The average homeowner in parts of Teesside has lost £25,000 off the value of their house since the coalition came to power in 2010 – while prices in London have soared.
Exclusive analysis of Land Registry data show the average house price in Redcar and Cleveland has dropped by 21.3% since May 2010, the date of the last election.
The average price is now £92,785 – or £25,134 LESS than it was then.
Only two places in the country – Merthyr Tydfil (down 27.1%) and Blackpool (down 24.9%) – have seen a bigger percentage fall.
In Middlesbrough, prices are down 6.6% since May 2010.
That means the average property is worth £5,904 less now than then.
And Stockton-on-Tees has seen a 2.6% fall, equivalent to £2,944.
Across England and Wales as a whole, house prices have actually gone up by 10.8% since May 2010, with the average property worth £17,595 more than it was then.
Across England and Wales as a whole, house prices have risen by 10.8% since May 2010.
The biggest increases have all been in London – with the 29 top-rising areas all in the capital.
Top of the list is Hackney, where house prices are up 76.3%.
The average house is now worth £634,045 – or £274,491 more than it was five years ago.
In the City of Westminster, meanwhile, the average price is up £464,941 from £610,767 to £1.07m.
When London is taken out of the equation, Tory-run areas seem to have done markedly better than those controlled by other parties.
Ten of the 20 ‘non-London’ areas that have seen the biggest rises are held by the Conservatives, with nine in no overall political control and just one – Slough – held by Labour.
Tory Wokingham (up 25.7%), Hertfordshire (up 24.6%) and Surrey (up 24.6%) have seen the biggest rises outside London.
By contrast 19 of the 20 areas to have seen the biggest falls in house prices are run by Labour.
The only one that isn’t is Lancashire (down 13.6%) – which is in no overall control.
Source – Middlesbrough Gazette, 13 Apr 2015
As the election battle begins UKIP seems a bit confused over its local geography – announcing two of its Stockton South candidates are standing in the “Grangetown” ward…
The blunder appears on UKIP Stockton’s website and should read ‘Grangefield’ instead of Grangetown – which is of course in Redcar and Cleveland.
The two UKIP candidates standing for Stockton’s Grangefield ward (or “Grangetown”) in the local authority elections in May are Michael Spayne and Aiden Cockerill.
After the transgression was pointed out , Alastair Coe, spokesperson for UKIP Stockton Branch, said the website would be corrected.
He said: “I’m sure if you were to look at the websites of most political parties you would find the odd typo.
“I’ll point it out to the people who do our website that there is an inaccuracy.”
Labour councillor Mike Clark, who currently serves the Grangefield ward alongside his wife Carol, was bemused by the UKIP error.
“I think this is a classic example of a campaign getting off on the wrong foot – or in the wrong borough.
“The extraordinary thing – apart from the shocking lack of local knowledge – is that this howler has been on their website now for four days, which tends to suggest it doesn’t attract a lot of readers.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 30 Mar 2015
Austerity will cost the North East £220m this year as vital cuts to services are made for a fifth year in a row.
And within a year council’s could start to struggle to even deliver what they are required to by law.
This stark warning from leader of South Tyneside Council, Iain Malcolm, comes as authorities across the region enter their final week of budget setting, and for the first time in several years many authorities have chosen to grasp at a council tax rise to bring in vital funds.
The Labour leader, whose authority has had to shred 1,500 jobs to cope with reductions in Central Government funding since 2010, said 2016 could be the year some councils start to seriously struggle.
“If the Government is going to cut the way that they are now, councils will not be able to provide statutory services that they are legally required to,” said Coun Malcolm.
“I’m not going to put a timeline on it because I’m not having it as a D-day but some councils across the country will struggle in this financial year, but not necessarily in this region.
“But by 2016-17 if there is no change in Central Government’s attitude then more councils will struggle in 2016 to fulfil their statutory obligations.
“I would say South Tyneside is at the forefront of innovation. I won’t name the councils that will struggle but South Tyneside would struggle to find any more meaningful savings in the 2016-17 financial year.”
