Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Poorest lose tax gains after benefits cuts

Research into poverty in the UK by the LSE, Manchester University and York University has found that Coalition cuts to tax credits and cash benefits took more away from the poorest than was gained in higher tax allowances. Additionally, savings from these cuts were not sufficient to contribute to deficit reduction as they were offset by the costs paying for lower direct taxes for better-off groups. Programme leader Professor Ruth Lupton said "There is more to the Coalition than cuts. Its major legacy may turn out to be its rapid reforms of the schools system, the NHS, and welfare benefits. But its decisions on where to cut and where to spend have limited its scope either to reduce the debt or protect the poor".
The Guardian,

PM: we would cut benefits cap to £23,000

David Cameron has pledged to reduce the annual benefits cap to £23,000 as the first act of a new Conservative government. The move would lead to lower incomes for a further 40,000 households and save £135m for taxpayers. This would be used to part-fund a £300m apprenticeship programme. Mr Cameron said that the proposal's priority status "tells you everything you need to know about our values". The Conservatives would also remove housing benefit from all 18 to 21-year-olds, who would be expected to live at home with their parents. The Prime Minister said that the benefit cuts had changed the "something for nothing" culture that existed under the last government. “It's got a lot of people back to work. People said it would have all sorts of bad consequences - it hasn't. It's actually caused a stampede to the job centre."

Watch these 100 seats

With the General Election just 100 days away, the Independent’s Whitehall editor Oliver Wright picks out the 100 seats to watch. He identifies Hampstead and Kilburn, Thurrock, Solihull, Cardiff North, Southampton Itchen, Lancaster and Fleetwood, Derby North, Great Grimsby, Brighton Pavilion, Watford, Plymouth Moor, Westminster North, Birmingham Northfield, Ynys Mon, Rochester and Strood, South Thanet, Inverness, Nairn Badenoch, and Strathspey, Bristol West, and Aberdeen North, as the twenty key seats which will shape the final result.   
The Independent, Page: 9

Friday, 23 January 2015

Energy grants for private landlords

Brent Council is offering a limited number of energy grants for private landlords, funded by the Mayor of London, to help private landlords invest in energy efficiency measures for rental properties.
You have the chance to receive a grant for 80 per cent (up to a maximum of £8,000) of the cost of recommended and approved energy efficiency measures installed in your rental property.
The grant covers key improvements such as: boilers heating controls

Range of Healthcare Services

There are a range of healthcare services available in North West London. To help ease pressure on NHS services, make sure you choose the right care for your needs. 

Read more

Kenton by-election - 5 March

Following receipt of the request from two electors to hold a by election in Kenton ward, Members are informed of the decision of the Returning Officer to hold the by election on Thursday 5 March 2015.

A Notice of Election will be published next week by the Brent Council, following which candidates’ nominations may be delivered up until 4pm on Friday 6 February.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Councils urged to be vigilant for FGM

Sir James Munby, president of the family division of the High Court, has said that courts will not tolerate the "evil" of female genital mutilation on a child but will permit male circumcision. Sir James was giving judgment in the case of a three-year-old girl who social workers suspected had been subjected to FGM by her Muslim parents. She and her brother had been placed in foster care by Leeds City Council in November 2013 after the "seeming abandonment" of the girl in the street, Sir James said. The council had argued that the girl had been subjected to FGM and the issue was what implications that had for her and for her brother. Sir James urged local authorities to be "proactive and vigilant" in protecting young girls against FGM.
The Times, 

New allegations of polling booth intimidation during the 2014 Tower Hamlets mayoral election have been made in a High Court claim, reports the Evening Standard. Lutfur Rahman, Britain's first directly elected Muslim mayor, will face the claims brought by local residents who want to rerun the election on the grounds that he won through electoral fraud. He has issued a statement rejecting the claims as unsubstantiated, cynical, politically motivated attacks. The election court hearing will take place on 2 February. Election commissioner Richard Mawrey QC has moved the hearing from Tower Hamlets town hall to the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, commenting that the town hall cannot be regarded as a "neutral venue". 
 The Guardian, 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Inflation set to drop below 1%

Figures due on Tuesday are expected to show a further decline in Britain’s inflation rate. Analysts believe that the falling cost of food, petrol and the absence of any year-end rise in household energy costs pushed down inflation to between 0.5% and 0.8% in December, from 1% in November. As a result, Bank of England governor Mark Carney will write to the chancellor to explain why inflation has fallen outside the target range and to say what the Bank proposes to do to bring it back towards 2%.

It is a good news for those who are quisling over budget.

