Posted May 24, 2013
Shortly after last night’s North East Lincolnshire’s Full Council Meeting I heard a rumour that one of Labour Councillors would be defecting sometime today and join UKIP.
I wasn’t surprised to hear a rumour about a possible imminent Labour defection, but to join UKIP – I find this unbelievable.
Nonetheless, it’s amazing what you often find out in the ‘corridors of power’ – from my understanding the Labour Group is split from top to bottom.
Only yesterday, in the Cleethorpes Chronicle it was reported that the Former Labour Cabinet Member Councillor Bolton that he was ‘pushed’ from his former post and did not leave willingly.
Also in the Grimsby Telegraph another Councillor, Ray Sutton who lost a key role as a Scrutiny Chair raised concerns at his own party’s decision to close Scartho Baths.
It appears that heat is rising within the Labour Group, and some members are now questioning the leadership of their own party on North East Lincolnshire Council, but rumours suggest that there is no clear alternative to present leadership. It also appears that there are numerous factions, but none of which are strong enough to topple the present leadership.
As a Liberal Democrat and an active community politician, this present ‘in fighting’ within the ruling group is music to my ears – I just hope that battle continues. Who knows, more defections and trouble in the midst – I just can’t wait until the 2014 Local Elections!
Posted May 24, 2013
Today I attended an interfaith meeting, chaired by Nick Clegg and attended by representatives of the other political parties, following the terrible events in Woolwich on Wednesday where soldier Lee Rigby was brutally murdered. The event was incredibly positive, with representatives of many faiths coming together to denounce the attack, condemn those who bring terrorism to our streets, and agree that we have to stand together in the face of it.
I’ll warn you up front that I’m not going to use this post to make political points, because this is beyond politics. And, as today’s event showed, it’s beyond religion too. One of the most compelling phrases I heard at the event, which both Nick and others used, was: “terrorism has no religion”. Certainly some terrorists claim to be acting in the name of a religion, but no religion condones terrorist acts such as the one on Wednesday.
Hearing people from all faiths speak with one voice to reject the attack and agree that this brutal act is nothing to do with Islam or with any other religion, was incredibly powerful. And it makes it all the worse that there has already been a reported increase in Islamophobic incidents since Wednesday, including graffiti and vandalism at mosques and a number of Muslims, including children, being abused in the street. We cannot let this happen. The people who carried out the attack used their political and religious justification to mask what is basic brutality. As one of the other speakers, Canon Guy Wilson from the London Faiths Forum said, we should see each other first as human beings and neighbours. We cannot condone grouping people together by religion and holding the many responsible for the acts of the few who are using a peaceful religion for their own ends.
At the meeting of community leaders beforehand, many of the participants told us how important interfaith dialogue and interfaith community action are and how important it is that governments past and present have worked and continue to work to encourage and promote this. I hope to be able to announce something further in this area in the very near future.
Another very positive phrase to come out of this terrible episode, and one which all those who might think of undertaking violent acts should think about, is what a bystander said to one of the attackers in Woolwich: “You’re going to lose. It’s only you versus many.”
Posted May 24, 2013
Police in North East Lincolnshire have issued a warning to parents and teenagers after several vehicles and a mosque were damaged following a party.
Police were called shortly before 23-10hrs on Thursday 23 May 2013 following reports of some youths causing damage to several parked vehicles and also a mosque in the Legsby Avenue area of Grimsby.
Upon arrival 11 people (aged between 16 and 17 years old) were arrested in connection with the incident.
Following the incident, Neighbourhood Policing Chief Insp Will Jenkins said: “We arrested 11 young people aged between 16 and 17-years-old after being called to the Legsby Avenue area were damage had been caused to the windows of a local mosque and also a number of vehicles parked up at the time.
“Those arrested had been drinking at a nearby house party and were seemingly left to their own devices which resulted in the party getting out of hand and a group of teenagers causing a lot of damage and distress for residents in the area.
“We will not tolerate this type of behaviour and will take positive action against anyone found to be responsible during such incidents as it is wrong that a number of residents and the local mosque will be left somewhat distressed and out of pocket following the actions of a group of teenagers that shouldn’t have been drinking in the first place.
“The last thing we aim to do is stop young people from getting together and having a good time but I would urge for parents to be aware of such parties and ensure that they do not get out of hand in this way. Aside from anything there is a strong chance that parents may end up footing subsequent repair bills not to mention getting a call from Police to come and pick your son or daughter up from a police station having been arrested.
“An investigation is underway and we are working closely with our local community partners in the aftermath of damage being caused to the mosque. The investigation will consider if whether the mosque was targeted for racial reasons however it wouldn’t be fair to speculate around this aspect at present.”
Posted May 24, 2013
The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, today hosted a community event in London where political and religious leaders joined together to show solidarity between people of all faiths and none in the wake of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich. Timed ahead of the bank holiday weekend and Friday prayers, the event showed communities celebrating their strength and unity in mutual support.
