Friday, 31 January 2014

Brent Cross-Living Hell or ..

Last night, I attending the Barnet Planning Committee meeting where they discussed Brent Cross Cricklewood. Believe me, it was a total shambles. 

Only one Tory, who happened to be the Chief Whip, spoke up (strange that). The other Tories just sat there like zombies. However, Barnet people should be proud of their Labour and LibDem members, who spoke and spoke well.

It was a sad and shameful result in the end, because of the zombies, The well-put arguments fell on deaf ears, and approval was given, which several people claimed would produce a living hell.

Household income squeeze

Data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) show that median income is more than 6% lower than the peak in 2007-08, ahead of the financial crisis, and that income is unlikely to recover to its pre-crisis level by 2015/16. The IFS said better-off households had seen bigger proportionate falls in incomes while the poor had experienced higher inflation than the rich over the period. The CPI has increased 20% since 2008 but the prices of food and energy – two things that poorer households spend a larger slice of their income on – have increased 30% and 60% respectively. Meanwhile, record low interest rates have seen mortgage costs fall – something that has not helped the relatively poorer and younger people who rent their homes. The IFS’s Abi Adams said: "Differential inflation has largely undone what would otherwise appear to be a significant reduction in inequality

with courtsey of Financial Times 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

CHALKHILL OPEN SPACE, Barnhill Road, Wembley.

Deemed (Reg3 Councils own Development)
Decided on 21/01/2014:- Grant Permission
Clearance of existing vegetation and trees and contruction of a BMX track in
the south eastern corner of sports ground, a family cycle trail around the
perimeter, a scooter track and erection of a storage container in the north
west corner
Location map

NHS director sceptical over government's £3.8bn Better Care Fund

NHS England's medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh, has told the House of Commons Health Select Committee that he fears the Better Care Fund, the pooled budget of £3.8bn for the NHS and local authorities, will be wrongly used by councils. “There is a fear that the labels [will] be taken off the money and that it will be used for filling in potholes and other things,” he said.

The Independent, Page: 4  

More care home clarity required

A report by the Commons Health Committee has said that care home residents should be told if their home fails inspections. The Commission expressed frustration with the Care Quality Commission that more had not yet been done to protect the elderly.

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 12

Monday, 20 January 2014

Update on Food Banks

  • There has been a growing interest in food banks in Parliament and among the media, prompted in large part by evidence of a rapid growth in the numbers of people turning to food banks to feed themselves and their families.
  • The coordinating body of the UK’s largest network of food banks is The Trussell Trust. In an April 2013 press release, the Trust reported a 170 per cent increase in the numbers of people using their food banks between 2011-12 and 2012-13, a rise from 128,697 to 346,992.
  • Over 350,000 people received emergency food from Trussell Trust food banks between April and September 2013, triple the number helped in the same period in 2012 and more than in the entire financial year 2012-13.
  • The causes of the rise in the use of food banks are controversial and somewhat unclear. However, the Trussell Trust estimated that around half the referrals to its food banks in 2012-13 were due to benefits issues: 30 per cent were as a result of benefit delays, around 15 per cent due to benefit changes, and around 4 per cent  followed refusal of a Social Fund Crisis Loan.
  • This briefing summarises what is known so far about food banks. It will be of interest to members and officers in all councils who work with local residents and communities, to officers in upper tier councils directly involved with the local welfare schemes and to partners in the third sector, particularly those  concerned about food security, poverty, and  welfare reform. 
LGiU policy briefings 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Tower Hamlets mayor under fire

The Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan examines an array of examples of alleged misappropriation of funds, described by local MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, as an attempt by Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman to “buy his re-election this May”. Allegations include using public funds to pay for political advertisements on London Bengali television Channel S, providing a council grant to a man who circulated a smear leaflet falsely accusing Mr Rahman’s main opponent of wife-beating, changing Tower Hamlets’ procedures to ensure that he personally decided all council grants over £1,000 and channelling funds away from projects that benefit the whole community to projects benefitting specific groups.

The Sunday Telegraph, Page: 16  

Record numbers seeking shelter

Crisis, the charity for the homeless, has a reported a record 22% rise in the number of people seeking shelter at its UK centres at Christmas. The charity's chief executive, Leslie Morphy, said the rise was due to a shortage of housing, cuts to housing benefit, high unemployment, low pay and high rents. She said the government "must address the chronic lack of affordable housing, take real steps to improve the private rented sector and urgently consider the impact its cuts are having, particularly in the capital".

The Observer, Page: 14

Language services to be cut

Plans drawn up by Iain Duncan Smith to stop printing welfare paperwork in foreign languages and prevent claimants using taxpayer-funded translators at benefits offices have been delayed after a behind-the-scenes dispute between the Coalition partners. The plans were expected to be announced tomorrow. Latest figures show the DWP spends £5m on language services a year.

The Mail on Sunday, Page: 1, 6-7

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Spy cars’ make £600k for council

CCTV camera cars which catch drivers parking illegally have raised more than £600,000 in two years for Southend Council. Eric Pickles has called for the camera cars to be banned and has said the devices should be used to tackle crime and not to raise money for councils.

