Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Post 16 School Transport Update

Post 16 School Transport Update You will be aware that we have recently changed our policy on Post-16 student transport, therefore, I thought it would be helpful to clarify the current position. This letter will explain the background to the decision, the exemptions and other actions the council is taking to support you and your family. The decision by Policy Board has not been taken lightly. Cuts in funding have made it necessary for the council to reduce or curtail the provision of a number of discretionary services. Background The council receives no separate funding for Post-16 transport, and is very unusual in that it is one of the last authorities still offering free transport for Post-16 students. The cost of providing free Post 16 student transport has nearly tripled to £3.3 million per year from £1.2 million per year in 2008 when the free scheme was introduced. Since that time the number of students benefiting from free transport has risen from 850 to 3500, over this time the number of students attending post 16 education has fallen slightly. Of the 3500 students currently benefitting from free post 16 student transport, about 1400 (40%) choose to attend out of county establishments such as Newcastle College and Tyne Met College. This has resulted in a loss of potential income to Northumberland-based learning providers in the region of £28 million since 2008, which equates to £4475 per pupil per year. This reduction in post 16 students reduces the scope of the county’s schools and colleges to expand their curriculum and could undermine the viability of post-16 provision in certain cases. Exemptions Whilst a decision was made to remove the current free post 16 student travel scheme the council listened to concerns raised during the consultation process and the following exemptions were included. 1. Existing students who are already receiving free transport to a Sixth Form or Further Education College will continue to do so. There will be no change to their travel arrangements. 2. Students with a statement of special educational need (SEN) 3. Students from low-income families – defined as those who would qualify for a free school meal. Families who are claiming any of the following benefits/support can benefit from free transport: a) Income Support b) Income-based jobseeker’s allowance c) Income-related employment and support allowance d) Guarantee credit of pension credit e) Child Tax Credit (but not entitled to Working Tax Credit) where your annual income, as shown on your Tax Credit award notice is £16,190 or less. f) 16-18 year-olds receiving the above benefits or tax credits in their own right g) Asylum seekers in receipt of support provided under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 This will mean that nearly 1 in 5 of all students will continue to be able to travel free of charge. Protecting these two key groups will continue to cost the Council in the region of £900,000 a year. Application Process The travel scheme and its website are now open and I encourage you to familiarise yourself with the new Post-16 Transport Policy. If you feel your child meets any of the criteria that we use to determine eligibility for either (i) assistance with transport costs or (ii) travel on school bus services commissioned by the Council then I would encourage you to apply as early as possible. This will ensure your child is in receipt of their travel permit in good time before the start of the new Academic Year in September. There are two transport application forms, one for existing Post 16 students and one for students entering Post 16 education in September. Please ensure the correct form is completed. Further information is available on the school transport webpage which you can find at http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/Default.aspx?page=457#post16 However, if you require a paper copy of the application form this can be posted to you. Other actions we are taking to support Post 16 students Withdrawing funding for Post-16 student travel places an additional financial burden on families and in order to ensure that the best range of travel options are available the council is taking the following measures: 1.Working with schools to target their bursary funds to students in financial hardship who don’t qualify for financial support from the Council. 2.Where appropriate public transport is available then students will be expected to use this, however, in some circumstances, particularly in rural areas, appropriate public transport will not be available. In these locations the council will then continue to provide school transport through existing contracts. The council will have to charge students for places on these services and this charge will be £600 per year, which equates to £3 a day. The actual average cost of providing this transport is over £900 per year. If your child needs to apply for a place on one of these buses then you should use the application process as set out above. The application forms explain the flexible payment options available. 3.Where families need to use contracted school bus services provided through the Council and elect to pay the cost of school transport by direct debit, there will be no additional charge 4.In some locations schools are working with the council to purchase existing spaces on these services for their students. You should talk to your school about their proposed approach. 5.Discussions have taken place with Arriva, the County’s principal supplier of local bus services and they have agreed to introduce a new range of student travel tickets which will offer students good value for money travel along with flexible payment options and the facility to travel at any time of the day during the Academic Year. The travel passes will offer students travel within a particular zone or between zones. There are a number of zones and each zone will represent a particular geographical area e.g. Blyth Valley or Morpeth. The costs will range from £430 a year for a one zone pass; £530 a year for a two zone pass and £660 for a three zones or more pass, which will cover all of Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside. The council have worked closely with Arriva to ensure that for the vast majority of students the purchase of a one zone pass will be sufficient to enable them to travel to and from their local high school. The purchase of two or three zone tickets will be required if longer distance travel is undertaken. Arriva are working on direct debit facilities for annual ticket purchases which will enable families to buy these zonal tickets at the prices quoted without the need to make one big payment. Further details will be available shortly via our website and Arriva’s. 6.The council is in discussion with other bus companies to ensure they also offer students good value travel tickets to and from their local school or college. 7.For students who wish to pursue vocational courses that are not available at their local school, Northumberland College is putting in place the following transport facilities. The college has recently been judged by Ofsted as Good and they are ranked fourth nationally for the quality of their Post-16 provision. •A free bus service between Berwick and Northumberland College in Ashington, this service will also stop at key locations such as Alnwick. •The current Morpeth to Ashington Campus bus service will be retained. •an additional service to their Kirkley Hall and Ashington campus is being arranged-parents and students should contact the Colleges directly about this. Further Information Further updates on the various initiatives being taken by the Council, schools, colleges and bus companies will be announced over this and coming weeks. I realise that you will want to see the detail behind such announcements as soon as possible and appreciate that not all of them will be relevant to every family. We will ensure that all updates, including those from other suppliers, are placed on the Council’s School Transport website and the link you need to follow is: http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/STpolicy Whilst charging for a service that is currently provided free will never be popular, I hope this note provides you with some reassurance that steps are being taken and will continue to be taken to help students continue to access Post-16 educational opportunities.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Northumberland County Council must cut its revenue budget by £130M over a 4 year period to meet government cuts imposed by the Tories and LibDem government

