Agenda item

Questions from Councillors - to a member of Executive Board, the Chair of a Committee and the Chair of any other City Council body


Financial management


Councillor Roger Steel asked the following question of the Deputy Leader:


Does the Deputy Leader of the Council recall the Leader of the Council writing in The Guardian in 2011 that he was “damn sure that at Nottingham City Council there is absolutely no political gesturing in the very tough budget decisions” and that he has himself acknowledged that there is a need for prudency in financial management. Was the Council therefore displaying such prudency when it chose to use its apparent limited resources to fund a politically charged sign, advocating support against perceived education cuts, in Old Market Square?


Councillor Graham Chapman replied as follows:


Can I thank Councillor Steel for his question and can I welcome him and his questions back to the Council. To be frank, we have probably missed his questions more than we have him, but he’s back now and so welcome.


No I can’t remember what Jon said in the Guardian whenever. Life is too short for me to do that. Nevertheless, I do have to say that last year the Government’s proposed national funding formula would have resulted in 98% of schools in Nottingham from April of this year losing in total £22million. I do know about that and I also know that it was going to work out at £578 per pupil and thanks to the outcry and hard work of a number of campaigns, including ones organised by the City Council working with schools to write to every Nottingham parent, the Government made some revisions to its proposals to the point where the loss was reduced to £10million. So we only lost £10million, our children, and it is £263 per pupil instead of £578. This is not money that went on “little extras”, to quote the Chancellor but on teachers, on books, on learning support and support in particular for children with special education needs. Some examples from my own ward, Aspley, which is one of the more deprived: Brocklewood school, £199 per pupil lost. Ambleside, £215 lost. Rosslyn, £153 per pupil lost. Bluecoat, which services the whole city, £620. Trinity, which again services a lot of the estate, £477 and St Theresa’s £159 per pupil. That is substantial.


What the first campaign did was to show that public condemnation does pay and in May this year, we in this Council discussed a motion that set out a number of ways we could work to try bring about further changes to the government’s proposal, hence the sign. I think, referring to the sign in Old Market Square, he might mean the school cuts campaign banners that were recently put up in response to the Council resolution, but I am only guessing. The Council’s contribution to these banners was the princely sum of £1,000 and given the very real detriment the funding cuts will have, we were happy to help the school cuts campaign and it was not our campaign, gain a presence in the city centre. At this point, I do have to take issue with Councillor Steel’s use of some of the words in his question. He talks about perceived education cuts, he talks about the Council’s apparent limited resources.  Now, perceived, why would you use the word perceived? I mean, you need only to go to the head teacher of some of these schools and tell them that actually they haven’t really had cuts, they are just imagining them. Right, you need to tell the teacher who was in post last year who hasn’t been replaced is still there really, they’ve just been hiding in the cupboard for a year. Right, all the books that are worn out and not replaced are really new books. You just have to use your powers of imagination. Or you go to our staff and tell that them that they are not really having to deal with cuts, reduced services, in ill-health prevention for example, are just appearances. They are figments of the imagination, they are fake cuts spread about by the Labour Council. That is probably what it is about. Indeed, it seems that this fantasia to enrapture the Tory party. We have the Treasury Secretary, Liz Truss is also at it, so is Matt Hancock. Truss makes an astonishing statement that the government is not making cuts to councils. This: despite almost every council in England, including Tory councils, teetering on the brink and complaining about swingeing reductions in their budgets. Hancock is claiming to have received absolutely no correspondence from his West Suffolk constituency on Universal Credit. Within hours, the Mirror found correspondence. It is a case of mass self-delusion so I am beginning to wonder whether you are not all on some sort of kick whereby, throughout the Tory Party, you are just deluding yourselves about the reality of things. Well, coming back to earth, I can assure him there is nothing perceived or apparent about £10million cuts to Nottingham schools or the loss of over £90million in funding from our day to day services since 2013. It is not perceived if you cannot buy new books or having to appeal to parents to supplement school spending or if you are having to increase class sizes as the result of cuts. It is very, very real. As are the cuts to council funding which has hit the poorest areas the most which means we are having to make further real time cuts across all services in a discriminatory way in which the poorer the council, the more cuts they receive and if it costs £1,000 to inform people about it and if the reaction shames a government to reduce the cuts then it is money extremely well spent.


I will finish on a very serious note about priorities for the city. Councillor Steel’s priority is £1,000 spent on a sign. Ours is £10million cut to our children’s education and I wonder who the average Nottingham parents will perceive as who has their priorities right. I think I have the answer.


