Scotforth West News & Comment
LANCASHIRE'S Police and Crime Commissioner has praised the work of the county's Special Constabulary.
Volunteer police officers get involved in a range of policing activities, from policing the busy towns and cities during the evening and carrying out reassurance patrols, to getting involved in specialist operations in local neighbourhoods.
Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: "I am very proud of our Special Constabulary here in Lancashire – they are hard-working volunteers who are a real asset to the force. Whenever I meet specials on operation I never fail to be impressed by their enthusiasm and dedication. I am full of admiration for their ability to perform in the challenging and diverse circumstances they are asked to in a voluntary capacity, particularly as many of them also have demanding 'day' jobs away from the Constabulary.”
"Recruiting more volunteers into the force is a priority for me as Police and Crime Commissioner, and I hope by championing the work of the Specials more residents will be encouraged to sign up."
Lancashire Constabulary has 471 special constables. They have full police powers and perform the same duties as regular officers. These can range from general patrol to the policing of football matches and road traffic incidents.
Specials wear the same uniform as police officers and are issued with the same equipment. Aged 18 and above, they work flexible hours with a minimum requirement of four hours per week and provide their time and expertise without financial reward.
Nigel Walters, the Chief Officer of Lancashire’s Special Constabulary, said: “The intention of this weekend is to raise awareness of the invaluable work that the Special Constabulary does day-in-day-out. From 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014, our special constables worked more than 124,000 hours. They seized over 3,000 litres of alcohol from underage drinkers, performed over 2,000 checks on licensed premises, completed over 1,600 roadside breathalyser tests and have seized 113 vehicles for a range of offences. The Special Constabulary is an integral part of policing in the county and we simply want to reflect on the work we do to keep communities safe.”
Scotforth West will be buzzing!
Work has started to create a bee-friendly 'meadow' on a Lancaster roundabout.
Volunteers from Incredible Edible Lancaster have stripped the turf on Pointer Roundabout to prepare for seeding in early April.
The work is being done by Incredible Edible Lancaster to create a pollinator-friendly annual 'pictorial meadow', replacing the more traditional bedding plant display. They're working with Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council on the project. The roundabout will be in full bloom by late June/early July.
Working with the Friends of Greaves Park, volunteers will also create a 'mini meadow' to enhance the park for wildlife with pollinator-friendly meadows.
Viv White from Incredible Edible Lancaster said:" We're really pleased to be working with our local councils to enhance the environment for people and wildlife - pollinators are essential for food production and we are very happy to be doing our bit to improve local food security.
Estimates suggest that about a third of our food only grows because bees pollinate those crop plants, so it's important that we do all that we can to help bees and other pollinators."
Last year volunteers planted 5,000 crocus bulbs on Pointer Roundabout, which are now in full bloom, providing a colourful early season display and a nectar source for bees and other pollinators.
For more details about the project visit www.incredible-edible-lancaster.org.uk or contact Lucia Marquart, senior project officer at Lancashire County Council - firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07887 831 154.
The Lancaster Labour Party have moved quickly and selected Colin Hartley to stand as the Labour candidate in the by-election - expected to be on 22nd May (same day as the European elections).
Many of you will know Colin who has campaigned on behalf of the Labour Party in Scotforth West for a number of years. He was a candidate in the 2011 Local Government elections and was the candidate in the Lancaster Central division for last year's County Council election (Lancaster Central includes Scotforth West).
Not only has he been talking to residents on the doorstep to hear their views and provide individual help he has also campaigned to protect services at the RLI (presenting a petition to the Chair of the Morecambe Bay Hospitals Trust), petitioned to save Altham Meadows dementia centre, argued for an energy price freeze and is campaigning to save one of our fully crewed fire engines being replaced with one crewed by retained fire fighters.
As a campaigner and supporter of the residents of Scotforth West and Lancaster Colin will be an active councillor on your behalf.
Parkfield Drive and Malvern Avenue finally get yellow lines
Local Labour councillors and supporters (Sheila and Colin) have been actively putting pressure on the County Council Highways Team to make it happen.
In February this year it finally did.
Well done to everyone who worked to bring this about.
Trafalgar Road slippery pavements.
Recently, Labour activists listened to a number or residents on Trafalgar Road who told them about the slippery state of their pavements. Local Labour Councillor Josh Bancroft took action and quickly arranged for them to be power washed to remove the slime and moss.
Scotforth West Labour – working for you.
