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Cllr Jagdish Sharma: Council is helping hard-pressed Hounslow families

Hounslow Council leader Jagdish Sharma outlines how his Labour administration is helping residents in his latest Constituency Matters column for the Chronicle.

At a time of year when many families are under the most financial pressure, having had the bills from Christmas through, it is good to be able to offer a little extra help to hard-pressed families and individuals.

At a time when welfare reforms are about to hit home – affecting some of our most vulnerable residents hardest – that extra help is even more important.

This week, the council announced its intention to reduce council tax by half a per cent, following a six-year freeze, a record for an outer London borough. Along with the reduction in tax from the GLA, it will mean a little over £9 a year extra for a family in a band D home. Combined with the effect of the freeze in tax, and taking inflation into account, residents will have saved over £200.

We haven’t achieved the decrease at the expense of services though. We’ve protected frontline services wherever possible, and while we’ve made some cuts, these have been in areas which don’t directly impact on residents.

The council’s proposals for the coming financial year also include savings of £12.5 million alongside investment plans.

Just like our pledge to deliver a cut in council tax, we are continuing our war on waste. We all want the council to be leaner and more efficient, but at the same time, we are investing money in the services which really matter.

So we are proposing over £2million extra investment in services in 2013/14. New contracts like Hounslow Highways are already delivering better services and a better borough. And before anyone asks, our libraries and leisure centres are safe from the axe. There will be no closures.

But the challenges remain – huge pressures on social housing, the impacts of welfare reform, and keeping our local economy as buoyant as possible. So, the news is good on council tax. But at the back of my mind is the fact that local government finances remain extremely uncertain.

Councils are the highest performing part of the public sector – I hope that Mr Cameron focuses a little more on getting Whitehall’s house in order before they consider taking any more money from efficient local authorities.

That would be a boost for everyone in Hounslow.

Voters in Croydon, Rotherham and Middlesbrough have put their faith in a One Nation Labour Party - Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said: 

"Voters in Croydon, Rotherham and Middlesbrough have put their faith in a One Nation Labour Party standing up for young people trying to find work and standing up for people whose living standards are being squeezed.

"We know we have lots of work still to do to win back trust. As Sarah Champion, Andy McDonald, and Steve Reed start work for their constituents in Westminster, Labour will be taking the battle to rebuild our country as One Nation to every corner of Britain, offering a real alternative to this out of touch Tory-led Government that is failing to deliver for working people."

In a critical condition: 30 NHS jobs axed EVERY day since coalition took over

The RCN’s report reveals 28,521 posts have been dumped over the 30 months the Government has been in power – more than 30 a day

More than 30 NHS staff have been axed every day since the Tory-led coalition took office.

The shocking figures are in a report published today which shows 61,000 jobs are at risk or have already been cut since May 2010.

Ministers last night insisted the NHS was not in turmoil.

But the Royal College of Nursing, which wrote the report, warned the service is “sleepwalking into crisis”.

Britain’s top nurse Peter Carter said: “The Government’s consistent rhetoric has been that frontline posts and services are being protected.

"Sadly, that is simply not the case.”

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham added: “The truth is that this Government has de-stabilised the NHS with a re-organisation nobody wanted and two years of real-terms spending cuts.

"It has proved toxic for the NHS and left it in a critical condition.”

The RCN’s Frontline First report reveals 28,521 posts have been dumped over the 30 months the Government has been in power – more than 30 a day.

It warns another 32,755 nurses, midwives, health visitors, support and admin staff are now at risk.

But Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter last night hit back: “To say that the NHS is in crisis is scaremongering.

“This Government fully supports the NHS and will put an extra £12.5billion into services by 2015.”

As Londoners we are facing cuts to our emergency services that are unprecedented and unsustainable.

Our safety and security is at risk as a result of cuts to emergency services being pushed through by the Conservatives in the key vital services – the police, fire brigade, ambulance service and A&Es.

The cuts are going too far and too fast. The millions of pounds being taken from the budgets of the NHS, the Met police and the London Fire Service will inevitably endanger families and communities  across the capital.

Help put pressure on London Mayor Boris Johnson by signing up to our 999SOS campaign. With rumours in every borough about closures to police stations, cuts to Safer Neighbourhood Teams and front-line cuts to the fire service Boris Johnson is refusing to back down or own up to the scale of the cuts.

Boris Johnson is trying to avoid taking the blame for his cuts to the Police and FIre Brigade and refusing to stand up for Londoners on the NHS.