Councils spend £11m on language services

The Mail on Sunday claims it has carried out an investigation that shows councils in England spent £11m on language services in the most recent financial year, despite 2013 guidance from the Government telling them translation and interpreting should be used in emergency cases only. According to the paper, among the biggest spenders was Haringey Council, paying £232,592 for interpreters and £16,444 for written translations, mostly Turkish, Polish and Spanish. Elsewhere, it states that Sheffield City Council spent £226,280 on interpreters and £47,644 on translation into 61 languages.
The Mail on Sunday,

It is clear Urdu and Hindi languages are not worth mentioning.Perhaps English is now main language of those Urdu/Hindi speakers.

Disabled challenge spare room subsidy ruling

A case is to be heard at the Supreme Court which will decide whether the spare room subsidy unlawfully discriminates against disabled adults. It follows a High Court ruling in 2013 that the so-called “bedroom tax” did discriminate against disabled persons, lawfully, but that in the case of disabled children unable to share a bedroom with another child due to their affliction, it was both discriminatory and unjustifiable. This decision led to the government exempting households when children could not share rooms due to disability. Now a group of disabled adults will ask the Supreme Court to reconsider the ruling, arguing that their position is indistinguishable to that of the children it has allowed leeway for. A ruling in favour of the challengers could see a housing benefits system overhaul, experts point out.
The Guardian, 

I am with disabled adults.

Councils to defy tax freeze

According to a survey conducted by the Sunday Telegraph, at least 30 Conservative-led local authorities are planning to reject demands to freeze council tax rates this year. The paper claims they are among 60 across England that say they intend to increase bills from April - including almost half of the country's 27 county councils. Eric Pickles said residents should “demand an explanation” if councils refused the freeze. The communities secretary accused some of being "democracy dodgers" for planning to push up rates by 1.99%, shy of the 2% threshold at which they would have to hold a referendum. The paper surveyed all 353 of England's councils about their 2015-16 council tax bills. Of the 262 that responded, only four said that they were preparing to reduce their levies, while 116 were planning to go along with the request to freeze rates. Lincolnshire County Council is planning a rise of 1.9% on a Band D bill - the first time it has increased rates since the freeze four years ago. Other councils planning to increase their share of tax include Oxfordshire, which said its budget included an "assumption" of a 1% rise but that councillors may opt for 1.99%. Buckinghamshire is planning an increase of 1.99%, or £21.77 a year on a Band D bill.
The Sunday Telegraph, 

I am surprised why Brent is not in? shafique

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Labour seeks summit to solve A&E crisis

Labour has called on the Government to hold an urgent summit on how to alleviate pressure on A&E services in English hospitals. The party said local government, emergency services and other NHS professionals all needed to agree on co-ordinated action. In a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said there had been a “failure” to anticipate the situation. He suggested the problem was linked to a loss of social care capacity provided by councils this winter.
BBC News    

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Funding gap leads to higher council tax bills

The Local Government Association will warn today that more than 2m families face higher council tax bills from April due to a funding shortfall. According to the LGA, low-income families will have to pay more in tax from April because the government has cut support funding to allow council tax discounts of up to 100% for poor households. A report from the association will show that in 244 council areas, all households have to pay at least some council tax regardless of their income – a rise of 15 from 2013-14. David Sparks, chairman of the LGA, said councils would need to find £1bn by 2016 to protect discounts for those on low incomes. “No one wants to ask those on the lowest incomes to pay more. But faced with significant cuts to the money we receive to look after the elderly, protect children, repair roads and collect the bins, many councils have had little choice but to reduce the discount,” he said.

Labour: Unfunded spending dossier ‘completely false’

Ed Miliband has said Conservative claims that the Labour party has £20.7bn in unfunded spending pledges are “completely false”. The Chancellor George Osborne had earlier in the day warned that a Labour government would create economic. Labour denied Conservative claims that it would reverse £3.3bn of cuts to local government, lift the 1% cap on public sector pay rises, ban food waste from landfill sites, overturn £83m of cuts to the Arts Council, boost spending on cycling by £63m, hand the Green Investment Bank £3.7bn of borrowing powers, and spend an extra £1.36bn on ensuring GP appointments within 24 hours. Meanwhile, Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, has said he cannot commit his party to reversing the public sector pay freeze or scrapping council cuts in the first year after the election.


