyneside.”
The final budget, being presented to full council tonight , will see a freeze on council tax levels for the third year running.
Weekly bin collections, fortnightly recycling and the free garden waste collection are also being maintained.
There will also be more investment in roads and pavements, progress on the regeneration of the seafront and Whitley Bay, continuing development on the Swans site on the riverside in Wallsend, and more affordable homes built.
And Mrs Redfearn said it was work on Whitley Bay seafront and the former Swan Hunters site she was looking forward to progressing the most, as it would mean they could then start work on improving North Shields town centre.
She said: “I desperately want to get on with Whitley Bay and Wallsend so we can get on with North Shields.”
Source – Whitley Bay News Guardian, 05 Feb 2015
Mayor Norma Redfearn has revealed that North Tyneside Council will keep council tax rates at the same level for the third year running.
Cabinet members confirmed their final budget proposals at an extraordinary meeting yesterday (Thursday) which will now go to full council next month.
However, the authority is still facing a cut to their budget over the next three years.
Mrs Redfearn said:
“North Tyneside Council has had to cope with massive government cuts which mean we have to remove a further £40m to £46m from our budgets over the next three years, in addition to the cuts of £29m already achieved over the last two years.
“I have kept the council tax increase to zero percent for the last two years, saved £29m in efficiency savings and through sound financial management ensured that the council has under spent its budget for the last two years.
“For the third year running I can announce that I will not be increasing council tax levels.”
Proposals drawn up set out £14m of efficiencies without impacting on frontline services, with officials saying no leisure centres or libraries will close while bin collections will remain weekly.
There will be increased investment in roads and pavements; continued regeneration of borough town centres; progress on regenerating the seafront and Whitley Bay; development on the Swans site; and building more affordable homes.
Mrs Redfearn added:
“With the level of cuts imposed on the council, not all services can continue in their present form. However, this budget seeks to protect those services residents have told me are important to them.
“In addition this budget will also see a continuation of our investment in North Tyneside to deliver regeneration at the coast and in our town centres, bring more jobs to the borough, build more affordable housing and make this a well connected borough in terms of our infrastructure.
“I will also continue to work to support local businesses and encourage inward investment which has resulted in thousands of new jobs being created in the last two years.”
The council is continuing to streamline it organisation, reducing management costs by £2m and lowering energy consumption.
The proposals will be presented to council on February 5.
Source – Whitley Bay News Guardian, 30 Jan 2015
Council owned buildings could close and managers salaries worth £2m axed as an authority attempts to cut £40m over the next three years.
Children’s creches will only be targeted at those most in need and nursery provision will be up for review as part of proposals agreed by North Tyneside Council.
However money has been set aside to contribute towards the £1m redevelopment of St Mary’s Island to refurbish the lighthouse and cottage as part of a council wish-list of future capital projects.
At a meeting of North Tyneside Council’s Cabinet a draft budget plan was presented – the Creating a Brighter Future programme.
The council hopes to save £1.2m by reviewing its services for under fives, £1m is also proposed to be pulled from their early intervention health budget, while they envisage a further £3m could be saved by creating better links with the NHS.
Around £600,000 is also hoped to be saved by bringing staff together to work in shared offices and shutting down buildings when they are no longer needed.
Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn, said the budget proposals for 2015 to 2018 were designed to ensure children are prepared for school and teenagers prepared for work.
“The challenges we face as a local authority are huge and I have listened very carefully to residents who have told us what their priorities are, so we target resources where needed and made sure that we make every pound count when we spend it.”
The council has to deliver between £40m and £46m of savings over the next three years, with £14.245m of that required in 2015/16. This is on top of the £28.79m of savings it has delivered over the last two years.
However they also have a list of proposed capital projects planned over the next three years which cabinet members were asked to agree to on Monday night.
They include a further £2m allocated to regeneration in Whitley Bay, which has come from another source, and putting in £1.22m to a £14.9m pot to redevelop land at the former Swan Hunter shipyard.
Councillor Redfearn said:
“We will also deliver a multi-million pound investment programme to regenerate key areas across the borough – Whitley Bay’s Spanish City Dome and seafront, the former Swan Hunter site in Wallsend, 3,000 new affordable homes in the next ten years and the North Tyneside Living scheme to provide top quality new sheltered homes for 900 of our older residents.”
Residents can provide their feedback on the new budget proposals from early December by going to the Council’s website at http://www.northtyneside.gov.uk .
The consultation will be open until the end of January.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Nov 2014
> The rest of the results from Tyne & Wear…
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE
It was a day that promised much for UKIP with rumours of winning a seat in Woolsington early on. Flopped again, though.