Cut backs since the Coalition Government came into power in 2010 are estimated to have cost the North East an enormous £557m in reductions to grants to run services like adult social care, leisure centres and libraries.
It’s also estimated that 14,000 local authority posts have been scrapped around the North East in the last five years.
However the Government maintains that funding settlements since 2010 have been fair.
For the first time in years council tax has been drawn on as a way of bringing in more funds to cash-strapped authorities and bar Redcar and Cleveland, which made a 1% cut to council tax, all councils have either gone for a rise or accepted the Government’s freeze grant.
For Newcastle and Gateshead councils the tax hike was the first in four years.
Coun Malcolm said:
“All councils have tried to do what’s right in their particular areas. We’ve got a strategic partnership with BT to do our back office functions and that’s worked extremely well for us but it’s not been a one size fits all solution.”
He added that despite intense cuts for a fifth year, in which his authority must save £22m in the year 2015-16, satisfaction with local authorities remains extremely high as shown by various survey.
2015/2016 spending power cut
North Tyneside: £14m
South Tyneside: £22m
Redcar and Cleveland: £3m
Darlington: £14m over next two years.
Job losses since 2010:
County Durham: 2000
North Tyneside: Information not available
South Tyneside: 1200
Middlesbrough: 728 with a further 600 by 2020.
Redcar and Cleveland: 750 post reductions.
Stockton: 740 people
Hartlepool: Information not available
Council tax rise
Newcastle: 1.95% (first rise in four years)
Gateshead: 1.95% (first rise in four years)
County Durham: 1.99% (second year of a rise after gap)
North Tyneside: No rise
South Tyneside: 1.95%
Sunderland: No rise.
Redcar and Cleveland: 1% reduction.
Hartlepool: No rise.
Source – Sunday Sun, 08 Mar 2015
Cuts have hit the region’s town halls nine times harder than wealthy parts of the South, a new analysis shows – despite the North facing much higher care bills.
The study highlights the areas where people suffer most from poor physical and mental health, disability and early death, imposing huge extra costs on local councils.
The worst-hit fifth of 325 authorities includes no fewer than ten North-East areas, a list headed by Middlesbrough which is ranked fourth for “health deprivation and disability”.
Not far behind are Newcastle (13th), Hartlepool (14th), Gateshead (17th), Darlington (20th), Redcar and Cleveland (21st), Sunderland (25th) and County Durham (28th), followed by Stockton-on-Tees (51st) and South Tyneside (65th).
On average, those ten councils have lost £213.04 of their overall ‘spending power’ for every resident since 2010, according to finance chiefs at Newcastle City Council.
Yet, the average loss in the ten areas with the fewest sick and disabled people, and much lower care costs, is calculated at just £23.19 per head – more than nine times less.
Incredibly, spending power has actually risen at one authority, Elmbridge, in Surrey (up £8.14 per head) – while it has plummeted in Middlesbrough (down £289.02).
The gulf is seen as crucial because social care is the biggest financial burden for cash-strapped councils, which are now also responsible for public health.
Recently, the charity Age UK warned that older people have been left “high and dry” by council cutbacks to help with washing and dressing, to day care places and meals on wheels services.
Hilary Benn, Labour’s local government spokesman, condemned the much-bigger cuts in areas with the biggest ill-health and disability burdens as “deeply irresponsible and unfair”.
Councils hit by the biggest cuts are already known to have slashed spending on adult social care by 12.7 per cent on average – against just 1.2 per cent in more protected authorities.
Labour has promised a new “fairer formula” for distributing local authority grants, but has yet to give details, or say when this would be introduced.
The ‘spending power’ measure bundles together grants, council tax, business rates and the New Homes Bonus, but is widely criticised for disguising the true scale of the pain.
Newcastle’s finance department calculated the changes since the 2010 general election, after the Government refused to produce official figures.
Source – Northern Echo, 14 Feb 2015
Almost a quarter of all North-East workers – and nearly a half of part-time staff – are not being paid a living wage, new research shows.
Local authorities in the region are facing fresh calls to pay employees and contractors more after a study by the GMB revealed that 23.4 per cent of North-East jobs paid less than the living wage.