Thank you



Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)


Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Leader:


In light of the harrowing statements given at the IICSA Inquiry does the Leader of the Council stand by his statement that “Nottingham will apologise when it has something to apologise for” and does he acknowledge that in retrospect survivors were owed a more empathetic acknowledgment of their ordeals that would have been more in keeping with the Council’s Citizens at Heart corporate message?


Councillor Jon Collins replied as follows:


Thank you Lord Mayor, and can I thank Councillor Rule for his question. Whilst such an approach has never been Council policy, personally I believe to be meaningful, public apologies need to be in response to specific service failures and not just bland, hollow words. That’s why, when the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse provided new and previously undisclosed evidence demonstrating the Council had failed to provide the highest levels of care for some of its looked after children, that apology was made. The apology was immediately published on the City Council website and reiterated by Councillor Mellen and Alison Michalska during the evidence they gave to the IICSA Inquiry and subsequently by the Chief Executive in a meeting held with a few survivors.


Can I also now take this opportunity to repeat that apology. That apology said, and I quote “we have apologised in private to individuals and have always said we would apologise publicly at a time where there was substantive evidence to show this would be appropriate and not a hollow gesture”. In preparing for the IICSA inquiry into child sexual abuse, information has come to light that shows instances where the standard of care fell seriously below that which we would now demand and what children in Council care should have been able to expect. It is now clear that upon inheriting the responsibility of children’s services from the County Council 20 years ago, there should have been a swifter and more robust action taken to address the issues which began to emerge about the way some children’s homes were run and the impact this was having on children. Changes we made to children’s residential care did not have an immediate impact in terms of improved standards but over the last decade we have seen consistently improving standards, including now much smaller family home like units. As the Leader of Nottingham City Council, I wish to state publicly that we are deeply sorry and I offer our heartfelt sympathies to survivors who should never have suffered whilst in our care. We apologise unreservedly for any failings and shortcomings which allowed such abuse to take place. Being in the care of the local authority should provide safety for children and sadly this was not always the case. Abuse of a child is an abhorrent, unforgivable crime which has a devastating impact on the lives of its victims. We hope that the independent scrutiny of the inquiry and having their voices heard as part of the process will give survivors a sense of justice. We will continue to provide any support we can and encourage anybody aware of or affected by abuse, current or historic, to come forward and to speak confidentially to us or the police. We can assure anyone who has suffered in the past or is suffering now they will be listened to, taken seriously, and appropriate action will be taken.




Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)


Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Early Intervention and Early Years:


Will the Portfolio Holder for Early Intervention and Early Years support the establishment of a sub-committee to properly scrutinise the findings and implementation of any recommendations from the IICSA report and will he extend an invitation to survivors and those who have advocated for them to be part of this process?


Councillor David Mellen replied as follows:


Thank you Lord Mayor, can I thank Councillor Rule for his question. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has looked thoroughly into records of social care practice in the past and the present and heard evidence of survivors of abuse from both the County and from our City. They will continue their inquiry, it has not finished yet, with a focus on other areas and other strands of their remit and we do not expect their report until the summer of 2019 at the earliest. We will take the findings and recommendations of this Inquiry very seriously. We need to do everything we can to avoid children in the care of this authority being let down in the future in the way that some have been badly let down in the past. The City Council continues to be fully engaged with the Nottinghamshire child sexual abuse survivors support group. That is Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, which meets regularly with survivors meeting with officers from both authorities. As the Leader has said, Ian Curryer the Chief Executive has met with this group by invitation just last week and Catherine Underwood, the Director of Adult Services, will be taking the lead with this group from the City, taking over from Helen Jones, her predecessor who left the authority in summer who had met with this group regularly for quite some time.


We will continue, in addition, to support individual residents who choose to engage with our services on an individual basis. Not everyone wants to be part of a group discussing such a sensitive nature and we will make sure that support is given to that group and on an individual basis as is required. There are individual survivors who are already working with us to continually improve our support for young people and vulnerable adults and we always welcome this engagement and are happy to engage other survivors should they wish to be a part of this. We are not waiting for the publication of the IICSA report before addressing the issues that survivors raise with us and through the Inquiry and through the evidence in the public hearing and we will be reporting back to both Children’s and Adults local safeguarding boards and the Corporate Parenting Board on this development. The Corporate Parenting Board is wholly concerned with the experience of children in the care of the local authority and when recommendations are made from the Inquiry about current practice with children, this will be the appropriate forum in which to discuss these findings and hold officers and partners to account over the implementation of any changes needed.