Labour's 2014/15 Council Budget
City Council Leader – Labour Councillor Eileen Blamire's Budget Speech to Lancaster City Council
"Over the last few years the Council has implemented many measures to make substantial recurring savings thereby reducing its net revenue spending. Since the 2010/11 budget, the Council has reduced its annual spending by about £4.4M or 19%. In real terms, allowing for inflation, the reduction is around 32%."
"Each year the Settlement from the Government is announced in December and finalised in January or February. In the recent Settlement the Government confirmed funding levels for 2014/15 and gave provisional information for 2015/16. From this it is clear that local authorities' funding will continue to reduce significantly. And even after this, the outlook is uncertain. Other income such as business rates are also uncertain. The New Homes Bonus is expected to reduce year on year, so this presents a considerable challenge and emphasises the need to take a medium to longer term view in planning and budget setting. Balances should fall no lower than £1M for General Funds and £350K for the Housing Revenue Account; not just for the short term, but for the longer term and the Council has a formal policy for provisions, reserves, and balances, which is a key element for managing risk. After transferring this year's forecast net underspend, balances would amount to £3.435M by 31 March 2014. Therefore a contribution of £458K from balances is budgeted for and during 2015/16 a contribution of £1M in order to protect key services leaving £2.002M by 31 March 2016. This still leaves £1.002M of forecast surplus balances to address budget challenges beyond 2015/16."
"The Council aims to keep Council Tax increases to just below 2% for the foreseeable future, having made the difficult decision of increasing the tax rate and targets for future years in order to mitigate the impact of the Government funding reductions."
"Between 2010/11 and 2016/17 net revenue spending is expected to reduce by over £6M, or 27% in cash terms. Allowing for inflation, this is well over 40%. Although every effort will be made to deliver savings through efficiencies, we will need to look seriously at reducing the overall range and quality of services provided and to increase charges if we are to balance budgets. This year's budget is the starting point for next year's. Continuing reviews, efficiencies and innovations will continue. There will be Invest to Save Initiatives, Income Generation Potential and, as has been mentioned, some reduction in the range and quality of services. And growth will only be considered if it is affordable and sustainable in the medium to long term. Budget related decisions have been taken all year and this will continue. We should therefore expect to see underspending arising in the course of the year."
"All in all, in extremely difficult times, we are still the only district council in Lancashire that has not cut Council Tax Relief. We have not closed any of our buildings or taken away any grants to organisations that we value. We have even had some growth in keeping our support for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) that our communities value so much. We should be proud to achieve this and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our officers and workforce who have done a wonderful job in helping to balance our budget and in keeping our services going".
Council tax will increase by 1.99% which, for Band D properties, is the equivalent of just 7p per week.
The budget was opposed by Tory and MBI councillors who were against any increase in council tax but didn’t have anything to offer about how services could be protected.
Labour is doing the right thing for Lancaster residents whilst carefully managing local finances.
I hope that our two Tory MPs, Eric Ollerenshaw and David Morris, are equally supportive of NHS services in Lancaster.
I believe we need good quality hospitals in Lancaster, Barrow and Kendal that are able to provide a comprehensive range of services. Yes, some specialisms can be better delivered when centralised, as Blackpool does for heart surgery. But most people want to go to their local hospital for routine treatments/surgery. They don’t want to be bundled into an ambulance for a lengthy journey to a distant A&E if they have an accident. Also, we need to ask that once patients are in this “super hospital” will relations be easily able to make a long trek on a reducing public transport system to visit them?
I don’t think the residents of Lancaster, Morecambe and district would want to lose the services currently provided by our RLI.
I wonder if this scheme will be used as an excuse to downgrade our hospital services, for our A&E to become a minor injuries clinic, to close our intensive care facility and to lose our maternity unit.
If we end up losing our local services this “super hospital” won’t sound so super to me.
COMPOST made from food scraps and garden cuttings recycled by Lancashire residents has been delivered to a green-fingered group in Lancaster.
The John O' Gaunt Allotment Association has received four tonnes of compost thanks to the partnership between Lancashire County Council and Global Renewables Limited to process the county's waste and send less to landfill.
The group will use their delivery to enrich the soil to grow fruit and vegetables for the plot holders.
The compost is made at the Thornton and Farington Waste Recovery Parks from green garden and food waste collected at the kerbside by district councils.
