Amber warning (be prepared) of wind
Valid from Wednesday 12 February 10.00am to Wednesday 12 February 11.50pm
A vigorous area of low pressure is expected to move northeastwards across northern parts of the UK later on Wednesday, clearing eastwards early on Thursday. This is likely to be accompanied by a swathe of southwesterly gales across many areas which may be severe in places. Winds will veer more westerly later on Wednesday.
A first peak in the winds is likely over southwest England around the middle of Wednesday but with the main swathe of even stronger and potentially damaging winds crossing parts of Wales then northern England later in the day.
The public should be prepared for the risk of disruption to transport and possibly also power supplies. In addition, large waves are likely to affect some coasts.
This warning should be viewed in the broader context of the Yellow wind warning reproduced below.
Yellow warning (be aware) of wind
Valid from Wednesday 12 February 10.00am to Thursday 13 February 3.00am
A vigorous area of low pressure is expected to move northeastwards across the UK later on Wednesday, clearing eastwards early on Thursday. This is likely to be accompanied by a swathe of gales across many parts of England and Wales which may be severe in places.
A first peak in the winds is likely over southwest England around the middle of Wednesday but with the main swathe of even stronger and potentially damaging winds crossing parts of Wales then northern England later in the day (see Amber warning).
The public should be prepared for the the risk of disruption to transport and possibly also power supplies. In addition, large waves are likely to affect some coasts.
As most of you who drop in on my blog would agree, the increase from £6475 to £10,000 in the personal allowance thanks to the Lib Dems in government has been a real help. It has cut tax payments by £700.
I believe it is time to take an even bigger leap forwards. At present we all start paying National Insurance at £7500, and Income tax, (from April) at £10000.
The country is providing pension tax relief to high income earners which means that those earning the most get tax relief on pension contributions of 40% and 45%. More than 70% of all pension tax relief is going to the richest earners. I support people working hard and getting rewarded but should we pay a £16 billion subsidy to 5 million high earners ? I think not!
If all residents were getting the standard 20% pension tax relief then the government could cut national insurance and income tax payments by as much as £1000 per person!!
Imagine the boost to the economy – £1000 a year back in workers pockets.
This makes so much sense. Let’s see is anyone listens to me.
Today Lib Dem Councillors slammed Labour-controlled Durham County Council for refusing to double its highways spending by simply cutting 3p a mile from its staff and councillor’s generous mileage allowances.
Lib Dem County Councillors on Durham’s Unitary Authority are demanding that the “derisory” £2.76m council contribution to highways funding from Labour should be more than doubled.
The largest North East local authority already has an enormous back log in its highways and footpath repairs. It will receive a government grant of £11million for highways maintenance this year. However, despite having over £100million in reserves and an annual budget of more than £400m, the Labour-run authority plans to top up the £11million with just £2.76m from council funding.
Councillor Amanda Hopgood, Lib Dem group leader, said “We gave the Labour-controlled Council Cabinet plenty of notice when we suggested a tiny 3p a mile cut to the amount councillors and officers can claim for their car mileage allowance. The benefit would be huge and the loss to the councillors small. Yet Labour is refusing to heed our proposals.
The Lib Dem plan would allow an extra £3m to be invested in the coming year to improve footpaths and roads.
Councillor Mark Wilkes who has worked up proposals after discussions with officers says that he has been told that “the extra funding would make a significant dent into the council’s backlog of repairs.”
He said “I believe that the vast majority of the public in County Durham would support a reduction in councillors’ mileage claims to improve our roads and paths. The extra £3m we are proposing would, according to the Council’s own figures, allow us to resurface, repair or replace over 50 miles of footpaths and 19 miles of roads in the coming year. This would also boost the local economy, help to cut insurance claims and help regenerate run-down estates. We again urge Labour to reconsider their budget and to increase highways spending to a more realistic level.”
Councillor Owen Temple, Lib Dem deputy leader says that “further announcements on their budget will follow in the run-up to the budget setting day on February 26th.” The councillor for Consett North added that “the Lib Dems will put forward further positive alternatives to Labour’s plans. Our Budget will concentrate on freezing the council tax, helping the vulnerable and protecting frontline services like road repairs.”
Councillor Temple concluded “Labour seems unwilling to take the proper steps the public expect to get our local economy moving. We will not let Labour councillors get away with deceiving the public about funding when the council has £100m in reserves.”
At present councillors receive 48p a mile as a travel allowance whilst some officers receive even more. This compares to 25p for many in the health service and nothing for many private sector workers.
The government currently taxes all mileage claims over 45p a mile and the extra 3p Durham pays further adds to waste at the Council with the extra administrative costs.
I attended Parish Council last night and updated on a number of issues.
Work to fix problems in the layby on the way to Finchale Abbey Village is ongoing and the legal officers at County Hall are looking into ways to close it off due to improper behaviour including significant littering.
Our plans for limited parking at Beech Road shops should be going to press this week. There have been a few complaints about this but I personally think that the overall benefit to residents and the shops make it worthwhile.
Our plans for a parking layby along Priory Road are progressing and we have added in the planting of some trees in the area too, to help counter the loss of grassed area and reduce any run-off into drains.
We are looking at a large number of other areas to see what work can be done to improve things for residents and will update in due course.
