EyeSpy Oh how the mighty are fallen!

Eye Spy Eye of HorusDavid Conway was not the only one with a big smile on his face Friday morning as Labour awoke to the short sharp judgement of the residents of Springfields and Trent Vale. Whilst it might not stop the move, the backlash against the move to the CBD was apparent, which raised the spirits of many council officers on Friday morning. Parking in Stoke may not be perfect, but the thought of a daily game of ‘musical parking spaces’ followed by a forced tutorial on how you should cycle to work rather than moan about paying £25 a year to spend 20 minutes looking for a parking spot before abandoning hope and parking in Tesco, is a step too far for some.

Continue reading

Labour announce Joy Garner as their candidate for Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner

Staffordshire Police CrestJust coming in, Joy Garner has been announced as the Labour candidate for the role of Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner in the elections in November.

Joy  was up against former police authority chairman Michael Poulter in the vote and currently sites on Staffordshire Police Authority & Staffordshire Joint Police and Crime Panel. Continue reading

Inside the Civic

Those who thought all out elections would bring some stability to our Council must be feeling embarrassed this week as Council Leader Mohammed Pervez took a scalpel to his cabinet, cutting out the disobedient Gratton and challenger Hill, and carving up the other portfolios in what is quite clearly more than the ‘tweaking’ he described it as.

The introduction of Platt and Dutton is seen as a nod to the left wingers in the group, who re-emerged in 2011 to rival the modernisers who were in danger of taking over Labour. Continue reading

Stoke-on-Trent Needs Committed Councillors, Not Activists with a Grudge

I know that this blog article is going to make me mightily unpopular in some quarters of the Stoke-on-Trent political arena, but here goes.

Following on from my last post about the far right England First Party, which was fantastically well received, I climb up on my soapbox for round two.

You see i have a real worry about the upcoming local council elections, in fact I would go as far as to say it is boarding on a mortal fear, that our city will end up with a load of councillors that are in it for all the wrong reasons.

My fears were further realised following a disturbing telephone conversation with an ex-member of the Labour Party here in Stoke-on-Trent.

It appears there is a group of disenfranchised ex-Labour party members that are to throw their hats in the ring and are to seek election to the City Council with their number one priority to smear the Labour Party and its candidates as opposed to actually wanting to represent their communities.

I admit that I was absolutely flabbergasted by this revelation.

These people are to focus their campaign on what the Labour Party have done to them in the past, how the Labour party has broken their own rules [in their opinion anyway] and they are to publicly smear some of the Labour candidates.

I’m sure that you don’t need me to mention their names in this article, but you will know who I mean when I describe them as the usual suspects.

It would appear that the labour Party’s crime is to select 44 candidates to fight every available seat across the City.

They stand accused of not producing a manifesto on which to fight the election and they are definitely guilty of fielding candidates that are not legitimate and have been selected by the Regional Office so the dissenters claim.

One poor candidate that has got it coming to her is Alison Wedgwood, her crime? She doesn’t live in the City according to this group. “We are going to nail her” was the phrase used. She won’t be the only one.

This group are marketing themselves as “Ëœoriginal Labour’ ““ you know, a throwback to those halcyon days when the Labour Party that the ultimate power in our city. A time when all 60 candidates were Labour and the only arguments, and there was a few, were between themselves.

But those days were blighted by some of the most monumental cock ups in our city’s history. The Cultural Quarter, World Gate, the Britannia Stadium deal to name just a few ““ hardly the city’s finest period of history, do we really want to go back there?

In fact it is rumoured that Barry Stockley, the Council Leader at the time of those Keystone Kops like incidents will stand in the election alongside the usual suspects against an official Labour candidate thus ending his long association with the party.

None of current crop of Labour councillors were in office at the time of the darkest days in our council’s history.

Please don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying vote Labour in this post.

