Keeping Residents In Touch

The role of District Councillor has changed dramatically since the year 2000. Government policy and public awareness has meant that Councillors need to be more accountable than ever before to their electorate. Technology has also moved on and in Heyhouses your Conservative Councillors are at the forefront of adopting e-mail alerts, Blogs and Newsletters such as the Heyhouses Harrier to keep you up to date. Our monthly mobile Ward surgeries are also a vital face to face opportunity for residents to keep in touch with us. Finally the Heyhouses Branch committee, made up of volunteers, plays a vital supporting role in campaigning and fund raising. If you would like to play a more active role in your area and would like to become part of the team, then please get in touch. We hope you enjoy the Blog.

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Friday, 29 August 2008

Heyhouses Pensioners worse off under Labour

LABOUR: FAILING ON Fairness for Fylde’s pensioners

How pensioners are treated is a key test of a society’s fairness.
The impact of Gordon Brown’s tax and benefit policies mean Labour is failing on this fundamental yardstick. In addition, new analysis by the Conservative Party reveals that the rising cost of living means over two million pensioners will actually be up to £100 worse off – even after the increase in Pension Credit. Fylde Borough has one of the highest levels of over 50’s in Lancashire and this ticking time bomb will need strong Conservative policies to avert many Fylde pensioners from ending up on the Bread Line in a period of their lives which they should be enjoying.

Labour tax on pensions

Gordon Brown’s disastrous tax raid on pension funds has slashed £100 billion off the value of Britain’s pension savings. Recently published Treasury documents reveal that Gordon Brown received warnings from civil servants that his tax hike would cut the income of private pension schemes by up to 10%. It cannot be right that Pensioners have to pay tax on their pension payments, Conservatives need to scrap tax on Pensions and Savings.

Pensioner poverty

Figures from Eurostat show that Britain’s pensioners are some of the most likely in Europe to be at risk of poverty. Britain is the fourth worst country in the EU on the at risk- of-poverty rankings produced by the EU. Only pensioners in Cyprus, Spain and Latvia are more likely to fall into poverty. This position has got worse since 1997.4 Pensioner poverty grew by 300,000 compared with last year, measure both before and after housing costs.5
There are 2.5 million pensioners living in poverty (living below 60% of median
income measured before housing costs – the official measure of child poverty) which is 100,000 more pensioners than in 1997.6

Labour’s benefit system – failing pensioners

Labour’s increased use of complex means testing of pensioners has resulted in reduced take-up of benefits.

Pension Credit

Between 1.2 and 1.8 million pensioners failed to take up their entitlement to Pension Credit last year.
Up to 1.2 million of those were living in poverty (below 60% of median income
measured before housing costs).

4 Eurostat, At-risk-of-poverty rate for pensioners, February 2006 (latest available); Eurostat, At-risk-ofpoverty
rate of older people by gender and selected age groups, February 1997.
5 DWP, Households Below Average Income, June 2008
6 DWP, Households Below Average Income, June 2008

Council tax benefit

Because of the complexity of the benefit system, between 1.7 and 2.1 million
pensioners are failing to claim the Council Tax Benefit they are entitled to.7
As a result, between £1.1 and £1.5 billion of Council Tax Benefit went unclaimed by pensioners last year.8

Housing Benefit

Take up of Housing Benefit amongst pensioners has fallen under Labour
Between £380 million and £770 million in Housing Benefit went unclaimed by
pensioners last year. 42% of entitled non recipients of Housing Benefit were living in poverty last year compared with 10% of those entitled to and claiming the benefit.

Council Tax Benefit

Take up of by pensioners has fallen by at least 12% amongst pensioners since 1997.9

Council tax burden on pensioners

For a typical pensioner, a third of the increase in the basic state pension since 1997 has been eaten up by higher council tax payments.
For pensioner couple, council tax is up £685 on a Band D home from 1997-8 to 2008-9, compared to the couples’ basic state pension going up £2,353. For a single pensioner, council tax is up £514 on Band D, while the single basic state pension is up £1,469.10

7 DWP, Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take Up in 2006/07, June 2008
8 DWP, Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take Up in 2006/07, June 2008
9 DWP, Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take Up in 2006/07, June 2008
10 Hansard, 10 January 2008, col. 730W. Figures exclude payments for 70+ year olds, winter fuel payments and the 2005-06 £200 one-off payment; pension.

New Conservative Party analysis reveals that over two million of
the poorest pensioners will lose nearly £100 thanks to rising cost
of living under Labour

Pensioners face soaring living costs

Labour’s taxes and rising cost of living mean that pension increases for poor
pensioners will be entirely eaten up by higher inflation. Thanks to the spread of means-testing, more pensioners are now dependent on Pension Credit.
Poor pensioners are entitled to a minimum level of income via the Guarantee Credit component of the Pension Credit. The level of the Guarantee Credit was increased by 4.2% at the beginning of this financial year.11
Pensioner inflation is now considerably higher than CPI inflation because pensioners spend a much higher percentage of their income on high-inflation goods, like heating, light, and food. For example, pensioners spend 23%12 of their budget on food, whereas the average household spends only 11%.13 Pensioners spend 13%14 of their budget on fuel and light, compared with 9%15 for the average household. Official figures, buried away on the Office for

