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
A Tyneside charity has been given a special award for helping to provide food to thousands of families struggling with cash.
The Bay Foodbank has been presented with the Whitley Bay Town Cup by North Tyneside Council.
The authority awards the cup to an organisation or individual of the town who has brought about an outstanding event in the last year, or has been of outstanding service to the community.
The foodbank was chosen this year in recognition of its work in providing emergency food parcels to residents having financial problems either through low income, redundancy, medical bills, a bereavement or benefit delays.
Coun Tommy Mulvenna, chairman of council, said:
“This cup is a fantastic way to show our appreciation and recognising the excellent work that these organisations do.
“The Bay Foodbank provides a very important service to the residents of not only Whitley Bay, but the whole of North Tyneside and they thoroughly deserve this honour.”
The charity has set up several drop-off points across the borough, in locations including supermarkets and churches, where members of the public leave donations of non-perishable food items such as long life milk, tea bags, coffee, tinned fish, meat and vegetables, and baby food.
These are then packaged into parcels and delivered to needy families.
People can be referred to the service by churches, doctors, social services or other agencies.
Rev Alan Dickinson, the group’s chairman, said:
“The Bay Foodbank is honoured to receive the Whitley Bay Town Cup.
“We’d like to thank all of our dedicated volunteers who devote their time, but also those who donate to us because without their support we wouldn’t be able to continue the work we do.
“We’re currently supplying around 1,200 meals per week to those most at need in North Tyneside – resulting in a total of almost 12,000 people we have helped support since 2012.
“Last year was our busiest year yet and we can only hope that our fantastic supporters will stick with us for the coming year.
“We have a good working relationship with North Tyneside Council and look forward to continuing this in 2015.”
The Town Cup was introduced by the former Whitley Bay Council in 1954 and it was donated to North Tyneside Council on its formation in 1974.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Jan 2015
The number of council officials with the power to enter homes in South Tyneside is too high, say civil rights campaigners.
South Tyneside Council employs 61 officers who have powers of entry which enable them to barge into homes and businesses across the borough.
This covers regulatory roles such environmental health and trading standards officers.
However, campaigners at Big Brother Watch (BBW) – a civil liberties and privacy group which obtained the figures – believe the public has been left ‘at the mercy of pen-pushers who can enter our homes as they please’.
But council bosses say that it’s very rare for an officer to gain entry to a property by force, with the normal procedure being to notify occupiers first.
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said:
“Powers of entry are set out by Parliament when enacting legislation and are essential to enable councils to carry out their statutory functions.
“They are available to staff across our regulatory services, which cover things like seizing illicit goods from business premises and enforcing building regulations, to carrying out environmental health inspections and food safety checks where there is a risk to public health.
“It is rare that officers have to exercise this power as a right, as most property owners and businesses premises permit entry.
“The council has robust policies and procedures in place to ensure that these powers are only used where necessary and that they are used properly and in accordance with the law.
“Without these powers the council would not be able to provide the same level of reassurance and protection local people demand and deserve.”
South Tyneside Council has 11 building control officers with powers, 14 planning officials, 13 trading standards and licensing officers and 23 environmental health workers.
Newcastle City Council employes 107 officers with powers of entry.
North Tyneside Council told the BBW it has zero officers.
Northumberland County has 541.
Sunderland City Council refused to provide their figures due time and cost restraints.
Emma Carr, director of BBW, said:
“Few people would expect that public officials would have the power to enter your home or business, often without a warrant or police escort. The general public have been left high and dry, at the mercy of an army of pen-pushers who can enter our homes as they please.
“There have been a number of missed opportunities to rectify this, including the Protection of Freedoms Act and the Home Office’s review of the powers, yet both have failed to tackle the number of officials with these powers.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 16 Jan 2015
Councillors have been slammed for hiking their allowances by nearly 25% when their authority is to axe 350 jobs and make multi-million cuts to services.