As I have said in the past we will have a real choice of candidates in these elections ranging from mainstream parties, community councillors from the City Independent Group and Community Voice, and true Independents who seek to serve their communities and wards and to help make the areas in which they live a better place.

But we have a duty to vote for councillors who will make a real difference to the city.

By and large we will have a single councillor to represent the majority of wards across the city and we will be stuck with them for four whole years. If we vote in the wrong calibre of person we will be able to repent at leisure.

I therefore ask a genuine question.

Do we really want to vote in a group of individuals or are standing against a party, it’s rules and regulations [or the lack of them] and it’s candidates?

Do we genuinely care if this crew were thrown on the scrap heap for having a different ideology to that of the modern day Labour party?

Why should we the general public get embroiled in a war between factions when the likelihood is that it will be us that get caught in the crossfire whilst the two opposing sides will be battling it out?

Are we really bothered who is right and who is wrong in this dispute?

Activists fall out with their parties every day, just like in the case of Shaun Bennett. But the fundamental difference here is that Shaun has walked away and is standing for the City Independents. He hasn’t spat his dummy and is standing on an anti-Conservative agenda.

It has been said that the Community Voice group is made up largely of ex-Labourites and that’s true. But Community Voice have their own identity. They have their own set of political principles. They will seek election on a set of their own pledges. To their enormous credit they rejected a number of advances from this “Ëœoriginal Labour’ group because they did not want to go down the anti-Labour route why? – Because they have their own vision.

And what of the suggestion that the City labour Party have no agenda?

My understanding is that the Labour collective will have a very definite set of priorities, policies and pledges that will be communicated to the electorate during the election campaigns.

So in summary I find myself pleading with all communities to use their votes wisely.

The majority of us will be represented by a single councillor, we will be stuck with him or her for four long years, so let’s get the right ones in eh?

Whether you are far left, left, middle, right or god help us far right, let’s get people into the chamber who want to put communities ahead of their own personal vendetta’s.

We want people who will support, represent and help the elderly, the disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society and we want councillors who are progressive and can improve the areas in which we live.

If I lived in a ward where there is an “Ëœoriginal Labour’ candidate standing I would be “Ëœnailing’ them to be open and transparent for their reasons on why they are seeking election. I would be “Ëœnailing’ them on what they intend to do to stand up for their ward. I would be nailing them to say what their priorities are.

And if one of them gave an answer which contained what the Labour Party did to them, or which rule it did not follow, or how the candidate selection was wrong, or why a certain candidate should not be standing ““ I would shut the door in their faces. Their leaflets would be flushed down the toilet so that it can meet the other sewage that lurks in the city’s drains.

No doubt my politics will be “Ëœnailed’ as a result of this article. I simply do not care. Anyone who reads my articles [10's of thousands] and the people who know me personally [hundreds] know that I have socialist principles but when it comes to the local election, my family and I always vote for those who we think will best represent our community and who will do the most for the people who live in it.

Apart from the BNP and heaven forbid the England First Party that applies to pretty much any candidate.

Stoke-on-Trent Conservative Suffers For His Tory Principles

Outspoken Conservative Shaun Bennett may well be de-selected as a Conservative Candidate for the Stoke-on-Trent all out local council elections at a hastily arranged meeting this coming Wednesday [23rd March]

It appears that some of his comments opposing the Conservatives coalition agreement locally with Labour, the Liberal Democrats and The City Independent Group, have angered members of the Conservative group on the City Council.

Sources have revealed that Shaun has also upset members including Cllr Hazel Lyth and Cllr John Daniels over comments he has made on Pits n Pots.

The Special Executive Committee of the City of Stoke-on-Trent Conservative Association will meet at the civic centre to discuss the following motion:


“The Conservative Group ask the Executive to reconsider the adoption of Shaun Bennett as a Conservative Party candidate in the local elections 2011, as we have concerns he will not abide by the Group’s rules on Collective Responsibility, based on comments made recently on the internet about both the Group and individual members.”