The speakers at the Hugh Cubitt Peabody Centre in Islington were the Deputy Prime Minister, Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan, Conservative whip Lord Tariq Ahmad, former Army captain Afzal Amin, imam Shaykh Shams ad-Duha Muhammad of Ebrahim College and the co-chairs of Faith Forum for London, Canon Guy Wilkinson and Leonie Lewis.
Also in attendance were Colonel Hugh Bodington, Chief of Staff of the Army Headquarters at London District, and Commander Mak Chishty of the Metropolitan Police, who has been the force’s community liaison for the events in Woolwich.
Representatives of London’s political leaders included Damian Johnson, Chair of the London Assembly, Andrew Boff, leader of the Assembly’s Conservative group, Jenny Jones, leader of the Green Party Group and Stephen Knight, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat Group. The local MP Emily Thornberry also took part, along with Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Tom Brake.
Transcript of the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech
Can I thank you all very, very much for being here and can I thank, particularly, everybody at the Hugh Cubitt Centre, all the volunteers here, everyone from the Peabody operation. You’ve helped us to organise this at very, very short notice indeed.
It was a suggestion made to me by friends of mine in the London Muslim community just yesterday, that we should get together at a time of obviously heightened anxiety, given the horrific events in Woolwich. And to be able to gather together like this, given how busy everybody is, is a real tribute to everybody at the centre, and indeed to all of you.
We are represented here in all of the wonderful diversity that we know is modern London: different political parties, different faiths, different communities, representatives from the armed services, from the police. I really am very, very grateful to you all for being here. And I hope that – in fact I know that I speak on behalf of everybody here when I say that my heart goes out and my thoughts are with the family and the friends of Drummer Lee Rigby, who as so brutally and savagely killed in Woolwich.
I think in many ways, the fact that we’ve come together is much more important than what anyone’s actually going to say at the event because the fact that we’re here together from so many different directions, from so many parts of the diversity that is London is a – sends out a message.
It sends out a very, very simple message of hope over fear, of community over division and that is immensely important. I think that you’ve done all of that and that by coming together in that way, by sending out that clear signal, you really have provided a great service to all of the communities who are asking themselves searching questions in London and across the country today.
Because let’s be clear. People who inflict such random, savage violence in the name of some entirely warped ideology or some entirely perverted concept of religion in the way that we have seen on our television screens – which has been made all the more unsettling I think, because the individuals concerned dressed, spoke, appeared to all intents and purposes like so many other young Londoners that we might come across every day of the week.
Let’s be under no illusion. What they want, of course, is to sow that corrosive seed of fear and division. What they want is for governments and the authorities to overreact in their immediate reaction. What they want is for communities to turn inwards and away from each other. What they want, in short, is to spread fear.
Fear is an extraordinarily powerful emotion and when fear takes root, all of us as individuals, we will avert our gaze from someone who we might be fearful of, who we weren’t before. We might cross the street away from an individual who we’re not so sure about. We might worry about our children and about our families in a way that we haven’t done before.
It has a very, very corrosive effect on every part of our lives and we have a choice. We have a choice to either allow that powerful corrosive feeling of fear to seep into every second and minute and hour of our lives or we can make a choice that we’re not going to change our behaviour. We’re not going to disrupt normal life. We’re going to continue our life as before. We’re going to continue to reach out to each other. We’re going to continue to look people in the eye. We’re going to continue to be the diverse community that we are, and you have made that choice by coming to this event.
London has made that choice by celebrating this kind of event and it has shown once again how unbeatable London is in the face of this attempt to sow fear, sow division and sow mutual suspicion in our community. So I want to pay genuine tribute, to each and every one of you for making that choice. It is a positive choice and is the most powerful dignified reply and rejection of what we saw and what we heard on Wednesday in Woolwich.
Finally, before I ask the Deacon and others to speak for themselves, I want to pay special tribute to those amongst you who are leaders and spokespeople of our Muslim communities. The fact that all of you who’ve spoken out so very clearly and so very cogently and so very quickly to reject it utterly. As the Prime Minister quite rightly said, what we heard from these two individuals was a total unqualified betrayal of Islam, a religion of peace was being distorted, turned upside down and inside out, perverted in the cause of an abhorrent and violent set of intentions from those individuals.
As I heard from someone in a discussion we just had earlier this morning, terrorism has no religion because there is no religious conviction that can justify the kind of arbitrary, savage, random violence that we saw on the streets of Woolwich. So thank you for speaking out as forcefully as you have done. Thank you for speaking out as clearly as you have done for a great salvation religion, for your faith, and for the communities in which you live and in which you lead.
