Tuesday, 25 September 2012

NWLDC should u-turn on boundary review urgently

Back in the dying days of the last administration, just two months before the May 2011 elections, the Tories at Whitwick Road (who then had an overwhelming majority) decided to pass a motion at council calling for the Local Government Boundary Commission to reorganise North West Leicestershire District Council into 'Single Member Wards'.

The Local Government Boundary Commission were not being asked to visit our corner of Leicestershire because there was a need for them to. In fact on the contrary according to the statutory criteria used by the commission there was no need to come to North West Leicestershire and realistically no prospect of such a need for several years more.

No, the reason the commission were requested to visit was based on a personal preference of the current Conservative leadership. A leadership that believes councillors will be shamed into working harder for their constituents if they are solely accountable to voters.

Whilst I do not disagree in principle with Single Member Wards I do believe the assessment of the Tory leadership is fundamentally wrong.

I believe, irrespective of political party, most councillors work hard for the people resident in their ward.

I believe that where there are currently two or more members in existing wards this is because those members represent larger, easily identifiable communities. We should never simply split a community because it is more expedient or fits an unneeded 'model'. Communities and village life are far too important for that

I believe that if a councillor doesn't pull their weight being elected in a Single Member Ward isn't any more likely to make them accountable but rather more likely to make their village or community effectively unrepresented.

I believe that this exercise to redraw boundary lines is superfluous and cowtowing to personal whim. I also believe that this is an exercise which is a colossal waste of money.

Various Local Government Boundary Commission sources have placed a cost to the taxpayer for this exercise in a range between £100,000 and £200,000.

That represents a huge amount for an exercise for which there is no legal need, and a huge amount for an exercise which even with significant cuts to council size will arguably not achieve payback within a period of 10 years, and that doesn't even start to look at how representation of local people will be affected.

I strongly believe, as did the previous Labour group at North West Leicestershire, that the process of local boundary review should be stopped until there is a statutory need to undertake it and even when there is such a need we shouldn't be looking automatically at single member wards which may well worsen representation and artificially split communities.

As the highly respected and two-time former Chair of the Council, Councillor Nigel Smith said at last weeks Council meeting 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

Nigel is right, our system isn't broken and there is no need for to implement an expensive and unneeded reorganisation based on a whim.

As a Council we should be going back to the Local Government Boundary Commission and asking them to suspend this exercise.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Bankers directly benefit from increases to the poorest families council tax

As David Cameron's Tory-lead government continues to press ahead with draconian changes to council tax benefit that will result in the poorest families having to pay hundreds of pounds more each year tonight I can reveal that bankers will continue to benefit from council tax exemptions potentially worth millions of pounds.

At the same time as the government are allowing authorities to increase council tax on empty and second homes they have refused to alter the exemption allowed on repossessed properties.

Whilst technically when a house is repossessed the bill stays in the name of the mortgagee in reality banks take control.

As long as a 'mortgagee is in possession' an exemption from council tax is awarded. In 2011 over 36,000 homes were repossessed in the UK potentially meaning millions of council tax went unbilled and unpaid by local authorities to the direct benefit of bankers.

It seems totally inequitable that whilst hard pressed families already living on the bread line are faced with massive tax increases an arguably immoral exemption continues to be given for the benefit of bankers whose own business ethics have rightly been questioned in recent years.

But what more do you expect of a government who gives £40,000 tax breaks to millionaires?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Child Poverty in the UK

For the first time in their history Save the Children are running a campaign to raise awareness and funds to battle child poverty in the UK.

The following video may be portrayed by actors but it represents a problem which is very real in both our big cities and in towns and villages in North West Leicestershire.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Whitwick Holy Cross Flower Festival 2012

Yesterday saw the opening of the Whitwick Holy Cross Flower Festival to commemorate 175 years of the parish.

Parishioners have been working tirelessly to produce a beautiful display.

The flower festival is open until tomorrow (Monday), why not pay a visit if you have a free hour or two?


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Can councils put their differences to one side to help protect Glenfield Children's Cardiac Surgery?

Over the past few months one issue above all others has resonated with people around Leicestershire (and further afield) of all backgrounds and political persuasions, that is the outrageous proposal to close the Children's Cardiac Surgery unit at Glenfield Hospital.

Over recent weeks, whilst experts have clearly stated that up to 50 children will lose their lives as a result of the measure, more than 64,000 people have signed an e-petition calling for the decision to be reversed.

Regrettably the then Health Secretary maintained a stance that closure would go ahead.

This week however those campaigning against the closure, of which I admit I am a relative latecomer, were dealt a glimmer of hope.

The appointment of a new Secretary of State for Health in the shape of Jeremy Hunt means that there is a real opportunity for Government to take a fresh look at the decision and hopefully listen to the views of local people.

On Tuesday 18th September North West Leicestershire District Council will gather for its next scheduled meeting.

I have taken the opportunity to table the following motion to Council:

I truly hope that local politicians of all parties can put partisan views to one side to stand united in calling for lifesaving common sense to prevail.

I would strongly urge all councils in Leicester and Leicestershire to consider a similar motion.

Together councillors of all parties can stand united with local people and maybe by putting our collective civic weight behind the call we can have a positive effect in Mr Hunt reconsidering.

Anyone wishing to sign the e-petition can do so by clicking HERE.