Labour County Councillor Janice Hanson, cabinet member for waste, said: "This compost has already benefited many different projects across Lancashire, including school gardens and community growing schemes. It's produced thanks to people taking part in local recycling schemes and using their green garden waste bins, and now it will be used to improve the local environment."
Global Renewables operate the Thornton and Farington Waste Recovery Parks on behalf of Lancashire County Council and Blackpool Council.
For more information about the waste facilities and compost, including how community groups can apply for some compost, visit www.globalrenewables.co.uk
Lancashire County Council is proposing to reduce the subsidy they pay to private companies for buses. Instead they’ll focus on maintaining services during the daytime and ensure the county's most vulnerable people can access public transport. The council proposes to invest a further £500,000 in dial-a-ride services to ensure community transport providers have the capacity to cater for those most in need.
The plans are intended to save £3.8m over two years which would see funding withdrawn for evening and Sunday services that currently receive council subsidies. The proposal would see subsidies withdrawn from 72 evening and Sunday services from May 2014.
The County Council is facing an unprecedented financial challenge, needing to save £300m over the next four years due to funding cuts by the Tory led government. These cuts won’t only affect bus services but will include massive reductions in county council staff and cuts to other services due to the Local Government Minister Eric Pickles’ attack on local democracy.
80% of bus services in Lancashire are run by private companies on a commercial basis because they are profitable. The remaining 20% are currently subsidised by the county council.
Last year Stagecoach, the area’s major local bus operator, reported an increase in underlying profits to £218 million for the year to April, up from £202.5 million a year earlier.
The bus companies have done well out of our district. They must have or they wouldn’t still be here. Now is the time for them to give something back. I call on Stagecoach and other bus companies to take a slightly smaller profit and maintain as many services as possible (all?) without a subsidy for the benefit of our community.
Were they to do so the bus companies would gain lots of friends in Lancaster.
The NHS plans to use the land in front of, and to the right of, DeVitre House as an overflow car park and a community growing area.
The 40 space car park will be on an interlocked base that allows grass to grow through and will remove the need for drainage and maintain a natural appearance. The growing area will be to the right of De Vitre House, behind the back gardens on Lindbergh Ave. It will be administered by the North Lancashire Community Land Trust on a 25 year lease from the NHS. Enthusiastic local residents have formed a small group to decide how the land will be used and will look after it on a day to day basis.
How you can help - By alerting Street Link about a rough sleeper you’ll help to connect that person to the local services available. Street Link is a service that enables the public to alert local authorities in England about rough sleepers in their area. They have a dedicated rough sleeper outreach team who can provide a response to an alert within 24 hours. Staff will provide outreach support, offer specialist advice on housing options including temporary accommodation.
Street Link is funded by the Government as part of their commitment to end rough sleeping. They aim to offer the public a means to act when they see someone sleeping rough and provide the first step someone can take to ensure rough sleepers are connected to the local services and support available to them.
If you’re concerned about someone sleeping rough, get in touch with Street Link so we can connect them to local services. Phone: 0300 500 0914. www.streetlink.org.uk
Christmas is a busy time of year for many people – but if your child is starting primary school in 2014, don't forget to put applying for a school place on your list.
The closing date for applications is 15 January, and online is the quickest and easiest way to apply, via the county council's website.
Staff at Lancashire County Council are keen to remind parents that they need to submit an application form for all children starting school, even if the child already has an older brother or sister at their preferred school.
Paul Bainbridge, Lancashire County Council's head of school admissions, said: "If a family already has a child at a school, it's easy to overlook the obvious – that they must apply for a place for their younger child. And if they have twins, they'll need to fill in two application forms.
We know how important it is to parents to get the right school for their child, so we're encouraging them to apply on time to give themselves the best chance. We also advise including at least one of their local schools in their preferences.
The deadline for applications for primary school places is 15 January 2014. The easiest way to apply is online, and more and more parents are using this method."
Last year, 85% of parents applied for their primary school place online.
For more information, go to www.lancashire.gov.uk , and search for 'school admissions' where you'll find all the information you need.
Parents can also call on: 01524 581148
Moorside Primary School in Bowerham Road, could
expand in size by a third
Lancashire County Council is consulting on a proposal to increase the school's reception class intake from 60 to 90, to cope with an increase in demand for school places south of the river.
Labour County Councillor Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, has already signed off a temporary increase at Moorside for one year only.