Post 16 Transport Information: Northumberland County Council

 Northumberland County Council must cut its revenue budget by £130M over a four year period to meet Government targets.

 Post 16 Transport is a non-mandatory service.

 Schools and FE Colleges receive £4425 per post 16 learner.

 Northumberland County Council receives £0 per post 16 learner.

 49% of post 16 learners choose to stay within Northumberland to advance their learning.

 The 51% of learners who chose education outside Northumberland have removed £28M from the in-County Education system through the former post 16 transport policy.

 It costs Northumberland County Council £750 per year to bus a learner to their nearest place of education.

 Northumberland County Council has offered surplus places on school buses to parents at £600 per year a loss of £150 per learner per year.

 Payments can be made by Direct Debit.

 The decision of the Policy Board on post 16 transport is final and Council cannot change that decision.

 £900,000 has been dedicated to assist those who have special needs or can’t afford to travel to their nearest educational establishment. Link to Policy:
http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=457

Monday, March 24, 2014

Using its wholly owned Development Company ARCH, Northumberland County Council has begun a new development in Seaton Delaval to widen its housing portfolio.

COUNCIL DEVELOPING NEW MARKET HOMES Using its wholly owned Development Company ARCH, Northumberland County Council has begun a new development in Seaton Delaval to widen its housing portfolio. 28 New Homes are being built on the site of the former Council Offices to be let on a private basis through ARCH housing and will be ready from October 2014. Since Labour took over the administration of Northumberland County Council in May 2013 they have embarked on the creation of a quality mixed housing market place to expand the opportunity for people to get a sound roof over their heads. They have almost 100 new Council Homes ready to let with more in the construction phase and a good range of sites through planning and in the pipeline, the Council are also working with several housing associations to develop additional social housing to satisfy need and have had a good look at the private let market. Councillor Allan Hepple, Policy Board member for Housing and Regeneration said "In the private let market field we have some very good landlords who manage their housing stock very well but we have encountered problems with a number of absentee landlords and a lack of investment by some landlords in the buy to rent sector. We have embarked on the formation of a 'Quill' a Quality Landlord List to promote good practice among landlords, we have begun promoting those landlords letting's through our arms length choice based lettings scheme 'Northumberland Homefinder'" Councillor Gordon Webb, Chairperson of the Housing Working Group said" I'm pleased the Council's site at Seaton Delaval has begun as there is a prime need for quality rented accommodation in that area. The Quill will lead on to us Licensing landlords in areas where problems of low quality and low investment is affecting or running down communities. Those landlords who are already members of the scheme don't need to worry as they have attained the status Council requires to offer good homes to tenants. Those in need of a home should register with Northumberland Homefinder through Northumberland County Councils website using the housing link or visit one of our One Stop Shops"

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Let me begin by thanking you for all your efforts and hard work over the last year. As you will be aware, Northumberland Labour Group will shortly set its first budget proposals before council.

