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.
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.”
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.
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.
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:
(The same reasons apply to the Tory No campaign as well.)
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.”
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.”
Essex taxpayers are being asked to cough up another £200,000 to fund ‘research’ into the Conservative county council’s Banking on Essex project, despite significant sums of money and hundreds of hours of council staff time already invested in the scheme.
Speaking about the decision, Cllr David Kendall, Liberal Democrat spokesman said: “Only a couple of weeks ago my group raised concerns about the council’s about turn on lending criteria after only a few weeks of the start of the project. We were told that this was on advice from Santander the bank operating the project. Why the council had not checked appropriate lending criteria with Santander before launching the project remains a mystery.
“The increasingly haphazard fashion in which this project is being managed, accompanied by increasingly significant amounts of taxpayers’ money being ploughed into it, is starting to ring alarm bells.”
The Liberal Democrats have called in this decision which will be discussed at the council’s scrutiny meeting in September.
Lib Dem group leader Tom Smith-Hughes, said: “We are delighted with our performance in these elections which has come off the back of well run local campaigning. We have some very able councillors who have been doing outstanding work in their local areas and this was reflected in the results. Our group is now the official opposition at Essex County Council and we take our role of holding the Conservative administration to account very seriously. We will press for them to get the basics right.
“It has been an astonishing result for the Labour group who have been virtually extinguished – left with a single councillor. Clearly Labour is finished here in Essex. The shambles that is the Labour government was no doubt a factor in the way people voted this time, although the Labour presence has been in steady decline at county hall for over a decade.”
The government has called in the county’s plan to build a waste treatment site at Rivenhall – and another Tory flagship runs aground.
Here’s how the story was reported in The Braintree and Witham Times, 20 May 2009:
“Government minister Hazel Blears has backed hundreds of residents who opposed a waste facility being built in the countryside. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has called in the proposal for Rivenhall Airfield, allowing a public inquiry to be held. The controversial waste management site could be binned if a Government inspector backs opponents to the scheme. Essex County Council (ECC) granted planning permission last month, despite only one favourable representation out of more than 800 made during public consultations. A letter sent on behalf of Mrs Blears to ECC said: The Secretary of State is of the opinion that the application is one that she ought to decide herself because she considers that the proposal may conflict with national policies on important matters.”
- The Tories have spent years advocating 2 big waste treatment plants as the way to deal with waste in the future
- They have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in real money and in officer time in pursuing this policy and the taxpayer will now have to finance a public enquiry
- They have ridden roughshod over the objections of local people and local councils and opposition parties, led by the Lib Dems, who have campaigned for a change of policy
- This is a flagship policy of the Tory administration, now in shreds, and it’s left the Tories pushing plan B, which is essentially the Lib Dem view that if the county gives financial incentives to boroughs/districts to increase recycling, there will be no need for big treatment plants. The Tories are now doing this and Rochford, for example, has increased its recycling dramatically
- This is evidence that the Tories are incompetence and incapable of making major decisions
- The whole life of the contract is worth around £5billion