Want more details? Read the facts here


The growth of Food Banks is a shocking symptom of the Coalition Government’s attack on people low incomes, through their welfare reforms which started last year, and worse to come in April 2013. Whilst we don't have a food bank yet in Hounslow, I know it is only a matter of time, and I know that the Gurdwaras and other places of worship are feeding more people every day. As the Cabinet Member tasked with addressing Hounslow's response to the Welfare Benefit changes, I am having to develop a strategy and find resources to do this.  In researching the issue I am really angry at the impact these changes are going to have on the most vulnerable in our communities, for no obvious benefit to the national economy.
The changes don’t even serve the policy aims of deficit reduction and getting people into work that they were supposed to address.  Furthermore thy don’t address the real cause of the high benefit bill - low wages and the rising cost of housing - 80% of new housing benefit claimants are in work. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has reported that the new Universal credit will trap people in poverty, as there will be little incentive to work.  And the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned that the government's plans to cut the annual housing benefit bill by £2.3bn by 2015 will lead to around two million of the poorest households receiving lower benefits. The NAO predicted that within five years 48% of England's 275 local authorities would have more than twice as many benefit claimants as two-bedroom dwellings, the most popular housing stock, available to rent.

Those most affected are families where the parents are on a low-wage, disabled adults and children. In outer London the reforms go alongside a collapse in construction of new affordable homes and rising private sector rents.
In Hounslow borough;
- 600 households will be affected by the Universal credit cap of which 400 will lose more than £50 pm
- the Council Tax Support scheme will affect 9,000 local families who will lose around £7 per month.
- 1160 children are in lone parent families that will lose over £50 per week
- at lease £7m will be lost from the local economy from the total of reduced benefit payments

And the costs are running away – as the Work Programme scheme has failed, the Government has had to increase spending on Jobseekers allowance and housing benefit by £9bn nationally, and the IT costs have soared by £100m as the changes have bee rushed through before the IT systems can be adapted. Local Councils’ costs are rising too ; In Hounslow:
- £2.5m more than planned will be needed to pay for temporary housing for the increased homeless families
- there will be additional demand for social Services for children in particular
- a new hardship fund will have to be set up to replace the DWP Social Fund
- more welfare benefit and debt advisors will be needed to deal with the rising tide of problems
- we'll need to provide on-line access with human support for those now required to access the benefits system via internet, as all other communication channels are closed down.
 The Labour Party front bench are demanding that the Government gets a grip on spending, get people who can back to work, and to address runaway rent levels. Ed Milliband is championing the Living Wage, assessed as the lowest income that enable to the basics in life to be affordable – and Hounslow Council agreed in early October to adopt the London Living Wage for all Council staff and contractors.

What we need is a fair benefits system that allows those who cannot work or need extra help, to live in dignity, fair rent levels, massive increase in affordable housing, and jobs for those who can work paid at rates that allow for a decent standard of living.

Posted by Ruth Cadbury

Brentford & Isleworth CLP response to the cuts in Council Tax Benefit Cuts

Brentford & Isleworth CLP has put forward this motion to Hounslow Labour Group in response to the cuts in Council Tax Benefit that the Tory Government is forcing on the less well off in our society:

"This Labour Party is concerned that Hounslow Council was required to send a questionnaire to those in receipt of Council Tax benefits, asking them to indicate who should and who should not receive help with their council tax. We feel that this was divisive and intimidating, but it was done as a direct result of the Coalition Government's Council Tax changes.

This Labour Party condemns the Coalition Government for replacing council tax benefit [CTB] with council tax support [CTS] cutting the amount of funding by 10% which will be fixed irrespective of rising needs. This means that councils have to choose between cutting eligibility criteria for working-age people or filling the funding gap by making yet further cuts to council spending in future years. This Labour Party agrees to launch a local campaign against the abolition of CTB and other welfare benefit cuts that hit the lowest paid at a time when those earning £1 million per year are getting a £40,000 tax cut.