Following the publication of the IICSA report, we will consider if there are further findings and actions required that we have not already addressed. We have already committed to report back to the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee.



Local authority housing cap


Councillor Andrew Rule asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Planning:


Will the Portfolio Holder for Housing and Planning join with me in welcoming the Prime Minister’s announcement last month and the Chancellor’s Budget confirmation that the local authority housing cap is to be scrapped which will provide the City Council with access to additional finance to build new homes within City?


Councillor Linda Woodings replied as follows:


Thank you Lord Mayor. Yes, thank you Councillor Rule, we do welcome the Government’s scrapping of the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap because this will give the Council the opportunity to access additional funding to deliver more new, high quality social housing in the City and the reason we welcome it is because it has been Labour’s policy since it was introduced and it comes after years of campaigning from Labour Councils, housing charities and pressure groups and even the Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association, the government have finally listened. Since 2010 this Tory treasury imposed cap has been the main blocker to building desperately needed council housing and, by the way, the cap hasn’t increased since its introduction despite inflation. It won’t solve our country’s housing crisis, a crisis made and prolonged by this government, unless local authorities are given the freedom to build genuinely affordable social housing. But whilst we celebrate this Labour win, it is regretful that the Prime Minister did not announce a single penny of funding to build council housing, only the ability to prudently borrow our own money against our assets to finance the building of homes. All decisions on extending the current HRA new build programme will be made on a strategic basis in line with the Council’s priorities and in partnership with Nottingham City Homes subject to financial viability and in line with the Prudential Code. Nottingham City Council has embarked on the biggest new council housing programme in a generation and we have recently seen our 500th resident move in to new build homes developed through this programme. Through this investment, we have delivered real quality transformation of our estates to create high quality, energy efficient homes for Nottingham people in attractive neighbourhoods where people want to live and raising the borrowing cap will allow us to do this. Part of the funds for our new build programme also comes from the right to buy replacements funds we get from the sale of council homes through the right to buy programme. Unfortunately, there are still pointless restrictions on reinvesting income from right to buy sales on building new homes, constraining their use and they do not allow councils to replace homes on a 1-1 basis like the government promised. The government is also currently consulting on relaxing or changing these rules and we would welcome a similar speedy decision on this matter in order to remove the barriers currently in place so that the Council can invest to replace a large number of homes sold under right to buy each year. Alone this won’t solve the housing crisis. Without reforms to right to buy, significant grant funding, better security of tenure in the private rented sector and an end to damaging welfare changes on the most vulnerable, we risk not seeing any real change in the number of families unable to find or afford a place to call home. Nottingham Labour believes that everyone deserves a safe, secure, decent home. We are pleased with this latest adoption of Labour policy. If Councillor Rule can persuade his party at national level, we have many more practical policies on housing that he and his party are welcome to adopt including abolishing the bedroom tax, minimum three year tenancies for private rented residents, new legal minimum standards to ensure properties are fit for human habitation, better consumer rights for tenants and end to land banking by property developers and many, many others and I am happy to provide him with a list.



Fire at the Cattle Market


Councillor Michael Edwards asked the following question of the Leader:


Will the Leader join me in thanking council staff and Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service for the way in which they responded to the incidents at the Cattle Market on the 4th November?


Councillor Jon Collins replied as follows:


Thank you Lord Mayor, can I thank Councillor Edwards for his question. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Fire and Rescue Service for their bravery and professionalism in dealing with this particular incident. It was shocking to see the images of the fire at the Cattle Market on Sunday evening last and without the efforts of the Fire Service, the impacts would have been much worse. Although 4 units were destroyed, 10 – 15 industrial units were saved and people are going to be employed today, and businesses will survive, due to the efforts of fire fighters working in very challenging circumstances. The Fire Service, I understand, was alerted to the fire at around 5.30 in the afternoon last Sunday, November 4th, and bought in about 100 firefighters from Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire to tackle it. Using a high volume pump, 3 aerial ladders and a specialist team which forced entry into buildings, and a command unit, the fire was brought under control by 11:15 PM. The Fire Service work with partner agencies including Nottinghamshire Police, Nottingham City Council, the East Midlands Ambulance Service, City Council colleagues from highways, communications, building control, emergency planning, environmental health, property, the Growth hub, Eastcroft Depot and Nottingham On Call who all responded to the call and I would like to take the opportunity too to thank them for all their hard work and dedication. The Fire Service left the scene at 1 o’clock on Monday 5 November but the recovery efforts continue. Once the immediate situation has been dealt with, the Council contacted each of the businesses affected to understand how we could support them to get up and running as soon as possible. The Council made an offer to businesses to take up vacant units at Victoria Market in the important run up to Christmas and the Council’s property and growth hub teams are working with affected owners to see what other support can be provided.



