Thursday, December 20, 2012

Grant Davey’s Christmas message to the Trade Unions

 Dear All
I’m going to make no apologies for the sentiments expressed in this year’s Christmas message given the very difficult years ahead of us and the strains and stresses many of our members are facing because of the actions of the coalition government.
This message is going to be political and I’m going to give you food for thought.
I’ve always been aware that Labour politicians sometimes have to say things which put strains on our fraternal relations but we’re comforted by the recognition that we’re all on the same side, campaigning to make the country a fairer and more equal place to live.
Looking at Northumberland over the last four years of Liberal Democrat decisions and direction, we’ve seen the loss of 1500 jobs directly and 1000 jobs indirectly, the removal of £105m from the Councils budgets and the absence of a proper plan which heaped unnecessary strain on services already creaking under the pressure. Working under the uncertainty of privatisation and not knowing the real direction of travel of your employers isn’t the way to encourage people to give their all.
The general lack of communication and ‘misinformation’ about the Liberal plans for the council hinders good working relations and 2012 will go down as the year before the ‘storm’.

My background and beliefs may be a little different to the politicians you have lived with in Northumberland, as I am a Trade Unionist at the core. I want to work with Trade Unions because I think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve spent 23 years as a Branch Secretary and I’m proud of that. My colleagues within Labour Group have also grown up as Trade Unionists; many are also members of the Co-op party and from these backgrounds have fought against this administration and the second administration the Tories run through the scrutiny process.
What I’m saying is I want to see an authority that is ‘at ease with itself’ and one that sees its workforce as partners and people not ‘cogs in a machine’ to be manipulated and cast aside.
We recognise we’re in a minority in this council with a Liberal Democrat majority which is often supported and propped up by the Tories. Not a single Liberal Democrat budget would have passed unless it had Tory support and make no mistake; the Tories are still the ‘nasty’ party whichever way they try to ‘spin the facts’. Next year is a big year. For the first time in 5 years the voters of Northumberland can make their voices heard and we need your help to win where it matters, at the ballot box and by winning the battle of ideas.

In 2013, we’ll continue to campaign to make the economic case for ‘in-house’ provision and will continue to tackle the dogma that lies at the heart of the Liberal Democrat decisions – private is best and public means 2nd class. We’ll continue to campaign on ‘what matters is what works’.
We’ll be launching our manifesto in January 2013 and we can promise it will be underpinned by a partnership between communities and their council. We’ll be setting out our plans to build council houses to tackle a scandalous waiting list, a ‘jobs plan’ aimed at securing good quality council jobs and increasing apprenticeships and the general aim of making Northumberland a fairer place. We’ll be concentrating on getting the basics right by investing in our clean and green services which have been damaged by Liberal cuts.

Labour has a vision for the whole county, and you are a central part of that vision. The last five years have been wasted years.
The people of this County gave a mandate to the coalition parties to make Northumberland a better place to live, work and visit. What the people of Northumberland have got back instead is job cuts in the public and private sector, the imposition of policies from the council’s masters in government, implemented without a squeak of opposition, which have seen working families bear the brunt of ‘austerity’ created in the City by unaccountable bankers and reckless traders and the rise of the ‘stealth tax’ in Northumberland with unfair charges for car parking and rising parish council precepts.

We are able to make the clear case for public services against those who would put their prejudice against public services above the needs of the people and workforce of Northumberland and we can make that case more powerfully by working closely with the Trade Union movement and its members.
Make no mistake, 2013 is a crunch year. It’s decision time for the people of Northumberland, it’s a time when ordinary people will be feeling the ‘coalition crunch’ nationally, it’s the time when the fight back starts.
The spirit of co-operation and comradeship in pursuit of our collective interests has never been more vital. I hope 2013 will be a year for all linked to the Labour movement to look back on with pride and a year we can all say – I was part of the fight back.