This is a link to the Cabinet paper containing the budget information for anyone interested. Treat with a pinch of salt as it is a bit dry and not everything is what it seems – though the £103m in reserves appears to be correct.
Lib Dem councillors will be putting forward some changes or additions to the budget after raising concerns in advance with the Labour Cabinet.
About 20 of the Councils 126 councillors attended a discussion this afternoon about changes to the youth service.
I was concerned when I went in about the £300,000 cut to the service and remain concerned now.
Officers were at pains to state that the number of youth sessions would continue, but the number of youth workers and the hours they work are being cut significantly. It also appears that there may be a disproportionate cut in some areas compared to others.
This led me to question the changes. We were told there would be no impact to frontline service, but this is either not the entire story, or we have been wasting money for years.
My personal view is that if you cut the hours of youth workers down to just the time spent in youth sessions, then there is no opportunity for outreach work, no opportunity to work up projects, less chance for youth workers to help bring in outside funding such as from the Big lottery, and all this will lead to an impact on the quality of the service.
Officers say that five area managers will now do all this. Something just doesn’t add up. Perhaps I will be shown to be wrong, but for me this is a step which needs reconsidering, which is why I asked for the cut to be delayed for a year, we must wait to see what Labour does in its budget, but I won’t hold my breath.
Unfortunately it turns out that the letters I was happy to tell you were being sent out to help our poorest residents have the wrong information on them and are too late for many residents! After feeling quite overjoyed that DCC had finally listened to me I now find out that it was all a sham.
Here is a copy of the letter I have just sent to all Durham County Councillors:
Dear Fellow Councillors
Today is a sad day for Durham County Council. I have spent months trying to get this council to send out letters to help our poorest residents with the Warm homes Discount. When I finally get told something is being done what do I find out?
I ask to see a copy of the letter being sent out, and find it has the wrong phone number on it! Low income residents, many calling from their mobile phone to an 0845 number at significant cost would then find out they have wasted their time and money.
But if that is not bad enough, worse still, many residents will then phone their energy supplier as they should have been advised and find that as of the end of January it has stopped taking applications for this winter! Scottish Power for example have now stopped.
All this means that any letter sent out now is too late for many of our hard suffering residents. Why on earth didn’t someone listen to me last year when I brought this up in full council?
Why did officers not take this on board in December? Indeed why have our Cabinet members done nothing to act on this? We are leaderless and rudderless as a council.
This council behaves like an ignorant dictatorship. Today is another of those days when I truly wonder: What is the point of being a councillor on this dreadful authority.
To say this council is run by muppets would be an insult to Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.
It is utterly shameful that because of this council’s incompetence £4m is going unclaimed by our poorest residents. £135 missing from the pockets of up to 35000 households across County Durham.
I am truly distraught by this utter shambles of an administration.
If you are on a low income and think you may be eligible, call your energy company straight away as not all companies have stopped taking applications.
Hurrah, it looks like Durham Council has listened for once. Their plan to charge residents to collect their bins has been dropped for the at least twelve months, so millions of pounds are kept in the local economy for another year. We had pressed hard behind the scene and in public against this proposal and it appears a huge number of residents also raised concerns. Thankfully this time at least Labour have been sufficiently lambasted to stop slapping this charge on to hardworking Durham residents. Now we just need them to listen to us on the council tax freeze too. The government is offering the council money for a 1% increase and we have identified ways to find additional funds (see below story).
Last week I said that the Council after months of my asking had finally agreed to put out letters to 11000 private renting tenants about the Warm Homes Discount. I have now updated this after discovering that the letters being sent out contain wrong information, and for many are simply too late to help this year:
After months of my pressure on Durham County Council, which culminated last week in my writing to every single councillor to ask for their support, 11000 residents were to be sent details of how to save £135 on their energy bills. Thank you to all the Lib Dem, Independent, Conservative and even Labour councillors who backed me up at the time. Shame on the Labour run Cabinet for taking so long, that it now turns out to be too late for many residents.
The Lib Dems in government got agreement with the energy companies after the general election to ensure that low income families received discounts on their energy bills. Since then I have promoted this in newsletters and on this blog, but the Labour run council had done practically nothing to promote it. Each year residents must register with their energy company.
I went on Inside Out at the start of January (but recorded in December) on the BBC to complain at the lack of Labour action. After writing to all councillors including Labour ones, I thought I had finally got somewhere,
I am still pushing the council to do the same for all those in social housing because the council has all the details of who is most likely to be eligible. At the moment the council is simply asking social landlords like Durham City Homes to do this. At my request Durham City Homes has sent out details to several thousand elderly residents, but none of the organisations running social housing have all the information needed to properly target this.
I had hoped that the Labour run council would recognise this so that the estimated 20,000+ households in social housing who are eligible would also get a letter explaining this.
In the meantime, if your total household income is less than £16000, check at the governments website to see if you are eligible: https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme/overview then call your energy company as they may still accept your application – some like Scottish Power have now stopped accepting applications, but others are still accepting.
It is crazy to think that £4m is not being claimed across County Durham alone, and saddening that because this is a government organised scheme, there has been little attempt by Labour councils to promote it. It does suggest that the Labour leadership doesn’t want the Coalition to be seen as helping the poorest in society as it doesn’t help them politically. Any normal council whether socialist, conservative or liberal minded should have jumped at the chance to promote this. After all, £4m in the pockets of our poorest residents is a huge amount.