Jobs held by women – 29.9 per cent – and part-time roles – 46.8 per cent – were disproportionately affected, the report based on data from the Office for National Statistics showed.
The living wage is a recommended rate of pay that takes into account the true cost of living in the UK.
In November 2014 the national living wage increased to £7.85 per hour outside London.
GMB is publishing the figures to mark the launch of its 2015 campaign to get every local authority signed up to the living wage. 134 out of 375 local authorities in England and Wales have so far made the move, up from 103 a year ago.
So far only two authorities in the North-East – Newcastle and South Tyneside – have implemented or committed to implement the living wage.
In North Yorkshire, two councils – York and Scarborough – have taken the step.
Billy Coates, GMB regional secretary for the North-East, said:
“No area is immune from the low-pay epidemic which is why all local authorities need to champion the living wage in their communities, beginning with their own staff and contractors.
“There are 446,300 council employees paid less than the Living Wage, the majority of them women working part-time.
“The living wage matters because it takes into account the income that people need for a minimum acceptable standard of living. It is a first step towards a rate of pay that people can live on without relying on benefits.”
In the North-East, Hartlepool has the largest proportion of jobs paying less than the living wage with 34.7 per cent, followed by Redcar and Cleveland – 30 per cent – and Middlesbrough and Northumberland, both 26.8 per cent.
At regional level, the East Midlands has the largest proportion of jobs paying less than the living wage with 24.7 per cent.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Feb 2015
The president of a transport union with roots in the Labour Party will contest a North seat for the Greens.
Peter Pinkney, the highest ranking layperson of the RMT Union, will campaign against Ed Miliband’s party in Redcar, claiming: “The party of the left is now the Green Party.”
The union boss also brands Labour “a sort of reddish Conservative Party” and accuses MPs of betraying working people.
The dramatic political move by the ex-TUC General Council member threatens to derail Labour’s campaign in one of its top target seats.
The RMT boss also revealed the union has donated £7,000 to Caroline Lucas, the country’s only Green MP, after the Greens were supportive of plans to renationalise the railways.
Mr Pinkney said:
“Labour is no longer the working class party. They have betrayed us time and time again. They should remember that it was the unions who formed the ‘party of labour’ not deny our links.
“The radical Labour Party of 1945 is long gone. No longer do they champion nationalisation, social housing, the NHS, education etc, they are a sort of reddish Conservative Party.
“In my opinion the party of the left is now the Green Party.”
Labour hit back last night, saying a vote for the Green Party is a vote for the Tories.
> This is the kind of stupid comment that makes me even less likely to vote Labour.
It’d obviously be a vote against Labour, Tories and Lib Dems… because we have no belief in any of them anymore.
The move underlines a deepening fracture in the relationship between Labour and the RMT.
Predecessors to the RMT were among the unions which founded Labour back in 1899. But after 105 years of history the RMT was disaffiliated by Labour in 2004, after the union rejected an ultimatum to stop supporting the Scottish Socialist Party.
Former General Secretary Bob Crow publicly slammed Labour, which was then led by Tony Blair, for a failure to support members.
The deadlock continued until the 2012 Durham Miners’ Gala, when the then Deputy Chairman of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, seemed to offer the RMT an olive branch.
He said: “We need the RMT and the FBU back inside the Labour Party – a house divided cannot stand.”
But Mr Pinkney said three months after Bob Crow died the union voted to sever ties with Labour permanently – and today rules out any future affiliation.
“That is not going to happen,” he said.
“It was a unanimous decision to disaffiliate with Labour and our members would never want to go back.
“If Ed Miliband is [more supportive of unions] then he is doing a strange impression of it. He might say that he is to his paymasters at Unite and GMB, who make hefty donations, but our members will not affiliate to Labour or any other party ever again.
“The press calling him ‘Red Ed’ is a joke. A minimum of 75% of people want to see the railways renationalised. He has never once said he would take the railways back into public hands – not even East Coast.”
Labour has named Redcar in its top 100 seats to win in May and has high hopes for candidate Anna Turley.
Vera Baird lost the seat to Lib Dem Ian Swales in 2010 in what was the highest swing against Labour in the wake of the closure of the Teesside Steelworks.