Lynn Macdonald, Lancashire County Council's schools planning and development manager, said: "Changes to Lancaster's population, influenced by increasing births, migration and housing developments, has led to a need for more reception school places in that part of the city.
It obviously makes more sense for us to accommodate expansion in existing schools if we can."
The initial one-year expansion will be enabled by some minor modifications to the existing building at Moorside. The permanent expansion, if approved, would need the school to be enlarged within its current site.
We all have a right to live in a safe community. People in Lancaster rely on knowing that their children can get to school safely, that they can cycle to work easily, and depend on reliable public transport and roads to get them from A to B.
But although the UK has some of the safest roads in the UK, there are still an unacceptable number of deaths and injuries happening on our roads every day. Five people die on our roads every day.
This week thousands of children, schools, colleges, workplaces and police officers from across the country will join together in Road Safety Week. The annual campaign led by the charity Brake reminds us that there is still a lot more we can do to make the streets in Lancaster safer places to be.
Sadly recent figures show worrying trends in the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads – particularly for casualties amongst and motorcyclists. Every year over 3,000 people are killed or seriously injured on a bike.
This week Brake are calling for action on distracted driving. The simple fact is that if you are distracted at the wheel you are 2-3 times more likely to crash, potentially causing a serious injury or even killing someone. With more and more of us reliant on smart phones and getting distracted by electronic devices, the risk of having a collision increases.
But we need to remember that strong leadership is crucial too. That’s why the last Labour government was right to make road safety a priority. There are now almost 17,000 fewer deaths or serious injuries in a year than there were in the mid-1990s.
Labour Parliamentary candidate Cat Smith says; "I’m worried that the Tory-led Government is distracted. Why have they axed targets to cut deaths and serious injuries on our roads? Since 2010 they have cut spending on safety, speed cameras and the frontline police vital for traffic enforcement. People in Lancaster tell me they are really worried about the worsening state of our streets."
"This Road Safety Week I’m calling on Ministers and people in Lancaster to tune into road safety and take action to save lives."
Freeze energy prices
Under David Cameron gas and electricity bills have gone up by almost £300 since 2010.
“Under David Cameron, Britain’s families are facing a cost of living crisis. Prices have risen faster than wages in 39 of the 40 months that David Cameron has been in Downing Street and energy bills have gone up by almost £300. David Cameron only stands up for the privileged few. His failure to tackle rip-off bills has meant that many people are struggling to pay their bills.
I know how people in Lancaster are struggling with the rising cost of living. Many people I speak to are worried about their energy bills, and are having to make a choice between heating their homes or buying food. Just last week I was speaking to residents in Caton about their rising bills.
When the price of energy increases energy companies pass this on but when it drops consumers don’t see their bills fall.
David Cameron can’t deal with the cost of living crisis because he stands up for a privileged few, not for ordinary families. David Cameron has cut tax for people on over £150,000 a year while raising it for everyone else.
Ed Miliband says Labour will freeze prices until the start of 2017 if Labour wins the next election. This will save a typical household £120 a year – helping hardworking families who are facing a cost of living crisis.
Local businesses tell me that energy bills are the second largest cost that they face. Labour’s energy freeze policy will save the average business £1, 800 a year, giving our small businesses the support they need at a vital time for our local economy.
But people round here need help now. So I’m calling on David Cameron to freeze our bills now.
Scotforth West Councillor Sheila Denwood was bombarded with phone calls, emails and visits to her home when the bus timetable arrangements announced by Stagecoach went awry.
On the 29th September, Stagecoach withdrew the Number 2 service from the Bowerham route leaving our two universities with only one, less frequent service on this route. The consequence being that buses were crowded with students with no room for locals.
Along with some Scotforth West residents, Sheila went to the bus station to meet Stagecoach managers and spoke to the Managing Director. He apologized for not undertaking a public consultation before making the changes.
Following the representations made by residents and Sheila the good news is that Stagecoach have reinstated the Number 2 service via Bowerham. The Stagecoach website says “Service 2/2A will both operate via Bowerham and Hala in Lancaster, returning service levels to 1 bus every 10 minutes during the day. During University vacations, Service 2 will only operate from Heysham to Lancaster Bus Station. This means Service 2A will operate through Bowerham and Hala up to every 20 minutes during this period.”
Furthermore, Stagecoach managers have improved the Number 3 service that travels via Greaves and Scotforth up to Lancaster University. Their website says: “Service 3 will operate the same level of services during vacation periods as University term time between Lancaster Bus Station and the University.”