This Labour Party urges Hounslow Council to ensure that all communications make clear that the proposed CTS scheme and other welfare benefit changes are being imposed by this Tory-lead government"

GMB Helps lowest paid get £250


This agreement would not have come about without the campaigning of GMB and Hounslow Councils Labour Administration principled stance in sharing GMB values in regard to delivering the promise that the Tory Government reneged on says GMB

GMB members employed in the London bor

ough of Hounslow who earn less than £21,000 per year will receive a pay rise of £250 a year the GMB Congress in Brighton was told today.
The GMB Congress welcomed Cllr Jagdish Sharma Leader of Hounslow Council who made the announcement to the 400 GMB Congress delegates. He said that Hounslow Council have agreed to the GMB claim to implement the payment of £250 (pro rata to part time staff) to Hounslow employees who earn below £21,000 per annum that the Tories reneged on.

GMB have campaigned and worked closely with Hounslow’s Labour Administration including Steve Curran Cabinet Member for Education, Housing and Corporate Human to look at ways of implementing both the London Living Wage of £8.30 per hour and the one off payment of £250 to cushion the squeeze on low pay in the Authority against the back drop of the reduction in spending that the Council are being forced to make because of the unnecessary Austerity measures imposed by the Tory Government.

Boris raises fares fifth year in a row

Londoners’ wallets will be hit with another inflation-busting fare increase – as Transport for London (TfL) last week announced travel costs in the capital will soar by 4.2 per cent on 1 January 2013. This means Boris Johnson has overseen a 26 per cent increase in fares since he became Mayor of London in 2008.

The fare hike was today described as “a tax on working people” by London-wide Labour Assembly Member Tom Copley – who urged the Mayor to throw a lifeline to struggling Londoners.

Since Boris Johnson was elected in 2008 fares have risen:

  • A single ticket on Tube, London Overground and DLR from zone one to two will cost £4.48 in cash – a rise of 12 per cent
  • A single bus ticket has risen from 90p in 2008 to £1.40 in 2013 – a rise of 56 per cent
  • A weekly zone 1-6 travelcard is up from £44.40 in 2008 to £55.60 in 2013, costing Londoners £440 more a year – a rise of 25 per cent.

London-wide Assembly Member Tom Copley said:

 “Yet again residents in Havering and Redbridge are being hit hard with the Mayor’s fare increases. Travelling into central London from zone 6 for work is going to cost an extra £440 a year.

“These fare rises are unfair and unnecessary and I urge the Mayor to think again. Energy bills will be going up 11 per cent, rents in London have increased by 8 per cent and the Mayor has added to this endless burden by putting up travel costs yet again.

“The Annual London Survey shows that getting cheaper fares are Londoners top concern, so it’s so disappointing that the Mayor is not listening to what Londoners want.

“It’s scandalous that local residents are being punished for working outside of Havering and Redbridge. Boris’ fare rises are a tax on working people. Transport costs in London are prohibitively expensive and the Mayor has successively ignored this fact for the last five years. Boris should spend less time campaigning for tax cuts for the richest people in London and more time keeping fares down for everyone else.”

Cllr Jagdish Sharma: Labour-run Hounslow is investing in services

Leader of Hounslow Council, Jagdish Sharma, provides our latest Constituency Matters political column in the Hounslow Cronicle.

Our budget plans for the coming financial year are focussed firmly on protecting front line services in the teeth of continuing financial pressures across public services.

But thanks to our sound financial management over the past two years, since Labour took over control of the council, this year’s budget isn’t a story about cuts – it is story about protecting and investing in services.

It is a story about real efficiency – the kind that is driving out savings from contracts and our “back office” support services, which gives us more money to spend on front line services.

That is how we are able to have already identified savings of £9 million in the coming financial year, freeing up some £1.5 million to invest in services

Where that money is going is defined by our pledges and resident’s priorities. I am sure there is not a single reader of this column who would disagree that keeping children safe from harm should be at the top of the list for investment.

That is why we are putting an extra quarter of a million pounds into funding additional officers to work on child protection and to bolster front line social services.

It is in the interests of Hounslow, London and the national economy that we have a town centre which is a thriving trading centre. We have ambitious plans for the development of Hounslow Town Centre to make sure that our local economy grows and we have a town centre where retail, business and leisure can thrive. And we are also investing in regeneration elsewhere in borough, for example to produce plans for an exciting and sustainable future for Feltham Arenas.

It is lazy and wrong to suggest, as the leader of our opposition group on the council did recently, that because we are able to invest we have over-taxed. Council tax levels in Hounslow have not increased for six years, a record for an outer London borough and a fact made even more remarkable by the coalition Government’s public service cuts.

This year’s budget is based on sound, effective financial management, efficient administration and above all, a strong understanding of the services which matter most to residents, and a willingness to invest in them



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