And in that spirit I would like to simply conclude by repeating a verse from the holy Quran, verse 32, chapter five. If anyone kills a human being, it shall be as though he killed all mankind, whereas if anyone saves a life it shall be as though he saved the whole of mankind.
Thank you very much.
Posted May 24, 2013
At the Annual General Meeting of North East Lincolnshire Council last night there were few surprises to say the least; in typical Labour Party fashion the changes to Council’s Standing Orders mean that their ‘control freakery’ continues!
They agreed to a new Executive and Scrutiny Liaison Board which in essence would mean that the Executive would be micro-managing the Scrutiny Function – with no clear separation of powers. It’s clear that ruling Labour Group do not have any confidence in their own Scrutiny Panel Chairs.
They also agreed to reduce the number of Full Council meetings dramatically, and at the meeting last night I said:
“I oppose all of these changes to the Standing Orders; they are an erosion of democracy. The proposal to slash the number of Council Meetings – is taking away our right to represent the people of this borough, but importantly the people who vote for us. The residents of the East Marsh expect me to represent them in this Council Chamber, and last year I was able to do that 13 times including the Annual General Meeting, the Mayor Making and the Annual Budget Setting Meeting. Now, under this proposal I will only be able to that on 5 occasions and two of those are only ordinary business meetings.
“The Labour Party are trying to hide behind a shield, they want to bury the bad news. They want to manipulate their own agenda – it is not good for democracy. You would never run a business like this, unless are aiming for relegation.
“Look at the meeting schedule, take for example the Safer and Stronger Scrutiny Panel which I will hoping be a member of (unless, I am removed tonight) – this panel sits on September 26th but those minutes will not be approved by Full Council which meets on March 20th – that is barmy. How can anyone ask a question, six months later – times moved on!
“These changes to Standing Orders are flawed and undemocratic and therefore I will be voting against all of the changes.”
Posted May 24, 2013
Removing support will mean boom time for bailiffs
Bailiffs are set to profit from cuts to council tax support as stretched households struggle to cover the extra costs and Local Authorities turn to bailiffs to collect people’s debts.
Citizens Advice has warned that a cocktail of inadequate regulation and slashed council tax support risks pushing many more vulnerable people into the hands of bailiffs. Evidence from CABs has found bailiffs frequently overstate their powers, act aggressively and bump up debts by levying excessive and illegal fees and charges.
New statistics from Citizens Advice show that since the introduction of Council Tax Support on 1 April, problems have already begun to build. The number of people worried about how they will pay has rocketed, with over 37,000 consulting the charity’s online advice pages about council tax in April 2013 – 87% higher than the same month last year.
As council tax support moves to localised schemes with ten per cent less funding than the old, national scheme, almost 2.5 million of England’s poorest households will have to squeeze up to £322 more out of already stretched budgets¹. If they can’t pay, families face mounting debts and are at risk of bailiff action.
From April 2012 to March 2013, Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) in England and Wales helped with 60,652 problems with bailiffs, a third of which were for council tax debts, and 161,564 problems with Council Tax arrears.
Citizens Advice is already seeing a growing concern around bailiffs. Last month the number of people seeking online advice on how to deal with bailiffs almost trebled, rising to over 20,000 from just under 7,000 in April last year. As the changes push more people into arrears, bureaux are braced for an influx of people facing problems with bailiffs.
Citizens Advice is calling for councils to take action to protect their residents by helping them deal with their debts early on and only using bailiffs as a last resort.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:
“Bailiffs will see their profits rise at the expense of hard-pressed households. We’re concerned that changes to council tax benefit will mean more people will end up in debt because they can’t pay their bill and have the bailiff knocking at their door.
“The number of people worried about council tax is up 87% since the changes came in, and this will climb even higher as more people find it difficult to cope with the costs. Bailiffs often overstate their powers, deliberately frighten debtors and charge extortionate fees. We want councils to help people get on top of their council tax debts so the use of bailiffs is no longer necessary.”
Citizens Advice wants all Local Authorities to sign up to the good practice debt collection protocol, drawn up with the Local Government Association, which shows how councils can work with debt advice agencies to develop fair debt collection policies, cut down on bailiff use and protect vulnerable residents. We also want to see an independent, statutory licence for bailiff firms to crack down on lawless behaviour.
Bailiff fact file
- There has been a 38% increase in problems with private bailiffs in the last five years (data from 07/08 to 11/12).
- In 2012 there were over 63,000 problems about all types of bailiffs reported to Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales.
- Almost 9 in 10 problems with bailiffs relate to private bailiffs who are responsible for collecting debts including council tax debts and unpaid parking penalties
In August 2012, analysis of 400 bailiff problems which people brought to CAB found:
- 2 in 5 (39%) threatened the use of force to get in
- 16% said they would call the police to gain entry
- 1 in 4 threatened to take items that are banned from removal by bailiffs (such as clothing or work tools)
- 29% threatened to seize goods that belonged to someone else.