A letter obtained by Pits n Pots suggests that Shaun Bennett is un-repentant for his comments and hits right back at those who would deny him his opinion.

Dear Members of the Executive,

It seems that members of the Conservative Group have now achieved their long held plans and initiated a special meeting of the executive to discuss my de-selection as a Conservative candidate at this election. Since the decision has effectively already been made, I have little desire to humiliate myself by coming before you personally to oppose this spurious case. Instead, I am writing this letter to you all as a defence against the charges that I now find levelled against me.

It appears that the group’s decision to call this meeting and recommend my de-selection rests upon just a single charge: that I have spoken out against Conservative involvement in the Labour led coalition and specifically that I have said that I would not have supported the budget imposing Labour’s programme of cuts upon this city.

Let me be quite clear from the start and say that I do not oppose the principle that cuts must be made. I am not an oppositionist for the sake of opposition. I am prepared to support tough choices, and I supported every tough choice that Conservatives made when we were leading the coalition just over 12 months ago.

What I do NOT support however, and will not support is LABOUR’S programme of cuts which has been designed specifically to hit the most vulnerable in our city the hardest; deliberately and calculatedly as a means of putting a noose around the neck of the Conservative government at Westminster and ensuring the election of a Labour majority on the city council in May. That the ‘so called’ Conservative group has chosen to go along with Labour’s cuts really does speak volumes about how our council group has now lost its way and abandoned the people and the principles upon which they were elected.

The charge raised against me is that I have broken collective responsibility; that I have opposed the decision of the group to support Labour’s political budget of cuts. And the answer to that charge is very simple: as I am not a councillor at present I am not BOUND by the collective decisions of the Conservative group. I am not an officer of the party, I am not a councillor, at the moment until nominations close I am not even an official candidate. I can in fact speak as I like about whatever I like without penalty.

I am not bound by any rule of the party to support decisions made before my election and membership of the group comes into effect. By the time that occurs of course, Labour will have a huge overall majority on the city council and Conservatives will no longer be involved in any formal coalition. Indeed, following the elections in May, I suspect the then OPPOSITION Conservative councillors will be taking much the same view on many of these issues as I have taken today. At that time, coalition decisions will magically become ‘Labour decisions’; the coalition’s budget will transmogrify before our very eyes into ‘Labour’s budget’ as we try desperately to wash our group’s hands of the consequences of those ‘collective decisions’.

The group, by taking this extraordinary action against me today, are seeking to rewrite the rules of the party. Under their scheme, all Conservative members will be bound to support whatever they say whether it is in line with party policy or not. And as we all know from our experiences in the past-ordinary members will have no say whatsoever over what those decisions consist of.

I hope that as an executive you will vote to reject the group’s recommendation for de-selection. However, whatever the outcome, I do not apologise for what I have said. This case will determine whether we remain a true Conservative Party in this city, or whether we surrender to anti-conservative forces and abandon all those who want to support genuine Conservatism.

If the choice is to support the strategic errors of the local Conservative group or to line up alongside the Conservative government of David Cameron, I’m afraid my loyalty to the Conservative Party commits me to go to the defence of the government against labour’s frontline cuts agenda. I’m sorry that that is no longer compatible with the views of the Conservative Group in Stoke-on-Trent in the year 2011.

Yours Sincerely

Shaun Bennett BA(Hons), MA
Former Deputy Chairman (Stoke South)
Former Deputy Chairman (Stoke Central)
Former Deputy Chairman (Stoke)
Former Treaurer (Stoke)

Shaun Bennett was unavailable for comment today.

Tony Walley – On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have had their funding cut by £22.5million by this national coalition government.

Next year our city council are likely to face further cuts of around £20million.

The ConDem coalition always rolls out the old nugget of “Ëœwe’re dealing with the mess left by the last Labour government’, every time they are challenged on the severity of their austerity measures.

