PMQs come to Hall Green

In the current landscape of local government, Birmingham is being held up as a sacrificial lamb, and like other Labour controlled authorities, have faced disproportionate and swingeing reductions to their funding as a result of the government’s ideologically driven austerity programme.

The seeds of change that have been regularly voiced, particularly by Sir Albert and his infamous ‘jaws of doom’, warning us of  the end of local government as we know it have clearly been sown and are now impacting on us all at a more local level.

The main item on last night’s Hall Green Ward meeting was our budget.  A budget that had painstakingly put together over several months.  A budget that will have very real effects on people’s lives.  And a budget that will have a massive impact on all residents in Hall Green.

Putting the budget into some context, the reality of the situation is that Hall Green District must make savings of £1,098,000 for 2014/14 rising to £1.546,000 in 2015/16. This equates to a third of its controllable budget. Therefore, unsurprisingly, the budget included some very difficult proposals, based on very real choices being made between jobs and services.

So despite these choices, this is a budget that saves our library services. That saves our school crossing patrols. That still allows for a relatively large amount of community chest funding. A budget that maintains our youth service provision, our play service provision and one that will continue to support community arts.

All pretty good news for the residents of Hall Green? Well, perhaps not.

This was also a budget that was passed at the last District Committee by majority vote. Quite simply, the three Liberal Democrat Councillors for Hall Green District, all voted against it. Not only did they vote against it, they refused to attend meetings to discuss budget options; they put no other alternative proposals forward; they gave no indication as to which parts of the budget they agreed or disagreed with. During the whole of this debate, about the most important aspect of OUR budget, the Liberal Democrat representative for Hall Green said nothing. Yes that is right . That representative failed to speak at all and failed to contribute to the debate. That says something about their contempt for you as an electorate. #Failing to stand up for us in Hall Green.

I took the opportunity at last night’s Ward meeting to ask our Liberal Democrat Councillor these questions but it turned into a bit of a PMQs scenario with lots of huffing and puffing, lots of hot air and red faces and with my questions remaining pretty much unanswered (I clearly empathise with Ed here) and with no real clarity being given for the refusal to back this budget.

What I find even more astounding is the point blank refusal by the Liberal Democrat Councillor for Hall Green to enter into any discussions that might be deemed in any way to be ‘political’.  If ever the words ‘your government’ are spoken she retreats behind an invisible shield of ignorance.

I believe that local politics cannot just be about dog poo, dropped litter and grass verges…it must also encompass the complexities, challenges and difficulties that directly affect us all. We are real people with very real, but also very different problems.

Local issues such as littering are of course important concerns for the community and it is only right and proper that they be discussed and addressed. But problems being experienced by members of our local community, as a result of decisions made at a national level, such as the implementation of universal benefits and of course the unfair Bedroom Tax have resulted in real hardship for many of our own.

Our local politicians must be accountable to us, the electorate, and should be able to offer us an educated and reasoned argument for the decisions they take as our elected members.

But I also believe that they should be big enough to stand up and share the responsibility for the decisions taken by the political parties whose badges they wore to win our votes.

Homelessness rises as benefits are cut – coincidence? | Shelter blog

Just a few days after George Osborne’s budget for an ‘aspiration nation’, with its focus on home ownership, today’s homelessness statistics reveal the reality for people at the sharp end of Britain’s housing crisis.

Homelessness acceptances are up 10% since 2011 to 53,450 households, 64% of them accepted because they’re families with dependent children.

The number of households placed in B&B accommodation is up 26% to 4,000, including 1,690 families with children. The number of families stuck in B&Bs beyond the legal six-week limit has continued to rise year on year.

Every one of these families has experienced one of the most terrifying things any parent can face: being unable to provide your children with a home.

The yearly ‘prevention and relief’ statistics, also published today, show that a further 199,000 households were assisted by councils to stay in their homes, or move to another, outside of the homelessness legislation. It’s clear that local councils all over the country are struggling to cope with the number of people at risk of homelessness coming through their doors.

So the number of people asking for help has gone up and large numbers are being assisted. But the Government, and local councils, must get to grips with the underlying causes of this growing tragedy.

Over a fifth (21%) of homelessness acceptances were triggered by the loss of an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). This makes the private rented sector the leading cause of homelessness. Two years ago, just 14% of statutory homelessness cases were attributed to the loss of an AST
… Full Article here Homelessness rises as benefits are cut – coincidence? | Shelter blog.

Same old Tories….

The Tory’s austerity measures are just not working…figures released show there are weaker tax revenues, substantially higher public spending, and growth at only 0.8% rather than the predicted 2.5%. So with unemployment still increasing, youth unemployment at its highest and no plan in Osborne’s budget for growth and more cuts on the way it is only going to get worse.

The LibDems have championed an increase in tax allowances and therefore it is no surprise that they have clung on to this one issue in any discussion relating to the budget as they know that there is little else in this Tory budget that they can be proud of.

They really do not have any credibility left. Osborne’s  ‘Millionaire’s budget’ will only help the privileged. The removal of the 50p tax rate, and no mansion tax or tycoon tax, shows that they really are the same old Tories.

We are ‘all in this together’ – NOT…the Tories have shown their true colours and launched an attack on the pensioners with a stealth tax which will ensure they will be the big losers in this budget. Other losers are families who will face reductions in child benefit with a taper (that will be highly complex to implement) and cuts to working tax credits.

If all this is not bad enough, there is a renewed attack against the working classes and the labour movement with the Tory proposals for regional public sector pay. This attack on national pay bargaining will only help widen the pay gap across the country. Different levels of pay for the same job dependant on which region or county you are in. This drive to press ahead with regional pay will be an economic disaster for the poorest regions of the UK, cementing the North-South divide. Spending power will be drained from these areas, and siphoned off even more rapidly.

This coalition government has received no mandate for this Tory budget. Cameron’s Big Society has been left in the gutter to be replaced by his Big Capitalist Society. Sorry George but this really is a #fail