What now for UKIP nationally?
Now the party has achieved its singular aim, what does it actually stand for?
Having read Henry Bolton’s latest rhetoric, it would seem that they are vacuous on policy and that the only real reason for electing a UKIP candidate would be to ensure the government does a good deal on Brexit. However, given their recent election results one has to ask what influence they would actually have in these negotiations.
What now for UKIP locally?
Given how the UKIP group in Great Yarmouth once again supported the Conservatives at Full Council on Tuesday 3rd October the question has to be asked, "Will the current eight Ukippers be standing as Ukippers in the 2018 election or will they stand as Conservatives?"
Considering UKIP are the main opposition in Great Yarmouth Borough Council, we haven't seen much in the way of them opposing the Conservative's plans. Perhaps some key figures in the UKIP group are planning to return to their old Tory roots as UKIP nationally disappears into oblivion.
We believe that the residents of Great Yarmouth deserve to know if they vote UKIP in 2018, will those elected be defecting to the Conservatives?
Furthermore, we would ask any Councillors thinking of defecting to do it now and not allow voters to vote for one thing and get another.
Tribune urges all voters in wards represented by a UKIP councillor to ask them if they are going to continue to stand as Ukippers or are they going to stand as Conservatives.
See if you get a straight answer.
When the first announcement of this scheme was made in 2014, Cllr Adrian Myers highlighted the possible consequences of introducing this untested scheme. This was to be the “full” role out of the scheme including housing benefit and every recipient of benefits not just single individuals. He warned that evictions would rise, vulnerable people would suffer and claimants would be met with incompetence. Why could he say this? Because in the past, this governments top down reorganisations of the public sector have inevitably ended in misery for those affected and an “ostrich” head in the sand, denial by the government. Make no mistake this was a major change in the way benefits are paid to recipients and has caused upheaval and misery for thousands.
Who is affected by this disastrous role out of universal credit in Great Yarmouth.
- Working families
- Private landlords
- Disabled and vulnerable people
- Those who do not own a computer or are not computer literate
- Your local council and its officers.
- The families and friends of those claimants.
Being a top down reorganisation, meant that every claimant had to reclaim. All benefits came under one claim apart from DLA or ESA.
Payments are supposed to be paid four weeks in arrears and direct to the recipient however we know of cases where some people have not been paid for up to 16 weeks which has resulted in the following…
Asking family and friends for support and when that’s not available they go without electricity, gas, heating and rely on food banks for survival. (Food bank usage went up from 35 a week to over 300) As for emergency payments, the hoops that the claimant has to jump through discourages many from even trying. This of course is deliberate.
Not having ANY money for such a long period of time in a society where money is a vital component of existence has of course major and serious consequences that actually affect most of us in one way or another and tears at the very basic fabric of society.
An example of this is that private landlords have found themselves evicting long standing tenants and refusing to take on the risk of new claimants. This in turn leads to homelessness and adds pressure on the council’s pathetic housing stock in the borough.
In 2016, Peterborough City Council spent 1.2 million pounds on temporary accommodation. Universal credit was rolled out in the city but did not include the housing benefit element and it still resulted in major problems.
The computer system is not designed to meet those whose circumstances do not meet the perceived stereotyped benefit claimant.
On the surface universal credit is portrayed as a way of simplifying the benefit system and to make claims new or old easier for the claimant. However, in reality universal credit was introduced to reduce housing benefit claims which affects working families not just those unemployed and to “encourage” individuals whether sick, disabled or not, back to work.
This council wrote to Damian Green in 2016 highlighting the distress and anguish the scheme is causing the residents of Great Yarmouth. One specific question we asked was why Great Yarmouth was chosen. We never received an answer.
We should bear in mind however, that at the time, Brandon Lewis was housing minister. I wonder if he volunteered Great Yarmouth?
In 2014 we were told that Great Yarmouth had been chosen as a ‘test and learn area’. Well it has tested everybody involved in this shoddy affair, and we have leant that the system is totally inadequate to meet the needs of those who fall out of the normal parameters that the system was designed for. That would be:
- The physically disabled.