Residents’ power has ensured that common sense prevails!
Lancaster City Council is facing a bleak financial future with £3.5million in savings needing to be found over the next two years.
Following the Con/Dem Government’s announcement that funding for local government will fall by a further 10%, which translates into a further 15.3% reduction for Lancaster District, more cuts will be needed than previously thought.
They show that for 2014/15 the council will have to find recurring savings of £1.2million, with a further £2.3million having to be found for 2015/16.
This is in addition to the savings the council has had to find over the last three years, which has already seen the Coalition Government cut 27% of its funding.
Cabinet will be asked to set out an approach to identify the savings needed, which would see up to £1million being made by restructuring, streamlining and ‘cutting corners’.
The remaining £2.5 million can only be made through withdrawing or significantly reducing services.
“As these new figures show the council is closer to the cliff edge than ever before in terms of its budget. The Government seems determined to reduce our funding even further and that can only translate into real cuts to our services.
Over the coming months, the council will develop its future budget plans further and put in place plans for how we are going to find these savings. Although every effort will continue to be made to deliver savings whilst protecting the frontline, it is inevitable that we will have to make service cuts to balance our books.
Savings of the size we now face simply cannot be made through efficiencies. Many of the decisions will be tough and unpalatable.”
The city council will set its final budget for 2014/15 in February.
Lancashire County Council want to close Skerton Community High School. Why?
Colin Hartley writes:
Lots of Scotforth West residents or their family members will have attended Skerton School therefore we are sure many will be interested in this issue and may want to help.
In a process started under the previous Tory administration in 2012 one of our much loved local schools is under threat.
Lancashire County Council have decided to formally consult on Skerton’s closure. See their decision document: http://council.lancashire.gov.uk/documents/s25721/Report.pdf
The main criticisms made of the School are:
It doesn’t have enough children on its role – only an estimated 166 in September 2013.
In a county where ‘every child matters’, and in a district where so many vulnerable children go to
Skerton High, that should be 166 reasons to keep the school open. In addition, we all know that the future of Skerton High has been a concern since Hornby High was closed in 2009. This uncertainty only increased when Skerton Primary School closed in 2010.
Of course local parents have reacted naturally to this threat; by not sending their children there. This downward spiral can only have one end. The County Council should remove the threat and take active steps to promote the school. Only then will school numbers start to rise.
There are other places available at nearby schools.
School education is based on parental choice. As well as providing a safe haven for children who haven’t coped or aren’t wanted in other schools, parents choose to send their children to Skerton High. It is a mainstream school and an inclusive one. Not all parents want to send their children to a huge school (e.g. Ripley – over 1,600 pupils). Some prefer the individual approach a smaller school such as Skerton can offer.
The recent Ofsted report identified the school as having serious weaknesses.
Children don’t come neatly packaged as square or round pegs. Their needs come in all shapes and forms. A school like Skerton that recognises and deals with that will always struggle with a tick box culture of inspections. Skerton makes progress in ways that other schools don’t – diagnosing special needs for example. These aren’t rewarded with ticks by Ofsted but they matter to the children they help and their parents, and they matter to the school. Having said that the school isn’t complacent, or defeatist, and responded promptly and seriously to Ofsted’s concerns, drafting an action plan which had already begun to be implemented before the end of the summer term.
The school can’t afford to stay open.
The staff and governors disagree. Providing a full curriculum whilst maintaining the pastoral, caring approach is a recognised challenge. Finances will always be an issue to a school like Skerton, where many children join the role during the course of each school year, but the smaller numbers on Skerton’s role makes that even more difficult. That said, staff and governors have been actively working for some time, with agreement from the County Council, to make changes whilst still providing a full curriculum within existing budgets.
Find out more about this long standing local school. See the school website: http://www.skertonhigh.lancsngfl.ac.uk/
Local councillors are fighting for the school’s survival. Can you help?
Please write to your County Councillor expressing your support for Skerton and sign the on-line petition: www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/lancashire-county-council-keep-skerton-community-high-school-open
Affordable homes for Lancaster and district.
Private sector funding has been made available to build affordable homes in the district. Subject to planning approval being given it is hoped to build over 130 homes.
