Using the Airport Bumper Dividend to Support those affected by Welfare Reform:
I am sure that the Leader of the Council will join me in welcoming the recent news of bumper dividend payments being made to the ten Greater Manchester authorities by the Manchester Airport Group.
Will the Leader be willing to enter into a discussion as to how best Oldham can utilise this wind-fall, particularly in looking to identify further practical measures that can be funded to support the poorest citizens of our borough who are adjusting to reduced benefits following welfare reform?
One example that could be emulated, from a neighbouring authority, is establishing a discretionary hardship fund used in exceptional circumstances to support first time Council Tax payers in arrears.
Will he consider establishing such a fund and any other steps that might be of benefit to these hard pressed citizens?
Council Letters that are Threatening or Lack Clarity:
We have tonight heard a question from an understandably very angry lady, a pillar of her local community, who has demanded a public apology after being accused in threatening and condemnatory letters received from this authority about claiming the single person’s Council Tax discount under false pretences whilst supposedly providing shelter for her grandson.
I myself have recently resolved a case involving the authority dealing in a high-minded and dictatorial fashion with a young mother – a constituent of mine – who in trying to provide for her family through taking up employment got into a tiswas with her claim for Council Tax Benefit. The lady in question received correspondence that was so unclear that a polymath would struggle to understand it.
Later we have a Cabinet Question from my Liberal Democrat colleague, Councillor Philomena Dillon, about a case in which a Crompton constituent, was accused of accruing a Council Tax debt on a property that no longer existed at a time when she was no longer living in the borough.
I am all for the authority throwing the book at those who wilfully claim things to which they are not entitled or cheerfully seek to avoid paying the money that they owe, but these are just three instances where the authority has acted overzealously and in haste to follow up red herrings.
It is fortunate indeed that the recipients of these letters were sufficiently strong willed and had the presence of mind to ask for help.
My worry is that in the near future that one of my constituents, or those of colleagues, who may be vulnerable or isolated will receive a similar letter – and that for them it will take them over the edge.
So to help forestall that eventuality I would like to ask the Leader tonight to outline for Council what checks his administration is prepared to introduce to ensure that the letters this authority sends out accord with the known facts and that they are clear and respectful to our electorate, the people that we ultimately serve?
And will he also please refer this matter for urgent investigation by the Overview and Scrutiny Board with a report brought back to Council this municipal year?
It’s All Bullocks:
I am sure the Leader will agree with me that the significant financial settlement made upon the authority and the recent departure of the former Chief Executive of Housing 21 has drawn a line under the very unsatisfactory construction phase of the PFI2 housing regeneration project.
My colleague, Cllr John McCann, as former lead member for housing, spent many an hour trying to resolve the numerous problems and delays associated with the refurbishment of bungalows and construction of new group schemes for the older residents of this borough.
And I am sure Cllr Hibbert has done the same.
But for the record, will the Leader agree that overall the tenants renting the properties that are managed on behalf of the Council by Housing 21 receive a good service, and that in fact the blame for the earlier debacle should really be placed squarely at the foot of Housing 21’s so-called construction partners, Bullocks?
The important thing is that despite the Bullocks our elderly are safe, comfortable and as content as possible within these properties.
While there are always exceptions all my information says they are.
Will the Leader join with me in offering assurance, especially to the relatives of those in Housing 21 properties, that this is in fact the case?