In Brent we have six of them! and no opportunity is wasted.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Rise in restraints

Elderly dementia patients are being illegally locked in their rooms and sedated in hospitals and care homes, according to a report by the Care Quality Commission. The watchdog said two-thirds of hospitals and care homes were breaking the law by locking up vulnerable patients, stopping them from seeing loved ones and refusing them daily activities, without following protocols to ensure such actions are only taken if truly necessary. Charities said the increase in the use of such measures was worrying and it was unacceptable that most care providers were not following the correct protocols.

with courtesy of The Daily Telegraph, Page: 2 

Couple facing jail over school holiday

A couple who took their three children out of school for a week's holiday could be jailed following a change to the Education Act of 1996 which came into force days before their trip. The family went on holiday to Greece in September last year. However, the change meant their children’s school was only allowed to grant them leave in "exceptional circumstances". Stewart and Natasha Sutherland said they were unaware of the change in legislation and then refused to pay an initial fine. Kay Burford, from Telford and Wrekin Council, said the legislation was clear on the matter. She added: "Significant absence from school is disruptive to the child’s education and has a detrimental impact on attainment." The Daily Telegraph, Page: 13

A guide to life in a marginal constituency

By Brian Wheeler Political reporter, BBC News

How do you know you are living in a marginal constituency? One clue is when you get a surprise visit from a top politician. And it's no good pretending to be out - because the phone calls are about to start too. And the leaflets. Over the next 16 months you are going to be bombarded with glossy pamphlets and newspapers packed with pictures of grinning election candidates

by the courtesy of the ""

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Right-to-buy criticised

Private landlords have bought up half of the former council homes in some of London's poorest boroughs by exploiting Margaret Thatcher's right-to-buy scheme, an analysis reveals. Across the capital at least 36% of one-time council homes are now rented out privately but that proportion is even higher in some of the poorest areas where average private-sector rents, often paid by tenants on housing benefit, cost as much as £230 a week more than council rents. A report to be published tomorrow claims that the right-to-buy scheme is "possibly unrivalled" in providing poor value for money to both taxpayers and local authorities. The report, From Right to Buy to Buy to Let, recommends a review and calls for mandatory covenants on all right-to-buy properties so they cannot be let through the private sector. It says a new system should be introduced whereby local authorities retain an equity stake in any property sold. Councils should also have a "right not to sell" if they believe the sale of certain properties would harm their housing operation, or if they wish to retain sites, for example, key-worker housing.

  The Observer, Page: 16

Migrants Benefits Bans - 2 Years after Arrival

Iain Duncan Smith has proposed that European Union migrants should be banned from claiming welfare payments for up to two years after arriving in Britain to stop them exploiting the benefits system. The Work and Pensions Secretary also revealed that the UK is working with several European governments to try to restrict the amount benefits migrants can claim when they move from one EU country to another. Speaking to the Sunday Times, he comments: "Demonstrate that you are committed to the country, that you are a resident and that you are here for a period of time and you are generally taking work and that you are contributing. At that particular point it could be a year, it could be two years, after that, then we will consider you a resident of the UK and be happy to pay you benefits." The Sunday Times, Page: 1

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Windfall - Bus Lane.

Somebody wrote in the Guardian that in Manchester a bus lane has earned the council £24,000 in 40 days because it had inadequate warning signs. Why not ask for refund?

Insensitive and Cruel - Bedroom tax

A family who lost their 11-year-old son a year ago have been told to move house or face an 'Under Occupation Penalty' of £13 a week. Labour's shadow minister for Welfare Reform, Chris Bryant MP, said: "This just goes to show the insensitivity and cruelty at the heart of the bedroom tax.” A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Housing Association said: “We understand Mrs Chapman's concerns and we are committed to assisting all our residents who are affected by the Government's welfare reforms.” Separately, the Independent reports that under the Universal Credit Scheme, the grace period for grieving families facing under occupancy penalties will be reduced from 52 weeks to three months. The Independent

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Bouncers for bins

The Sun reports that chiefs at Harrow Council are considering calling in a security firm that has former soldiers on its books to tackle thugs that are refusing to pay dumping fees at one of its rubbish tips. The council has also issued tip workers with lapel camera to record aggressive behaviour after one can driver threatened to use a shotgun on staff. "It comes to something when you need bouncers for bins," council leader Susan Hall comments. The Sun, Page: 18

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Beds in sheds crackdown

"Council bosses in Harrow have sent out special teams to crackdown on illegal beds in sheds in the borough. Harrow Council leader Susan Hall comments: "The rise in beds in sheds and overcrowding is now significant in parts of London and the likely influx 'of eastern European migrants' is going to turn the pressure up on housing even further." The Daily Star notes that ministers have pledged £4m to tackle the beds in sheds problem. It says that the cash is to be shared between 23 councils deemed to have an exceptional problem. Meanwhile, an editorial in the Daily Express argues that uncontrolled immigration has brought back slums to the nation’s cities"