National Statistics website, show that:
For a two-person pensioner household, the rate of RPI inflation was 5.2%.16
For a one-person pensioner household, the rate of RPI inflation was 5.6%.17
But the official rate for annual RPI inflation was 4.4 per cent over the same period.18

Pension Credit rise wiped out by inflation

This means that the Guarantee Credit rise will be entirely eaten up by higher inflation. In fact, in real terms, the value of the Guarantee Credit19 is actually being cut.
A pensioner couple will lose £98 this year, at current rates of inflation.20
A single pensioner will lose £90 this year, at current rates of inflation.21
There are currently 2,130,620 Pension Credit claimants, all of whom will be

11 DWP, Proposed benefit rates 2008/09
12 ONS series CBXR. This is for a one-person pensioner household.
13 ONS series CZGZ
14 ONS series CBXY. This is for a one-person pensioner household.
15 ONS series CZHG
16 ONS series CZJI
17 ONS series CZIT
18 ONS series CZBH, Q2 2008
19 The Standard Minimum Guarantee of the Pension Credit for a single pensioner is currently £124.05 per week, or £9,846.20 per year. For a pensioner couple, it is £189.35 per week, or £6,450.60 per year.
20 For a two-person pensioner household, the rate of RPI inflation was 5.2 per cent. This means that the
Pension Credit is falling by 1.0 per cent in real terms this year (4.2 minus 5.2).
21 For a one-person pensioner household, the rate of RPI inflation was 5.6 per cent. This means that the Pension Credit is falling by 1.4 per cent in real terms this year (4.2 minus 5.6).
22 DWP Tabulation Tool, Feb 2008. Includes claimants who claim Guarantee Credit only, or both Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Concessionary Bus Travel - Council Funding fears are justified

Lancashire District Leaders met yesterday at County Hall (August 4th) to discuss the costs relating to the Governments Concessionary Bus Travel Scheme. Although accurate figures are still not available, due to computer software problems the "estimated" funding shortfall is projected at £2.3 million. Some are predicting a total bill to Lancashire Council tax payers of up to £7 million. Yesterday saw this story break on Regional and national news and confirmed that Fylde Borough Council was right to see the traevl scheme as a "High Risk"

Cllr John Coombes said

"The take up of the free bus travel scheme for over 60's has been encouraging, but the slow implementation of software means we are still flying by the seat of our pants, when it comes to knowing just how much of a bill Fylde Council Tax payers could be faced with"

He added

"Bus operator records have shown a 90% increase in free travel to the Fylde Coast, this year, through the Preston Bus Terminal. This means that Fylde Tax payers will be expected to pay the return proportion of these particular bus journey's. This figure could be upwards of £200,000, equating to almost 5% on their Council Tax Bills

The Council has had to make unpopular decisions to try and keep Council Tax bills down whilst at the same time having available the funding to pay for the Bus Travel Scheme. It is unbelievable that a Government scheme should be paid for by local tax payers - the bill as it stands, threatens to squeeze further the Council's budget and put cash strapped residents under more financial pressure. With this bill now hanging over the Council I hope that residents will see why the funding for the pools had to be stopped for the time being.

I will be joining forces with fellow Conservative Council Leaders to lobby Lancashire MP's and Government for a commitment to cough up the funding shortfall. Although I support the basic principles of the scheme, yet again it shows that the funding mechanism for this policy have been ill thought out. There is a consensus that the scheme may cost up to £7 million pounds, in the first year! A figure which would bring about swinging reductions in services across Lancashire unless Mr Darling commits to fund the total cost of the scheme.

Fylde Borough Council is caught between a rock and a hard place, Conservatives have more ambitious plans for the Borough but whilst this sword of Damocles is hanging over us we are unable to commit revenue funds to any new schemes.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Fylde Borough Council - Customer Service Bus

Fylde residents will soon have access to their local council via a new service being introduced from 13 August. The Bus will be in Heyhouses Ward on the 27th August at Whalley Place shops from 10:00 until 12 noon.

Fylde Borough Council will be using the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) Community Engagement Vehicle to reach out into the community - starting in the rural areas.

This service is intended to give residents access to council staff, who will be on hand to provide information about council services and to listen to issues of concern to the local public. The bus will also offer eligible residents information about the Now Card for free bus travel.

The first bus service, based in Kirkham, near Morrisons, will be on 13 August 2008 between 10am and 12pm. Following this, the bus will be located in various places in Fylde every Wednesday throughout August and September. If the service is successful, it is hoped that it will become a regular feature in the Fylde.

Councillor Albert Pounder portfolio holder for Customer Relations and Partnerships, said: ”The council is determined to help the public get the information they need quickly and accurately. To this end the bus will complement our existing services delivered by our One Stop Shop and Call Centre. The new bus will offer specially trained staff who will aim to provide a top quality service at the first point of contact”.

Cllr Craig Halewood said "This is a great concept for residents in Heyhouses which has some of the highest numbers of elderley in St Annes on Sea. With the closure of all Heyhouses Post Offices it is great to see the Council bringing it's services to the community"

Cllr Keith Hyde added "I hope residents will get in touch with us and let us know if the service has been of use, if it is, I hope that the Council would support the funding for making it a regular service"

For more information about the new bus service and to find out when the bus will be coming to your local area log on to