Brindle Close (12 x 1 bed flats and 6 x 2 bed houses)
Luneside East (24 x 1 bed flats)
Long Marsh Lane (16 x 1 bed flats)
Riverview Hostel (53 x 1,2 & 3 bed units)
Hornby (8 x 2 & 3 bed houses)
Lune Mills (19 units)
Labour Councillor Karen Leytham said: “This is fantastic news. Local residents have been desperate for more affordable homes to be built in the District to enable young couples and families to start to build their lives. This wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous amount of hard work that staff in the Council’s Housing Policy Team have put in.”
Cat Smith and Amina Lone (Prospective Parliamentary candidates for Lancaster and Morecambe) issued a joint statement in which they said; “Too many people are being denied a decent home by this Government. It is good news that our Labour led council is attempting to do something about it. We hope that more affordable homes will be built in the future.”
Cat Smith - prospective Labour Candidate for the 2015 General Election
The result of the selection ballot to choose Labour's candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood in 2015 was announced at 4pm on Saturday 20th July.
Thanks to the two candidates - it was a great campaign - and the Selection Committee members (Paul Aitchison, Marge Anderton, Josh Bancroft, Lorraine Beavers, Bob Clark, Sue Clark, Lizzie Houghton, Valerie Pearson, Ron Shewan and the stalwart secretary – James Groves) for their many hours of effort in making the selection a fair one.
Here's the result.
Turnout of eligible Fleetwood Branch Labour Party members: 49 out of 75 (65%)
Turnout of eligible Lancaster Branch Labour Party members: 90 out of 200 (45%)
Overall turnout across the CLP: 139 out of 275 (51%)
Counting first preference votes:
Cat Smith: 86
Gillian Troughton: 51
Rejected - postal vote missing declaration of identity: 1
Rejected - spoilt ballot paper: 1
The total valid vote was 137, so the quota, being half the valid vote, was 68.5.
Cat Smith's vote exceeded the quota and she was deemed SELECTED as Labour's candidate.
Bring me Sunshine
The following is a letter written to the local press by Labour Councillor Ron Sands
It is pleasing to see the Sunday Times website highlighting their survey placing Kendal in the top four most desirable towns in England. It’s a good few years since I lived there myself, but for fifty years now I have remained an enthusiastic visitor, observing continual improvements to the town over that time. It must be good news too for Kendal house owners who will see the relative value of their property rise.
And of course the town’s situation so close to the Lake District and England’s most beautiful countryside is also a valuable asset.
But do I regret my move south to Lancaster and Morecambe ? Certainly not. Because almost every evening the Met Office website announces that Morecambe has been the sunniest place in the north west region. And not infrequently, the sunniest place in the whole UK. Whilst Keswick usually has the distinction of being the wettest place (see www.metoffice/regional extemesobservations).
So in my retirement I rejoice at my ease of access to Cumbria by car, bus and train. But I now always check out the Met Office site before leaving home. And also contemplate the good fortune of Kendalians, living as they do so close to the sunniest place in the North West!
Councillor Ron Sands
Cabinet Member for Culture & Tourism
Lancaster City Council
Council Tax Benefit
When setting the budget for 2013/14 the Labour led City Council decided not to reduce Council Tax Benefit. This makes Lancaster the only council in Lancashire that has done this. So, at a time of austerity and Tory government cuts, why did our Council decide to do it?
Well, the obvious reason is to impose an additional tax on those less able to pay is inherently unfair. Millionaires can, and do, duck and dive around the tax system by hiring clever accountants. Not only is this clearly wrong but because the rich don’t pay their fair share it places an added burden on those less fortunate in our society; which brings me back to Council Tax Benefit.
As well as a compelling social reason there is a pragmatic reason not to reduce Council Tax Benefit. The amounts of Council Tax levied on those previously receiving 100% benefit would be comparatively small (but would result in real hardship for those on a small, fixed income). Many recipients would not be able to pay the small amounts charged so would be pursued, perhaps through the courts. This would be disproportionately costly for both the Council and the individual concerned.
The Council calculate that the cost of maintaining Council Tax Benefit is between £80,000 to £100,000 per year. It was decided that this could be funded by the Council Tax due on second homes plus properties lying empty.
The City Council Labour Group have pledged to retain Council Tax Benefit for this year. This provides an opportunity to evaluate how other councils in Lancashire who have reduced the Benefit have managed to collect it and what effect has it had on people being charged.
It would be nice to be able to give a guarantee to retain the full Council Tax Benefit in subsequent years but this would not be prudent. Suffice to say, whilst there is a Labour administration in control of the City Council it will always do its best to help the vulnerable and the ordinary people of the Lancaster & Morecambe district.