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year

Councillor Grant Davey
Leader, Northumberland Labour Group

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Instead of defending the indefensible, Councillor Tebbutt should stop bandying around ‘voodoo figures’ and enter into a mature discussion about why it’s okay to levy charges for parking in towns like Morpeth and Berwick and not in other parts of Northumberland? His answers so far just aren’t good enough and I hope he takes notice of this petition and campaign. It’s Councillor Tebbutt who makes the decisions in County Hall and he needs to acknowledge the importance of this issue. I’m sure local Liberals and Conservatives will back our campaign and I’m calling for them to support the petition and send a message to Councillor Tebbutt in County Hall.

Fair’s, fair – the free parking petition gets underway
Labour launches car parking charge petition
Labour councillor’s and it’s county party have launched a new campaign ‘fair’s, fair’ to tackle the current council policy on charged parking in Berwick, Morpeth, Hexham and Alnwick which has been branded as ‘unfair’ and a ‘tax on motorists and residents alike’.
Northumberland Labour group are pushing a policy which would give local town and parish council’s, the casting say over whether free car parking would benefit the local economy and environment and have launched a petition on the council’s website aimed at sending a clear message to the Liberal Democrat cabinet which is currently drawing up its budget for next year and beyond. Activists will be collecting signatures around the town and residents and traders can sign the petition on the council’s ‘e-petition' section of the website
The petition will mean that the car parking issue will be subject to a full debate in the council chamber if the website collects over 1,000 signatures. 
MP’s for Wansbeck and Blyth have backed the plan and Labour hope Liberal Democrat MP Alan Beith will also back the call for fair parking in the county by supporting the campaign. Labour is also calling for Councillor Hunter to back the campaign to boost trade in the town. 
Labour is also challenging Councillor Tebbutt, Cabinet member for Corporate Resources who claimed last week ‘that removing charges could cost the council up to £5m’. Comments by Councillor Tebbutt (Berwick Advertiser) seemed to indicate the cost of removing charges would cost between £3m and £5m which are contradicted by figures released to the Labour group which indicated ‘an estimated cost would be £1.95m’. 
Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘Instead of defending the indefensible, Councillor Tebbutt should stop bandying around ‘voodoo figures’ and enter into a mature discussion about why it’s okay to levy charges for parking in towns like Morpeth and Berwick and not in other parts of Northumberland? His answers so far just aren’t good enough and I hope he takes notice of this petition and campaign. It’s Councillor Tebbutt who makes the decisions in County Hall and he needs to acknowledge the importance of this issue. I’m sure local  Liberals and Conservatives will back our campaign and I’m calling for them to support the petition and send a message to Councillor Tebbutt in County Hall. 

End
Notes for Editors
Paper copies of the petition can be requested from northumberlandlabour.press@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Under pressure from Labour and Tory councillors, the Liberals have adopted a 1 week free period for the whole county over the Christmas period.

Press Release
Labour slams Liberals over ‘car parking stealth tax’
Labour calls on council to think again on free car parking
Labour councillors on Northumberland County Council have urged the Liberal controlled council to ‘think again’ on car parking charges as figures show the council has ‘raised’ £1.95m in fees and fines from towns like Hexham and Berwick.
Under pressure from Labour and Tory councillors, the Liberals have adopted a 1 week free period for the whole county over the Christmas period.
Labour are now urging the Liberal administration ‘stop playing politics’ with car parking and equalise free parking across the whole county in line with free car parking enjoyed by the South East area of the county.
Labour says it is unfair and an ‘effective stealth tax’ for areas without free car parking and ‘the shoppers permit has been ineffective, costly and bureaucratic’.
Labour group leader said
‘The arguments put forward by Jeff Reid and his Liberal party show how reliant this administration has become on car parking fees and fines. By taking, £1.95m out of the local economy, they’ve effectively levied a ‘stealth tax on motorists’ which hits local economic activity. At a time when the council should be supporting local economies like Berwick and Hexham, it’s counting on money raised through fines and fees. This is a question of fairness and we’re urging the Liberals to adopt our original plan to let local towns and parishes decide whether free car parking is good for their communities. This shouldn’t be a decision for County Hall’.     

