Mischievous ramblings, or dangerous mis-information?

It’s always good to see local people getting involved and willing to do their bit to try to make our things better for their community. One of these local people has now decided to stand for the county council, having been a commentator on local issues for sometime now, both via occasional letters to the local press and an active blog site.

I say commentator, because he does not seem to of done anything that could classify him as an activist. My understanding of an activist, is somebody who feels strongly about something and then takes steps to get things changed, generally for the better. Those who do things for the worst, would of course be more akin to extremists, or maybe even terrorists.

To date, this particular individual has made plenty of comments – mostly rambling and almost always negative – but has done little, or rather nothing, to actually improve anything.

The reason that I’m suggesting that his blog site statements might be more akin to dangerous mis-information than simply mischievous ramblings, is because his comments include factual errors that could lead others to draw the wrong conclusions and possibly form completely the wrong opinions about an important issue.

He is not alone in this lazy approach to not getting the facts right before making his thoughts public, as another newly declared county council candidate, standing under a different political banner, is doing exactly the same thing. However, in this case, his comments are directed at me. This is going to be an interesting and I fear, potentially unpleasant election campaign.

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Councils accused of misusing on-the-spot fines

Oh so easy for some researcher from some obscure think tank – anybody else never heard of this lot? – and suggest how things could be done better. Have they not noticed the carnage local government is suffering all in the name of deficit reduction?

That’s not to say that the public should be treated as cash cows to make up the funding gap, but how else would these sort of issues be dealt with, that didn’t demand far more resources and were likely to be less effective in the short term at least?

I would like to see some sort of public response to this criticism of councils and I don’t mean from the transgressors, but from those who have complained to their local council about these self same issues. I think I could hazard a guess that these people will take a very different view.

Copied from LocalGov.co.uk
Written by Laura Sharman

Local authorities have been accused of using on-the-spot fines as the ‘penalty of choice’, in a new report from the Manifesto Club.

Pavement Injustice argues that with 200,000 fines issued every year, there has been a shift from delivering public services to local authorities adopting a more ‘policing role’. It also argues that some local authorities are using these fines as a means of making extra revenue.

The report also states that on-the-spot fines are issued for a range of incidents, from criminal offences such as theft, to minor offences such as duck feeding or messy gardens.

Report author, Josie Appleton, said: ‘This report argues that on-the-spot fines are in general a lazy, unjust and predatory penalty, inherently disposed towards perverse effects and the arbitrary punishment of innocent people.

‘This report suggests that vast majority of these 200,000 incidents a year would be better dealt with through a different mechanism, whether it be court trial, public communication, school discipline, or – in the case of innocent duck feeders and leafleteers – not punished at all.’

Benefit schemes to be cut back next year

Copied from LGC online
14 March 2013 | By Ruth Keeling

Many people on low incomes will see big jumps in their council tax bills when the government stops funding schemes to cushion them from the removal of benefit, research seen by LGC reveals.

Almost 20% of the 195 billing authorities receiving a share of the £100m pot intend to switch to less generous support regimes in 2014-15 or review the more generous ones that transition cash helps fund, according to National Policy Institute figures.

This comes after the government announced one year of funding for schemes that aim to limit the council tax liability of claimants who previously received a 100% discount on bills to just 8.5%.

The funding, revealed in October, led many councils to change their original plans.

Sabrina Bushe, a researcher at the NPI who is compiling the figures, said they provided an early indication of what authorities would do next year.

“Many councils will simply revert back to the – sometimes quite harsh – schemes that they had initially consulted on,” she said.

The NPI figures show that 13 of the 195 councils will switch back to less generous discount schemes in 2014-15, while 23 will put this year’s regime under review.

Sevenoaks DC, one of the authorities reverting to a less generous discount regime, will expect claimants to pay a minimum of 18.5% of the total tax. Council leader Peter Fleming (Con) said that the 18.5% figure reflected the size of the funding cut applied to Sevenoaks.

The council was unable to use other budgets to plug the financial gap once transition funding ran out, he said. “We are making far more than 10% savings in all our other budgets,” he said.

Referring to the need for councils to fund support schemes, he said: “They have handed us something extra and are not fully funding it.”

Another authority reverting to a less generous scheme is Newcastle City Council, according to NPI’s research. Its proposed scheme for 2014-15 will include a minimum contribution of 20%.

City treasurer Paul Woods said the council would revert to the regime it proposed before ministers announced the transition funding for 2012-13. “As we have already fully consulted on this, further consultation is doubtful and would not be good value for money,” he said.

However, Mr Woods suggested the government could combine the £50m it underspent on the transition funding with any leftover council tax freeze grant to provide a second year of transition funding. “This would give greater certainty and stability while the new arrangements bed in,” he said.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities & Local Government said the grant was to help councils deliver long-term savings.

“The expectation is local authorities will be taking all possible steps to help families with their cost of living, keeping down pressure on council tax bills by sharing services and back-office functions, cutting wasteful expenditure, and smarter procurement,” he said.

“We will consider whether further action is required in due course.”

Full list of councils

Mixed recycling case dismissed by judge

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
6 March, 2013 | By Neil Roberts

A judge has dismissed the claim brought by members of the Campaign for Real Recycling that sought restrictions on commingled collections, according to the Environmental Services Association.

The claimants had argued Defra and the Welsh Government had not properly transposed the European revised Waste Directive Framework in the Waste Regulations (England and Wales), in particular rules on when commingled collections are allowed.

They argued commingled collections do not produce high quality recyclate while waste firms Biffa and Veolia released statements warned that a victory would force councils to switch to sorting recycling on the kerbside wasting taxpayers money and damaging recycling rates.

ESA said the judge, Mr Justice Hickinbottom, found the governments had properly interpreted European law and that the obligation to set up separate collection of paper, metal, plastic and glass from 2015 applies only where it is necessary to ensure waste undergoes recovery operations and to facilitate and improve recovery and is also technically, environmentally and economically practicable.

ESA’s director general, Barry Dennis told LGC’s sister publication Materials Recycling World: “The ESA has always believed that both the directive and the revised Defra regulations recognise that decisions over local collection methods are complex and that local discretion over the format of recycling collections is needed to ensure that the Directive’s objectives are met. We are therefore pleased that the judge, having examined the matter in great depth, has taken the same view.

“ESA members can now get on with the challenge of working with their local authority customers to select the most appropriate collection system locally. This is vital if we are to continue to make significant increases in recycling rates, so that as much of our waste as possible is returned to productive use.”

The legal action did force the governments to revise the regulations last year to require separate collections only where technically, environmentally and economically practicable and necessary to meet the required standards of reprocessors.

But the CRR rejected that revision as an inadequate transposition of the EU law which demands: “measures to promote high quality recycling” and “separate collections of waste where technically, environmentally and economically practicable and appropriate to meet the necessary quality standards for the relevant recycling sectors.”

The judge also dismised an application by the claimants to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Lopsided story in Telegraph regarding gipsy and traveller sites?

Daily Telegraph Saturday 2nd March. Green belt at risk as gipsy camp rules are enforced.

If this story is a distortion, is the Telegraph becoming a broadsheet tabloid rag?

Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said:

“This story is completely false. This Government has increased planning protection for the Green Belt and open countryside through National planning guidance and given greater weight to the protection of local amenities and the local environment.

We’ve also increased councils’ powers to tackle unauthorised sites and provided additional funding to councils to provide new authorised pitches which have community support.”

As always, only time will tell, but by then of course, it will be too late.