Domestic violence


Councillor Linda Woodings asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Community Protection:


Could the Portfolio Holder for Community Protection update Council on its commitment to tackling domestic violence and supporting survivors? What progress has been made on the Council’s partnership with the White Ribbon campaign?


Councillor Toby Neal replied as follows:


Thank you Lord Mayor and thank you to Councillor Woodings for your question. When it comes to the issue of protecting women, it’s making sure women are allowed to make choices about their own lives and to live the lives that they think are important. Performance of domestic violence offending is managed by the Crime and Drugs Partnership Board which the Leader of the Council chairs. This ensures that we maintain a shared understanding of issues facing the agenda in the City and our approach is coordinated across all agencies. But domestic violence remains all too common in the City: 3100 offences being committed last year. And whilst men can be victims of domestic violence and abuse, and women can be perpetrators, the large majority of these crimes are perpetrated by men against women and this understanding is what informs our approach. Since 2012 we have supported the White Ribbon campaign which was known as the ‘Man Enough’ campaign back in those days. It invites men to pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about domestic violence. We have supported this campaign as it sits squarely within the agenda that we follow within the CDP, our understanding of the issues within the City and the commitments that we have made in previous and current Council Plans. There is now an opportunity to become an accredited White Ribbon City. Seeking this status will publicly and clearly announce our intention to stand up to domestic violence and build on the legacy of many years successful work on this agenda. I’ve strongly supported this agenda and have been ably supported by Councillor Woodings in a lot of the work that’s been done and the establishment of the White Ribbon City Working Group was a key element of that. So the working group has developed key social media messages, held several well attended events for citizens and key influencers and has completed a draft application to secure accreditation. Early in the New Year I will bring to Full Council the draft proposals for endorsement by the Council so that we can apply and then hopefully report, a little shortly afterwards, that we have been successful. Our objectives are to become a fully accredited White Ribbon City.



Refill campaign


Councillor Anne Peach asked the following question of the Portfolio Holder for Energy and Environment:


Would the Portfolio Holder for Energy and Environment share my enthusiasm for the launch of the Refill campaign in Nottingham, which will enable members of the public to fill up water bottles for free across the City? What other ways is the Council leading on the green agenda?


Councillor Sally Longford replied as follows:


Thank you, and thank you Councillor Peach for your timely question. I was delighted to be involved in the launch of the new refill scheme in the City recently. Thanks to Blue Planet Two I believe more people are aware of the need to reduce our use of plastic in general and single use plastic in particular. Therefore this scheme, which makes it easy for individuals to re-use their bottles and refill their own bottle, rather than buying a new one, is very welcome. It is a partnership with Severn Trent Water that has helped to bring the scheme to Nottingham and I would encourage everyone to download the Refill app onto their phone so that when they’re out and about they can easily identify friendly locations to refill their water bottle. Although all licensed premises are obliged to refill bottles on request, a fact that is probably not widely known, having a sticker in the window demonstrates to potential refillers that they will be welcome in the establishment and I hope will give confidence to passers by to ask for the service. Not only will this be beneficial to the environment but our citizens will not have to fork out for a new bottle when they need hydration, saving everyone money in these difficult times. I’m really pleased that one of the first cafes to sign up to the scheme in Nottingham was the Bean Culture coffee shop in our own Loxley House. It is important that the City Council takes a leadership role in valuing our environment and cutting waste. I’m really grateful to the volunteers who went out on launch day to sign up volunteers and to the fantastic response of the business community, more than 60 of whom have signed up already. I believe this will have a very positive impact on the reputation of those businesses involved and will certainly encourage me to make more frequent use of those businesses involved.