Dear Colleagues, Let me begin by thanking you for all your efforts and hard work over the last year. As you will be aware, Northumberland Labour Group will shortly set its first budget proposals before council. These proposals have been developed in the context of a £130M Coalition Government revenue cut over the next four years, a 30% reduction in our budget. To say cuts of this magnitude won't affect service delivery or local businesses and communities would be ridiculous, but Labour Group members in Northumberland have decided to use our first budget to protect as many front line jobs as possible in order that we safeguard the local economies we serve. Although the background to our first budget is one of bleak austerity, we have agreed to challenge the way we provide services and address future changes sitting just on the horizon such as those required through the Coalition Governments 'Care Bill' shortly to become the 'Care Act'. We want to ensure that we plan for more than just the short term, and to develop a genuine long term strategy for our services. Since we were elected in May we have begun to change the way the Council thinks of itself and have begun our move from departments towards integrated workstreams through changes at the top of our organisation. We are working with your Trade Unions on all issues and are about to begin a return to town centres from a centralised County Hall system that has failed the County over the last five years. This will revitalise our ability to support Northumberland’s towns and their local businesses. Those of you who have worked there will know just as well as me that County Hall as a building requires a fortune spent on it just to keep it up to the most basic modern workplace standards. The current revenue position of the Council does not allow us to service the kind of debt we would take on to do that work, so much cheaper options will be sought to re-house our workstream teams. Our commitment to attack the Housing Crisis is still strong with hundreds of new Council houses in either the planning, building or about to be let stage. Our consultation on the Local Development Framework that will protect 96% of our green belt for the next 20 years is going well and is being accepted by all but the most negative commentators. Streetscene services are working ever more closely with Town, Community and Parish Councils to deliver the services local people want the most on the ground and raise our standards to the pre 2009 level. We could not address these challenges without your support. There are some disappointments that we will have to tackle without having cash available. We have been told we must improve our education system without the benefit of being able to drive through a sponsored structural change for staff, parents and children to work towards. We have soldiers and their families rebasing to Albemarle barracks without the benefit of any additional MoD assistance to aid that resettlement. The pressure on school places and services in such a rural area will be immense and the much vaunted Community Covenant scheme can't be accessed by Local Authorities to aid the situation. Northumberland is the most sparsely populated county in England yet the Government’s sparsity offer is to invest in rural services today in order that we cut them next year. It’s much more difficult and costly to deliver services in very sparsely populated rural areas, as many of you who live and work here will know. To be faced with the choice of removing or cutting them is evidence that London based ministers have lost touch with societies such as ours. I want to be able to promise you, as our workforce, that we will work with you to enable all of us to address these challenges. Can I add one final request to you all? If you’ve had an invitation to take part in our Employee Survey, and you haven’t yet done so, please take fifteen minutes out of your day to do so. We value your opinions, and we know that we can’t take on the challenges we face without your support and engagement, which is why we want to address any issues that arise from the survey. Let me close by wishing you a Happy New Year, with my hope that we can all work together to meet the challenges we face, Regards Cllr Grant Davey

Monday, January 07, 2013

Berwick Chamber of Trade back ‘fair parking in Northumberland’ petition. Shops in the town to collect signatures before 26 February 2013 deadline




                                                                                        
Ian Swithenbank, Chairperson
Grant Davey, Leader
Val Tyler, Deputy
Robert Arckless, Secretary

County Hall
Morpeth
Northumberland NE61 2EF
Telephone (01670) 533000
Fax (01670) 533072

