Nottingham’s small businesses lead the way – Councillor Sam Webster

A recent national report has placed Nottingham number one for small business growth in England. The report was compiled following a survey of 1200 small business owners. In Nottingham business confidence levels were high.

Community support is strong for our local, independent businesses and this has an impact on their chances of survival and success. The report said that 65% of Nottingham people shop locally. Good access to high speed internet was also highlighted as a factor, an area that the Labour-run City Council has supported and funded for many years.

Read the Invest in Nottingham article here: http://www.investinnottingham.com/nottingham-is-englands-top-city-for-small-business-growth,-report-says

Councillor Sam Webster

Autumn statement gives nothing for Nottingham’s schools or social care sector

An autumn statement that says nothing on schools or social care is not an autumn statement preparing Nottingham for the future but one that is ignoring the real problems cities like ours face.

The Chancellor has missed the chance to invest in the skills and potential of Nottingham’s young people and has shown no vision to deal with the rising level of demand in adult and child social care that is pushing the City Councils finances to the limit.

The Government’s education funding formula this summer would see Nottingham’s schools lose £22 million in real terms, which is over £500 per pupil. Taking this amount of money away from Nottingham’s schools will result in overcrowded classrooms that are not properly equipped, damaging the life chances of Nottingham’s young people. An autumn statement that was serious about preparing Britain for the future would be giving schools in Nottingham more money so that we can give our young people the skills need in the future job market.

In social care the government has revealed how unaware it is of the biggest challenge Britain is going to face. There is currently a £2 billion funding gap in social care and by not committing any extra funding in the Autumn Statement the Chancellor is making that gap worse. Demand is rising as we become and older population. In 2039, the number of people aged 75 and over will be 9.9 million. A Government preparing for the future should be making the proper funding of social care its number one priority.

Along with this, there is no relief for Council budgets. Since 2010, the Government has taken £200 million from Nottingham, which has resulted in Nottingham people paying more for fewer services. Seven years of cuts to councils like Nottingham has not helped pay down Britain’s debt either, as the Government is set to add an extra £90 billion worth of debt over the life of this Parliament. To add to this the Conservatives are damaging Britain’s economic success and growth is revised down.  

The Conservatives simply have no vision for the country or for Nottingham,  and are not prepared to face the economic challenges that we face.

 

Nottingham Labour delivers a “great transport system” says Tory Minister

The Tory Transport Secretary Chris Grayling visited Labour run Nottingham this week and praised the cities infrastructure as the example to follow for integrated transport. He commented on how Nottingham was ahead of other areas of the country, seeing how decades of Labour investment has created for Nottingham the kind of transport system that we want to see around the country.

Nottingham has been a Labour Council that’s known that investment in infrastructure is the right thing to do. It is good to see that the Conservatives and Government has finally caught up with the work Nottingham Labour has been doing for decades. In Nottingham, there is an effective and efficient integrated transport system for the city. The introduction of the Robin Hood payment scheme has allowed for cross-operator and cross-transport payments within Nottingham. This is complimented by more integrated service lines with Nottingham Train Station acting as a transport hub for trains, trams, bikes and, buses. There have also been improvements for cyclists around Nottingham with the introduction of specific cycle routes, better access to the city centre and the implementation of a city-wide bike hiring scheme.

The government’s policy to scrap the electrification of the Midlands Mainline is limiting what more we can do however. This increase in speed and the beneficial environmental impacts are vital for Nottingham’s future transport needs. The governments proposed bi-powered trains simply do not provide the same benefits as rail electrification, are far more expensive, and have rightly been criticised by the Council and Nottingham’s Labour MPs.

There are also been an unfair distribution of transport spending from the Government that is holding back Nottingham’s potential with London too often being prioritised over the East Midlands. London currently receives £2,592.68 per head for transport compared to the East Midlands which only receives £218.94 per head. The fact the Government chose to give a £30 billion cheque to London and the South East for Crossrail 2 instead of £700 million for Nottingham and the electrification of the Midlands Mainline is another example of how the Government has wrongly prioritised its transport spending.

If there is more money coming for Transport, Nottingham needs its fair share to continue the success we have had in building an exemplar transport system.  