Steve Bell 06.01.15

"The Guardian"

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Events of 1986 - Refresh yourself


1 – Spain and Portugal join the EC
9 – Michael Heseltine resigns as Defence Secretary over the Westland affair
20 – Britain and France announce plans to construct the Channel Tunnel, which they hope to open by the early 1990s
24 – Leon Brittan resigns as Trade and Industry Secretary over the Westland affair
28 – Space shuttle Challenger explodes killing seven


15 – Fifty-eight people arrested at a Wapping dispute demonstration
17 – Single European Act signed with the objective of a single market
19 – The Soviet Union launches the Mir space station
26 – People Power Revolution in the Philippines


18 – Inheritance Tax replaces Capital Transfer Tax
31 – The Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils of West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Tyne and Wear, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire are abolished


15 – The government’s Shops Bill 1986 is defeated in the House of Commons on its second reading: the Thatcher government’s only defeat in the Commons
17 – Hindawi Affair attempted bombing of an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv
17 – Journalist John McCarthy is kidnapped in Beirut, where three other hostages are found dead
26 – Chernobyl disaster
30 – Rioting erupts overnight in prisons across Britain


8 – Labour make large gains in local council elections
31 – Mexico football World Cup begins


10 – Patrick Joseph Magee found guilty of the Brighton hotel bombing and sentenced to life imprisonment
12 – South African state of emergency
22 – England knocked out of World Cup by Argentina and Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’
29 – Argentina beat West Germany 3-2 to win World Cup


5-20 – Goodwill Games in Moscow
12 – Rioting breaks out at Portadown in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics
23 – Prince Andrew marries Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey
24-2 August – Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh
28 – Suzy Lamplugh disappears after a meeting in London


13 – The Eurotunnel Group is formed to operate the Channel Tunnel
19 – The privatisation of the National Bus Company begins


7 – Desmond Tutu becomes first black Anglican bishop in South Africa
7 – General Pinochet survives assassination attempt
8 – Thatcher officially opens the first phase of the Nissan car factory at Sunderland
19 -­ Two people are killed and 100 injured at the Colwich rail crash
19 – GCSE examination courses replace both GCE ‘O’ Level and CSE courses for 14-year olds


11 – Reagan and Gorbachev Reykjavik talks begin
12 – The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visit to China
24 – UK breaks off diplomatic relations with Syria over links to Hindawi Affair
26 – Jeffrey Archer resigns as Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party over allegations concerning prostitutes
29 – Thatcher opens the M25 motorway


3 – Iran-Contra affair made public by Lebanese magazine article
6 – Sumburgh disaster Chinook crash kills 45 oil workers flying from Brent oilfield
18 – Ian Brady and Myra Hindley confess to the murders of Pauline Reade and Keith Bennett
21 – The government launches a £20m campaign to warn of the dangers of AIDS


8 – British Gas shares are floated on the Stock Exchange
29 – Harold Macmillan, Earl of Stockton, dies aged 92 at his home in East Sussex

Important Events 1985- Refresh yourself


1 – The first British mobile phone call is made
7 – Nine striking miners are jailed for arson
23 – A debate in the House of Lords is televised for the first time
29 – Margaret Thatcher becomes the first post-war Prime Minister to be refused an honorary degree by Oxford University


16 – Civil servant Clive Ponting resigns from MoD after acquittal of breaching the Official Secrets Act for leaking documents relating to the sinking of General Belgrano during the Falklands War
20 – Margaret Thatcher visits Washington DC
25 – Nearly 4,000 striking miners go back to work, leaving just over half of the miners on strike


3 – The miners’ strike ends after one year
7 – Two IRA members are jailed for 35 years for bombing campaign across London during 1981
11 – Mohammed Al Fayed buys the London-based department store company Harrods
13 – Rioting breaks out at the FA Cup quarter-final between Luton Town and Millwall at Kenilworth Road, Luton; hundreds of hooligans invade the pitch
16 – Terry Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, seized and held in Lebanon Hostage Crisis


30 – Bernie Grant becomes the first black council leader for London Borough of Haringey


11 – Bradford City stadium fire, killing 56 and injuring at least 265
16 – Scientists of the British Antarctic Survey discover the ozone hole
31 – The Football Association bans all English football clubs from playing in Europe in response to the Heysel riots. Thatcher supports the ban and calls for judges to hand out stiffer sentences


1 – Battle of the Beanfield, Britain’s largest mass arrest which ended Stonehenge Free Festivals
6 – Birmingham unveils bid to host 1992 Summer Olympics and plans for new £66 million stadium
29 – Patrick Magee is charged with the murder of the people who died in the Brighton bombing


13 – Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia raise over £50m for famine relief in Ethiopia


22 – Manchester air disaster – 55 people are killed when Boeing 737 burst into flames


9 – Rioting, mostly motivated by racial tensions, breaks out in the Handsworth area of Birmingham
28 – A riot in Brixton erupts after accidental shooting of a woman by police


1 – Neil Kinnock makes a speech at the Labour Party Conference attacking the entryist militant group in Liverpool