Press Release
Berwick Chamber of Trade back ‘fair parking in Northumberland’ petition
Shops in town to collect signatures before 26 Feb deadline
Berwick Chamber of Trade have become the first major Chamber of Trade in the county to back the petition to introduce a ‘fair parking system across Northumberland’ and have agreed to start collecting signatures in the shops of the town.
The petition closes on 26 Feb and will lead to a debate on car parking charges across Northumberland after closure at the council’s Petitions Committee chaired by Councillor Ian Swithenbank. It is hoped that the public campaign and renewed discussion about the issue of parking charges which Labour have branded ‘a parking stealth tax’ will send a strong message to the Liberal administration as it considers, what could be its final budget.  
Labour councillors have highlighted that the petition would be a ‘very visible way to send a message to County Hall’ about the current inequality which underpins parking charges across the county.
For instance, visitors to Morpeth, Berwick, Alnwick and Hexham have to pay parking charges while areas like Blyth, Cramlington and Ashington pay nothing. This raises between £1.96m and £5m in income from charges and fines but Labour disputes the figure. Labour also dispute reasons given by Lib Dem Cabinet member Andrew Tebbutt that ‘charges are needed to deal with congestion’ pointing out that there is no evidence that the council have undertaken any recent study into problems of congestion in Northumberland’s towns.  

Berwick Chamber of Trade’s John Haswell said

‘After printing out the petition form today, I have personally collected just over 280 names and signatures in one afternoon. It didn't take long and it wasn't hard to do, Berwick's residents are more than ready to put their name to this partition as they feel this town has been milked to the hilt and it’s about time it stopped. This petition will send out a strong message to the council that it must do more for traders and the residents in Berwick in these tough economic conditions. We will be making the petition available through the local traders and shops of the town so don't hold back, get in and sign it’.

 

Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘I hope the council will take notice of the campaign to highlight the damaging inequality in car parking charges across Northumberland’.
End



Sunday, January 06, 2013

'Bullied' Tory councillor to fight seat as Independent

'Bullied' Tory councillor to fight seat as Independent

  • by Paul Tully, The Journal

  • Jan 5 2013

Councillor Anne Dale and Councillor Ian Hutchinson (inset)

A LONG-STANDING Tory councillor has quit the party after a bullying row and will contest her seat as an Independent at the next election.

Anne Dale, who has represented Stocksfield and Broomhaugh ward in Tynedale for 18 years, left the Northumberland Conservative group after alleging she had been victimised by a senior colleague in a council chamber exchange.

Planning Committee chairman Coun Ian Hutchinson had to stand down after being found guilty by a standards panel of bullying Coun Dale during a committee meeting in June.

Coun Dale has now resigned from the Conservative party, and last night said: “I have quit the group and am hoping to stand as an Independent in the local elections in May. My honesty and integrity was at stake and I am not prepared to tolerate that for the sake of party politics. After serving for 18 years, I hope to continue doing so.”

Northumberland Conservative group leader Peter Jackson said there had been too many policy differences for Coun Dale to continue as a party member.

Coun Jackson said: “There are a series of policy differences going back three or four months. One was about saddling the new Prudhoe school building with a mountain of debt. She also refused to support our policies on control of wind farms, the Whittonstall opencast and our objection to it, plus free car parking before Christmas.”

But Coun Dale hit back: “There are no significant policy differences at all.

“There was one legal motion on wind farms that a lot of us didn’t vote on, but Peter Jackson has been singling me out.

“And on the issue of free computers at Prudhoe, I was not voting against that – I insist there were no significant policy differences.”

The split in the party has run for more than a year since it was announced that Coun Dale had been de-selected from the list of county election candidates.

Then in June she complained about Coun Hutchinson’s behaviour towards her during a planning committee meeting in Hexham.

Coun Dale took her case to the county council’s standards board and after a lengthy hearing, Coun Hutchinson, of Haltwhistle, was found guilty of bullying and apologised then stepped down as committee chairman to be replaced by Coun Edward Heslop of Wark.

Afterwards, Coun Dale resigned the party whip, though she is currently serving out her time on the authority.

Coun Jackson added: “She has kept on repeating that the group investigation into the bullying incident was not satisfactory, but that is wrong.

“The group did find that there had been a breach of the written code of conduct and Coun Hutchinson had to make a written apology. He then stood down as planning committee chairman.

“Most of the members of the group thought the matter had been handled satisfactorily – and that there should have been an end to it a long time ago. It doesn’t surprise us that Coun Dale has left the Tory group, because she effectively has not been a member of it for months now.”