- In almost 4 out of 5 (78%) of the cases bailiff action has brought on stress and anxiety
- In 35% bailiff action has exacerbated clients mental or physical health problems (23% and 12% respectively).
Posted May 23, 2013
Equal pay audits will help tackle gender pay inequality in the workplace.
Today the government has published a second consultation asking businesses about their views on the detail of equal pay audits and the likely contents of impending legislation.
Following the Modern Workplaces consultation in 2011, the Government announced that it would implement a proposal which will require employment tribunals to order an employer to conduct an equal pay audit where the employer is found to have broken equal pay law.
“We want to eliminate inequality between men and women in the workplace and if we are to make full use of women’s skills and talents, we need to create more inclusive workplaces, which includes tackling the gender pay gap.
“Only employers who have breached the law will be ordered to carry out equal pay audits, so there will be no upfront burdens on business. It is important to deal with breaches of equal pay law if we are to make a change.”
Equal pay audits will complement our Think, Act, Report initiative, which encourages companies to report on action to improve gender equality in the workplace, including pay.
It is hoped the equal pay audit regulations will come into force in 2014.
Posted May 23, 2013
In a new report, Cyber security and fraud: the impact on small businesses, The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has partnered with the Home Office and the Business Department to look at issues affecting small firms.
New research shows that cybercrime costs small businesses around £785 million per year as they fall victim to fraud and online crime.
The report shows that 41% of FSB members have been a victim of cybercrime in the last 12 months, putting the average cost at around £4,000 per business. The most common threat to businesses is virus infections, with 20% falling victim.
The FSB has released its top ten tips to protect your business
- Implement a combination of security protection solutions (anti-virus, anti-spam, firewall etc).
- Carry out regular security updates on all software and devices.
- Implement a resilient password policy.
- Secure your wireless network.
- Implement clear and concise procedures for email, internet and mobile devices.
- Train staff in good security practices and consider employee background checks.
- Implement and test backup plans, information disposal and disaster recovery procedures.
- Carry out regular security risk assessments to identify important information and systems.
- Carry out regular security testing on the business website.
- Check provider credentials and contracts when using cloud services.
James Brokenshire, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary for Security, Home Office, said: ”Having personally been involved in the cyber security debate for several years now, I am pleased that the Home Office is working with the FSB to highlight the current experiences of small businesses.
“Cyber security is a crucial part of the Government’s National Cyber Security Strategy and we need to make sure that all businesses, large and small are engaged in implementing appropriate prevention measures in their business. This report will help give a greater understanding of how online security and fraud issues affect small businesses, giving guidance as well as valuable top tips to protect their business”
You can download the Cyber security and fraud paper here.
For further information visit the FSB website.
To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.
Posted May 23, 2013
Liberal Democrat MEP for London Sarah Ludford has demanded an explanation from the European Commission about their absurd proposal concerning olive oil, which seems to ban the provision in restaurants of olive oil in jugs and dishes. She is tabling a parliamentary question to get to the bottom of the matter.
Sarah Ludford commented:
“The Commission claims this is about protecting consumers from deception over the content of a bottle. Of course restaurants which refill a bottle labelled ‘extra virgin Italian’ with cheaper Tunisian oil should be sanctioned, but surely trading standards looks after that.”
“So this seems to be a genuine case of Brussels bureaucrats creating a monster piece of unnecessary regulation. They seem to be trying to be nice – extending an olive branch indeed – to producers in Southern Europe.”
“It is hard to believe this is about consumer protection, when the British public is rightly bemused by this crazy nanny state plan. Banning olive oil in jugs and dishes would place an unnecessary burden on restaurants and potentially drive up prices for customers. I am demanding answers from the Commission in order to protect consumers and restaurateurs in London.”
“As a Liberal Democrat, I believe the EU should be focused on building a stronger economy and a fairer society, not micro-managing the precise way in which olive oil should be served to diners in every restaurant in 28 countries!”
Posted May 23, 2013
Two people with mental health problems have won a legal challenge against government tests for sickness benefit.
Commenting on the ruling, Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of national charity Citizens Advice said:
“After years of campaigning on behalf of people subjected to unfair sickness benefit tests, Citizens Advice welcomes a new legal ruling that finds parts of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) fails to make reasonable adjustments for people with mental illness, learning disabilities and autism.
“As a Citizens Advice recent report recommended, using claimants medical evidence to get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) decisions right first time, is vital to the well-being of vulnerable people and the taxpayers pocket.
“DWP should grasp this opportunity to proactively request medical evidence and not rely on claimants to submit it themselves at an average cost of £35 out of their weekly benefit of £71.70 a week. This will also save on costly appeals tribunals where more than a third of all ESA decisions that go to appeal, are overturned. This challenge was brought under the Equality Act – it’s great to see the Act in action and making a real difference to people’s lives.”