1 – The Queen Mother commissions aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal
9 – The Prince and Princess of Wales arrive in USA to visit Ronald Reagan in Washington DC
15 – Anglo-Irish Agreement signed at Hillsborough Castle. Treasury Minister Ian Gow resigns in protest at the deal
22 – Mrs Thatcher is urged by her MPs to call a general election for June 1987, despite the deadline not being until June 1988
27 – Neil Kinnock suspends Liverpool District Labour Party amid allegations that the Trotskyist militant group was attempting to control it
28 – Gerard Hoarau, exiled political leader from the Seychelles, assassinated in London


25 – Charitable organisation Comic Relief is launched


Brent Council lose bid to overturn racial discrimination ruling

Brent Council lost their appeal bid

The town hall paid £400 to lodge the right to appeal the decision made by Watford Employment Tribunal that Rosemary Clarke had been treated unfairly by her line manager Cara Davani, the director of human resources.
Ms Clarke, who was the council’s head of learning and development, was forced to resign from her post because of the ordeal she suffered at Ms Davani’s hands.
Last month the Employment Appeal Tribunal threw out the council’s request which paves the way for Ms Clarke to claim thousands of pounds in compensation from the local authority.
Following the ruling an internal review was launched into the town hall’s HR policies and practice.
The review is being lead by Cllr Michael Pavey, the council’s deputy leader.
A Brent Council spokesman told the Times they were disappointed with the decision but will not appeal against it.
He added: “The council remains absolutely committed to the equal and fair treatment of all staff and is proud to have a hugely diverse workforce
“We take all allegations of racial discrimination, victimisation, harassment or bullying extremely seriously and will be testing our policies next year through external review by assessors from Investors in People and the Equality Framework for Local Government.”
The council have so far refused to disclose if any disciplinary action will be taken against Ms Davani.

Romanians in London

There are now 490 Romanians sleeping in London's streets or parks, according to new figures from the Greater London Authority's Chain database. This compares with 173 in the last quarter of 2013, before restrictions ended. Two local councils, Brent and Harrow span the area that new arrivals from Romania normally head for. Brent Council said the number of Romanian pupils in its schools had increased by more than 1,000% since 2008, from 96 to 1,060, but it is just about coping with the demand. 
The Sunday Telegraph,

DWP investigates 60 claimant suicides

The Observer reveals that the DWP has carried out 60 peer reviews following the deaths of customers. The case of a Salford man who tried to take his own life after his benefits were cut is described, and mention is made of a Salford City Council internal report which concluded that sanctioning benefits could lead to extreme hardship, reliance on loan sharks, shoplifting and depression.
The Observer, 

Half of families to have one child

Figures from the ONS have revealed that within a decade, half of all families will only have one child. The ONS states that the number of single-child families has grown by almost 12% since 2003, and experts expect the proportion to reach 50% within the next seven years. The overall number of single-child families grew from 42% in 2003 to 47% in 2013, according to the ONS Families and Households statistical bulletin.
The Sunday Times,

MPs consider litter tax

MPs want some of the companies that are responsible for litter on Britain’s street to contribute towards the cost of its removal. Leading figures from the Wrigley Company, the Tobacco Manufactur­ers' Association, and McDonald's will face the House of Commons' Communities and Local Govern­ment Committee this week. Committee chairman Clive Betts said that it was too soon to judge exactly what financial burden could be transferred to the private sector, but a committee source said these businesses could "absolutely" end up footing a sig­nificant part of the current £1bn clean-­up costs. The Local Government Associa­tion singled out the chewing-­gum industry as needing to contribute more money to litter reduction awareness campaigns, and to clear­ances.
The Independent on Sunday, 

Separate boys from girls

Alun Jones, the new head of the Girls’ School Association, has suggested that boys should be protected from the classroom domination of girls by being taught in single-sex classes between the ages of 11 and 16. In an interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Jones said teenage girls were intimidating boys in schools nationwide by being cleverer and keener in class. He believes boys should re-join girls in education in the sixth form. The so-called “diamond model” of education has been shown to boost academic results.
interesting (sac)

Pensioner “bedroom tax” could save £400m

A survey by the Sunday Telegraph suggests that councils in central London would save an average of £1.2m each if the Department for Work and Pensions extended the spare rooms subsidy policy to pensioners; and if that were repeated across the UK it would generate savings of about £400m a year. Specific examples are highlighted such as Glasgow City Council which would save the DWP £8.7m a year, and Manchester City Council which would save £6.9mIn London, Wandsworth Council would save £168,000 a year.  
The Sunday Telegraph, 