Monday, December 10, 2012

Open Letter to News Post Leader

11 Craigmill Park,
10 December 2012                                       Blyth,
                                                                   Northumberland,
                                                                   NE24 5JL.
                                                                   01670 369725


Dear Sir,

In his Autumn statement George Osborne has announced another round of transport investment. None of it, as usual, is coming to Northumberland, although Northumberland residents might benefit from the generous gift of new roads around the Metro centre to the property companies who own the shopping centre that sucks the life out of the rest of the North east.

What’s clear though is that even if George Osborne knew where Northumberland is, or who Alan Beith, his LibDem comrade in arms is, Northumberland County Council has been so badly run that it had no shovel ready schemes to offer for funding.

As soon as George Osborne indicated that he might have money to spend the Tory party’s leader in waiting, Boris Johnson was ready with another scheme to lavish more money on London at the expense of the rest of us. Gateshead Council were ready with schemes to protect the shopping centre that will shore up their finances once business rates are retained locally. For Northumberland, facing a massive loss of grant once business rates are localised in order to subsidise the south east’s prosperity, had nothing to put on the table as a shovel ready scheme.

Five years ago all the major parties in Northumberland supported the re-opening of Belford station, a simple project given that trains already go there, and stop. It still isn’t ready. No progress has been made on the Ashington Blyth and Tyne line in the last five years. Nothing has been done about the traffic congestion on Cowpen Road in Blyth, Northumberland’s most congested road. The A1 is no nearer being dualled, and the proposed line of the improved A1 is being threatened by other developments.

The most significant projects carried out by Northumberland’s LibDems have been in their Morpeth heartlands, and the less said about the disaster that is Morpeth’s new traffic lights, the better. They’re a sideshow to the central problem; that this hand to mouth government, limping from missed target to missed target will increasingly be looking for shovel ready projects as it finds a few more millions down the back of the sofa. Under the LibDems Northumberland will never be ready.

J Grant Davey
Leader, Northumberland Labour Group.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Free parking across Northumberland

Sir
I noted Councillor Andrew Tebbutt comments regarding the vote to provide 1 week free car parking to benefit Berwick and its economy were devoid of any fact.
Fact – the Labour party has consistently campaigned for free car parking across Northumberland because we don’t think it is fair that Councillor Tebbutt’s Liberal Council ‘soak’ the local economies outside of the South East in towns such as Berwick and Hexham to the tune of £1.95m per year.
Fact – His administration have stripped £2m from the environmental budget while pursuing vanity projects such as a £440,000 ‘state of the art’ fish pass at Hedgley. That shows the Liberals have their priorities wrong.
Fact – His administration has doubled the council debt while sacking over 2,500 workers so to take lectures on financial decision-making from the Liberals should come with a health warning.
The real fact is this Liberal administration has had four and half years to ‘show the county’ what it could do. Instead they’ve been the willing hand maidens of their Westminster masters and haven’t stood up for Northumberland.
That’s the real issue.

Council under attack as councillor claims ‘Cramlington is the forgotten town’

Press Release
Council under attack as councillor claims ‘Cramlington is the forgotten town’
‘Footbridge problem is a sign of the problem’ as Labour lead calls for replacement bus – Councillor Ian Ayres
A Labour councillor on Cramlington Town Council has accused the county council of ‘forgetting the Town’ after fears he raised over the lack of action over a dangerous footbridge link with the Town has been ‘kicked into the long grass’ by the county council’s Liberal administration.
The Beaconhill footbridge link with the town is vital for many elderly and vulnerable residents and it is now out of action for the foreseeable future and Councillor Ayres is pushing the authority to ‘come up with a plan such as a replacement bus service while urgent repairs are started and completed’.
Councillor Ayres said
‘I’m afraid that it seems the Liberal authority in Morpeth seems to have forgotten Cramlington. We’re losing bus services; we’ve got vital links between communities out of action and all the council can say is ‘they can’t do anything about the matters at this time’. It’s not good enough and residents are now isolated and local businesses are losing out on vital footfall. I’m urging the council to back my idea for a replacement bus service to help alleviate the pressure while the bridge is repaired

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A 13% default rate in Northumberland would mean the council would need to find over £1m to cover the shortfall.