A poll by Lord Ashcroft in September put Labour on 44%, Lib Dems on 18%, Ukip on 23%, the Tories on 12% and the Greens on just 2%.
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “The choice in front of Redcar people in May is between a Tory or a Labour government.
“For all those passionate about the green agenda only Labour has the record and plans to deliver a green government.
“A vote for the Green Party is a vote for David Cameron to carry on hitting the people of Teesside.”
> Well, don’t they have a sense of entitlement ? Only us or them can be in power – its our right. Two sides of the same coin.
The Saltburn-born rail union boss, who is calling for capitalism to be replaced, said he was inspired by the election of the left wing Syriza in Greece.
He said: “We need to look after our elderly, build social housing, repeal anti-trade union laws, scrap bedroom tax, renationalise railways and utilities (and any profit reinvested), but most of all we should give the young hope.
“We are definitely handing on worse conditions than we inherited. My generation should hang our heads in shame for letting this happen. Instead of complaining about young being on streets, and using drugs, we should be asking why.
“Redcar and Cleveland has seen a massive decline in my lifetime. We need proper investment, and not just paper over cracks. I believe the Greens are only large party (as surely they can now claim to be) that wants to put things right.
“I am a left wing socialist, but I am pragmatic. I have seen what Syriza have done, and we can learn from that.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 07 Feb 2015
Teesside councils have again suffered worse than average cuts in the latest government funding announcement.
Figures released today show Middlesbrough Council‘s ‘spending power‘ – the total amount it has at its disposal through central grants and council tax – will fall by £8.9m from £158.4mm in 2014-15 to £149.5m in 2015-16.
That is a cut of 5.6% – compared to an average cut for all English councils of 1.8%.
Redcar and Cleveland will lose £5.2m, or 3.7%, while Stockton emerged relatively unscathed – down £3.6m, or 2.1%.
The list of worst-hit areas is dominated by Labour-dominated parts of the Midlands and North.
> Well, what a suprise !
Tamworth in Staffordshire faces the biggest cut, of 6.4%, followed by Barrow in Furness and Chesterfield.
At the other end of the scale, a number of councils in the South of England will actually see their spending power go up.
Tewkesbury will see the biggest increase, of 3.2%, while Surrey will get an extra £27m, or 3.1%.
Other towns and counties getting an increase include East Devon (up 2.7%), Buckinghamshire (up 2.3%), Cambridge (up 2.3%), Dorset (up 1.9%) and Cheshire East (up 1.4%).
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 18 Dec 2014
Labour MPs in the North-East have shrugged off predictions of a UKIP surge at next year’s general election – insisting their seats are not at serious risk.
The party’s MPs spoke of their confidence despite Labour’s disastrous performance in the Rochester and Strood by-election, where UKIP scored a stunning success.
> But wasn’t the turnout only 50.6% ? Not so stunning, when the majority of the electorate (those who didn’t vote and those who voted otherwise) did not vote for UKIP.
Of course, the UKIP winner was actually a rat leaving the Tory ship, defending the seat he won under their flag. He got 16,867 votes (42.1%).
At the last election, standing as a Tory, he got 23,604 vote (49.2%). the turnout then was 64.9%. Not such a ringing endorsement of UKIP after all.
On the other hand, the Green Party overtook the Lib Dems and scored their best result since the 2010 General Election – but the media are so in love with UKIP that they ignored that.
And they denied they were drawing up new strategies to combat the phenomenon of a party once famously ridiculed, by David Cameron, as a bunch of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.
Nigel Farage’s party is widely acknowledged to have broadened its appeal beyond being an anti-EU pressure group and can claim to have more working class backing than Labour.
Researchers have suggested some North-East constituencies – Hartlepool, Bishop Auckland, South Shields and Middlesbrough – may be vulnerable to a UKIP surge.
And, at last May’s European elections, the fast-rising party topped the vote in Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton and Redcar and Cleveland.
UKIP has refused to release its target seats in the North-East and Yorkshire, but is widely believed to have identified Hartlepool as its most likely success.