Labour members of North Tyneside Council voted to increase their allowances to £9,759, from £7,896, which they say is in line with other authorities.
But the Conservative opposition has criticised the move describing it as “outrageous” and a chance for councillors to “line their own pockets.”
Councillor Judith Wallace, leader of the Conservative group, said:
“For the Labour group to vote to increase their own allowance, at the same time that it is laying off a further 350 local people, is outrageous.
“All my Conservative councillors voted against this. Local people will be furious that their Labour councillors think that lining their own pockets is more important than retaining jobs and local services.”
The move is set to cost the council an extra £116,000 a year, however it is the first increase members will have had since 2009, and the new figure has been reached by taking the mean average of allowances for Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland councillors.
Councillor Wallace said:
“If the Labour group thinks that this move is targeting resources where it is needed then my constituents will be absolutely furious at their arrogance. My Conservative councillors and I will fight this all the way.”
The rise was voted on by the full council – which is run by a Labour majority – last Thursday, against a backdrop of job cuts and a reduction of £46m to £50m to the budget over the next three years.
The council has previously announced that buildings could close and children’s creches will only be targeted at those most in need. Nursery provision is also up for review.
A spokesperson for North Tyneside Council said:
“This change is in accordance with the recommendations of the independent remuneration panel which carried out detailed research and found that the basic allowance in North Tyneside is significantly lower than other regional and national allowances.
“There has been no increase in the basic allowance to North Tyneside councillors since April 2009 and the independent panel say these changes are necessary to help bring North Tyneside allowances closer to those elsewhere.
“The recommendations are also considered appropriate given their responsibilities and the many hours councillors spend working on behalf of residents.
“The panel – made up of four independent people with a wealth of experience in business, finance and local government – has previously commented that the level of allowances is too low and could impact on the authority’s ability to recruit and retain people to serve as councillors.”
The current level of basic allowance in other authorities are:
- Durham £13,300
- Gateshead £10,120
- Newcastle £8,775
- Northumberland £12,625
- South Tyneside £7,226
- Sunderland £8,369
A members allowance is a payment made to councillors for attending meetings and other approved duties of the .
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 04 Dec 2014
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
Labour run North Tyneside Council has had to cancel an attempt to introduce voluntary prepaid benefits cards after only two claimants volunteered to take part. The council claimed that the scheme was misrepresented as being aimed at drug and alcohol users.
The council’s attempts to launch the cards predates Iain Duncan Smith’s announcement to the Conservative party conference last month, in which he said:
“I have long believed that where parents have fallen into a damaging spiral – drug or alcohol addiction, even problem debt, or more – we need to find ways to safeguard them – and more importantly, their families, their children, ensuring their basic needs are met.
“That means benefits paid, I always believe, should go to support the wellbeing of their families not to feed their destructive habits.
“To that end, conference, today I can stand here and announce to you that I am going to start testing prepaid cards onto which we will make benefit payments so that the money they receive is spent on the needs of the family, finally helping I believe to break the cycle of poverty for families on the margins.”
In fact, prepayment cards have already been extensively tested on failed asylum seekers, who are obliged to use an Azure card produced by French multinational Sodexo.
Users of the card report that they are treated negatively, that the cards often don’t work and that they are prevented from buying cheaper fruit and vegetables from markets.
One user told the Red Cross:
“You go to [one of the approved retailers] and it’s just refused when they swipe it…. So sometimes you can go for a week without food…. If it happens by Friday – at the weekend they are closed. Then you tell them on a Monday that this is what happened, and they tell you it will take three to four days. So already you’re half of the week.”
So, the claim by North Tyneside deputy mayor that they wanted to give people
“. . . a financial life-line to better managing their finances so they could be more independent in the future and provide them with great choices.’
may be genuine, but it doesn’t seem to reflect what actually happens when you take away people’s right to spend their money as they choose.
Source – Benefits & Work, 10 Oct 2014
Up to 350 jobs are under threat at North Tyneside Council. Union members were informed this week that the council had submitted an HR1 notification form, detailing potential redundancies.