Press Release
Warning to council on ‘hidden cost’ of Bedroom Tax
Estimates show council could be ‘millions’ worse off after controversial rule change

Northumberland County Council’s ruling Liberal Democrat are being warned that they face an ‘unprecedented squeeze’ on council budgets after Labour group leader Grant Davey unveiled figures that show the introduction of the coalition welfare changes in April 2013 could mean a ‘shortfall in council rent of over £1m’*.

Research by the Labour party in Northumberland shows that the most recent figures reveal that the council is paid £8,427,423 of rent income direct to the council but changes due to be introduced in April 2013 mean that rent will no longer be paid direct to the Council incurring an increase collection cost of £50,156.
The government has conducted 6 pilot programmes across the country to measure the impact of ‘direct payment’ and while the DWP have refused to give definitive figures of default on monthly rent payments, they did confirm that average defaults were ‘in the low teens’**.
A 13% default rate in Northumberland would mean the council would need to find over £1m to cover the shortfall.
Labour group leader Grant Davey who has called for Liberal leader of the council Jeff Reid to make a statement on the council’s preparedness for the changes in April 2013 said
‘First we’ve had Liberal cabinet member Tom Brechany deny that some people may lose housing benefit in the county because of the government welfare changes, then the Liberals denied there was a ‘growing housing problem’ in the county despite the independent National Housing Association confirming the council’s record waiting list ‘was a potential housing time bomb’*** and now these figures show the council may have to find a further £1m to cover potential defaults after the introduction of Universal Credit in 2013. It’s time the Liberals got to grips with this issue and it’s time that Jeff Reid showed some real leadership. We’ll be pushing him to release the facts on the true impact of the Universal Credit changes in the county’.

End
* Agenda Item: 4.5 - IMPACT OF WELFARE REFORM - Report by Allan Hepple Director of Neighbourhood Services
** BBC website – Mark Easton http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20459252
*** - Berwick Advertiser New report warns of ‘housing timebomb’
Published on Sunday 2 December 2012 10:00 – NHA Home Truths: North East 2012

Labour has previously drawn attention to its own motion tabled over one year ago which would have given the powers to grant free parking to town and parish council’s across the county. Labour have insisted the motion was fully costed and it now forms a plank of its election manifesto in 2013.

Press Release

‘A recipe for car parking chaos’ claim Labour
Latest Tory motion – ill judged, too late and not enough

A Tory motion due to be debated at Northumberland County Hall on Wednesday has been described as ‘ill-judged, too late and not thought out’ after it emerged the motion was ‘unsustainable’. Labour and Liberal Democrats have both questioned the complicated formula out lined by Tory group leader Peter Jackson which sought to rely on savings from council buildings which had already been sold.

The Motion was described as ‘an exercise in spin over substance’ as it proposed to ‘suspend car parking charges’ in defined areas across Northumberland even though the Liberal Council was ‘unilaterally’ dispensing with charges in places like Hexham which will see charges dropped on a Sunday. The council has come under fire for suspending charges on Sunday’s when the town is at its quietest and for continuing to use patrolling wardens even though charges have been dropped.

Labour has previously drawn attention to its own motion tabled over one year ago which would have given the powers to grant free parking to town and parish council’s across the county. Labour have insisted the motion was fully costed and it now forms a plank of its election manifesto in 2013.

Labour group leader Grant Davey said

‘The current council policy on car parking charges across the county is a shambles. A new policy seems to be announced every week. Into this confusion comes this Tory motion which is not costed, clearly opportunistic and lasts only four weeks. Both Liberal and Tory parties voted against our motion last year and we’ll be voting against this motion because it fails two key tests. Firstly, it doesn’t take into account local feeling, we happen to think that local town and parishes are best placed to tell us if free car parking will benefit their towns and shopping areas. Secondly, this motion only sets out effective policy for the Christmas period. We think this is a major issue all year round and we should be supporting businesses throughout the year. After all, business support should be all year round, not just for Christmas’.

End