 

More Nottingham care leavers are entering employment, education or training

This year 67% of Nottingham City Care Leavers are either in employment, education or training, a significant increase on last year that places Nottingham as one of the best local authorities in the country for the future prospects of Care Leavers.

A designated Leaving Care service which solely works with those aged 18-25 has managed to support a significant number of Nottingham’s Care Leavers, with individual support packages that enhance their abilities and teach new skills, providing them with practical support for interviews and job applications. This ultimately provides them with the opportunity to live independent and successful lives after leaving our care service.

The priority that we have given to this area of our work is reflected in the fact that it forms a manifesto target, where we have pledged to offer apprenticeships or permanent jobs to 10% of care leavers within the council, setting an example to other employers with our own practice. To deliver this, the Leaving Care Service is working closely with the Nottingham Apprenticeship Scheme.

Further and higher education has also proved attainable for Care leavers, and we are proud of the 16 Nottingham care leavers who are currently at University. Work to ensure that care leavers have appropriate and additional pastoral support from FE providers is taking place through identifying designated contacts and improving communication between providers and Personal Advisors. The impact of this is starting to be seen, with examples of more collaborative and earlier support being implemented when issues arise, resulting in college places being sustained.

This approach has led to year on year success. In 2016/17 Nottingham City had 58.7% of care leavers aged 19 – 21 in education, employment or training and the average for local authorities who are similar to ours was 47.7%, meaning we are well out performing other parts of the country. We are also proud of the work and progress we have achieved and are particularly proud of our staff in the Council and Futures Advice who are providing Nottingham’s Care Leavers with the support and help they need.

We are not complacent however, and will continue to work hard to maintain and build on this progress.

Councillor David Mellen,
Portfolio Holder for Early Years and Early Intervention

Conservative Councillors voted against Nottingham Labour’s call for a pause to Universal Credit.

Conservative Councillors voted against Nottingham Labour’s motion calling on the Government to pause the rollout of Universal Credit before it hits our City, supporting a Government policy which is pushing more people into debt and homelessness.

Given the failures identified by pilot schemes and concerns raised by the Work and Pensions Committee, we have  urged the Government to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit full service before it is imposed on the citizens of Nottingham.

Currently 2785 people in Nottingham are on Universal Credit, with the full service roll out to be imposed on Nottingham by 2022, which will affect nearly 60,000 city residents. Multiple failures have already been exposed by pilot schemes across the country, with places like Newcastle seeing one in five people waiting longer than six weeks to receive their benefits, and nearly 3000 people pushed into rent arrears as a result. Research has established that Universal Credit will eventually reach more than one in four working-age households and families of which more than half of these will be in work. Ultimately, the people likely to be most affected are disabled people including those with mental health problems and those in low-paid work.

The Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee has criticised the scheme, with the committee accusing the Government of withholding bad news on the scale of problems caused by Universal Credit, amid growing concern that the changes are forcing more people into debt and poverty.

We’ve only had a limited experience of Universal Credit so far in Nottingham but we’re already seeing rent arrears rising along with more debt problems. The Government needs to see sense and pause the full introduction of Universal Credit in Nottingham .

By voting against our motion, Conservative Councillors have shown disregard for the thousands of Nottingham people that will be made poorer as a result of Universal Credit.

Nottingham Labour approves fire sprinkler works despite governments broken promise on funding

We have approved £8.4 million worth of sprinkler installations and other safety measures in 13 high rise blocks in Nottingham City, despite the government breaking its promise to properly fund “whatever the experts tell us to make people safe”.

Following the tragic events in Grenfell earlier this year, Nottingham City Council worked with Nottingham City Homes, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue and local tenants to review all of the high rise blocks in Nottingham. All the blocks have current fire risk assessments and are fully compliant with current regulations. To reassure tenants that all was being done to make their buildings safe though, we took the decision to install sprinklers within the high rise blocks along with improvements to other safety measures.

Council leaders welcomed the promise by Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, who committed the government to doing all that was necessary to make people safe. As Housing Portfolio Holder, I wrote to the government asking for the funding for these safety improvements, and was dismayed when the government responded with a categorical no, describing the installation of sprinklers as “additional rather than essential”.

