Double dip and Oatcakes

The news that Britain has slipped back into a recession should not be surprising. The economy experienced a 0.2 % fall following the decline in the figure of 0.3% in previous quarter which now puts the economy technically into a double dip recession- the first time since 1975. I would argue that the local economy has probably never recovered from the recession 4 years ago. As a guess the North Staffs economy has shrunken by about 8-10% since 2008. The signs of a turn down are everywhere most noticeably in the local jobs market. If we take the Sentinel as a guide the Wednesday section has been advertising around 300 jobs over recent weeks.

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Councillor Sarah Hill: It can’t be all her fault

It may be amusing that the Tax Payers Alliance has voted Councillor Sarah Hill the Pin Head of the Month due to inflicting an unnecessary council tax rise of 3.49% on the people of Stoke-on-Trent.

I know we are constantly told that this is a member led council and I am not jumping to her defence, but I do not believe for one minute that this would be Cllr Hill’s proposal, but something forced onto her by the finance officers. Continue reading

Ben Gummer MP to introduce Statements of Taxation Bill

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer will introduce his Statements of Taxation Bill after Prime Minister’s Questions tomorrow. The proposal is that each year Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs should send every taxpayer a statement detailing:

  • how much Income Tax and National Insurance they paid in the previous year
  • how much Income Tax and National Insurance they can expect to pay in the current year
  • how that money is being spent, broken down by areas of government spending.

Jonathan Isaby, Political Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said

We have always campaigned for greater transparency from the Government about how much of our money it takes in tax and how it then spends it, so this Bill is long overdue. Not only would an annual tax statement make clear how much of our annual income is taken in combined Income Tax and National Insurance contributions, but it would set out proportionately how much of that money funds the benefits system, the police, the NHS and so on.  

It is a simple and cheap proposal, but one which would give taxpayers far more information as we seek to hold the Government to account over how it spends our hard-earned cash. In the interests of transparency and accountability, MPs owe it to their constituents to give this Bill their support.


Tax Freedom Day & The Cost Of Government Day

Some sobering thoughts for you this morning.

According to calculations made by the Adam Smith Institute in London it is expected that Tax Freedom Day for the average worker in the UK will be 30 May in 2012. That means that for the first 149 days of the year, you will be earning for the taxman. Only on May 30 will you start earning for yourselves.

The Tax Payers Alliance take this calculation a step further and provides The Cost of Government Day. This is the date in the calendar year on which the average person is calculated to have earned enough gross income to pay for their share of the cost of government spending and regulation.

In 2012 The Cost of Government Day is calculated to be 26 July.

This means the average person must work for 208 days in the coming year to pay for their share of government spending and regulation combined. Out of the 208 days,the average person must work for 179 days (27 June) in the coming year to pay for their share of the cost of government spending and then work a further 29 days (26 July) of the year to pay for their share of the cost of government regulation.

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said,

Taxpayers should be looking forward to toasting in the New Year, instead the enormous cost of Government spending and regulation means they will effectively be working for the Government until the summer. Government spending and expensive regulations are costing more than half of ordinary people’s income and this simply cannot go on. The Government needs to cut spending, get rid of burdensome regulations and cut taxes to get the economy going and leave more taxpayers’ money in their own pockets.


Stoke-on-Trent To Be Split In Boundary Shifts

Parts of Stoke-on-Trent could be merged with Newcastle-under-Lyme under government proposals change parliamentary boundary.

The review, an outcome of the 2010 election seeks to cut down the total number of MPs in the country and make more balanced constituencies.

New constituencies must be within 5% difference of the average voting population split across the constituencies, i.e. between72,810 and 80,473.

In North Staffordshire, Stoke will be losing it’s exclusive trio of city constituencies, and Staffordshire will lose one MP as constituencies are morphed together.
In the overhaul, the existing South constituency will adopt parts of Stoke and Trent Vale.

The Stoke Central constituency will include various new wards from the existing North constituency which is where the biggest changes are felt.

Tunstall, Chell and Packmoor and Burslem North will be merged with 12 Kidsgrove and Newcastle wards, in the cross-town Kidsgrove&Tunstall constituency.

The immediate reaction is that Stoke residents will be 1/5th of a constituency and so in effect won’t be voting for their City MP.

The boundary proposals are now open for discussion and for the next 12 weeks, the Boundary Commission will be accepting comments, complaints and suggestions about their proposals.

Although these merges wouldn’t directly affect council elections and services, there is a fear that Newcastle/Kidsgrove/Stoke-on-Trent could be losing their historic identities.

