Letters: 30/01/14

Map of council spending changes.
Map of council spending changes.
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This week’s letters in the Lancaster Guardian.

North is hit the hardest

Forget about the Ghost of Eric Pickles past and the Ghost of Eric Pickles Present – following the festive season it’s the Ghost of Eric Pickles Future that we should all be paying attention to.

The Communities and Local Government Minister is continuing with a cuts programme worth £21 billion.

If the news that libraries, swimming pools and museums might close isn’t enough for you – take a look at the map.

Notice anything odd?

That’s right – the cuts are been made in the North so that the safe Tory seats in the South East can be protected.

It’s nothing short of a national scandal when local people in our district face a cut nearly five times larger that than the cut for residents in leafy Surrey Heath.

As a result of Eric Pickles’ cuts programme Lancaster City Council needs to cut £3m from its budget with Lancashire County Council facing an eye watering £330m. When you take out the things that councils must do by law this leaves very little left.

The councils already share services, have automated and squeezed ‘efficiency savings’ where they can and used every trick in the book to protect the services we rely on.

However, in the midst of this bleak picture, I’m proud of the two Labour councils and the work they are doing to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected from the Pickles wrecking ball. The county council has introduced a living wage meaning that nobody who works hard to deliver our public services finds they are unable to pay the bills at the end of the month.

In another bold move Lancaster City Council has also protected those on the very lowest incomes from a cut in their Council Tax Benefit.

Under Tory plans those earning £71 per week would have lost three weeks’ wages each year – the Labour Council has ensured that this money stays in their pockets.

Amina Lone

Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale

Good looking in war times

What a charming picture you published in The Lancaster Guardian, of the Land Girls working in the fields in WW2 (January 16).

It always fascinates me how glamorous and feminine women managed to look during such difficult days. Even in muddy boots and turbans, or overalls at factories and munition works.

No hair straighteners, fake tans, tattoos and so on, or ridiculous heels they could barely walk in.

Hair was often just curled or styled with hair clips and set with sugar water, and stocking seams pencilled on their legs as stockings were either unaffordable or too hard to 
find.

They had so little but old photos often show them looking beautiful in their natural state. No obesity or gym memberships either. Just hard work.

(Funny how honesty and hard toil is never blamed on ‘social conditions’.)

I wonder if that age of real glamour will ever return.

Linda Lowerson

Address supplied

Raffle help patient care

On behalf of us all at the Breast Care Unit, I am writing to thank you for publishing our Breast Care Unit Christmas raffle draw. This publication will help with awareness of our effort to raise money for the service.

The raffle made in excess of £4,000.

We are dedicated to providing excellent patient care and this money will help us provide even better experience for our patients visiting the breast care unit.

Rishi Parmeshwar

Consultant breast and oncoplastic surgeon

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay

Council budget

A bit rich from Mace

Once again Coun Mace warns of Lancaster City Council setting a politically motivated budget (Politically motivated, January 9).

It really is rich that he continues with this line of criticism when his own Chancellor Osborne has set a series of politically motivated budgets at national level.

Let the party which is without stain cast the first stone.

Simon Set-Aright

Name and address supplied

Do a bit on foot or bike

With the start of 2014, many people will be making their New Year resolutions and planning to make a difference, either for themselves or for others. Whatever the reason – be it getting fit, participating in a sporting event, signing-up for a once-in-a-lifetime challenge, or taking up voluntary work, The Children’s Trust would love to hear from you.

We need you to help us make a difference to the lives of children with a brain injury.

The Children’s Trust, the UK’s leading charity for children with brain injury, is celebrating its 30th anniversary and is hoping, with the help from the public, to make it a memorable and successful year.

The Children’s Trust has lots of fundraising activities during the year – some at national level: National Doughnut Week and Humphrey’s Pyjama Week – as well as many regional and local activities.

We have available places in many famous running events – including full and half marathons - and would love to hear from runners who would like to represent the Trust in the Virgin Money London Marathon, the Great North Run, the Great South Run or Brighton Marathon.

For cycling enthusiasts, this year’s Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 will be taking place on August 10, so please contact us if you would like to part.

Alternatively, if you would to enjoy some great entertainment for all the family, whilst helping to raise money for the Trust, The Supercar Event will be returning to Dunsfold Park, Surrey on June 21 and 22.

For more ideas on how you can support The Children’s Trust, including becoming a volunteer at one of our charity shops, please visit: www.thechildrenstrust.org.uk, email enquiries@thechildrenstrust.org.uk or telephone 01737 365020.

Please consider supporting The Children’s Trust this year to help make a difference to the lives of some very special children.

Phil Tufnell

Vice president of 
The Children’s Trust

www.thechildrenstrust.org.uk.

Grab your sportsbag

As we all struggle to maintain our new year’s resolutions to get fit in 2014, I thought I’d share news of a fantastic event being organised for the RAF Benevolent Fund.

The ‘maRAFon’ will see elderly, injured and disabled RAF veterans and their families, friends and supporters, including myself, running, walking or rolling their own distance, to be collected into a single grand total over the Easter weekend (April 18-21, 2014).

If like me you watch the London Marathon every year and think ‘that looks amazing’ but aren’t as fit as you’d like to be, the maRAFon is for you.

You can do it wherever you like, however you like – in groups, or individually, on a treadmill, on the way to work, or in the park. It’s a great way for young and old, disabled and able-bodied, fit and unfit to come 
together and have fun while raising money to support those who give, or have given, service to this country. Grab your sports bag and sign up at www.rafbf.org/marafon.

Sir Terry Wogan

Discount not all it seems

On page 34 of The Lancaster Guardian dated January 16, there was a small article stating that data matching technology is being used by Lancashire Council and District Councils to ‘look at homes which claim to be occupied by just one person and are therefore eligible for a 25 per cent discount to see if it’s still applicable’.

I am concerned that this article misrepresents the position of taxpayers in receipt of a 25 per cent discounted bill for the present tax year.

Specifically it gives the impression that people are ‘claiming’ to be living alone and that data matching is being used to check if this ‘claim’ is correct.

There is no such thing as a ‘single person discount in this sense’.

Entitlement to a discount of what the law calls a discount of ‘the appropriate percentage’ arises on any day when, put simply, only one non-disregarded adult has his or her sole or main residence at the property.

The law requires that the council calculates the bill and issues it on the assumption that a particular rate of discount applies and that it will continue to apply on every day of the coming tax year.

The duty of the taxpayer is to correct that assumption within a reasonable time of realising that they are not paying enough tax.

For reasons which are historical, and, in my view, to do with cost-cutting and outsourcing, it has become common for councils to tell people that council records show they are receiving a discount ‘because they live alone’.

Such letters cause distress and confusion and have been the subject of repeated adverse media coverage, including from your own paper in the past.

The reasons people are receiving a discount in terms of administrative procedures are set out in terms of the law and are not as represented in such letters. You may recall publishing a letter from me recently in which I reported that Adrian Robinson, Head of Lancaster and Preston’s shared Revenue Services, indicated that he disagreed with important taxation regulations, stating that these are ‘wrong’ and ‘not how it works’. Councils have got themselves into a mess about this whole area.

It is in itself perfectly legal to receive a ‘single person discount’ if more than one adult is entitled to vote at the address, if more than one adult has credit reference information linking with them at the address and if more than one adult uses it as a postal 
address.

If the council issues you with a demand notice or an adjusted demand notice for money you do not owe, you have a right of appeal to a valuation 
tribunal. This costs you nothing.

Karen Heath

Address supplied