Tuesday, 26 October 2010

One-Stop-Shop for Council Services in Market Rasen

A one-stop shop for council services is being created in Market Rasen.

West Lindsey District Council and Lincolnshire County Council services will soon be both available from the Festival Hall which is being refurbished.

Leader of the West Lindsey Distict Council and County Councillor, Cllr. Burt Keimach, Conservative (Market Rasen Ward & MArket Rasen Wold Division) said:
"The project makes sense because people do not always know which council provides which service so if everyone is under the same roof it makes things much easier for the public.

"There will also be substantial savings in running costs which will be particularly welcome in the current financial climate."
Building conversion work will include creating a new reception, toilet and interview room and this will mean closing the Festival Hall office of the district council from Monday 8th November 2010 until Sunday 2nd January 2011.  Cllr. Keimach said:
"During this period district council services, including housing and benefit information, will be available from the county council office in King Street.

"When the work is complete all the district council services and county council functions including social care and registration, will be available from modern and refurbished accommodation at Festival Hall.

"During the work, the district council phone number - 01427 676676 - remains unchanged."

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Giles McNeill Calls For 100 Hi-Tech Sandbags For Nettleham

Parish Councillor Giles McNeill led calls at yesterday's Nettleham Parish Council meeting to acquire a stock of special sand bags, known as Aqua-sacs,

So far eleven town and parish councils in West Lindsey have secured grants from West Lindsey District Council to support their communities and prevent flooding. Chris Allen, Public Protection Services Manager at the council recently said:
"We are delighted that we have been able to give grants to so many parish councils.

"The grants are being used for a variety of reasons including: clearing a beck of blockages, extending a culvert to stop flooding and developing flood risk management strategies."
The district council has £10,000 to allocate to town and parish councils, who are best placed to know and understand flooding issues within their areas. Mr Allen added:
"We still have a significant amount of money available which will be distributed on a first come first served basis.

"I would urge councils to apply for a share of the cash as soon as possible to make sure they do not miss out on this opportunity."

Cllr. Giles McNeill observes rising
water levels on Nettleham Beck
The Aqua-Sac is a revolutionary alternate to traditional sandbags for flood defence. Comprising a heavy duty Jute sack and a cotton liner with a patented centre stitch, containing a Super-Absorbent Polymer the Aqua-Sac is simply submerged in water. After five minutes thirteen litres of water will have been absorbed creating an inflated 'sandbag'. Fifty aqua-sac sandbags is sufficient to protect four doors from 18" of flood water.

Nettleham Parish Council has agreed to fund the purchase of 50 aqua-sacs and apply for funding for a further 50 from the district council. The aqua-sacs will be stored in the Old School in the centre of the village. Cllr. McNeill said:
"I think these will be very useful, easily stored when compared to traditional sandbags, with the ability to dry them out and reuse them make them a sound investment."

Monday, 18 October 2010

Edward Leigh Attacks AV Referendum

Local Conservative parliamentarian, Edward Leigh MP, Conservative (Gainsborough), has launched an attack on the proposed referendum on Alternative Voting and denounced the system as 'unsatisfactory, un-British, and causing frustration and anger'.

Mr. Leigh, former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said it was insulting to the electorate to force this 'confusing' system on them.  Writing in the Parliamentary House Magazine, Mr. Leigh said the particular type of Alternative Vote (AV) to be proposed in the referendum was in use only in Papua New Guinea.
"This system is rare for the good reasons that it is complex, eccentric, does not reduce the chances of hung parliaments and leaves the minority parties completely unrepresented.

"In short it is neither fairer nor more proportional than the system we already have.
"Don't let us wallow in a quagmire of half-measures: it is unsatisfactory, un-British and causes frustration and anger."
He pointed out that this 'AV compromise' was not in the election manifestos of either of the coalition parties and he objected to the plan to hold the referendum on the same day as the Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh elections, a manoeuvre which, he said, would concern voters in England.

"A referendum should be held when conditions are consistent across the nation. I understand that a coincidence of dates will save us nearly £8 million, but let's not sell our political principles for the price of a nice house in Chelsea".

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Liberal Democrat MP Questioned By Police

Mike Hancock MP
Mike Hancock MP, Liberal Democrat (Portsmouth South), has been 'arrested' over claims he indecently assaulted a single mother who went to him for help, Guido Falkes reports on his blog today, he has been released on police bail.

Mr. Hancock says:
"I can confirm that I was questioned on Tuesday, 12th October by officers of the Hampshire Police in relation to allegations made against me by one individual. I attended the police station voluntarily, cooperated fully and answered all questions that were asked.

"Normal processes now have to be followed by the police, which I entirely understand.

"In the circumstances, and in accordance with legal advice, it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment on this subject as to do so could prejudice due process.

"I hope that everyone will understand my position, respect my privacy and that of my family and will demonstrate the same respect for the legal process.
"I intend to carry on normally with my work as a Portsmouth member of Parliament and councillor, both in Hampshire and in Westminster, and to represent fully all my constituents as I have always done."
The police intervention came as Mr. John Lyon, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, was also reported to have been handed a complaint concerning the parliamentarian's behaviour. Conservatives on the Portsmouth City Council, on which Mr. Hancock serves as a councillor, have called for him to be suspended while the investigation is carried out.

Mr. Hancock has previously denied any wrongdoing and claimed he had merely offered 'help and support' to the 36-year-old woman.  It has previously been reported that he forcibly kissed the single mother as well as sending her late night text messages and lavishing gifts on her.

