Thursday, 24 July 2014

Electoral Commision annouce there are 7.5m people missing off the electoral register

I received this letter from my colleague Chris Ruane which he has asked MP's to circulate more widely. It was my question on the floor of the House of Commons on 18 June 2012 which revealed for the first time that the government accepted a figure them of 6 million unregistered voters.

The Electoral Commissions announcement today is that there are 7.5m people missing off the electoral register. For the 650 constituencies that's an average of 11,538 per constituency. In Hyndburn Borough (excluding Haslingden) this will be an average of circa 9,000.

Back in October 2011 those on the Council Tax list but who were unregistered where added to the electoral register iincrassing the register by approximately 2,500.

Correction - This week I have also discovered that in Hyndburn Borough it is estimated through data matching is some 9,000 unregistered voters that some 9,000 voters on the current register, who are currently registered but who cannot be (ID) matched with other national data sets (DWP etc..) will need to re-register under the new individual voter registration system that begins in ernest after the General Election. That figure following further data matching has now been revised to 5121. 

Summer childcare costs rising under cameron - more pressure for struggling parent

Under David Cameron childcare costs are soaring and the availability of childcare is plummeting, causing a summer of misery for many parents trying to balance work and family life in the holidays.

But while families facing a cost-of-living crisis come under more and more pressure, this Government has no plan to support families struggling with their childcare before the next election.

New analysis by the Labour Party shows that, under David Cameron, the cost of childcare during the summer holidays has spiralled upwards by 16 per cent – four times faster than wages. This means that parents will have to fork out an additional £100 per child for their summer childcare, compared to 2010.

I know my own childcare will cost around £1260 over the six weeks holiday.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Reply from LCC - Provision of trains for the Todmorden Curve


I have received a reply on the provison of a train for the Todmorden Curve and it appears that there will now be further delays beyond December.

I know a a diesel carriage has been uding the new track, presumedly testing it however LCC advise that the track won't be commissioined until November.

There is still the outstanding issue of a diesel train which is going to be cascaded down from the newly electrified Manchester to Liverpool line however there are now delays and slippage in the planned completion date. Importantly I want to know whether these carriages will require refurbishment or should they be refurbisehd before being 'handed down'.

Incredibly Northern Rail have neglected to train enough staff including drivers. A company hoping to extend their current franchise which is up for tender in 2015. The lack of drivers will almost certainly delay the new service until the spring of next year.

I am also concerned about pricing and ticketing in general. Given LCC will be the sponsor of the service it is crucial it is not used a revenue raising project but that the various fares encourage mobility.

I have written to LCC to meet with staff to dicuss theses and oither issues including the East Lancs line which also runs through the constituency.

A summary of the NPF last weekend.

At the National Policy forum at the weekend the Labour Party agreed a program for Government which will deliver big reforms, not big spending.

By building a consensus the Party have produced one of the most radical policy platforms of any political party in recent years including:

• Increasing the minimum wage by more than average earnings
• An end to the abuse of zero-hours contracts
• Skills and careers for all our young people and new technical degrees
• Cutting business rates for small businesses
• A freeze on energy bills until 2017
• 200,000 homes built a year by 2020
• Three year tenancies, predictable rents, an end to letting fees
• 25 hours free childcare, paid for by a higher levy on the banks
• Abolishing the bedroom tax
• Restoring our National Health Service

This Policy platform has developed out a process which has reached beyond the narrow confines of Westminster – drawing on ideas developed by the grass roots through our online policy hub and meetings across the country.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Fwd: Ofcom advice: Don't get stung by mobile phone bills when abroad this summer

Ofcom advice:

Don't get stung by a high mobile phone bill this summer

Summer holidays are just around the corner for many, and with mobile internet access and Wi-Fi it's never been easier to stay in touch with what's going on at home and upload photos to share with friends.  Also, new roaming charges (effective from 1 July) will make it cheaper to use your mobile phone when travelling abroad in the European Union.
 