Of course, while we’re talking about tackling single-use plastic like water bottles, it’s important not to forget the other plastics people use and dispose of everyday. Currently, about 3% of the waste going into our recycling bins is plastic and the majority of this is recycled. That which cannot be recycled goes into fuel cement kilns. None of the unrecyclable plastic goes to landfill. Our recycling contractor Wastecycle runs a tight ship and we are confident that their plastic goes to legitimate destinations in Western Europe for recycling. In our general waste bins, around 17% is plastic. This goes for incineration along with all our other residual waste, apart from periods of incinerator shutdown, for example during the annual maintenance period. The Government is due to launch the Resources and Waste Strategy next year and I hope that our ability to reduce the quantity of plastic waste in the system will be supported by the strategy. In the meantime, I’ve been working closely with the Waste Collection Team to ensure that we maximise the recycling potential in the City by tackling contamination and enabling more people to recycle at home easily. I’m glad to say that the Council is leading on many aspects of the green agenda. I recently attended a meeting of the Green Theme Partnership, part of One Nottingham, which is facilitated by the Council and is working towards an ambitious 2050 plan for the City. We are working at the leading edge of sustainable technology and using our expertise to provide advice across the region, earning the Council money and spreading positive messages about the benefits of green technology. We are well ahead of our carbon reduction target and, as I said earlier, we are on track to meet our 2020 target of 20% of energy from low carbon sources. We are the envy of many cities with regard to air quality. I would like to remind everyone that we are the only one of the five mandated cities originally by government, not to have to introduce a charging clean air zone before 2020. This is because of the continuous work over many years through the development of our sustainable transport system, with the tram, electric bus system and the development of a network of cycling routes. This would not have been possible without the Workplace Parking Levy and without stable political leadership over a long period of time. We all know that the Opposition have taken every opportunity to criticise these policies and if they had been in power you can be sure these schemes would never have come to fruition. We are not resting on our laurels however. We are pressing forward with strategies which will continue to reduce pollution in the City, making it a healthier place for everyone to live.



Universal Credit


Councillor Steve Battlemuch asked the following question of the Deputy Leader:


Does the Deputy Leader agree with John Major when he says that Universal Credit could be the equivalent of the Poll Tax, hitting working families the hardest?


Councillor Graham Chapman replied as follows:


In part. Universal Credit for new claimants was rolled out in Nottingham on 17th October 2018. The managed migration of existing benefit claimants to Universal Credit is due to start in July 2019 and is expected to be completed by 2023. There’s been no confirmation yet as to how the migration will be organised. Nottingham is amongst the last to be migrated and to be rolled out and, if you have to be grateful for small mercies, then this is a small mercy to be grateful for. At the same time we have been warning for years about the dangers and the inhumanity of the proposed changes. Until recently, our, and others’ warnings have not only been ignored but have been disparaged. We only have to remember the mass waving of hostile order papers in the Commons by the Tory benches at the mention of Archbishop Justin Welby who had the temerity to point out the injustice of Universal Credit. It did remind me of the reception in the 1980s that the Bishop of Durham, does everybody remember the Bishop of Durham, received to his protest about the inequity of the Poll Tax, very, very similar. You’re an Archbishop, and you protest about it on behalf of the poor, which is the Christian thing to do, and you get disparaged by the Tory Party. It seems to be part of the package. But lo and behold, despite all of the Tory nonchalance over the past 8 years, our Chancellor now tries to ride to the rescue of the scheme. Indeed under pressure, he’s conceded what for the last 8 years most of us have known, including the charities, the National Audit Office, Institute for Fiscal Studies, Resolution Foundation – all the people who have the disadvantage of knowing what they’re talking about. They have been saying that Universal Credit is both unjust and unworkable. The Chancellor seems to be, in part, agreeing so what he’s done, he’s thrown £1billion worth of Elastoplast at the scheme and what we have is some attenuation. But it’s not been the worthy and the good, or even the Labour Party, which is not always worthy and good but probably more so than the Tories, that has forced the damascene conversion of the Tory Party. No, give them credit, it’s the Tory MPs themselves. However, it was not the morality of the case which was the driving force, it wasn’t the poverty that had been wreaked or the children’s lives that had been sent into chaos for lack of funding which affected our Tory colleagues. It was the politics: crude, basic politics. It was the sheer numbers of families and people involved which frightened the Chancellor and encouraged John Major to compare Universal Credit to the Poll Tax. Tory MP Johnny Mercer, worried about his majority in Plymouth stated that Universal Credit is politically; notice he said politically not morally, undeliverable in Plymouth. Please note, it wasn’t “I’ve been down to the food bank of Moor View and seen the misery it’s causing”. No, it’s the politics, it’s the numbers and it’s the concern for his seat. There are exceptions amongst the Tories. Sarah Wollaston is one and one or two others, they’re mainly women, who have conceded, and one of them even conceded, and this is quite quaint this, “the lefties have a point about Universal Credit”. That’s what she wrote in the Times: “the lefties have a point.” Well we’ve had a point for eight years, we lefties, and we’ve been telling you so. And what about the numbers that have so frightened the Conservative Party? 5.4 million families, many with two or even three, and this should frighten you, voting adults in them. 3.2 million families would have been worse off before the Chancellor, 1.7m would totally have lost their credit, even after the budget so you’re still dealing with big numbers and big votes even after the budget. He hasn’t done a great deal for you. And in that way it is very similar to the Poll Tax. But the similarity stops there.