Mr. Hancock, who married wife Jacqueline forty-three years ago and has two children, was allegedly reported to police by a family support worker for the woman, who is understood to suffer from borderline personality disorder.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

YouGov Poll Shows 83% Support For Non-Universal Child Benefit Measure

A poll by YouGov for The Sun seems to have excited people over the headline figure of 83% backing the child benefit changes last night.  However, the actual story is more nuanced.

The principle of limiting Child Benefit so that people on higher incomes do not receive it is hugely popular.  83% of respondents supporting it, with 15% opposed.  The question though, was about the principle of the policy.

YouGov asked about the practicalities of the policy, and the way that a couple both earning £30,000 would keep child benefit, while a couple where only one worked and earned £44,000 would not.  41% of people agreed that this was a fair compromise given the cost of fully means testing child benefit, but 46% thought it was unfair and that the policy should be based on a proper means-test.  So the principle of the policy is extremely popular, but people are split over the implementation of it.

A lot of assumptions are being made in the media and elsewhere that the 15% who oppose this measure are the same 15% or so of people who will be directly affected.  This is a lazy assumption. An assumption that is almost certainly not true.

Obviously in most cases people who suffer from a policy are more likely to oppose it and people who benefit from it are more likely to support it, but it is rarely if ever so clear cut. There are no income cross breaks in the YouGov table, but looking at the other cross breaks, 21% of Labour supporters oppose the idea, compared to 9% of Conservative supporters. 18% of ABC1s oppose it, but so do 10% of C2DEs.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Councillor Gets Dirty

Donning safety boots, hi-vis jacket and gloves Cllr. Mrs. Jackie Brockway, Conservative (Saxilby Ward), spent a day working side by side colleagues in the waste services team.

The West Lindsey District Councillor, who is chairman of the Community and Waste Services Committee, was surprised with her findings. She said:
"This job requires more skills than one might at first expect and I learned a great deal."

Cllr. Mrs. Jackie Brockway having
a go at wheelie bin collections.
Cllr. Mrs. Brockway used a day of her summer holiday to do a shift as a refuse collector on one of the council's refuse freighters. She said: 
"I was surprised by the speed and fluidity with which they do their jobs and I found myself having to run to keep up at first, before getting into a routine.

"They showed me how to inspect the rubbish and to get the bins onto the lifting machinery which then tipped it into the back of the wagon.

"This was far from easy and it took me a few attempts before I got the hang of things.

"My new colleagues were extremely patient with me, even when I failed to get one bin to catch on the lift and the contents fell out onto the road."
Cllr. Mrs. Brockway said she was impressed with how the driver manoeuvred the twenty-six tonne lorry smoothly through some incredibly narrow and difficult traffic situations.
Staff worked with accuracy, managing to remember where every bin came from and Cllr Brockway watched them handling residents' queries with care and diplomacy.

Cllr. Mrs. Brockway added:
"This is not a job for the unfit and there is no slow point in the day when the men can simply stop and take a rest (apart from a short lunch break).

"They're on the go the whole time and they have to be very aware of hygiene, road safety and the needs of residents.

"I was appalled by the way car drivers pushed past the refuse wagon, often at speed, with no care for the safety of the refuse collectors.

 "I'm really grateful to the team for giving me the benefit of their time and experience."
The day was arranged by Operational Service Manager, Mr. Glyn Pilkington and Team Leader Mr. Andy Selby to work with a team of three experienced operatives.

Mr Pilkington said:
"I am really pleased that Cllr Brockway wanted to have a go.

"Refuse and recycling is one service that directly impacts on all residents and therefore it is important that councillors fully understand the difficulties of the service and the need to make it as simple as possible for residents to recycle".

Monday, 4 October 2010

Chancellor Announces Bold Changes to Child Benefit

© The Conservative Party
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP, has unveiled a bold plan to get Britain's ballooning benefits bill back under control, while introducing fair play into the financing of the welfare state.
Today in his keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, the Chancellor announced that the Coalition Government will introduce a new £500 a week cap on welfare benefits, designed to ensure that workless households no longer receive thousands of pounds in benefits more than the average working family receives in pay.

At the same time, child benefit will be withdrawn from households paying tax at the higher rate, to ensure that people on low incomes are no longer taxed to provide child benefit for those with bigger salaries.

The changes mean that household benefit payments will be capped near the median earned income after tax and National Insurance for working families - around £500 per week by the time of implementation in 2013.

The cap will apply to combined income derived from benefits including Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment Support Allowance, housing and council tax benefits, Child Benefit, and Carers Allowance. Benefits like Social Fund loans and free school meals are not affected, and people with Disability Living Allowance and war widows will also be excluded.

The withdrawal of Child Benefit from higher rate taxpayers - saving an estimated £1 billion a year -will also apply from 2013, administered through the tax system. There are currently 1.2 million households where higher rate tax is applied which qualify for child benefit. The 6.6 million families with no higher rate taxpayers who receive the benefit will remain unaffected by the change. The Chancellor said:
"If the welfare state is going to gain the trust of the British people, it needs to reflect the British sense of fair play. So for the first time, we will introduce a limit on the total amounts of benefit any one family can receive; and the limit will be set according to this very simple principle: unless they have disabilities to cope with, no family should get more from living on benefits than the average family gets from going out to work."
As for child benefits, which cost taxpayers about £12 billion a year, the Chancellor declared:
"I understand that most higher rate taxpayers are not the super-rich. But a system that taxe working people at higher rates only to give it back in child benefit is very difficult to justify at a time like this.

"And it's very difficult to justify taxing people on low incomes to pay for the child benefit of those earning so much more than them.

"We have got to be tough but fair, and that's why we will withdraw child benefit from households with a higher rate taxpayer. When the debts left by Labour threaten our economy, when our welfare costs are out of control, this measure makes sense."