Labour Fights Low Pay
“This Branch notes the crucial need to address the problems of low pay if an economic recovery is to be achieved and that HMRC has failed to enforce the minimum wage since its introduction by the last Labour Government. We therefore call on the party nationally to commit the next Labour Government to transferring the responsibility and the resources for enforcing the minimum wage to Local Government.”
- Too many people were on the minimum wage which had become the norm in many industries; e.g. hospitality and the caring professions, including staff employed by service providers doing work outsourced by the councils. The Labour Party should be active in supporting the Living Wage.
- Some Tory councils may not be robust in enforcing the minimum wage. However, as it was envisaged that there would be a statutory requirement it was felt that those councils would not be able to evade their responsibilities.
- The meeting wondered if businesses who can’t pay their staff properly should actually be in business. By paying low wages staff were forced to claim tax credits. Effectively the government is subsidising these businesses wage bill.
- Local Government were already stretched due to the Tory cuts. Lancaster had lost 25% of its workforce in the last two years. If this enforcement work was to be undertaken by councils it was essential it was fully funded.
- HMRC had withdrawn from much local provision and no longer had a significant local presence. Councils had a better understanding what was happening in their areas so were better able to ‘police’ it.
Following a vote the resolution was carried.
The Branch Secretary was asked to inform the national Labour Party of the Branch’s view.
Lancaster City Council apprenticeships
An initiative led by the Labour Group leader, Eileen Blamire, has resulted in the City Council employing 7 apprentices; and this number is set to rise to 10 by the end of the year.
The mixed sex group of apprentices is mainly in the age range 16 – 25, but also includes a 45 year old.
Eileen Blamire told the Lancaster Labour website: "One of my main concerns is the high number of our local young people and indeed others who are seeking work and are unable to find it. We must do all we can as a Labour led Council to help."
Each apprentice is given one year’s work experience that provides them with the skills and knowledge to improve their CV’s and give them greater prospects of employment. Despite the cutbacks imposed by the Tory led government the City Council has even been able to offer one of the apprentices a permanent post.
Apprentices work in a range of areas including; planning, events, gardening, human resources, and the legal department. Where appropriate apprentices work towards formal qualifications including; NVQs or skills certificates, business administration, marketing and IT. Those working in the gardening department attend Myerscough College and some working in other areas attend Lancaster & Morecambe College.
City Council staff running the scheme are enthusiastic and enjoy supporting the apprentices to bolster their skills as a means of helping them into full time employment and improving their lives.
In August it is hoped that an event will take place that will celebrate the apprentices successes. Watch out for news in the local press.
Getting Britain working
Ed Miliband has set out his vision for what Labour will do in government to control public spending and get Britain working. He describes what Labour will do to turn our economy round, protect our NHS, and build a stronger country.
Here’s the quick version:
We all know Labour in 2015 will have less money to spend, because the Tories have failed on the economy. So we are going to take action on the big problems our country faces to control spending:
- Cut costs by helping the long-term unemployed back to work
- Make sure jobs are well-paid to reward work, so the state does not face rising subsidies for low pay
- Get the cost of renting down by ensuring more homes are built – thereby reducing the welfare bill
- Cap social security spending by focusing on the deep-rooted reasons benefit spending goes up.
The Tories have a dirty secret. They may talk tough but they leave people out of work for year after year, costing the country a fortune. Labour is the party of work – the clue is in our name – and we will control spending on the basis of our values.
Don’t short change factory workers for cheap clothing
Ever since the disaster at the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh, media commentators have been trying to guilt-trip western consumers for the terrible conditions of workers in Bangladesh.
We’ve been told that our insatiable desire for cheap clothing is what keeps wages as low as £27 a month, and working conditions so poor that factory fires are endemic and corners cut so badly that buildings collapse, as Rana Plaza did.
But we don't think cash-strapped consumers are the problem.
Production orders from Bangladesh show that workers' wages could be raised with almost no effect on prices. In fact, doubling their wages for the 10.565 minutes specified to make a basic T-shirt would increase its cost on the UK high street by 2p.
Someone’s trying to pull the wool over our eyes about who’s really responsible for low wages and poor safety standards. Could it be the global brands and manufacturers who set the prices? Some of them insist they have no control over wages, hours, safety and the like. But of course they can control the time it takes to manufacture a t-shirt down to three decimal places and the detail of stitching on the hems - Pull the other one!