I wish Stoke-on-Trent City Council had £1 for every time that old nugget is used by coalition members in interviews with the media. You never know we might have even been able to save the City Farm.

Of course there has been no explanation forthcoming as to why the traditional Labour led authorities have had to bare the brunt of these cuts.

Here in Stoke-on-Trent some 800 City Council employees have applied for the Voluntary Redundancy programme currently in operation.

The programme is offering an enhanced redundancy package of 1.5 weeks salary for every year worked as the finance chiefs encourage as many carcasses as possible, out of the front door of the Civic.

Now it is unlikely that all 800 applications will be accepted, indeed my information is that some 600 will be nearer the number that will be able to take the money and get the hell out of Dodge.

A Sentinel article claimed this week that the City Council had spent some £17.7million on making 599 people redundant since 2007. This is an average pay out of around £29500 per person.

This figure is likely to include payouts made under Compromise Agreements. Some of which would have been paid to expensive senior officers who would have been “Ëœencouraged’ to leave the employment of the City Council. They would have had to sign confidentiality clauses under the terms of their Compromise Agreements.

But if, as the Sentinel article claims, an employee who earns £15000 per year with 10 years service will receive an enhanced package of just £4350. That does indeed give you an indication of some of the ludicrous amounts that have been paid out to rid the City of some big earners who have simply failed in their duties and as a result of their failure have walked away with a small fortune.

I am no stranger to compromise agreements; I have come across them in my professional career. They are used as a tool when an employer and an employee come to the end of a relationship where there needs to be a parting of the ways but there is no case for terminating the employment or a desire just to walk away from the employment.

Under these circumstances the pay out is a generous one and the employee, after taking legal advice, is happy with the settlement and signs a confidentiality agreement preventing him/her from disclosing the details of the said agreement.

I believe that a confidentiality clause is necessary in the private sector but I have my reservations whether it can ever be so in the public sector.

Furthermore I was astounded to discover this week that all City Council employees that are granted Voluntary Redundancy are being forced to sign confidentiality clauses or they will not be eligible for the VR scheme.

I ask, why the need for a veil of secrecy for these employees of the council to sign away their right of free speech without having the benefits of the kind of pay outs that some failed senior executive officers of the council have been awarded under compromise agreements in the recent past?

It begs the question of the kind of service we can expect from a City Council with 600 employees less over the coming financial year. It also worries the heck out of me what our city council infrastructure will look like in the financial year 2012/2013.

If government, as expected, reduce the City council’s funding by another £20million for the next financial year we could see a similar amount, or even possibly more, council employees shown the door and a further massive hit to front line services. More popular attractions will be forced to close down and life will be a miserable one for the people of this fine City.

This national coalition government have stuck the proverbial two fingers up to the local coalition. The Leader of the Conservatives in Stoke Ross Irving and his Lib Dem counterpart Kieran Clarke must be feeling a little more unloved by their national party hierarchy. They must also be bracing themselves for oblivion at the ballot box in May.

Ross and Kieran, along with Labour leader Pervez made a trip to London to plead Stoke-on-Trent’s case. Local Government and Communities Minister Eric Pickles couldn’t be bothered to even meet up with them and his underling showed what an impression they had made by refusing their request for a £4.5million loan to help towards the cost of making 600 council employees redundant.

Yes folks, the ConDem Government have shown their love for the good people of Stoke-on-Trent by granting the City Council the grand sum of a £1.5million loan to help with the costs incurred by the forced reduction of the Council workforce and the instruction that the difference can be made up out of the reserves held for PFI initiatives [this money must be put back at some time] for the City.

Our local politicians are fearing a backlash in May. Sources are telling me that Tories are preparing for the loss of a number of their group. The Lid Dems are fearing oblivion and the City Independents are in total melt down at the fear that they are being tarred by the Coalitions brush. The CIG leader is refusing to play ball over the budget not for fear of doing the right thing however hard it may be, but for the fear of how that looks politically to the electorate.