However, coming back from holiday to a huge mobile phone bill can be a nasty surprise. Using your phone overseas can cost considerably more than it does at home, particularly if you want to surf the web a lot or check or send a number of emails.  

What you can do to avoid a bill shock:
  • If you want to use your phone lots check what packages your provider offers, considering buying an international SIM card or buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM when you reach your destination;
  • Turn off data roaming. You can run up a big bill without actively using your phone as smartphones and tablet computers automatically seek out mobile connections and use them to update apps. It's easy to turn it off and we have video guides to show you how.
  • If you are travelling outside of the EU, you may want to switching off your voicemail as you may be charged every time a message is left while you are abroad.
  • If you want to use the internet abroad use local Wi-Fi hot spots rather than your phone's mobile internet connection. Some phone apps seek out hot spots and alert you to them automatically.
  • If you are going to use your phone's internet connection instead of Wi-Fi avoid data heavy activities such as watching videos or downloading music.  Also, when checking emails avoid opening large attachments. 
What are the rules?
  • All mobile operators have to apply a cut-off limit once you have used €50 (excluding VAT) – around £40 – of data per month, wherever you travel in the world unless you choose to opt out.
  • You may be prompted to opt out by your provider if, for example, you purchase a large data roaming bundle which would take you over the €50 limit. If you're not sure whether you have been asked to opt out, make sure you check with your provider.
  • If you don't opt out of the limit, the provider must send you an alert when you reach 80% and then 100% of the agreed data roaming limit. Operators must stop charging for data at the 100% point, unless you agree to continue to use data.
Our advice guide provides top tips for using a mobile abroad including advice on how to keep phones safe and what to do if your phone is lost or stolen. 
 
Please share this information and our advice guide with your constituents via blog, press release and twitter to ensure they know how to avoid a bill shock this summer.
 
Helen Barker
Manager, Government & Parliamentary Business
020 7981 3960
Twitter: @ofcomparliament

:: Ofcom
 Riverside House
  2a Southwark Bridge Road
  London SE1 9HA 
  020 7981 3000
 
www.ofcom.org.uk

Licensing of Scrap Metal Dealers a success in Hyndburn

I led the cmapiagn with the ENA in Parliament to licence scrap metal dealers. That legistaion was taken forward by the government and became law in October 2013. From the 1st October 2013 all scrap metal dealers (site operators and collectors) must have a licence to operate.

According to British Transport Police and BT metal theft is down by almost 60%. The government failed to implement changes to tackle international metal theft with organised crime remaining the major criminal activity in the theft of metal.

Locally Hyndburn's Labour Council has successfully launched the scheme across the Borough with some early success.

To date 19 scrap metal dealers licences have been issued. Five licence applications have been refused on the grounds that the applicant was not considered suitable to hold a licence. Following joint operations with the Police two collectors have been successfully prosecuted for operating as unlicensed dealers in the Borough.

According to theCouncil's record there may be circa 20 potential dealers in the Borough that could be operating without a licence. In conjunction with the Police they are investigating these further to determine the exact nature of their business activities and assess whether they will need to apply for a licence.

It is certainly ther case that the number of dubious vehicles, often identified with theft from private property driving around Hyndburn and Haslingden has been significently reduced.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

BACK ON TRACK CAMPAIGN - Latest reply from the DfT

Below is the latest reply fomr the DfT in the campaign to secure a diesel engined train for the newly complete track between Accringotn/Burnley and Manchester Victoria.

The minster for state was sacked (Stephen Hammond) and I have taken the opportunity straight away  to speak ti the new rail minister Clare Perry to make the point once again; 18 miles between Manchester (and well paid jobs) and Accrington, one new train line completed after 7 years campaigning this May, still no train.She has promised to look into with expdiency. Hyndburn isn't holding it's breath!

I am also approaching teh issue of fare structure with County who as the letter says in the last parapgraph, will be effectively be the franchise/TOC (with Northern providing the service) for the first three years.