29 Jul 2014

Bedroom tax campaign: the next front

Wirral Labour is claiming a £75,000 "bedroom tax relief fund" is being established according to this article in the Liverpool Echo.

Unfortunately, the article gives a very misleading picture and swallows Labour spin hook, line and sinker.

The £75,000 comes from a Magenta Living fund earmarked for community projects across Birkenhead. The constituency committee comprising Labour, Lib Dem and Green councillors agreed on Wednesday that this would be better used to support Magenta tenants affected by the bedroom tax.

But, has Magenta agreed to divert the community projects money towards tenants in arrears due to the bedroom tax?

The Echo article says Magenta is being "pushed" to create the relief fund. In other words, there has been no agreement yet on Magenta's part to use this £75,000 for the purposes claimed.

Moreover, £75,000 is a drop in the ocean when compared with the £2.6m annual cost to Wirral victims of the bedroom tax.

I have previously blogged about Labour's u-turn on contesting successful bedroom tax appeal - a u-turn in direct response to Green Party pressure.

But rather than prematurely claim sole credit for funds that do not yet exist and will do very little to alleviate the impact of the bedroom tax, Wirral Labour could take concrete steps itself to assist tenants hit by the bedroom tax. Specifically, Labour could follow Liverpool's example and ensure that Wirral Council desists from sending representatives to tribunal hearings. This will not only smooth the appeals process for hundreds of tenants but will save significant sums for a council that never fails to remind us how cash-strapped it is.

That is the next front in the fight against the bedroom tax and that is what the Green Party will be pushing for.

8 Jul 2014

Vote Green get Green

There is a rather silly item in the latest Labour leaflet doing the rounds in Birkenhead and Tranmere. It says "The first act of your newly elected Green councillor for Birkenhead was to vote with the Tories." It says nothing at all about what the vote concerned.

My first vote was on electing the new mayor. I explained my reasons for voting against here.

Nothing to do with the Tories or any other party. But, for the record, five of the Tories voted against, 10 abstained and the other six voted for.

I suspect over the next four years there will be a few more of these rather tedious posts refuting more nonsense like this. I'll try and keep them brief!

7 Jul 2014

Wirral Labour's bedroom tax u-turn

There was a particularly interesting item in the latest Labour leaflet for Birkenhead and Tranmere relating to the bedroom tax. It states that council leader Phil Davies "has instructed council officers to implement all tribunal successes brought by local residents".

This has since been confirmed by the relevant council officer and means Wirral Council will no longer be contesting successful bedroom tax rulings and relevant tenants should have their lawful benefit payments backdated and paid in full.

Very good news although the Department of Work and Pensions will still be able to contest tribunal rulings. However, at least, a Labour-run council supposedly opposed to the bedroom tax will no longer be doing the DWP's dirty work.

For those familiar with my previous related posting, this represents a complete u-turn by Labour. It is undoubtedly a response to Green Party pressure and the resulting media coverage that followed.

This is excellent news for those tenants affected in my ward and across Wirral. In addition, it means Wirral tax payers will no longer be funding these ludicrous appeals.

It is also a clear vindication of the Green Party and our commitment to social justice and supporting the victims of austerity.

2 Jul 2014

Par for the course

The message below from Wirral Council's Chief Executive was one of the first I received as a newly elected councillor. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised given the recent catalogue of spending scandals that have hit the headlines.

So, how much is this costing? How on earth can it be justified in the face of brutal cuts to public services? Even if someone else was paying surely the thought of councillors enjoying a jolly cup of tea at the Royal Liverpool is enough to drive their austerity afflicted residents to despair.

Hard to avoid a horrible golfing pun but this really does seem par for the course at Wirral Council.

Dear Councillor,

I am writing to invite you to a special reception for Wirral Councillors at The Open Championship on Wednesday 16th July.

As well as enjoying the final practice day’s play, the reception will provide an opportunity to inspect the Council’s corporate hospitality area over afternoon tea.

As there will be parking and security restrictions in and around the course, a park-and-ride facility will be provided.

In accordance with the traditions of the course, the dress code is smart-casual (no jeans or trainers please).