There is even talk of a new group to challenge those who purport to be standing on and Independent basis. This group will include prominent ex councillors and are expected to feature a couple of current Labour Councillors in their ranks as well as a former councillor who is big in stature if not big in reality.

Community Voices preparations are going well according to sources. But whether they can muster the necessary number to be considered major opponents remains to be seen.

So finally the Governance Transition Board can be rightly proud that they made a difference to what the Government of the day considered to be a “Ëœpolitically fragmented council’ ““ with the realisation that there will be candidates from Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems, City Independents, BNP, Community Voice, New Independent Group, English First, Non ““ Aligned and Libertarian ““ they did a job well done!

Welcome to the “ËœPolitically Fragmented’ Stoke-on-Trent circa 2011!

Work Slim Down Stop Whinging

Tory councillor for Loggerheads and Whitmore, Ashley Howells has offered the people of Stoke-on-Trent some advice, using his Twitter account he said, Work slim down stop whinging.

Mr Howells ‘tweet’ was in response to Pits n Pots reader Mark Porter who had used his twitter account to say, ‘Cameron ought to come to Stoke to tell the people here why we never get anything but cuts. #condemfail’ about David Cameron launching the Big Society initiative in Liverpool on Monday.

Mr Howells sent this tweet in response, ‘@marksporter not in the junk food fuelled calorie intake of the lazy stoke underclass!Look at obesity. Work slim down stop whinging’

Mr Porter from Kidsgrove said, ‘Ashley Howells doesn’t follow me on Twitter and I have never met him but this tweet shows exactly what the Tories think of Stoke-on-Trent, I personally feel a councillor should not be making comments like these. I see from his latest tweet Mr Howells is attending a “Nulbc Licensing liaison committee this lunch. Seeking improvements in town centre drinking behaviour” perhaps he should look at his own behaviour on Twitter first.’

We went out and asked the ‘lazy Stoke underclass’ what they thought of Mr Howells advice that they should ‘Work slim down stop whinging’.

I go to work, eat what I want when I want. I’m not obese, I pay my taxes, contribute to my local community and to society. This NUL Councillor obviously has a twisted and unusually biased view of the people of our great city.
Given the fact that Newcastle is only minutes from Stoke, I can’t think that there would be much different between the folk of both areas. Maybe he lives in one of those big houses in the Westlands and thinks that makes his opinions more valuable than those of us who live in modest, but not the less important areas of our County. With ideals like that, you have to wonder whether he should be elected to serve the people of NUL. Heaven forbid he should have to help someone un-employed.
I’m disgusted that a man of his standing can make such a generalism about the entire population of Stoke-on-Trent. He might well be a twitter virgin, but there’s no excuse for insulting an entire city.
He’s done nothing but damage his own reputation.
What a snobby git! I think he should resign for having such outrageous views of his borough’s neighbours. These comments have brought Newcastle Borough Council into disrepute. My uncle has been out of work for months due to no fault of his own and he still contributes to society through doing voluntary work. He is trying so hard to get back into work.
What a load of rubbish he talks! I have a full time job, plus work as and when required at the Regent Theatre. Due to having a hectic social life, whenever I get the chance, I go walking in the Lake District. The man should be sacked without hesitation as he is obviously not fit to represent all the communities.

When Mr Howells is not sunning himself in his Andalusian home he is the Managing Director of Stoke-on-Trent based Ashley Recruitment, ‘The Quality Agency For Healthcare And Hospitality Staff’, who we assume must employ members of what he likes to call the ‘Stoke underclass’.