In a recent lecture, former Elected Mayor, Mike Wolfe said that a merge made financial sense and that it was the obvious thing to do.

Across the country, both Prime Minister David Cameron’s and Leader of the Opposition Ed Milliband’s constituencues will remain unchanged ““ 2 of only 77 MPs whose boundaries remain.

Nick Clegg’s constituency will be changed, however.

With a reduction of 50 MPs across the country, inner-party squabbling is expected to break out as politicians scramble for seats.

Below is a list of the proposed new parliamentary wards for Stoke-on-Trent.

Kidsgrove and Tunstall 75,352
Audley and Bignall End Newcastle-under-Lyme 4,694
Bradwell Newcastle-under-Lyme 4,970
Butt Lane Newcastle-under-Lyme 4,349
Chesterton Newcastle-under-Lyme 5,475
Halmerend Newcastle-under-Lyme 3,038
Holditch Newcastle-under-Lyme 3,366
Kidsgrove Newcastle-under-Lyme 5,255
Madeley Newcastle-under-Lyme 3,419
Newchapel Newcastle-under-Lyme 2,801
Porthill Newcastle-under-Lyme 3,229
Ravenscliffe Newcastle-under-Lyme 3,372
Talke Newcastle-under-Lyme 3,206
Burslem North Stoke-on-Trent 9,131
Chell and Packmoor Stoke-on-Trent 9,211
Tunstall Stoke-on-Trent 9,836

Stoke-on-Trent Central BC 79,980
Abbey Green Stoke-on-Trent 8,962
Bentilee and Townsend Stoke-on-Trent 9,008
Berryhill and Hanley East Stoke-on-Trent 7,71 7
Burslem South Stoke-on-Trent 8,730
East Valley Stoke-on-Trent 10,226
Hanley West and Shelton Stoke-on-Trent 8,434
Hartshill and Penkhull Stoke-on-Trent 9,045
Northwood and Birches Head Stoke-on-Trent 8,949
Norton and Bradeley Stoke-on-Trent 8,909

Stoke-on-Trent South 78,283
Blurton Stoke-on-Trent 9,550
Fenton Stoke-on-Trent 9,225
Longton North Stoke-on-Trent 10,660
Longton South Stoke-on-Trent 10,274
Meir Park and Sandon Stoke-on-Trent 10,082
Stoke and Trent Vale Stoke-on-Trent 9,659
Trentham and Hanford Stoke-on-Trent 9,769
Weston and Meir North Stoke-on-Trent 9,064

Local MP leads seafood campaigners to victory

Joan Walley MP has joined campaigners in welcoming the announcement that the Coalition Government has committed to using sustainable fish in all of its catering for , Whitehall, Government departments, prisons, and some parts of the armed forces ““ improving the meals of nearly 400,000 people.

Joan spearheaded a campaign in parliament to achieve these standards, having previously joined campaigners to highlight that fish served in Whitehall and Number 10 Downing Street had worse seafood sustainability standards than the cat food served to Number 10’s Larry the Cat, because leading pet food brands such as Whiska’s had already made the switch to sustainable fish.

”These new standards mean that for the first time, over £16 million of fish bought with taxpayers’ money every year will now be covered by compulsory sustainability standards. We have had to fight very hard to get these standards, but they would never have been introduced without Joan’s tireless support for the campaign”.

Staffs Uni Hope To Avoid £9k Fees

Staffordshire University is the latest university to announce its plans for tuition fee rises from September 2012 onwards but is planning to avoid any £9,000 per year charges.

The government announced large cuts to the Higher Education budget last year, leaving Universities with a large blank in their income projections.

After a controversial vote sparking protests across the country, the government decided to allow universities to charge up to £9,000 per year to students to cover the costs.

Many universities have announced that they will be charging the full £9,000 per year – including neighbour university, Keele.

The plans must be approved by the Office of Fair Access before becoming official.

However, students will still be charged thousands of pounds more than current students who pay £3,290 per year.

The University has published the following proposals for its 2012 fees scheme:

 Full-time classroom-based degrees: £7,490 per year
 Full-time laboratory/studio-based and resource intensive degrees: £7,990 per year
 Nationally-leading degrees: £8,490 per year
 Two-year fast-track degrees: £8,890 per year
 Placement fee of £1,000 for the year spent in industry on a four-year sandwich course.

Nationally-leading degrees are ones for which Staffordshire University is recognised for its excellence. The examples the universities gives are Broadcast Journalism and Film and Technology courses.