Councils change housing list priorities

Local authorities are reacting to high demand for council houses by giving priority to those in work and insisting that would-be tenants must have lived in an area for up to five years before they become eligible, according to the Sunday Times. The latest to consider the introduction of such measures is Waltham Forest Council in east London where proposals are in place to double the locally-based requirement of prospective tenants from two to four years. It is also proposing to move into a "higher priority group" those who work more than 16 hours a week or applicants who have been involved in volunteering for at least six months. Other councils that now give extra priority to those in employment include Westminster, Havering, Wandsworth and Kensington & Chelsea in London; as well as Manchester, Derby and Stoke-on-Trent, outside the capital. Some councils such as Birmingham and Southampton, have rejected the idea partly because of concerns that it might penalise sick and disabled people.
The Sunday Times, 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Meals on wheels figures

The Labour Party has released figures it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act which reveal that the number of pensioners getting meals on wheels from councils has more than halved since the Coalition was formed. The drop has been matched with a 22% increase in the average price of each meal, setting back those that still receive daily meals an extra £237 a year. Councillor Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, linked the cutbacks to the Government's austerity drive and warned that more savings will have to be made next year. She said: “Councils are trying to protect the elderly from the impact of cuts, often at the expense of other services. But there is simply not enough money in the system to provide the level and quality of care that people deserve.” Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins said that more should be done by councils to save money but that they should “be providing meals on wheels to those who need it as they are responsible for protecting frontline services.”
The Guardian, 

Parking charges "penalty income" can be spent for this.(sac)

Over-60s rushing to learn new trades

New figures have shown that the over-60s are the fastest-growing age group amongst apprentices on the Government’s on-the-job training scheme. The number of workers aged 60 or over taking up placements has climbed from 400 to 2,480 in the past five years. It is thought employers are opting for older staff as they find younger workers lack the right skills and work ethic. Among those aged 45-59, there has also been a marked increase, from 9,810 to 41,850 between 2009/10 and 2013/14.
Daily Mail, 

I never had thought, this day would come(sac)

Tenants should be able to rent for life

Think tank Civitas argues tenants of private landlords should be able to stay in their properties for as long as they wish, with rent increases linked to inflation. Civitas said a new regulatory regime was needed in the private rental sector to prevent landlords exploiting the shortage of homes at the expense of tenants and taxpayers. The private rented sector is expected to account for more than one third of the UK's housing stock by 2032, with many tenants relying on help with rents. The number of private renters needing housing benefit has more than doubled in the past decade, from 722,000 in 2003-4 to 1.7m in 2013-14.
Daily Telegraph

A quick way to loose your home! (SAC)

Friday, 2 January 2015

Betts: Devolve council tax

In a letter to the Guardian, Clive Betts, the Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, argues that council tax powers must be devolved. “With the growing demand for the devolution of tax-raising powers to local authorities in England, the council tax should, in the next parliament, I hope, be overhauled and handed back to the control of local politicians,” he writes.
The Guardian, 

Affordable homes

The national planning policy framework (NPPF) which started two years ago, and introduced a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” has caused a slump in the number of affordable homes being built, according to the Guardian. It estimates that in 2018 there will be a million fewer affordable homes than in 1980. House-builders, claiming commercial confidentiality which they have lobbied fiercely to protect, obscure the financial modelling used to determine whether a scheme is viable and affordable housing numbers can get obscured as a result. The Guardian says that “hiding behind commercial confidentiality to keep viability assessments secret is a public betrayal”, and that the only solution is to make the assessments public.
The Guardian, 

Calls for rent control

A poll commissioned for the campaigning organisation Generation Rent shows about 60% of respondents back some form of rent control, including most members of all the main parties and non-renters. Unlike landlords in most Western European countries, in the U.K. there are minimal controls and rising rents now account for 40% of the income of renters. A European calibrated style system in which landlords set initial rents but cannot increase them arbitrarily is suggested as a starting point, but is not regarded as a complete solution in areas where more housing is needed. A separate report into private rents by Civitas, also concludes that some form of capping is needed to calm the sector.

Government loan guarantee scheme launched

Ministers have launched a multibillion-pound loan guarantee scheme for housebuilding, more than two years after it was first announced. Under the plans, a government guarantee will underwrite loans to companies looking to invest at least £10m in building new homes available to rent. Property investment management company Venn Partners will run the project. The guarantee is half of an incentive package intended to spur the development of large housing projects for rent, the other half being a separate £3.5bn scheme for housing associations, which was set up in 2013 under the auspices of the Housing Finance Corporation. That scheme has already guaranteed more than £1bn of investment in 9,000 new affordable homes.