Mr Howells also went to the trouble of telling us how he was, Glad to see nulbc leaving ineffective regeneration partnership with badly run stoke on trent

UPDATE

Ross Irving, Deputy Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council & Leader of the Conservative & Independent Alliance was outraged by these comments, he said:

“These comments are completely out of order. They are unacceptable and I expect the Leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council to deal with this matter urgently. It is simply not on to make abusive comments about the people in a neighbouring area. Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle are a part of North Staffordshire and sometimes we do not see eye to eye on matters, but we need to work together. Comments like these are not helpful and make matters more difficult.”

Nicola Ralph, Secretary of the Newcastle-under-Lyme Conservative Association was also keen to distance herself from these comments. She said:

“Oh dear, that’s not very good is it? Yes, Stoke has it’s problems but I have always found the people dead friendly and completely unpretentious.

I don’t think the people of Stoke-on-Trent do themselves any favours by constantly re-electing Labour.

These comments aren’t very nice though, especially the obese comments. I can’t see there being a greater percentage of people that are obese in Stoke as opposed to Newcastle”.

Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt hit out at the comments, he said:

Well, the Tory leopard hasn’t changed it’s spots!

At this very moment Stoke-on-Trent is coming out of recession with falling unemployment and is looking forward to the future with confidence and low and behold the nasty party rears it’s ugly head.

There is no place for the unattractive reality of negative and out of date stereotypes.

Update Thursday 1145

While it maybe uncertain exactly who made these comments on twitter, people who use twitter expect casual and informal language to be used but these are abusive and insulting comments about the people of Stoke-on-Trent and are completely unacceptable.

Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council declined to comment saying that it was a personal matter.

We have not yet been able to contact Mr Howells for a statement.

Is Mr Howells right to call people from Stoke-on-Trent ‘the lazy stoke underclass’?

Stoke-on-Trent’s Political Landscape Has A Change On The Horizon

Stoke-on-Trent is often described as ‘politically fragmented’.

In fact certain academic political commentators practically drool at the prospect that the city’s political structure is ‘broken’.

I have lost count at the many times that I have read, or been told by the great and the good that our city councillors lack quality and political acumen.

We currently have 9 political groups registered and represented in the council chamber. We are constantly told that this is a bad, bad thing.

Well we recently had a visit from the ‘Gossip Goblin’ to the Pits n Pots HQ. The good goblin told us that our city is about to get another political group, but not one like any other.

It would appear that this new group will be made up of councillors and former party activists that will put the communities that they represent as their number one priority.

Indeed it would seem that they see themselves as the voice of the communities.

They will have policies that are agreed by the majority but spurn the idea of a party whip as they would spurn a rabid dog.

Their policies, the Gossip Goblin told us, will have a strong socialist element to them. They are 100% committed to the delivery of top quality public services.

The new group feel that they have no alternative but to come together and scrutinise the Council Leader, his cabinet and the officer core. They feel that Stoke-on-Trent has been left with a political vacuum caused by the main parties entering into a coalition with the City Independents, thus robbing the electorate of a party that has got their backs.

The Gossip Goblin warned us that there will be collateral damage caused to the council chamber with the formation of this new political group. There are rumours that a number of councillors sitting in all groups who are despondent with the coalition policies, are waiting to join forces with this new band of merry men and women.

The launch of this new ‘people first – party’s second’ group is only a short time away and as more details emerge, or in the event of a further visit from the Gossip Goblin, we will be first to bring you the latest developments…..

George Osbourne First Budget

Taking Gladstone’s original Budget Box out for its final outing, before it becomes a public record of the National Archives, the Chancellor went to the Palace Of Westminster to deliver this first budget of the new government, in line with the Conservative pre election promise, to deliver a budget within 50 days of coming in to office.

During the budget speech Rt Hon George Osborne MP said that:

It was an unavoidable Budget and £1 in every £4 we spend is borrowed. He said the deficit would be dealt with by cuts in spending more than increases in taxation.

The deficit was brought about by over spending not under taxing.

The chancellor also confirmed that the UK would not be joining the Euro during the term of this government.