The people who should be feeling guilty are the people who run those global multinationals and the Government of Bangladesh. Not western shoppers, struggling to get by on falling incomes whilst living costs continue to rise.
Workers everywhere need dignity at work, based on decent wages and decent, safe jobs.
We’re supporting the global union for textile workers, IndustriALL, who are demanding that global brands, retailers and manufacturers sign up to an agreement on health and safety and wages.
To find out more click on IndustriALL
Cllr Sheila Denwood – Mayor of Lancaster 2012/13
On the 10th May 2013 Cllr Sheila Denwood stood down as Lancaster’s Mayor. This is Sheila’s report on just some of the things she did during a very busy year.
The Mayor receives so many invitations that I can only give a few examples of my exciting and most pleasurable year.
The year started off with the highlight of my Mayoralty by meeting and personally speaking to Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in Accrington to mark the very special Diamond Jubilee year. This was followed by a visit to London to the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace where the Mayoress and I were very fortunate to have one of the very few warm and sunny days. The day was made even more enjoyable by a personal invitation to tour the Houses of Parliament by Baroness Henig prior to the Garden Party. On the 19th March this year I was asked to go to County Hall for the presentation of the Queen’s Jubilee Bust; shortly to be placed in a prominent position in the Town Hall.
Despite the dreadful weather, the day itself was truly fantastic, and the number of people who came out to cheer on the torch bearers was unbelievable. To see people of all ages soaked to the skin, yet still smiling and cheering was amazing. I was delighted to welcome the torch bearers into the Town Hall once the event had left our district, and was overjoyed to be presented with a torch for the City Council to display which was given to us by local resident Doris Collins and which is on display in the Mayor’s Parlour.
We also had the wonderful opportunity to support our delegation of young people taking part in the Youth Games in Rendsburg, Germany. The weather was excellent for all concerned as previously they had two weeks of rain before the Games. Our young people performed excellently and won several medals. Well done to all of them. As well as supporting our young people, we were escorted by our hosts on a number of tours covering areas of interest, seeing projects such as planning, development and environmental improvements. Rendsburg is a very forward looking town.
We have made regular visits to all the Universities, namely Lancaster University, the University of Cumbria and the University of Central Lancashire. These visits were to support our students in all manner of events; including degree ceremonies, charity events and fashion shows. We have enthusiastically supported local businesses by promoting and opening their new premises; making sure we attended all shop openings for the traders that moved from the Market. We have also shown our support for the Grand Theatre and the Dukes with regular visits.
It has been a joy to visit local schools to be involved in everything from prize giving to school councils, especially meeting the pupils with special educational needs. I have welcomed children and parties of all ages to the Town Hall to see the magnificence of the Parlour, Council Chamber, Ashton Hall, the Police Court and even the cells! The time involved never seemed long enough to answer all the questions and have the numerous photos taken.
We have enjoyed a great relationship with the Chinese community, both in this district and in Manchester where we met Mr Pan, the Chinese Consul General. We have also attended events in Lancaster & Morecambe hosted by representatives of our local Chinese communities.
Our links with the armed forces continue to develop. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Houses of Parliament to meet the crew of HMS Lancaster with a return visit from them to Lancaster in April. I have also attended Kimberley Barracks for the Poppy Appeal cadet awards. Being a member of the Lancaster Military Heritage Group I was delighted to be on the steps of our Town Hall for the march past on Remembrance Sunday.
I have hosted two charity lunches in Lancaster Town Hall. They have been a great success and have helped raise funds for my chosen charities – Help for Heroes, Royal British Legion branches in Lancaster & Morecambe and Arthritis Research. Many of our citizens do suffer in silence. However, I have learned during the year how much work is required to raise funds for charity and I could not have collected the monies raised without the assistance of many helpers, volunteers and friends.
Earlier this year I invited all Lancashire Mayors to visit the District. Every Mayor thoroughly enjoyed visiting Carnforth Station the Priory Church and Lancaster Castle. They were amazed by our lovely Town Hall and the treasures it holds, especially in the Mayor’s Parlour.
I would like to offer my best wishes to Councillor June Ashworth and her daughter Alex for their coming Mayoral year and hope it will turn out to be as great as ours.”
I think everyone will agree that Sheila has done an amazing amount for the City of Lancaster and there is lots to thank her for. She has done us proud!