Thursday, 30 July 2015

Council tax discount move nets £468,000

Interesting press release from Ipswich Borough council and another example of a step towards more fairness.

Tightening the procedures over single person’s discounts for council tax has resulted in almost half a million pounds in extra income, three councils announced today.

Babergh, Ipswich and Mid Suffolk councils, which work together in the Shared Revenue Partnership (SRP), have been trialling new software to investigate possible discrepancies over discount claims.

By accessing credit agency records, SRP can highlight potential dual/multiple occupancy households. Where people other than the accredited resident are shown to be living at a property receiving a discount, the SRP team contacts them to verify their entitlement to claim.

Councillor Derrick Haley, Chairman of the SRP, said “This is helping us to recover more income on behalf of all council tax-payers and shows the importance of residents letting us know as soon as their circumstances change or are about to change. All three councils want to ensure that those entitled to the discount are able to claim it, but those that shouldn’t claim and are claiming will be identified and will have to pay the full amount owing. That is only fair.”

Of the 8,390 accounts investigated, almost 1,500 single person discounts, worth £468,000, were removed. New bills have been issued reflecting the changes. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Do Labour understand tax credits?

Twitter is my favourite social media tool.

I can wake up in the morning and instantly read all the bits of political gossip immediately - (I choose who I follow to suit my interests and from all sides for a balanced perspective).

I ensure that when I join in, I speak my mind and my truth, Twitter is meant to be slightly controversial and I am far more devil's advocate on my political platform than I am elsewhere, such is the nature of this particular social media tool.

So for instance, I was quite happy to call David Lammy MP a fibber this morning in a tweet directly to him, because he is either fibbing or he doesn't know what tax credits are and is a bit muddled about the various benefits. Either way, it doesn't bode well for an MP but I suspect it is the former. He just wanted to seem heroic to the Left followers who are still bitter and angry that we are in power and stronger than ever.

He sent out a tweet saying his mum could not have done without this particular benefit. This touched my nerve for a couple of reasons.

1) He was 31 when it was introduced!
2) Many of us, including his mum, did without them completely as single parents and did absolutely just fine. In fact, I think its the one single factor that made me so successful in my career in the insurance industry, at the time. Promotion was the only way I was going to give myself and family a good life.

The difference between a socialist and a Tory, like me, is much greater than people suggest but we all agree that an obvious difference is on the subject of welfare. It is the Conservatives who care about the people in this country, we know the best way of making our nation great. But socialists do not have a monopoly on great moments of compassion - our (conservative) history is rich with it.

Socialists think that we are all victims, even worse, some actually like victimhood so that they can prey and feed their own sense of worth. We, however think survivor mode. They believe people are incapable of understanding concepts, policy and self-responsibility, We think the opposite.

On a much less important scale, this was evident in a licensing committee I attended this week where a labour councillor suggested that we do a training session for taxi drivers on using a really simple page online to manage their licenses, despite the officer confirming that it had been well tested. Taxi drivers are not stupid and the page was really user-friendly. In fact if you can send an e-mail, you can use this page. Furthermore, it's not compulsory so good old fashioned hard copy is well accepted and our staff are on the other end of the phone, if they do need any help.

This is why when Labour are in government everything costs so much more - they will spend thousands of pounds of our money on a tiny minority of people. They aim everything at the lowest common denominator.

I once worked with a co-operative group, in schools, on many fantastic projects. I constantly had intelligent disagreements with my lovely, mainly politically left colleagues (and they are lovely, are still my friends and are extremely capable) about how to aim the sessions - lowest capability v highest capability in the room. Until one day a teacher agreed with me that aiming at the highest capability shows the group the standard that is expected from them and motivates everyone in the room. Aiming for the lowest just bores pupils and becomes counter-productive. In the end little is learnt or remembered.

My position in politics is the one I adopt in business and I know for a fact that the best scenario is to be supportive and hand-hold temporarily, to empower, not create victim hood and lack of self belief.

Anyway I have digressed a little - the truth of this issue is that it doesn't matter how well intentioned, our over-generous welfare benefits were, we are now going to be far more realistic and empowering.

Watch this space and we will see the proof in the pudding. Further work is needed and universal credit will be a fantastic culmination of some clever thinking and some sense of perspective.

Poverty is about money to the left.

Poverty for me is about lack of tenacity, lack of self responsibility, lack of motivation, lack of a sense of achievement and more important a lack of choices. No-one ever got rich on legally entitled benefits either.

THAT's really poor - I've been in both situations, and money has never determined my happiness, ever.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Meeting with Asda and Proposed Petrol Station

I invited Asda, my colleague Cllr Robin Hyde-Chambers and a worried resident to my home last night to discuss the proposal for a self service petrol station at the Stoke Park Asda.

The concerns of residents do appear to be limited to near the store, as those further away who do not need to live with the negative side seem to be in favour of the prospect of cheap fuel on their doorstep.

I also had concerns about safety and traffic on the entry and exit of the new project.

Andrew Lester from the head office in Leeds and Alan Jones who is a senior communications manager at Asda had been proactive in searching me out and I found them genuine and informative.

There had been a few squabbles on Streetlife between residents and I have to say I'm quite bored and fed up with people being called NIMBIES.

Reality check here - we are all nimbies when it comes to our children, our parents, and our little castles and I certainly don't pretend to be anything different! Yes, some of those that live nearby are happy with a new part of a very useful and much-loved ASDA but that's because we all see different things when looking at the same issue. Values, needs, concerns are an individual thing and I want everyone's views respected. Just because something doesnt bother you, doesnt make you a non-nimbie! it just means that particular decision gives you more benefit than negative or you have other priorities.

Not only that, but because of the resident's concern, the front of the area is going to be banked up more at his suggestion, so the 'black' hat view often ends up benefiting everybody involved. (the 6 hats debating tool is always a useful way to look at things). Input from residents is vital if a store is going to remain as popular as this one is.

Some things just won't please everybody but I think we all felt that the planning had been thought through well, with all residents in mind. There are some points that are still to be clarified and we will be informed of these once they return to base but overall I am satisfied that this will be acceptable and useful to Stoke Park.

I still have some concerns about the entrance and exit but we've been assured this will be monitored and I also have concerns for those living right on top of it, so I am still going to do a survey with those closest.

The planning committee are the ones who will be deciding this and I am happy to represent my ward on the day.

Feel free to give feedback here too or email me.

or tweet me @stokeparkcllr