Public sector workers earning less than £21,000 will have a pay freeze for 2 years. Public sector employees earning less than £21,000 will get a flat £250 rise on each of the two years the freeze is in place.

There has been much speculation about what was going to be included in the budget, but here is the actual budget direct from HM Treasury:

Today the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has set out his Budget with a comprehensive five-year plan to rebuild the British economy. The plan sets out tough but fair action to tackle the unprecedented budget deficit, introduce a fairer tax system, encourage enterprise and support long-term growth across the economy. The Budget sets out action within these three areas, to help rebalance the economy and provide the conditions for sustainable growth. Each builds on the Coalition Government’s core values of responsibility, freedom and fairness.

1. Responsibility: Tackling the deficit & the fiscal mandate.
The Chancellor has been clear that we need to tackle the deficit urgently. Reducing the deficit is a necessary precondition for sustained economic growth; today’s plans will help to restore stability and balance to the economy, underpinning private sector confidence to support recovery.

The Government has therefore set:
“¢ A deficit target, to achieve cyclically-adjusted current balance by the end of the rolling, five- year forecast period. At this Budget, the end of the forecast period is 2015-16;
“¢ For this Parliament, the fiscal mandate will be supplemented by a target for debt as a share of GDP to be falling at a fixed date of 2015-16, ensuring that the public finances are restored to a sustainable path;
“¢ By 2014-15, 80 per cent of the additional consolidation measures set out in this Budget will be delivered through spending restraint, with additional spending reductions of £31.9bn a year by 2014-15 and additional net tax increases of £8.2 billion. Taking the total consolidation measures delivered through spending restraint to 77 per cent;
“¢ On spending, £29.8bn of the additional savings are from public sector current expenditure (PSCE) and £2.2bn from public sector gross investment (PSGI). There are no further reductions in public sector gross investment beyond the cuts already announced as part of the £6.2bn of savings in 2010-11;
“¢ The Government will increase the standard rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) to 20 per cent from 4 January 2011;
“¢ The Government will increase the standard rate of Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) to 6 per cent and the higher rate to 20 per cent from 4 January 2011; and
“¢ The Government will introduce a two year pay freeze for public sector workforces from 2011-12, except for those earning £21,000 or less, who will receive an increase of at least £250 in these years.

2. Freedom: Enterprise and growth agenda
This Budget will create the conditions for enterprise and sustainable growth. The Chancellor wants to support business and make the UK more competitive. This means giving businesses more freedom by reducing regulation and providing targeted tax breaks, while ensuring that the economic opportunities for businesses are shared more evenly throughout the UK’s regions.

Measures to support enterprise include:
“¢ A major package of reforms to reduce corporation tax rates including a reduction in the main rate of corporation tax from 28 per cent to 24 per cent over the course of four financial years from April 2011 and reductions to the main and special rates of capital allowances from April 2012;
“¢ A reduction in the small profits rate from 21 per cent to 20 per cent from April 2011;
“¢ A National Insurance Contributions (NICs) holiday for new businesses which start-up in certain areas of the UK over the next three years;
“¢ An increase in the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and the creation of a new Enterprise Capital Fund; and
“¢ A Regional Growth Fund in 2010-11 and 2012-13 to support increases in business employment and growth, and a scheme in which new businesses in areas of the UK outside of the East, London and the South East will get a substantial reduction in their employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs).

3. Fairness: A fairer personal tax and benefit system.
The Government has been clear that the burden of deficit reduction will have to be shared. The changes announced today set out a vision for a refocusing of the tax and benefit framework, while protecting the most vulnerable in society. This Budget announces measures to encourage people to take personal responsibility for their actions by rewarding those who work hard and save responsibly for the future.