The authority’s chief executive Patrick Melia said the potential job losses are in light of the council’s budget reducing by up to £50m.
“It is expected that the Council’s budget will reduce by £46 – £50m over the next three years.
“As part of this process we are required to issue an HR1 notice, which is a formal legal document which confirms the possible reduction in posts expected over a period of time.
“We will once again put our efforts into working with trade unions on any measures which will mitigate or reduce the number of compulsory redundancies necessary.”
He added that the council has a good track record in minimising the number of compulsory redundancies and in previous years many redundancies had been voluntary.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Oct 2014
Cash-strapped North councils have diverted more than £300,000 of funds to top up Government help for those left reeling by the bedroom tax.
Welfare reforms have seen changes made to benefits which have forced many to seek smaller housing while scores of others struggle to pay their rent.
Thousands applied for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) cash payments to get by, but now many councils have spent over the amount allocated by Government and have had to find extra funds from elsewhere.
Fears are also spreading the situation could get worse as authorities may be even more out-of-pocket next year when the Government will cease to offer DHP funding.
Hartlepool Council had one of the highest deficits – £115,239 – with the total spent on DHP hitting almost half-a-million pounds.
In Gateshead, the overspend was £90,000, after the authority spent £583,000. Chiefs will now bid for extra DHP cash as the council foresees a further shortfall.
Sunderland City Council spent £690,000 and had a shortfall of £32,000. North Tyneside Council reported an underspend while Durham County Council was granted additional DHP funds to cope with demand.
In Middlesbrough the figure was £37,420, Redcar and Cleveland spent £5,000, while Stockton was the lowest over their allocated funds at £932.
Both Hartlepool and Middlesbrough councils said they met the shortfall by using money from the Local Welfare Provision (LWP), which can also be used to help people struggling with welfare reforms.
But the LWP will also be removed by the Government from April 1, 2015.
South Tyneside Council was left with a shortfall of £8,000 after granting £314,000 worth of DHP applications.
Meanwhile Newcastle City Council – which by far paid out the most DHP grants at £1.5m – was granted an additional £861,000 in DHP cash from the Government to cope with almost 3,000 applications.
Coun Dave Budd, Middlesbrough’s Deputy Mayor and executive member for resources, said: “The Coalition Government’s welfare reforms have placed a great many people in real hardship.
“From a very early stage we have been working with many partners – including local housing providers and the Citizens Advice Bureau – to address issues which can have a devastating effect on people’s lives.
“With the removal of the funding for the Local Welfare Provision from April next year, it will become even tougher to help those most in need. However, we will continue to do everything in our power as a local authority to mitigate those impacts.”
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Redcar Anna Turley highlighted the situation, saying: “David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s bedroom tax has been a disaster for the hundreds of thousands of people hit by the cruel levy and it has come at a huge cost for local taxpayers.”
However, the DWP says more than £20m specifically earmarked to help people adapt to welfare reforms was not spent by UK local authorities last year.
Figures show almost two-thirds (63%) of councils paid out less than their total DHP allocation to tenants.
A spokesman for Hartlepool Council said: “The council recognises the significant detrimental impact that the bedroom tax is having on households and as a council we are doing everything possible to ease the pain for residents.
“In 2013/14, the Government’s introduction of the bedroom tax resulted in reduced housing benefit entitlements in Hartlepool of over £1m and affected over 1,400 households.”
Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud, said: “We tripled support for vulnerable people to £180m last year to ensure the right help was in place during our far-reaching welfare reforms.
“The figures also show that recent scare stories about councils running out of money were grossly exaggerated.
“Our vital reforms are fixing the broken welfare system by restoring fairness for hardworking people and making sure work always pays, as part of our long-term plan.”
> The long-term plan evidently being to return Britain to being a feudal society…
Source – middlesbrough Evening Chronicle, 31 Aug 2014