George Osborne boasts of having reduced the government’s financial deficit through continued austerity, but it appears clearer by the day that a significant part of the cuts were based on negligent misjudgements of the ability of local government to absorb those cuts whist maintaining essential services. And since May has become prime minister, we have had an autumn statement and a spring budget that have barely deviated from George Osborne’s spending plans.
It is difficult to come to any other conclusion when major Tory shires are making the headlines by their ability to manage major deficits in funding – and the warnings were there a year ago30th March 2017 when it was revealed that Surrey County Council had plans to cut millions of pounds from frontline services in face of Conservative austerity. Surrey council has backed away at the last moment from a controversial plan to poll voters on a 15% rise in council tax, mainly to pay for social care, instead recommending a rise next year of just under 5%.
Surrey “Britain’s richest county” is facing a £100 million cash crisis as scores of councils struggle to close budget deficits, an investigation has found.
Surrey County Council has one of the worst financial shortfalls in the country, according to research seen by The Times. The disclosure came as nearly every part of England warned of tax rises to make ends meet and half of local authorities prepared to cut services for children. Nine out of ten councils will be millions of pounds over budget by the end of the financial year.
Surrey’s woes will alarm Downing Street as it is a solidly Conservative council and the county is represented at Westminster by seven senior government ministers.
Tory-run Northamptonshire County Councilquietly issued a section 114 notice last Friday to signal that it had effectively gone bust, a victim of rapidly shrinking income and rising demand for the social care services it must legally provide. It is the first town hall to be brought down by austerity, but it may not be the last.
The surprise is not so much that it happened but that it took so long. The county has been stripping back its budget for years. Even in 2014, when it unveiled its ambitious (and ultimately futile) “next generation” plan to try to put the council on a financially sustainable basis, it warned that meeting the demands of another five years of cuts was “getting towards the impossible”.
A GLASGOW MSP is asking constituents to help him with a dilemma of ageing.
John Mason wants to find out if people think he should apply for a free bus pass as he has just turned 60.
Mr Mason, while agreeing with the concessionary travel scheme, said he is in a well-paid job and can easily afford the bus fare.
He is grappling with the decision of using what he is entitled to or accepting something for free at a cost to the public purse, which on a MSP salary of almost £62,000 he can afford to pay for. Read more
Pensioners have been left in limbo by the hung parliament election result, with any proposed changes put on hold until a government is formed.
The Conservatives, who were expected to win a solid majority, wanted to scrap the Triple Lock which that the state pension would rise by whichever is the highest of inflation, wage growth or 2.5%, and replace it with a ‘Double Lock’ which would remove the 2.5% annual rise. Under a Conservative government, the state pension age would increase with life expectancy.
They also planned to means-test the Winter Fuel Allowance, which is worth up to £300 a year for older people to help with their heating costs. However, now that the party has failed to win a majority, they may find it difficult to proceed with any of these plans.
Triple Lock and Winter Fuel Allowance
The Conservatives are working towards doing a deal with Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to form a government, who want to maintain both the Triple Lock and the Winter Fuel Allowance. Read more
Theresa May has repeatedly refused to commit to keeping the state pension’s “triple lock” in the Conservatives’ general election manifesto.
The lock, which Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, confirmed would be retained by his party guarantees that the state pension increases by at least 2.5 per cent annually.
But when asked by Angus Robertson, the SNP leader in Westminster, whether the triple lock would survive post-election, Ms May replied: “I’ve been very clear that under this Government we have seen pensioners benefit as a result of what we’ve done to the basic state pension to the tune of £1,250 a year.
Speaking during the final Prime Minister’s Questions of this Parliament before the general election, Ms May continued: “I am clear under Conservative Government incomes would continue to increase”.
Mr Roberston continued: “I asked the Prime Minister a pretty simple question – it’s a yes or a no and the Prime Minister failed to answer. Pensioners right across this land are right to conclude that this Tory Prime Minister plans to ditch the triple lock on state pensions. Read more
We here at the Bus passes Blog are simple men, but are already getting tired of the seemingly pointless discussions on this topic. This arises from the foolhardy notion of voting in a referendum on the following questions:
The EU Referendum ballot paper.
It has as much sense as asking someone “would you like to sell me your car? – decide yes or no.” Any sensible person would respond to such a question “what are you offering to tempt me to part with my car?” and would laugh out loud if the response to that was “we’ll tell you that once you have made a decision.”
All the government can do now, having induced the voters to agree to leave the EU club, is try to negotiate the best terms possible, knowing that the other side is aware that you are going to leave anyway. So why should we offer you a special price – other than that European businesses want to sell their goods in the UK just as much as the reverse.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has accused the Conservatives of doing the ‘bare minimum’ for older people and of ‘shameful’ treatment of pensioners.
In the run up to the general election in June a key battleground is over the state pension, with Labour pledging to keep the triple lock on the state pension but the Tories yet to make a commitment to this.
SNP MP for Ross Skye and Lochaber Ian Blackford has today claimed the Tory Party is u-turning on the triple lock and depriving pensioners of support.
‘The Tories have turned their back on our older people,’ he said.
‘As well as potentially u-turning on the triple lock on the state pension, they have done absolutely nothing to encourage older people to claim the vital financial support they are entitled to. Instead, the Tories are happy to let almost £300 million sit in the Treasury’s coffers rather than try and get extra support to those who need it.’
Guaranteed rises in the state pension should be scrapped according to a damning report by an all-party committee of MPs, which claims the British economy has become “heavily skewed” towards well-off baby boomers.
A millennial and a baby boomer trade places: ‘I can’t help but feel a stab of envy’
Following an inquiry into intergenerational fairness, the Commons work and pensions committee, chaired by influential welfare reformer Frank Field, said the “triple lock” guarantee on the state pension should be axed as it is “unfair and unsustainable”.
Under the triple lock, pensions have risen every year since 2010 by – whichever is the higher figure – the rate of inflation, average earnings or a minimum of 2.5%. This has lifted many pensioners out of poverty but the committee said it has resulted in the over-65s taking an “ever greater share of national income”.
After housing costs, average pensioner household incomes now exceed those of working-age people, said the report. “The millennial generation, born between 1981 and 2000, faces being the first in modern times to be financially worse off than its predecessors,” it added. Read more
There is concern that patients in County Durham have not been notified that GPs must now ask a private company to decide on referrals to specialists.
North Durham Clinical Commissioning Group has awarded a contract to About Health, which will advise on the best way to manage a range of conditions.
A local MP said it was “disgraceful” the system had been put in place without a public consultation.
Health bosses said the move would save money, and GPs had been consulted.
Under the contract, doctors across north Durham will write to About Health for advice on whether a patient should be sent to a specialist or whether they should try other treatments.
Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods has called for the contract to be cancelled
The conditions include cardiology, gynaecology, dermatology, or gastroenterology, but will not relate to suspected cancer or other urgent cases.
Durham Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods has said that taking the GPs’ right to refer away is wrong and wants the contract immediately scrapped.
She said: “It is absolutely disgraceful that they have gone ahead with this with no public consultation.
“I am going to demand that the put a halt on this … because I honestly believe it could compromise patient safety.” Read more