National Cuts, Local Effects

Each of the three main local news sites covering Rugby has an article pertinent to the round of cutbacks we are all going to be experiencing.

The Rugby Observer reports that the Police Station in town will only be open to the public from the front desk for 12 hours a day, starting next Monday (1 Nov). The Cov/Warks Telegraph highlights a study which suggests that between them, Coventry and Warwickshire will be losing 16,000 public sector jobs with nearly 40,000 more in the private sector put at risk. The report suggests that Warwickshire could be badly hit, and towns like Rugby and Stratford have vulnerable private firms.

Mind you, on the other side, the Advertiser brings news that Rugby Borough Council is hoping to replace the Ken Marriott Leisure Centre with a new facility. This was covered at the Cabinet meeting last week. There it was agreed to commit £200,000 of capital to investigating tenders for the project.

Now, as much as it would be great to have a new Leisure Centre, it seems a bit incongruous to spent a six-figure sum on a project that might not even go ahead, let alone the likely millions that the full build would require, at a time when the Government and councils are cutting spending.

At the same meeting, the Cabinet discussed (I say ‘discussed’, it was more nodded through) a report on the money stuck in Icelandic banks. Rugby had about £3M in two banks. Landsbanki, with about £1M is agreeing to pay back 95% of the money over the next eight years – as long as the overall plan is not successfully challenged by other creditors. In terms of lost interest and depreciation, this would represent a loss of about £400,000 by the time all the money is returned.

The other bank, Glitnir, had the remaining £2M, but the offer there is only 38%. The council are challenging that one, of course, but if it goes that way, the end result means that about half of the original £3M would be lost.

With that background, what are the Council going to use to pay for a new Leisure Centre?

I knew Osborne was an idiot, but…

Yesterday I saw the news about the Child Benefit changes and thought of an instant reaction. However, I decided to leave it a bit and think about it before posting.

In the meantime, of course, the middle classes are in outcry (strangely it’s overshadowed the £500 pw maximum for all benefits), and the Mail and Telegraph have followed their readers in outrage.

So the Tories have added insult to injury and restated their intention to have transferable allowances for married couples, with the implicit idea that it would be extended to balance out the Child Benefit changes. Which is itself also a clumsy idea and isn’t immediately clearly fair.

Basically, single parents on over £44,000 will lose out the most. Married childless couples where one earns loads and the other doesn’t work at all will gain the most. In between will be all sorts of situations where whether you gain or lose will depend less on household income and more on how close you are to the ‘traditional family’ ideal.

The oddest thing is that Child Benefit will still be being paid to the same people as before. All that will happen is that people above and around the threshold for the 40% Income Tax band will have their PAYE code altered in all sorts of ways to claw the money back. And as we saw last month, HMRC doesn’t have any problems with the PAYE system.

Oh. Well, apart from all the problems they have with the PAYE system resulting in loads of over- and under- payments going back years.

I thought that the removal of the 10% band by Gordon Brown in his 2007 budget was cack-handed, but this is ridiculous.

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Police cuts in Rugby

A few weeks ago, when the proposals to remove the Magistrates Court in Rugby came out, there was a fear that there would be some impact on the Police Station next door, such as the loss of the custody cells.

And we were told that this would not be the case.

But since then, the police service have started a review of their own: Eight Warwickshire police stations under threat (Cov Telegraph). The review is into the ‘front desk services’ across the county, but according to the report

The stations under review are Atherstone, Bedworth, Coleshill, Kenilworth, Rugby, Shipston, Southam and Stratford, which could be relocated into shared facilities or see their opening hours reduced.

If the front desks are moved to a ‘shared facility’ that could be somewhere else in the same area. Which would probably see reduced opening hours as well. We’ve already seen that police numbers are set to be cut. Now we’re likely to be in a situation where if you go to the Police Station it might not be open to the public.

Thanks for nothing, Pawsey

According to our MP, the proposals to reduce the Urgent Treatment services at St Cross Hospital is just a “tidying up exercise”. That’s what the Telegraph has quoted him as saying, anyway.

Yesterday I went to Coventry and saw the headline in the Coventry version of the Telegraph that should raise concerns for people in Rugby and Coventry: Coventry University Hospital facing record-breaking A&E figures. If more patients from Rugby are going to be going straight to University Hospital, won’t that put even more pressure on the A&E department there?

I was perhaps hoping that our main representative to the Government would be sticking up for the area, trying to retain important front line services, and would be trying to maintain the line he was taking before the election. As I noted some weeks ago, the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley came to Rugby to campaign for Mark Pawsey in the campaign, and said that there would be no service removals without a full review, and that he’d seen the plans that would retain emergency care at St Cross.

What proposals did Lansley see? Are they the ones we are seeing now? Because if they are, then he was being disingenuous, and so was our now MP. And if they aren’t, then does this not suggest that the Government are allowing front line service cuts even though they promised none, especially in the NHS?

Not that I expect answers. I had thought that Mark Pawsey had arranged a public meeting in order to represent his constituents. It seems he was more about promoting the views of the Trust.

Coventry University Hospital facing record-breaking A&E figures

Scrapping NHS Direct – more lunacy

No time to discuss the Andy Burnham meeting tonight, I need my kip. But at the end the news came through that Andrew Lansley had let slip that NHS Direct would be replaced by a cut-price service. Essentially, it seems that the decision to replace the NHS Direct number with the one currently being tested in parts of the North East.

The main difference will be that far less medical expertise will be available, which will make the service less useful. It will appear to save money, but if the new service is seen to be useless then the outcome will be more people turning up at GP’s surgeries and A&E departments who don’t need to be there. Read the rest of this entry »

Local press round up

Monday’s meeting of the Rugby Borough Council Cabinet made all three of the local papers. The Observer only arrived this morning, so I waited until I’d read it before compiling this.

The bigger story for them is the Council’s opposition to cuts in the Judicial services, particularly the Government’s plan to close Rugby Magistrates Court. The reasons for objection actually show that making savings in public services is not always so simple as people and politicians think. Read the rest of this entry »

Lib Dems in play confusion

The latest copy of the Rugby Observer featured two stories about play areas on page 9.

One was a story about a group of youngsters who have organised a petition to call for improvements to the play area in Rokeby, on the corner of Southbrook Road and Belmont Road. This was encouraged by the Hillside and Rokeby Community Association (HARCA).The petition was handed it to Sue Roodhouse, a local Liberal Democrat councillor and also a member of HARCA. She is shown posing for a photo opportunity with the kids.

The second story is about how Government cuts announced this week will mean that existing schemes to improve the provision of play areas in Rugby have been scrapped – including a project at Parkfield Road in Newbold.

Local Lib Dems are going to have to be a bit careful nowadays. It’s easy to whip up a little local campaign, but it doesn’t look so good when it’s doomed to failure by the same party’s coalition government, does it?

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