However, Iain Wright, the town’s Labour MP, said: “I think UKIP shout about it, but it’s all talk. I speak to voters all the time and they really don’t mention them.”
That was echoed by Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald, who said: “The response I get on the doorstep is overwhelmingly supportive of Labour policies to tackle inequalities head on.”
And Durham North West MP Pat Glass pointed to three county council by-elections in her constituency since last May 2014, all of which Labour had won “convincingly”.
She added: “My view is that, whilst UKIP will take some votes in the North-East, they will not come close to winning any seats.”
Helen Goodman, the Bishop Auckland MP, acknowledged growing concern about the level of immigration, but argued her voters were being won round to Labour’s solutions.
At the 2010 general election, UKIP won only a tiny share of the vote in, for example, Hartlepool (seven per cent) and Bishop Auckland (2.7 per cent) – giving it a mountain to climb.
Indeed, Jonathan Arnott, UKIP’s North-East Euro-MP stopped short of predicting sensational gains for his party in the region next May.
Instead, he said: “At the European elections in May, UKIP won in Redcar and Cleveland, Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton.
“UKIP are the only viable challengers to Labour across the North-East and we are expecting a two horse race come next May.”
Source – Northern Echo, 22 Nov 2014
> Why do the media seem so intent on boosting UKIP ? I’m reminded of this year’s Sunderland City Council elections, in which UKIP’s performance was described in the national media as astounding.
So astounding, in fact, that they won 0 seats.
In fact, across Tyne & Wear as a whole, they suffered a 50% loss (losing one of their two local council seats – they might have lost both, but the other wasn’t up for election this time around). Yet on this evidence we’re told that they’re going to sweep to victory.
Saving councils cash is driving a rise in fast-track child adoptions in the North, an MP has claimed.
The British Association of Social Workers has launched an inquiry into why adoption in the North East has shot up by 26% in the last year after Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell highlighted concerns about the issue.
He believes dwindling numbers of under-pressure social workers are spending less time trying to keep families together and that councils, navigating central Government cuts, are pushing adoptions.
It comes as the Department for Education revealed the number of adoptions increased to 390 in 2013/14 from 290 the previous year.
Local authorities say they are doing all they can to keep parents and their children in a unit, and any claim adoption was used as a money-saving measure is “completely wrong”.
Mr Campbell said:
“I think it is about money at the end of the day. It is cheaper to adopt than it is to foster a child.
“We should be helping parents to get back on the straight and narrow.
“I have seen parents who have turned themselves around.
“Because of all the cuts, social services don’t seem to be there to help anymore. I don’t see why adoption has to be the be all and end all.”
He added social workers may also be afraid to manage intervention in the wake of some high profile cases, such as the failure of Haringey Children’s Services in the lead up to the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, who suffered appalling abuse at home.
Mr Campbell said:
“With Baby P and everything that came out, I think our social workers are frightened of their own job.
“Adoption is the easy option and it doesn’t cost the council anything. If you foster a child it is costing rate payers £500 a week. Why can we not try and keep the family together and help the mothers to bring themselves round.”
Bridget Robb, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said quick decisions were being made to get children out of the public care system.
“Due to the impact of austerity, many services which have been around in local communities to support children and their birth families are no longer around as they have closed due to lack of money. This makes it harder to provide the help those families need to stay together.
“Our current UK adoption legislation enables children to be adopted without the consent of their parents. This aspect of the legislation is being increasingly used to speed up the adoption process. While there are extreme circumstances where this may be necessary, its widespread use is causing us real concern as a profession.”
In Gateshead the number of looked after children adopted leapt from 15 in 2013 to 35, while there was an increase of 25 looked after children adopted in Newcastle to hit 60 in 2014.
In County Durham, adoptions shot up to 75 from 40, while in Middlesbrough, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland the figures remained the same.
In Darlington, the number of adoptions doubled from 10 to 20, while the number rose by five to 15 in both Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland. In Stockton-on-Tees, the number rose by ten to 30.
Councils stressed adoption was a last resort and had to be agreed by a court.
