Welcome to the March edition of our Monthly Bulletin that provides you with the news of what is going on within the Caerphilly Constituency Labour Party.
The CLP AGM is being held on Friday. 8 March at the Council Chambers of the Caerphilly County Borough Council offices at Ty Penallta in Ystrad Mynach, starting at 6:30pm. The first part of our meeting will conduct the AGM business, and although only appointed delegates from ward parties, affiliated trade unions and other affiliated bodies will be able to vote for the various posts, all Party members are welcome to attend.
However, after the AGM business has been concluded we will proceed to hold our normal General Committee meeting, including a Guest Speaker and a Question & Answer Session with our MP and AM, and the Leader of the Labour Group at the Caerphilly Council. We will also have a short debate on a Motion from the CLP on Labour’s recent announcement on various economic issues, a key battleground for the General Election in May 2015. Details of the motion are below.
I’m pleased to announce that our motion on the role of school governors in education in Wales has been accepted for debate at the Wales Labour Party Annual Conference in Llandudno, being held on 23-24 March. A copy of the motion is attached for your information. A report back from delegates on the Conference will be given at the GC Meeting on Friday, 12 April.
All Party members will have received an email from myself on our efforts to obtain signatures for the petition against the so-called bedroom tax initiated by our MP, Wayne, and which will be presented to the House of Commons later in March. Please get involved in this campaign in whatever role you can, to ensure that there are huge numbers of our voters signing the petition. Any assistance you can provide in securing signatures amongst family, friends and neighbours will be much appreciated. Please contact me or Wayne’s office for more copies of the petition.
At the same time, our AM, Jeff, is organising a series of advice surgeries in those areas most affected by the Government’s attacks on housing benefits, where various voluntary organisations and our local Labour councillors, and our AM and MP, will provide advice and guidance. The surgeries were originally planned for January but the bad weather beat us and they are being held during the month of March. Full details are available from Jeff Cuthbert’s office.
How many of these properties will be affected by the bedroom tax?
Caerphilly Labour Party has set up a facebook group Caerphilly Against The Bedroom Tax. Please go to www.facebook.com/CaerphillyAgainstTheBedroomTax to register your opposition.
Jeff Cuthbert AM
Apprenterships and job creation are key
Apprenticeships play a vital part in up-skilling our future workforce. They combine classroom-based learning with vital on-the-job experience, leading to qualifications that are relevant, valued and worthwhile. Last October, in my role as the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Skills, I announced £5 million to create more apprenticeship places in Wales; while in November a further £40 million was agreed during Budget negotiations for apprenticeships over the next two years.
In today’s labour market, an apprenticeship holds as much value as a place at a good university. However, it’s only by raising the value and profile of apprenticeships that they will gain parity of esteem with more traditional academic qualifications. We need to positively change the public and employers’ perception of apprenticeships.
One of the Welsh Government’s flagship policies, which ties in closely with our apprenticeship programme, is Jobs Growth Wales. This was a 2011 Labour election manifesto pledge, and is intended to replace the Future Jobs Programme, which was scrapped by the UK Coalition Government. Indeed, last November I was pleased to announce than Jobs Growth Wales had created 4,000 job opportunities so far.
Jobs Growth Wales provides funding for employers to take on an unemployed person aged between 16 and 24 for a six month period, giving that person vital work experience and boosting their confidence. The intention is that, during the six-month funded period, the employer will grow sufficiently and be able to take the young person on permanently, bringing a new skills to their workforce.
Tackling youth unemployment is vital – if we don’t, its long-term effects will be felt for generations. We are doing our best in Wales to help get our young people into work and equipping them with the skills they’ll need for the changing Welsh economy. Apprenticeships and Jobs Growth Wales are key to this.
Wayne David MP
The unfairness of the bedroom tax
Mr and Mrs Goodwin of Blackwood are both registered blind. Life for them is not easy. But they are fortunate in a number of ways. They are lucky to have been living in the same council house for the past 26 years and recently the council improved and modernised their home, thanks to the work of Chris Evans, MP for Islwyn. They are fortunate too in having good neighbours and their family lives close-by and Mr and Mr Goodwin’s sister gives wonderful support. But importantly there are the two wonderful Labrador guide dogs who are their trusted companions.
Mr and Mrs Goodwin’s life however will be made significantly more difficult from 1 April. Incredible though it might seem to most people, Mr and Mrs Goodwin will lose over £20 per week in housing benefit when the Government introduces the so-called bedroom tax. Because the couple live in a three bedroom council house, the Government make the assumption that two of these rooms are ‘spare’ and their housing benefit will be cut accordingly.