Coun Dale’s place as a Conservative candidate in the May local election has been taken by Dr Paul Vickers of Stocksfield.

Coun Jackson said: “We are very excited that Paul Vickers is an excellent candidate who will bring a fresh view.”


 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Grant Davey’s Christmas message to the Trade Unions

 Dear All
I’m going to make no apologies for the sentiments expressed in this year’s Christmas message given the very difficult years ahead of us and the strains and stresses many of our members are facing because of the actions of the coalition government.
This message is going to be political and I’m going to give you food for thought.
I’ve always been aware that Labour politicians sometimes have to say things which put strains on our fraternal relations but we’re comforted by the recognition that we’re all on the same side, campaigning to make the country a fairer and more equal place to live.
Looking at Northumberland over the last four years of Liberal Democrat decisions and direction, we’ve seen the loss of 1500 jobs directly and 1000 jobs indirectly, the removal of £105m from the Councils budgets and the absence of a proper plan which heaped unnecessary strain on services already creaking under the pressure. Working under the uncertainty of privatisation and not knowing the real direction of travel of your employers isn’t the way to encourage people to give their all.
The general lack of communication and ‘misinformation’ about the Liberal plans for the council hinders good working relations and 2012 will go down as the year before the ‘storm’.

My background and beliefs may be a little different to the politicians you have lived with in Northumberland, as I am a Trade Unionist at the core. I want to work with Trade Unions because I think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve spent 23 years as a Branch Secretary and I’m proud of that. My colleagues within Labour Group have also grown up as Trade Unionists; many are also members of the Co-op party and from these backgrounds have fought against this administration and the second administration the Tories run through the scrutiny process.
What I’m saying is I want to see an authority that is ‘at ease with itself’ and one that sees its workforce as partners and people not ‘cogs in a machine’ to be manipulated and cast aside.
We recognise we’re in a minority in this council with a Liberal Democrat majority which is often supported and propped up by the Tories. Not a single Liberal Democrat budget would have passed unless it had Tory support and make no mistake; the Tories are still the ‘nasty’ party whichever way they try to ‘spin the facts’. Next year is a big year. For the first time in 5 years the voters of Northumberland can make their voices heard and we need your help to win where it matters, at the ballot box and by winning the battle of ideas.

In 2013, we’ll continue to campaign to make the economic case for ‘in-house’ provision and will continue to tackle the dogma that lies at the heart of the Liberal Democrat decisions – private is best and public means 2nd class. We’ll continue to campaign on ‘what matters is what works’.
We’ll be launching our manifesto in January 2013 and we can promise it will be underpinned by a partnership between communities and their council. We’ll be setting out our plans to build council houses to tackle a scandalous waiting list, a ‘jobs plan’ aimed at securing good quality council jobs and increasing apprenticeships and the general aim of making Northumberland a fairer place. We’ll be concentrating on getting the basics right by investing in our clean and green services which have been damaged by Liberal cuts.

Labour has a vision for the whole county, and you are a central part of that vision. The last five years have been wasted years.
The people of this County gave a mandate to the coalition parties to make Northumberland a better place to live, work and visit. What the people of Northumberland have got back instead is job cuts in the public and private sector, the imposition of policies from the council’s masters in government, implemented without a squeak of opposition, which have seen working families bear the brunt of ‘austerity’ created in the City by unaccountable bankers and reckless traders and the rise of the ‘stealth tax’ in Northumberland with unfair charges for car parking and rising parish council precepts.

We are able to make the clear case for public services against those who would put their prejudice against public services above the needs of the people and workforce of Northumberland and we can make that case more powerfully by working closely with the Trade Union movement and its members.
Make no mistake, 2013 is a crunch year. It’s decision time for the people of Northumberland, it’s a time when ordinary people will be feeling the ‘coalition crunch’ nationally, it’s the time when the fight back starts.
The spirit of co-operation and comradeship in pursuit of our collective interests has never been more vital. I hope 2013 will be a year for all linked to the Labour movement to look back on with pride and a year we can all say – I was part of the fight back.

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year

Councillor Grant Davey
Leader, Northumberland Labour Group