They did come second in a number of seats, registering particularly highly in Walkergate with 843 votes and Benwell and Scotswood with 823, however outright victory eluded it.
In all 27 seats were up for grabs at Newcastle City Council, 16 previously held by Labour and 11 by the Lib Dems.
At the end of the count it was almost a case of “as you were” with Labour winning 17, the Lib Dems nine and Independent candidate Bill Corbett landing a spectacular success in Westerhope, taking the seat from Labour.
In some wards the Lib Dem vote collapsed but overall party leaders were visibly relieved that its support held up well compared to other parts of the country.
However its Chief Whip Tom Woodwark was the major casualty of the day when he lost out to Labour in South Jesmond.
Overall Labour won 45% of the vote, the Lib Dems 21.7%, UKIP 13.5% and the Tories 9.9%.
North Tyneside’s former elected mayor Linda Arkley failed to make a civic comeback after losing in the Tynemouth ward to Labour’s Sarah Day.
The seat was one of the most hotly contested and the Conservative candidate missed out on being elected by just 37 votes.
Current mayor Norma Redfearn said she was “overjoyed” Labour had managed to retain overall control of the council as well as gaining two additional seats in Wallsend and Chirton.
She said Labour had weathered many a protest vote in the past and were not worried about UKIP coming second in nine wards.
Their surge was down to the current Government’s record on job creation and the bedroom tax, she added. UKIP gained a 20% share of the vote overall although failed to win a seat.
Party member Marianne Follin, who also stood in Tynemouth, said: “It’s been said we are the fourth political party and we’ve proved that now.”
> What ? That you’re in 4th place ? Behind the Lib Dems ? Nothing to boast about there !
The council is now made up of 44 Labour councillors, 12 Conservative and 4 Lib Dems.
Labour remained in control of Gateshead Council despite a strong UKIP showing.
Leader of the council, Mick Henry, thanked the public for their support to his party despite the Government cuts his borough currently faces.
He said: “Nothing has changed. Considering that we are suffering a 37% cut in the budget and we have had to take actions as a council, I am pleased that the Gateshead public have shown support for us in the circumstances.”
When asked about the number of votes secured by UKIP, Mr
Henry said: “Next year will be different.
“The European elections have helped them on this occasion and we are hoping it will be different next year.
“It’s the Liberal Democrats we need to worry about, and the actions of the Government.”
> It’s the Liberal Democrats we need to worry about – not a phrase you hear very often…
> The national media seems to be intent on boosting UKIP on the basis of these local elections, and even locally the Newcastle Journal was making statements like:
“Asked for his response to Ukip’s success in Sunderland and the Yorkshire town of Rotherham, where the party won ten seats, Mr Balls said: …”
Pardon me ? Ukip’s success in Sunderland ? Did I miss something ?
They didn’t win a single seat ! That’s success ?
Neither did the Greens or Lib Dems, so they must be doing very well too, right ?
The truth is – and the Newcastle Journal and other local media have failed to point this out – before these elections UKIP had 2 local seats across the whole of Tyne & Wear, both in South Tyneside.
After these elections, they only have 1… and that perhaps only because that particular seat wasn’t up for election.
So across Tyne & Wear, which UKIP had been making noises about targeting, they won nothing and actually lost 50% of what they did hold.
Now there’s success and there’s success… and there’s also dismal failure. I think I know which category UKIP’s performance falls into.
As I interupted Ed Balls earlier, perhaps we should return to him for a moment…
“So we have to understand that challenge (of UKIP). People want to know we will have tough controls on immigration, that you’re not going to be able to come here to work in our country and send benefits back to families at home “
In other words, some people are voting for UKIP, so lets steal their policies and hijack the closet racist vote.
Surely they learnt their lesson with New Labour’s desperate attempts to win the middle class vote ?
North Tyneside Council has agreed a motion to block payday loan companies websites from its computers – PCs used by all council staff and those available to the public in libraries and Customer First centres – and to prevent such companies setting up business in council-owned commercial property.
The motion also called on the government to legislate and effectively regulate payday lenders (dont hold your breath on that one…).
Mayor Norma Redfearn said: “With the soaring costs of energy and food bills, cuts in benefits and a freeze on wages it’s not suprising that more and more people feel they have no option but to take desperate measures to meet their bills.
“Our research shows that people are now borrowing on average around 326 pounds a month from these credit companies. The interest they charge is absolutely scandalous, so it’s no wonder that many people are caught in a spiral of debt and taking out more loans just to get by.
“This council is taking a significant first step by agreeing this motion, and I can guarantee there will be more action to come.”
No matter how bad things get, there will always be someone waiting to take advantage. It’s to be hoped that other councils might follow this example, as well as promoting Credit Unions as an alternative.