In response Mr and Mrs Goodwin will be obliged to do 1 of 3 things. Firstly, they can try to get a smaller rented property. But there is a lack of smaller rented accommodation in the area and moving from Blackwood would mean that they would lose the support of family and friends, and after 26 years, they would be in an entirely new environment. This would be difficult for anyone but it would be traumatic for people who are blind.
Secondly, they can take in a lodger, as suggested by the Government. Not a sensible option for obvious reasons. Thirdly, they can ‘pay’ the extra, even though they can hardly afford to do so. This would mean cutting back on some of the basics in their life, like heating and food.
After I raised the predicament of Mr and Mrs Goodwin in the House of Commons, the couple have written to the Prime Minister as he invited them to do. Let’s hope that he belatedly recognises just how unfair his bedroom tax is and does a U-turn. I sincerely hope he will backtrack but to be honest, I’m not that hopeful.
This bedroom tax is probably one of the most unfair things which this Government has done. I really hope that people will stand by Mr and Mrs Goodwin and thousands of disabled people like them. Mr Cameron and his Government must be told that this bedroom tax is not acceptable.
Labour’s Alternative Economic Policies
Are we sending the right message to potential Labour voters? Can we persuade them that we have the right policies to end this Government’s programme of austerity and the consequent falling of living standards inflicted on hard working families?
I believe we have started to address this crucial issue following the Government’s reluctant admission that they have to address the problem of tax avoidance. Ed Balls has outlined his belief that there are 5 key aspects that the Government could and should be doing right now, as follows:
1. support the integrity of the system by strengthening UK tax laws;
2. improve tax administration and enforcement by reversing the Government’s policy of reducing staff numbers, which undermines our ability to enforce the law;
3. strengthen transparency measures by ensuring reporting of financial transactions, so that the public’s trust is restored in all companies, especially the multi-national corporations;
4. remove tax haven policies both at the EU level and our own British territories that deprive this country of billions of legitimate tax incomes;
5. international reform by the EU, the OECD and the G20 nations has to be co-ordinated to deliver a better, fairer and more robust system by making tax avoidance the number one item on the agenda.
Ed Milliband’s recent speech outlining that One Nation Labour must end the era of tax secrecy and reform the rules that allow companies to make profits in Britain but pay no tax, set the right tone but I believe that we must be bolder and more adventurous if we are to persuade sufficient voters to gain a good working majority at the May 2015 General Election. It was heartening to read that our current Policy Review will be looking at all the rules underpinning the taxation of multi-nationals, and that a consultation document by Ed Balls and Shadow Exchequer Secretary Catherine McKinnell, will be published in the coming weeks, and will be gathering evidence from across the corporation tax field. However, I trust that the submissions put forward by constituencies such as Caerphilly to the Policy Commission outlining radical but positive ideas on the subject of tax havens are also considered.
George Osborne’s “promise” to stamp out corporation tax avoidance must be ruthlessly pursued and examined because it should never be forgotten that many of the multi-national corporations are donors to the Tory Party and enjoy almost limitless access to Government Ministers. The recent OECD report on the subject contains a long litany of both the details of how the corporations avoid taxes and the potential increases on the revenues of Governments. It should also be highlighted that many of the tax havens are British Overseas Territories. It is the Con-Dem Government that ensured that over the past 2 years a relaxation of laws governing off-shore tax schemes by multi-nationals, which, for example, give tax haven-based companies such as Vodafone’s a 5% tax rate. Compare this with many small businesses that pay 30%. Many British multi-nationals can now send profits from developing countries into tax havens with impunity.
The Lib Dems’ stooge in the Treasury, Chief Secretary Danny Alexander, has claimed that public contracts will be denied to tax dodgers, but this is empty rhetoric, because the narrow definition of tax avoidance does not cover any of the schemes that these multinationals operate
In tandem with Tax Avoidance measures there are other recent announcements, especially by the Lib Dems that warrant our attention. The mansion tax commitments by our leader Ed Milliband is very welcome news indeed; but let us have no illusions, the rates currently quoted are pitifully low and barely justify the revenue that will be raised. In order to achieve sufficient revenues to make its collection worthwhile there would have to be much higher rates of mansion taxes.
The link highlighted by Ed Milliband of funding the 10p tax rate from the revenues of the mansion tax is welcome, but I believe we could be more adventurous. Perhaps we should examine a different path by adopting a Welsh version of the Council Tax introduced by the Welsh Assembly Government in 2005 of an additional band-width on Council Tax that only impacted on the wealthiest section of society. This approach will bring in substantial sums of revenue which, in my view should be ring-fenced for local government expenditure on childcare provisions, thus making it much easier to persuade the electorate that the revenue is apportioned to the richest citizens but spent on a vitally important part of family life; a perfect example of the One Nation approach championed by our leader.
Bryn Hollywell, Secretary, Caerphilly CLP