A Newcastle City Council spokesman admitted all services were coming under pressure, but said:
“It is totally wrong and misinformed to suggest that adoption is in some way a replacement for adequate social care support to families. Adoption is a way to provide a loving family home for children who cannot be cared for by their natural parents for a whole host of reasons. For many of these children the alternative would be a childhood spent in local authority care. Newcastle City Council is proud of the fact that it is giving more children the best possible start in life by increasing the numbers of adoptions, and this is something we will continue to try to do.
“At the same time, through the Newcastle Families Programme, the council is working with a range of partners in the city to provide intensive support to families who find themselves in trouble, providing the help and challenge they need to turn their lives around. The programme is one of the most successful in the country – helping around 300 families a year to overcome difficulties and get back on the right track.
“Government cuts and rising costs are forcing councils to make difficult decisions about services. Newcastle City Council has ensured that service to vulnerable people have been prioritised to avoid the deepest cuts, but it is true that these services are coming under increasing pressure.”
Karen Robb, strategic manager, looked after children and permanence at Durham County Council, said:
“We will always work with families to see if the children can remain with their parents or another family member. Where this is not possible children are only adopted after we have received a mandate from the courts where they are satisfied that there is no possibility of the birth parents or extended families being able to provide satisfactory care.
“We actively ensure that children who cannot live within their own families are placed permanently with their new families as quickly as possible.”
Councillor Angela Douglas, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Gateshead added:
“We are committed to achieving the best outcomes for our children and young people and we know that for some children the best way to achieve this is through providing new forever families.
“Placing a child with adoptive parents only ever happens if it is felt by everyone that this would be in the best interests of that child. No other factors are involved in that decision.
“To suggest that adoption is taking place as a money-saving measure – and that the specific needs of that child are therefore being ignored – is completely wrong.”
Newcastle MP Catherine McKinnell said:
“There’s no doubt that the number of children in care in the region has risen over recent years, with over 500 children in the care of Newcastle Council alone.
“This comes at a huge cost not just to the local authority and society at large, but also to the children themselves as those who’ve grown up in care have historically had significantly worse outcomes.
“Clearly, it’s vital for local authorities and other organisations to provide early intervention services to support troubled families, in order to prevent family breakdowns and children being taken into care in the first place.
“But for those children already in care, I support moves to help them find permanent, secure, loving and stable families, and an increase in adoption rates – where it is appropriate for each individual child – is a positive step.”
Source – Sunday Sun, 16 Nov 2014
Concerns have been raised that aspiring North-East homeowners are being priced out of the property market as houses now cost five times the average wage.
The TUC’s analysis of average salaries and house prices by local authority area shows that in 1997 the average house price in every area of the North-East was less than four times the average salary.
By 2013 not a single area had this level of affordability.
The affordability ratio of five is particularly significant, says the TUC, as the Bank of England has recently instructed banks to limit the proportion of mortgages they offer that are more than 4.5 times applicants’ salaries.
Although average house prices have not yet reached their pre-recession peak in many parts of the North-East, wage levels mean that buying a home remains out of reach for local people, says the TUC.
Their analysis found that wages in the North-East fell by around £1,320 a year in real terms between 2010 and 2013.
“Last year, house prices in nearly half the North-East’s local authority areas were more than five times the average local salary.
“Unfortunately, the situation is compounded because our region has the highest unemployment rate and the lowest wages in the country.”
Ms Farhat said an ambitious house building programme was needed to get prices back under control and better rent deals were needed for people struggling to get on the property ladder.
“Housing affordability isn’t just about house prices though.
“At the moment, earnings and house prices are going in opposite directions, pricing ordinary people out and denying them something as fundamental as a roof over their head.
In both 1997 and 2013, Northumberland was the most unaffordable area in the North-East, where last year the average house price was almost six times the local average salary.
In 1997, Redcar and Cleveland was the most affordable but that has now been replaced by Middlesbrough.
Nationally, Copeland in the Lake District is the last local authority area left in Britain where average house prices were less than three times the average annual salary.
The top five least affordable areas are in London, with Kensington and Chelsea having average house prices more than 30 times the average local salary.
Source – Northern Echo, 01 Sept 2014