How the tax burden is changing with Lib Dem input

Not much to be said, really. This is for my Labour friends who still don’t admit that the last government had any responsibility for the mess we’re in, and who can’t bring themselves to give any credit to the Lib Dems for bringing a measure of fairness to our tax system.

Lib Dems Welcome Prison Sentence For Lord Hanningfield

In response to the nine month prison sentence imposed on former Essex County Council Leader Lord Hanningfield, for the House of Lords expenses fraud, Cllr Mike Mackrory, Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition Liberal Democrat Group on Essex County Council commented:

“The public have every right to expect that people who abuse their position to defraud the taxpayer, must feel the full force of the law. The case exposed a shocking misuse of power which has undermined the reputation of hard working local councillors. We now await the further police investigations into the outstanding allegations of fraud within Essex County Council by Lord Hanningfield.”

The BBC reports:

Paul White, 70, was convicted of six counts of false accounting relating to nearly £14,000 of claims in May.

White has said he will seek leave to appeal against the verdict. If granted, the Court of Appeal will hear the case.

He was found guilty of claiming money for overnight stays in London when he had actually returned home to Essex.

Peers were able to claim up to £174-a-night when attending Parliament, if their main home was outside the city.

But during his trial in May, the court was told White submitted false claims for hotel bills including one when he was actually on board a flight to India at the time.

He also fraudulently claimed for train fares and car mileage.

Passing sentence at Maidstone Crown Court, Mr Justice Saunders said that while there were “ambiguities” in the expenses system in the Lords, it was clear that White had claimed for expenses “he did not incur”.

“He knew when he accepted a peerage that the job of a working peer was unpaid and he did not have to accept the honour,” he said.

“It is not for me to say whether peers should or should not be paid but whatever you think of the scheme, it was not for any peer to take money to which he was not entitled on the basis that he believes he is worth it.”

Mr Justice Saunders said White’s dishonesty and that of others had had “serious consequences” for the reputation of Parliament.

“Great trust was placed in peers to be honest in their claims for expenses. The public expects no less of them. Lord Hanningfield and others have broken that trust.”

Thousands of Rochford residents benefit from Lib Dems’ tax break

Three years ago Labour abolished the 10p tax rate, caning the country’s poorest workers. Next month the Liberal Democrats in government are increasing personal tax allowances by £1000 a year. This simple act – the first instalment on one of the promises on the front page of our election manifesto – will take 880,000 people out of income tax altogether and help many thousands more. In Rochford alone 32,500 people can expect to pay £200 a year less in income tax.


The Hanningfield expenses saga drags on …

Read about it here on the BBC site.

A pre-trial hearing has been held by a judge in the case of a Conservative peer facing accusations that he fiddled his parliamentary expenses.

Lord Hanningfield faces six charges of false accounting between March 2006 and May 2009.

They are said to relate to overnight allowances for staying in London when records allegedly showed he was driven to his home near Chelmsford, Essex.

Lord Hanningfield is the former leader of Essex County Council.


Tories wrong on AV – again!

The latest Conservative newsletter distributed in Rayleigh contains some inaccurate and misleading comments about AV.

1) they say it is complicated. It isn’t. Instead of marking an X by your preferred candidate, you number candidates 1, 2, 3 and so on, in order of preference. If you find that tricky, you can still use the old X method. (If our MP finds it tricky, we might need to look for a new MP!)

2) they say some votes are counted several times, some votes only once. Not true. What happens is this: all the votes are counted. If no candidate has more than 50% of first preferences, votes for the lowest scoring candidate are re-allocated to their second choice, and ALL VOTES ARE COUNTED AGAIN. Everyone has one vote. All votes have the same value.

3) they tell you what Churchill said about AV. They don’t tell you what he said about our current first-past-the-post system:

“The present system has clearly broken down. The results produced are not fair to any party, nor to any section of the community. In many cases they do not secure majority representation, nor do they secure an intelligent representation of minorities. All they secure is fluke representation, freak representation, capricious representation.”

Local Lib Dem spokemsman Sid Cumberland says: “It’s about time we had some honesty in politics. Trying to pull the wool over voters’ eyes like this in order to keep the old, broken system is deceitful and patronising. The old guard don’t like AV because they’ll have to work harder and their safe seats won’t be quite so safe any more.”

For more information:

A Fair Voting System At Last – part 2

Ten reasons why the ‘Labour No’ campaign are wrong on AV

(The same reasons apply to the Tory No campaign as well.)

Lib Dems claim victory as Tories close ‘Banking on Essex’

Liberal Democrat County Councillors are claiming victory over the scrapping of the Banking on Essex scheme following the announcement made at yesterday’s County Council budget setting meeting by the Leader Cllr Peter Martin to “close the initiative”.

Long term critic of the scheme County Councillor David Kendall has raised questions about the scheme and challenged the whole process from when even before he was first elected back in June 2009. His concerns covered the following points:

* When the first phase was launched in December 2009 the stated ambition for Banking On Essex was to create a local municipal bank.

* The County Council put aside £50m from its cash balances to support the scheme.

* It cost £380,000 to establish the scheme but the money could never be recovered.

* He asked for the scheme to be reviewed by the Economic Scrutiny Committee and this took place in June 2010.

* By May 2010 only twelve loans had been approved with a value of £320,000

* No figures were ever made available on the number of applications turned down.

* Following the scrutiny in June members were told they were going to get regular updates on how the scheme was going but it never happened.

Cllr Kendall said:

“I believe the County Council has made the right decision to scrap Banking on Essex. I had serious concerns about £50m of Essex residents money being set aside to support Banking on Essex. I was also very concerned that It cost £380,000 to establish the scheme back in 2009. Since then the number of loans granted has been quite small and only half a million pounds has been lent to local businesses.

“I was also concerned that no figures were ever made available as to the number of applications turned down and members were not given updates on how the scheme was performing. There were also instances of businesses applying for loans experiencing problems with paperwork being lost.

“I have never been convinced that it was right for the County Council to get directly involved in Banking and it seems the Tories running Essex County Council have now finally come to the same conclusion.”

Tories gag opposition in revenge campaign

In a blatant act of  revenge, Lord Hanningfield and the Conservative administration group at Essex County Council have today (5 August) voted to cut off the only opposition group’s one full time support staff in a bid to gag the opposition.  The Conservative group itself will continue to employ 13 full time staff to support its own Administration group and will also continue to accept Special Responsibility Allowances totaling around £600,000 on top of their normal councillor allowances, all at the taxpayers’ expense.  The move came when the administration decided to make political staff to the Liberal Democrat and Conservative group redundant.

Speaking about the decision, Lib Dem group leader Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes said: “Only recently, Lord Hanningfield was complaining to the national press that a “vindictive campaign” had been launched against him by a Liberal Democrat MP.  This was in response to the news that Scotland Yard had decided to investigate Lord Hanningfield’s House of Lords expenses.  It can hardly be a coincidence that a short time later the Lib Dem group has been thrown off the council’s Waste Advisory Board and is now having its only full time staff member made redundant.

“Given the already outrageous number of full time employees dedicated to working for the Administration group, it is clear that this Tory group’s main preoccupation is with occupying power and then cutting down the opportunities for anyone to question them.  It appears there are shades of North Korea in Essex Conservatives’ style of governance, rather than the bright new Conservative image peddled by David Cameron.”