- The elderly who are not of retirement age.
- Working families where one may be working full time and the partner part time.
- Individuals with learning difficulties.
- Those with mental health issues.
What made even matters worse was that claimants received conflicting information from the DWP depending on who you rang. This still goes on. Even the DWP staff are undertrained in this benefit.
Even when the claim is settled, the way in which arbitrary sanctions are applied to claimants only worsens their situation.
One example, a claimant who I have been supporting for the last 18 months was sanctioned because he was unable to attend his interview due to illness. He has a complex medical condition. I informed the DWP via his journal of this. I have asked and asked again why he was sanctioned for being ill. To date no reply.
Another example of falling foul of a sanction is that it clearly states in the claimants commitment that they will seek and accept a better paid job and not refuse to do more hours. This may seem perfectly reasonable, but what if that higher paid job is further away, and results in increased costs to the worker, and what if those increased hours mean that the parent has increased child care costs and is in fact cash wise, worse off?
It matters not to the DWP you will be sanctioned.
This roll out was done on the cheap, as most government initiatives are.
At a full council meeting in 2016 Cllr Myers asked for a suspension of standing orders so he could speak for 15 minutes on this issue and highlight all the problems that UC was having in the borough. The conservatives supported by their UKIP lap dogs, voted against this thus stifling open and proper debate and the democratic right of being heard.
What can you do?
Brandon Lewis has asked if anyone has had any problems with universal credit to inform him. I advise every single one of you to take him up on his offer of help.
You do not have to be a claimant just someone who has been negatively affected by UC, and then perhaps Brandon Lewis will eventually get off his backside and do something as a minister and MP for this borough of its people, instead of sending civil servant gobblegook written responses.
We see little enough of him as it is. He has refused invites from the council to talk directly to us about this.
Here is how you contact him please do, today:
Great Yarmouth Borough Council is considering changing the current voting system. Under the proposed changes there will only be Borough elections every four years and the electorate will elect all 39 councillors in a single poll.
In a statement from party leader Mike Monk, Tribune has announced its opposition to these changes.
“We are told that this change would save our town £30,000 per year. This equates to a saving of less than 77 pence per household per year.
On top of this, we believe that the proposed changes would come at a great cost to local democracy. It would be a struggle for any party to field 39 genuine, quality candidates.
The changes would result in uncontested seats on our council, an issue which is highlighted by the Electoral Reform Society on their website. A similar sized council in Cumbria with this set up saw 21 of its 38 available seats declared before polling day.
Tribune believes it is important that we maintain the current voting cycle to ensure that residents can have their say on how their town is run every single year, rather than allowing one administration four years to do as they please unchecked.
What price democracy?”
On Wednesday 12th July, a newly refurbished village sign was unveiled by Tribune Councillor Adrian Myers.
Cllr Myers was asked to reveal the new sign and say a few words due to his continued support of Fritton Parish Council.
The event was attended by Parish Councillors, villagers, local press and the artist Fiona Davies.
Council Tax Discretionary Discounts
On 3 November 2016, full council reviewed the council tax discretionary discounts and agreed to amend the scheme for 2017/18. This includes:
· Reducing the discretionary discount on unoccupied and furnished dwellings with planning restriction on periods of occupancy from 50% to 10%. This will apply to about 1,700 properties and save an estimated total of £364,000 for Norfolk County Council, Norfolk Constabulary, and Great Yarmouth Borough Council.
· Changing the discount on empty homes from a 100% discount for a period of 3 months to a 100% discount for 1 month. This will apply to around 5,400 homes and save an estimated total of £232,000 for Norfolk County Council, Norfolk Constabulary, and Great Yarmouth Borough Council.
· Removing the 5% discretionary discount on second homes/empty furnished dwellings and charging full council tax. This will apply to about 830 properties and save an estimated total of £23,000 for Norfolk County Council, Norfolk Constabulary, and Great Yarmouth Borough Council.
