Another bit of 80s nostalgia

Remember the 1980s? How about the race riots in places like Brixton and Toxteth and Handsworth? What was the spark for these riots? Well, it was the ‘sus laws’, and the use of them by the police to stop young black men, on ‘suspicion’. After the Scarman Report, the laws were abolished, for the very reason that they had contributed to massive problems between the police and local communities.

In 2008, David Cameron did say he would bring back similar powers to the police. Now he’s in power, the Home Office are issuing new guidance to allow race to be used as a reason to stop people.

This really needs to be reconsidered.

Child Benefit lunacy

Ah, those clever Tories, eh? They certainly know how to run a country. When the came up with the idea to ‘remove’ Child Benefit from higher rate taxpayers, the question was how? It soon became clear that what was actually going to happen was that they wanted to reduce the tax threshold for higher rate taxpayers who were parents in receipt of CB to recoup the money.

This led to further simple questions about how it would work, such as how you can tell without having full details of who was living with who, what happened if both parents were higher rate taxpayers, how people who were on the borderline would be dealt with if it takes a while to get tax returns in…

Seems that one way to deal with these pesky questions is to write a letter to every higher-rate taxpayer to ask them if they or their partner receives Child Benefit. Apparently if you don’t ‘fess up, you can be fined, but having to write to 4 million people suggests that they don’t actually know who to go after. Something tells me this policy is dissolving into farce already.

It would have been far simpler to either increase tax for all higher-rate payers (to avoid changing the 40% rate, simply reduce the threshold a bit), or to change CB by including it into the Tax Credits system. But no, the Tories had to make a headline announcement during Conference, and so a stupid idea was born.

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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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If you don’t like the answer, buy a new one!

I missed two meetings tonight. I was a bit late getting home from work, and I had stuff to do (like eat something). The first was the Warwickshire Fabians, which is just being set up and will be organising political debates and education locally. At least I won’t have been given a job.

The second was at the Town Hall, where the council discussed the recent Independent Remuneration Panel report. This is the one that proposed a modest 45% increase in the Leader’s allowance, but expressed opposition to the way that the new management arrangements had been set up and that ‘individuals involved’ appeared to have been directly lobbying.

Did Humprey and his Tory pals accept the report? Nope.

There’s one part that they don’t like. The bit that recommended:

That the review of the current interim management arrangements be brought
forward to early 2011 and that this should entail a cross party review of
governance arrangements, to include:-

  • The appropriate level and structure of officer resources
  • The political executive structure, taking account of the requirements of the Local government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 to amend executive structures
  • The role of Leader, incorporating the detailed experience of the interim arrangements
  • Any governance implications of the developing Coalition Government agenda for Local Government

Which is contrary to what the Tories wanted – which was to keep the arrangements in place, unreviewed, until May 2012.

But the cheek of the Tories now is amazing.

Firstly, they claimed that this (the lack of review) had been agreed on 10th August with no dissent. In fact, it was agreed on 27th July (behind closed doors), and Labour councillors voted against.

Secondly, they claimed that opposition was from people ‘not on the electoral roll’ and had been co-ordinated. As far as I am concerned that is totally untrue. I have acted on my own accord, without being directed by others or directing them (not that I haven’t conferred with people who have also been appalled at Humphrey’s actions, and I do have my sources, but we shared information). I am on the electoral roll, and used my correct name and address when contacting the Council. Some of the opponents are well-known as having been Tory activists in the past, for heavens’ sake!

Thirdly, and this is just bizarre, they will hire a firm of ‘Independent Consultants’ to look into it. Yep, that’s right. They don’t want a review that includes the opposition for over two years, but they will pay (and they haven’t said how much it will cost). Of course, if this set of hired consultants happens to suggest, ohhh I dunno, a greater allowance for the Leader, I wonder if I’ll be massively surprised.

While cuts are affecting services around the town, while the Council itself has to await the details of how much less money the Government will give them for 2011-12 so it knows how much more to cut, the Tories decide that Rugby Borough Council can apparently afford to bring in ‘Consultants’ to help them override the report of an Independent panel?

And they’ll openly lie in the Chamber to justify it?

Rotters, cads and bounders the lot of them.

Council Tax cowardice

Today’s announcement from the Government was that they would ‘delay’ a Council Tax revaluation for England until after the next election. Of course, it turns out that they weren’t actually doing anything that Labour hadn’t promised to do – the manifesto for the 2010 election stated explicitly that no revaluation would happen in this Parliament if Labour won.

But Pickles is not averse to talking total arse for political gain, and the Tories would have wanted to do something after recent polls saw them slipping and Labour coming level, before the leader is chosen and the Conference starts. “New Politics” seems to be the same old spin, huh?

There were scare stories a few years ago that a revaluation would happen, Read the rest of this entry »

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Some disclosure – more questions

Rugby Borough Council has performed a U-turn. On 23rd August, they were asked if they could release a redacted version of the private report that was used to make the decision on the new management arrangements. At that time, Craig Humphrey said ‘No’.

Today, following Freedom of Information requests, they have published a version of the report. Seems that they could make some of it public after all. You can download it from the council website here.

What is missing? Read the rest of this entry »

Humphrey: unsustainable

Notwithstanding that I had to apologise to Craig Humphrey for believing a Lib Dem, there are still several issues with the idea that he would be able to replace the Chief Executive for some parts of the job.

The Local Government Chronicle has picked up on the report that came out at the weekend, and they have noticed the same comments from the Independent Remuneration Panel: Rugby chief-leader ‘unsustainable’ (subscription only).

The report goes to Full Council on the 19th October.

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

Humphrey – Self Interest?

The Independent Remuneration panel (IRP) for Rugby Borough Council have issued their report on recommended allowances for councillors. It includes what they have suggested the Leader should get under the new management arrangements, as well as the basic allowance for all members of the council.

The full report can be downloaded from the council’s website here

Most of the report is pretty straightforward. There’s clarification on how co-opted members (people who are not councillors but are brought in to serve on a committee, except of course for those on the IRP itself) qualify for a small allowance of just over £500. There’s also comment on why the basic allowance of just over £6,000 should not be increased by more than inflation.

There were also suggested increases of about £500 for some of the extra allowances – for the chairs of Scrutiny and of the Crime and Disorder committees, and for the leaders of opposition groups, plus a n extra allowance of just over £2,500 for the Mayor. On the other hand, the report recommends removing extra allowances from positions of Vice Chairs of most committees.

But the most detailed explanation was devoted to their recommendation to increase the Leader’s extra allowance from £10,378 to £16,983. Read the rest of this entry »

More rumblings from the Town Hall

After weeks of criticism and questions, the Tories seem determined to press on with the new arrangements.

A report is apparently imminent on the suggested new allowances for councillors. I believe that it will be publicly available before it is put to the Council for approval.

The next Cabinet Meeting due for 20th September has been cancelled. I can’t find a reason for this.

In other (possibly unrelated) news the chief Legal Services officer at the Town Hall has handed in her notice. I know that quite a few queries have been raised by councillors and members of the public about the legal advice provided and asked for about the new arrangements. The answer seems to be not much, other than concerning keeping the decision making out of the public domain.