Personal tax measures:
“¢ Increasing the personal allowance for under 65s by £1,000 to £7,475 in 2011-12, taking 880,000 people out of income tax altogether;
“¢ Capital gains tax will rise from 18 to 28 per cent for those liable to income tax at the higher and additional rates. The 10 per cent rate for entrepreneurial business activities will be extended from the first £2 million to the first £5 million of qualifying gains made over a lifetime;
“¢ The Government will work in partnership with local authorities in England to implement a council tax freeze in 2011-12; and
“¢ Introduction of a bank levy on banks balance sheets from January 2011.

Welfare reforms:
As part of the welfare reforms, the Budget announces:
“¢ Uprating the basic State Pension by a triple guarantee of earnings, prices or 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest, from April 2011;
“¢ Reduction in tax credit eligibility for families with household income above £40,000 (down from £50,000) from April 2011;
“¢ Intention to restrict the generosity of pensions tax relief by reducing the annual allowance from April 2011. The Government will ensure that this alternative approach raises no less revenue than has already been accounted for in the public finances; and
“¢ Indexing benefits by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) instead of the Retail Prices Index (RPI) from April 2011 – in order to provide a fairer reflection of benefit claimants’ experiences.

The measures set out by the Chancellor today will pay for the past and plan for the future. This Budget represents the first important step in transforming the economy, rebalancing growth across the UK and paving the way for sustainable, private sector led growth in the years ahead

How will this affect Stoke-on-Trent & The West Midlands?

“¢ To help areas and communities particularly affected by reductions in public spending make the transition to private sector-led growth and prosperity, the Government will create a Regional Growth Fund in 2011-12 and 2012-13. This fund will operate in England only and support proposals from private and public-private bodies that create sustainable increases in business employment and growth.
“¢ The Government will shortly announce details of a scheme to help new businesses in countries and regions outside London, the East and South East. The three-year scheme will exempt new businesses from up to £5,000 of employer NICs payments, for each of their first 10 employees hired. Subject to meeting the necessary legal requirements, the Government intends to have the scheme up and running by September. Any new business set up from 22 June which meets the criteria set out in the forthcoming announcement will benefit from the scheme. Up to 55,000 businesses could benefit in the West Midlands.
“¢ The impact of the employer NICs rate rise previously announced will be largely reversed by increasing the threshold for employer NICs by £21 a week above indexation. This will lead to a saving of around £280 million in the West Midlands.
“¢ The Budget 2009 proposal to repeal the special tax rules for furnished holiday lettings will not be implemented. Instead, the Government will consult over the summer on an alternative proposal to ensure the tax treatment of holiday lettings meets EU legal requirements in a fiscally responsible way, which does not penalise UK businesses, by changing the eligibility thresholds and restricting the use of loss relief. This will benefit an 22/06/2010 estimated 3,900 individuals in the West Midlands who receive an income from furnished holiday lettings.
“¢ The income tax personal allowance for those aged under 65 will be increased by £1,000 in cash terms, taking it from £6,475 in 2010-11 to £7,475 in 2011-12. As a result, the Government estimates that 23 million basic rate taxpayers will benefit by up to £170 each. In the West Midlands over 2 million basic rate taxpayers will gain from this measure.
“¢ Government will uprate the basic State Pension by a triple guarantee of the highest of earnings, prices or 2.5% from April 2011. The Consumer Price Index will be used as the measure of prices in the triple guarantee. However, to ensure the value of a basic State Pension is at least as generous as under the previous uprating rules, the Government will increase the basic State Pension in April 2011 by the equivalent of Retail Price Index. An estimated 1.1 million pensioners in the West Midlands will benefit.
“¢ Government will uprate the standard minimum income guarantee in Pension Credit in April 2011 by the cash rise in a full basic State Pension to ensure the lowest income pensioners benefit from the triple guarantee. 220,000 pensioners currently receive Guarantee Credit in the West Midlands.
“¢ The Government will introduce legislation to waive certain backdated business rates bills, including for some businesses in ports. An estimated 3,000 businesses across England will benefit

Picture: crown copyright republished with permission of HM Treasury.