The numbers are big, but not as big as the Poll Tax. Overall, the worst off people are distributed in mainly Labour areas, where the Poll Tax was more evenly distributed across Tory voting areas and therefore there was more urgency to change from the Tory point of view. Moreover, there is a difference in that the Poll Tax was asking people to pay out money they had earned as opposed to the Universal Credit which is accepting restrictions on money they receive even if they were entitled to it. In a sense, even though it’s as unjust as the Poll Tax, it is certainly less provocative and I point out that it’s almost the anniversary of the day there was a protest in this Chamber and we all, a lot of us got flour thrown at us, and we’re lucky it was just flour, from Poll Tax protestors and I see no Universal Credit protestors at the moment. So it is different. Nevertheless, there is political vulnerability for the Tories and in some ways it is a bit similar, although more marginal to the Poll Tax. But the real worry for a Conservative should be the number of working families involved with more propensity to vote, which is ironic because we’re told that the whole purpose of Universal Credit is to incite people into work. Indeed, I believe that some of the Tories have been so ignorant, I think this is genuine, of the fact that 40% of Universal Credit claimants are in work. It has been this single factor and the shock of realising the number that are actually in work which has caused the MPs’ reaction so late in the day. They believed their own propaganda. Because we’ve been told time and time and time again that Universal Credit is to get people into work. Well 40% of them are already in work and the Tory MPs didn’t realise it. 1.7 million families in work and those translate into quite a lot of voters. Moreover, these are more evenly distributed electorally, the ones that are in work, than the ones that are not in work. And they’re more likely to be in the marginals. But despite the £1 billion thrown at it by the Chancellor’s measure will do little to undo the damage. In short, if I were a Tory MP in a marginal constituency, I would be very worried. If I represented somewhere like Sevenoaks sitting on a fat majority, I would carry on in my blissful, uncaring ignorance as I have over the last eight years.


There is a further point about Universal Credit which is this. We have a government that is beyond its depth and the fiasco of Universal Credit is just one facet. Others are everywhere you look. We have Dominic Raab saying that he didn’t realise the Calais-Dover crossing was so important for trade when he was advocating Brexit, we have the Minister for Northern Ireland, this is beyond belief, telling us that she hadn’t realised that Unionists didn’t vote for Nationalist parties. She did, I’m not joking. And we have Liam Fox thinking that fixing trade deals is as easy as falling off a log. And then we have Iain Duncan Smith. And meanwhile the DWP’s maladministration has wasted £2 billion. After eight years, Universal Credit is rolled out to only 10% of claimants. The cost, say the National Audit Office, is an eye watering £700 per case against a target of just £173. Benefit cuts including those imposed on transferring to Universal Credit are due to put a record 37% of children into poverty. You are spending money putting people into poverty, that’s what you’re doing. You’re not saving money; you are squandering money making children poor. In terms of sheer incompetence, ministerial ignorance and arrogance there are distinct similarities to the Poll Tax. In both cases, you are utterly out of touch. But there’s one final difference. With the Poll Tax, at least the Tories had Major and Heseltine who could come and unpick the disaster. Now, not only are the government up to their eyeballs in Brexit with no capacity to do much else, there is no one capable of unwinding the problem and instead we have got Esther McVey. Esther McVey who misleads Parliament, misleads herself by simply being unaware on numerous occasions of the impact, and only at the last minute realised that working people will also be affected by Universal Credit. You could not make it up but we should not forget and while we might wallow in the ignorance and stupidity of the party opposite, there are severe consequences for the worst off in society, including our own constituency. And we, as councillors, are going to have to pick up some of the pieces. Indeed we are already having to pick up some of the pieces in increased use of food banks from the few that are now using Universal Credit and increased homelessness which we are going to have to prepare for, beyond the homelessness that is increasing already. Thank you very much.


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