Although the charges for the majority of courses may still be £7,490 or higher, the fees may help Staffordshire University appeal to more non-local students as a place to study, and Stoke-on-Trent as a place to live and possibly work during and after study.

According to The Sentinel, 80% of students will pay under £8,000 per year under the proposals.

“One of the strengths of this University is in providing courses which are relevant to a modern and rapidly changing world. Our graduates will leave us as knowledgeable, capable, skilled and highly employable individuals.”

Council to grit roads during cold spell

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has published its gritting routes online for the first time.

To inform people about what roads will be gritted if bad weather affects the city; the authority has now listed areas that will be gritted by the city council and the Highways Agency, as well as tips on safe driving in bad weather, at

The city council’s gritting vehicles will be covering the roads across the city this evening (Thursday 25 November) as icy weather takes hold.

All ten gritters will be out from 6pm tonight to grit the city’s network of A.B and C roads and all major bus routes.

The city council currently has around 3,400 tonnes of grit in stoke, with another 1050 tonnes to be deliver in the next week.

Should the weather become worse, the Government recommends that councils keep at least 12 days stock of grit in reserve if the maximum needs to be laid each day, the city council currently exceeds that by having 20 days stock in the event of extremely bad snowfall or ice.

“We decided earlier this year to be prepared for the bad weather when it came along, and we’re confident we’ll be able to cope during a cold spell.

“We have four teams on standby during the evenings and at night, and all of them are ready to be out on the streets within an hour of a forecast of bad weather.

“We want to make sure that we keep the city’s roads clear and keep traffic moving if ice and snow take hold, but that also means people have to drive responsibly, and should only travel in severe weather if absolutely necessary.”

Put Cycling Lessons On Your Christmas List

An initiative aimed at getting more people cycling is again being launched in the New Year by Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s CycleStoke team.

Free “ËœBikeability’ Cycling Confidence Camps for children and their families are to be held on Sunday 2 January at Fenton Manor Sports Complex. The aim of the camps is to get more people cycling safely and more often.

The classes are part of Stoke-on-Trent’s Cycling City status, where a Government grant of nearly £5million is allowing the city to encourage people to cycle more.

The training camps include:

Learning to Ride. 5-8 year olds (switching from stabilisers to two wheels) – 10am until 12noon

Bikeability Level 1. – 7-9 year olds (building young children’s cycling skills) ““ 12:30 ““ 2:30pm

Bikeability Level 2. – 9-16 year olds (introduction to cyclist training on the road). 2:30 ““ 4:30pm (weather permitting)

The first fifty children to book a place on the camp will receive a free hi-viz pack consisting of a high visibility waistcoat, LED lights and a cycling bag, as well as bike locks, and other goodies.

“We have a proud record of child cyclist training in our city, particularly in schools. Around 2500 children in Stoke-on-Trent have been trained to cycle safely this year. The training camps will be particularly beneficial for parents of young children who may be having a new bike for Christmas and need to get trained on it.”

More Cycling with Confidence Camps are being planned for 2011 which will include:

* Learning to Ride Camps
* Cycling Confidence for Women
* Level 2 Camps (21st Century Cycling Proficiency) Training
* Adult Cyclist Training Camps
* Cycling confidence for commuters

Parents who want their children to take part in the training need to book a place at the main reception at Fenton Manor Sports Complex or telephone on 01782 233222. Bikes can be provided for the training on a first come, first served basis, but need to be reserved at the time of booking.

Rob Flello MP urges Government to protect vulnerable consumers in Stoke-on-Trent

Rob Flello MP today joined forces with other Labour MPs to help protect the poorest consumers in Stoke-on-Trent.

Following a debate in Westminster yesterday [Tuesday], the Government has now been made to agree to widen the scope of its current credit review to include consideration of the legal loan sharking market.

Some loan and credit companies currently charge interest rates of up to 2500% and today’s development represents a significant victory for the campaign to end these exploitative practices.

“Many of my constituents come to me burdened with the misery of debt. I want to see everyone in Stoke-on-Trent being protected from unscrupulous lenders and getting help to manage their finances, and that’s why today’s debate was so important.

“To get the Government to agree on the record to widen the scope of their credit review to include these issues is the first step to getting them to take action. Without Labour MPs pushing for this to happen they would have ignored the millions of people for whom these legal loan sharks are their only finance option.”

“But it is not enough just to look at these matters. Now we have got this on their agenda I will continue to put pressure on ministers to intervene in this highly exploitative and unscrupulous market. I hope residents from across Stoke-on-Trent will also make their views known by contributing to this debate and writing to the Government by December 10th to show support for this campaign.”