Cllr Graham Plant, the council leader, said: “Great Yarmouth Borough Council, like other Norfolk councils, has reviewed the discretionary discounts on council tax which local authorities can choose to offer, or not, under national legislation. The amended scheme will come into effect from April 2017.
“As part of wider efforts to bring empty homes back into use as quickly as possible, full council has changed the 100% discount period for empty homes, meaning the owner pays full council tax after one month of the property being vacant, instead of the current three months.
“Separately, full council has removed the 5% discretionary discount on second homes and reduced the discretionary discount on unoccupied and furnished dwellings with planning restriction on periods of occupancy from 50% to 10%. This ensures that owners of second and holiday homes make a fair contribution to the provision of local services, while recognising that they do not live in that property all year.
“The discretionary discounts, last reviewed in Great Yarmouth in 2013, are wholly optional and the changes will result in savings for three local authorities at a time when all public bodies face financial challenged. Great Yarmouth Borough Council will invest its savings to continue delivering on public priorities, which includes housing.”
I received a phone call from a resident who informed that two fire appliances had been called previously to a fire in Fritton woods. This was not the first time that the fire service had been called out to deal with such a fire.
On investigation it would appear that these fires are "peat" fires which spread underground. They are usually started by people who light a fire in the woods and believe they have put it out, when in fact under the surface the peat subsoil has been heated up and is smouldering away. This smoulder will continue to travel underground until it either runs out of energy or hits a rich oxygen source. That rich oxygen source is the air on the surface and when it reaches that, it ignites into a surface flame fire. This can occur well away from the original site. When you light a fire in the woods you are setting into motion a ticking bomb that could go off at any time day or night.
Unfortunately those who set the original fire and thought that they have extinguished it, never see the outcome because it can take time for this type of underground fire to become obvious and they will have inevitably left the area before any signs become evident.
ONE simple rule. DO NOT SET FIRES IN WOODS.
Cllr Adrian Myers
Please find below an email sent to Tribune Councillor Adrian Myers from the RMT General Secretary, Mike Cash.
Followed by the response by Cllr Adrian Myers.
Dear Cllr Adrian Myers,
Closure or reduced hours working at station ticket offices by Abellio Greater Anglia
You will have seen in the news our concerns over proposals put forward by Dutch/Japanese privateer Abellio to close ticket offices and cut staff in a bid to further boost its profits. In the latest accounts to the end of 2015 Abellio Greater Anglia’s retained profit was over £26 million.
These proposed cuts to the Greater Anglia service fly in the face of the fact that there is still a clear need for staffed ticket offices at stations. Indeed, all the research shows that many passengers prefer to buy from the ticket office rather than from a ticket machine. Replacing staffed ticket offices with machines will undoubtedly limit the quality, safety and range of services available to passengers.
Transport Focus (the independent passenger watchdog) confirmed this view when it objected to Abellio’s proposals on six grounds covering the quality of data supplied, the adequacy of ticket machines, personal security, information provision by staff to passengers, accessibility and loss of existing facilities due to de-staffing. Full details of their objections can be found here:
We have asked Abellio for a meaningful response to our concerns and full copies of all their plans on this situation, but thus far they have not been forthcoming.
Although they have since denied it they have previously told RMT’s Regional Organiser that by the end of the franchise in 2025/6 there will only be seven ticket offices left in total. The regulations governing such closures known as Schedule 17 are absolutely clear that an operator can make major changes to ticket office opening hours if: “the change would represent an improvement on current arrangements in terms of quality of service and/or cost effectiveness and members of the public would continue to enjoy wide spread and easy access to the purchase of rail products, notwithstanding the change”. How anyone can believe that getting rid of staff at nearly all stations will achieve such an aim, is beyond anyone’s comprehension.
We are also seeking urgent clarification and assurances from Abellio that Conductor’s will remain working on trains as at present. We believe it is essential that the safety critical role they perform is retained along with their responsibilities for train dispatch.
I hope you will therefore join with me in agreeing any proposals to close ticket offices or cut on train staff are simply unacceptable at a time of rising fares and rail passenger numbers and there is no genuine economic case to be made. This is really about cutting costs and sweating the assets to make even bigger profits for shareholders.
