Is the Conservative Party just as split as Labour? Time for the Hogwarts Sorting Hat!

Now we hear different factions of the Conservative party disagree about education policies:

Add this to the Conservative splits on the EU, housing policy, rural issues (including broadband), tax evasion, freedom of information and austerity cuts and Labour’s splits on just about everything else and it seems we really have three or four or five or more parties all slugging it out in Parliament and getting nowhere fast.

Is it time to put our MPs through the Hogwarts Sorting Hat procedure? We could vote to give them positive or negative points and positive or negative bonus points and the one with the most points would be in charge next time!

Owl (a most revered bird at Hogwarts) knows who it would expect to be in Slytherin!

Lords allowance of £300 a day isn’t enough says donor Lord who has given £7m to Tory Party

Lord Farmer, a hedge-fund boss and Conservative donor with a reported personal fortune of around £150million, said the £300 daily allowance claimed by some House of Lords peers was ‘inadequate’.

Why? He says: because many of them could be earning more money elsewhere so they are taking a hit in earnings if they attend


Sometimes you wonder if DCC and EDDC are on the same planet let alone run by the same party

From the blog of Independent DCC Councillor Claire Wright. My comparison, EDDC’s majority councillors from the same party seem to be rolling on their backs to be ticklec.

County councillors today overwhelmingly agreed to urge Devon MPs to speak and vote against the swingeing funding cuts that are set to be debated in the House of Commons in mid February – possibly on 10 February.

I made the proposal at today’s joint budget scrutiny meeting, which saw all four scrutiny committees come together to scrutinise the budget, which is set to have £28m shaved off it by central government.

I said (among other things) that if enough MPs actually voted against the settlement central government might think twice about imposing such draconian cuts, which affect the most vulnerable in society.

It comes on top of £174m of funding cuts since 2010.

This year’s cuts will mean the removal of funding for the arts, school crossing patrols and many many other cuts within services, which will mean a poorer service for vulnerable people.

The tenor and tone of today’s meeting from all parties was total exasperation, anger and frustration with central government – firstly for providing news of the final financial settlement so late as to be almost impossible to set a budget within the required timetable. The public health budget isn’t even available.

Voicing his own frustration, Conservative deputy leader, Cllr John Clatworthy said of the delay “It’s really not good enough.” And referring to the areas (most) where Devon is hugely underfunded compared with other parts of the country, Cllr Clatworthy pointed the finger at local MPs saying: “MPs are the guys who should be doing something about this.”

Leader, Cllr John Hart said “This has been the most difficult budget so far. We still don’t know what the final settlement will be. If it is lower, it will have to come out of our reserves.”

The council’s reserves are among the smallest in the country and would last for just a few days if relied on for austerity funding cuts.

Cllr Sara Randall Johnson – chair of people’s scrutiny said: “The people’s department (social services etc) is very very fragile. Just a small number of adults or children would topple that budget.”

And speaking generally about the people’s budget, she said: “The risks are massive…”

A briefing to all Devon MPs described the scale of the proposed funding cuts as “unprecedented.”

Chief executive, Phil Norrey, pointed out that this was the last budget of the first stage of austerity and next year the council would be not only planning for three years, but would be looking at the complete removal of the government grant, to be replaced with by a new distribution of business rates.

Devon County Council will have to rely on business rates and council tax income only in the coming years. John Hart commented that he was sceptical that any redistribution of business rates would see Devon better off.

The joint scrutiny committees voted in favour of the the proposed budget and in favour of the increase in council tax of four per cent, on the basis that there was simply no other choice given the unprecedented government funding cuts.

The criticism of central government’s cuts as well as the tardy financial settlement was powerfully made throughout each recommendation.

Devon MPs are set to receive the minute this afternoon, urging them to speak and vote against the huge funding cuts.

Here’s the webcast – (my speech is at 57 minutes)

LGA fights further government attack on council finances

From a correspondent:

The Local Government Association is taking a strong stand against very damaging parts of Housing and Planning Bill currently in the Lords. Fundamentally, the proposal is to tax councils for a third of their most expensive council homes, expecting them to have been sold at a discount whenever vacant. Ministers Lewis, Clarke and presumably Osbourne are very intransigent on this issue, saying it was in the manifesto which 36.9 per cent of people voted for. They are dead set on a smaller public sector.

Under new legislation, councils will have to hand over the estimated equivalent sum for the sale of a third of their housing, whether they have sold them or not. Housing Associations will be expected to use that money towards building more housing somewhere in the country. It is hard to make it add up when substantial discounts are taken out along the way. It is also very discouraging for councils to build, knowing they will have to sell cheap. That pushes more people into the private rented sector. That is accompanied by an increase in the cost of welfare benefits and a greater risk of homelessness. Meanwhile the councils’ ability to assist is reduced.

Working with the Lords, the LGA has been clear that this legislation as it stands is very damaging. Crossbench Peers who have a great deal of expertise on this field and are working very hard on this, this week. They are proposing improvements in the legislation and hopefully some amendments will survive the course through the Lords and when it goes back to the Commons.

Next week, the Minister is considering our responses on the Finance Settlement 2016/17. The LGA submission is hefty and wide-ranging at nearly 30 pages long. It follows a series of direct meetings by leading members and officers to clarify each point. The Independent group members have played a substantial role in this. The reductions of 40 per cent in real terms is enough for some councils to be unable to set a budget at all, even with raising their council tax by 2 per cent. The additional 2 per cent care tax on top is a big help but will not cover the rising costs. Effectively there is a replacement of the income tax, in the government grants that comes to Councils in RSG, with council tax. This is less and being a property tax is a blunter tool.

The new business rates that are due to arrive are to be allocated to particular responsibilities of councils. For example, public health, capital development for transport in London, housing benefit administration and attendance allowance. This means the cuts we face now are long term. The effect of this is very harsh in some councils. For example, in one County Council it is currently proposed in this one year to use pretty well the remains of irs reserves to make the budget balance (£38m) and make cuts/savings of £42m, all on a budget of £476m. The council has also been selling off property as fast as possible, not looking for longer term gains, to help cover next year’s shortfall. However, it is now evident that the shortfall is not likely to be temporary.”