Please let Abellio know how you feel by contacting Andrew Goodman, Customer Services Director, Greater Anglia, 11 Floor, One Stratford Place, Montfitchet Road, London, E20 1EJ.
Also do not hesitate to get in touch if you need any further information.
Thanking you in anticipation
RMT General Secretary
Tribune would like to hear your views on this topic. You can write your response in the comment box below.
Our works in Belton are unfortunately overrunning owing a number of factors, including ground conditions and the sheer number of other utility services in the terrain. The ground conditions and a high water table have meant that our teams have had to deploy extra trench support and spent more time than anticipated digging in their working area. I have attached a presentation the project team and I gave to Bradwell Parish Council on 25th April, which contains a bit more information on this and the overall progress of the scheme.
Moreover, the area is heavily congested with other utilities’ networks, like water supply, telecoms and power infrastructure. As a result of this, our teams are having to hand dig around them so as to ensure we do not cause damage to their operations. These factors have complicated our work and have had a knock on impact on the time we had initially allocated. As such, we are taking long than we would have liked to working in the area.
Anglian Water have not carried out a previous scheme in the area, therefore I think you may be referring to a water supply scheme undertaken by Essex and Suffolk Water. Moving forward, we are working on building closer channels of communication with other utility companies so that we can share knowledge and experiences on factors that could affect our working, such as ground conditions, with each other in advance of undertaking works in the ground.
We are constantly looking at our resourcing taking whatever measures we can to speed things up. Our teams are already working extended working hours - 7am - 5pm Monday to Friday, and 7am - 3pm on Saturdays. If we were to increase this further, it would have an unfair impact on our customers in the vicinity of the working in terms of noise and disruption. Simply having more teams on the ground does not necessarily correlate faster working, particularly in such a congested environment. We have different teams to deliver different parts of the project and these cannot all be carried out simultaneously. However, please be assured we are deploying extra resources as and when we can, and is appropriate.
On the traffic management, we have agreed alterations at Stepshort and New Road with Norfolk Highways. We are distributing letters to our customers in the area in the next day or so outlining the following:
We are requesting the road closure be extended until the 17th June, however, we will remove the closure and reopen the road between Friday 26th May and Monday 5th June so as to avoid causing disruption during the Half Term Holiday.
When we clear the road for the bank holiday and half term, we will need to put 2-way lights outside the pumping station, as we did at Easter. The removal of works will help to minimise disruption to businesses, residents and road users whilst there is an increased tourist presence during the half term period. While this will slow our progress temporarily, as we will need to reinstate the road for it to be temporarily reopened, I am sure you will agree that this is the best approach in order to ensure that Belton residents and businesses can live and trade as freely as possible during this peak period.
We are requesting to extend the 2-way traffic lights until the 20th May. We’ll continue to monitor our works and ensure that this is sufficient time to complete on this road.
Moving forward, we are continuing our engagement with local stakeholders and customers. In addition to our previous community updates, we are continuing to distribute letters communicating our traffic management plans and talking to local businesses. We recently presented and answered questions at Bradwell Parish council’s meeting on 25th April (the attached presentation), and we will be attending Bradwell community fete in June to further our engagement.
In Belton, I have been communicating directly with the parish council and a number of other councillors, responding to questions and concerns raised.
I have also offered to attend, along with members of the project team, Belton PC’s next parish meeting to update the council on progress of the works and answer questions, but this offer was declined. Of course, offer remains open as we want to work with the community in the same way we have with Bradwell PC.
While the delays are not what we, or the community, would want to see, and we do apologise for this, we are delivering a critical £3million scheme to reduce flood risk which some in the community did not believe would even happen. This scheme will secure the future economic development of the Bradwell, Belton and Burgh Castle area community by increasing the resilience of the drainage infrastructure. However, we are taking a little longer than we had initially planned and we are taking all steps we can to get this delivered in a timely manner whilst minimising disruption to the community.
We very much appreciate the patience and understanding of the community and we will continue to keep local stakeholders updated on our progress.