It is simply unbelievable that the Government has backtracked on its commitment to provide support to councils. In the same week as describing fire safety improvements for high rise blocks in Nottingham as additional, the government managed to find £100 million for the installation of sprinklers in the Houses of Parliament. The government again shows it simply has the wrong priorities.

We will go ahead despite the government breaking its promise to provide the funding. They are too important not to go ahead and we have taken the decision to use money from our capital budget. This however, will mean fewer new homes being built in Nottingham, despite the government saying it wants Councils building more and less money available to keep our existing 26,000 homes in good repair.

These are the consequences when government does not fairly fund local authorities.

Councillor Jane Urquhart,
Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage.

10.5 million families to be on average £450 worse off per year

A new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that poorer families are set to see big cash losses due to a combination of the Conservative Government’s freeze on benefits, including in-work benefits and higher than expected inflation.

The IFS said on their web site:

“The Office for National Statistics announced that inflation in the year to September was 3.0%. Normally the September inflation figure is used to uprate benefit levels and tax thresholds the following April. However, current government policy is to freeze most working-age benefits in cash terms until March 2020. Combined with the latest inflation forecasts, today’s number means that the 4-year freeze is now expected to reduce entitlements in 2019–20 by an average of £450 per year for the 10.5 million households affected.

We can see that Conservative Party policies are having a detrimental impact on the incomes and living standards of millions of families in Britain and this includes thousands of families, with children in Nottingham. Since the Brexit vote last year inflation has been rising, due in part to the weakness of the British pound and this is driving up everyday costs for people. At the same time as process are rising in-work benefits are frozen and so many people are being hit hard in the pocket.

The situation has serious consequences for everyday family finances as well as the wider economic effect of people having less spending power. It’s now urgent that the Government looks again at the real impact their policies are having on Nottingham families.

Cllr Sam Webster

Portfolio Holder for Business, Education and Skills

Clifton North – New Flower Park Opened

Labour Councillor for Clifton North, Josh Cook, joined Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture, Dave Trimble at the official opening of the new play area at Clifton Flower Park in spring.

Local residents had their say on designs for the new play area over the winter. The comments were taken into account when designing the new play area which cost around £60,000.

Councillor Dave Trimble said, ‘It was really good to see so many kids at the event enjoying the activities and the new play area.’

Labour Councillor for Clifton North, Josh Cook said, ‘At the last election we pledged to improve play and youth facilities in parks and playing fields in Clifton North. The new play area at Clifton Flower Park is a step in the right direction and we will continue to make improvements for local residents. I hope the park will continue to be popular and used by families all year round.’

Josh, local MP Lilian and Dave at the event

Bulwell Forest – Knights Close Regeneration

Labour Councillors for Bulwell Forest, Nick and Eunice have been considering plans for the regeneration at Knights Close.

The demolition of the shops and the flats above them is under consideration. Nottingham City Council has bought the site of the former Harvesters pub that already has planning permission for housing. A small block of garages would also be demolished.

All tenants affected have been approached with an outline of the proposals and would be appropriately relocated.

A set of drawings has been produced to show what is possible, showing a replacement shop and brand new houses built to a modern eco-friendly standard. If the project is given the go ahead, there will be detailed plans and residents will be formally asked for their input and kept up to speed with anything that happens.

Eunice discussing plans for Knights Close

Bulwell in Bloom

£100,000 has been used to create the new Bulwell Community Meadow, thanks to campaigning from Labour Councillors, former MP, Graham Allen and local residents.

Local school children were involved in helping to design features at the meadow and the site has been improved through the addition of formal pathways and a wildflower meadow.

Pupils worked with local artist Chris Campbell to design new seating and entrance features on a wildlife theme, including ladybirds, butterflies and flowers. The meadow is also home to a nature trail that features natural history designs.

Bulwell Labour Councillor, Ginny Klein, said ‘It is great to see the new Bulwell Meadow being enjoyed by local residents now that the weather has improved. Graham Allen our former MP for Nottingham North did some excellent work here and we will continue to work with the new MP, Alex Norris.

Jackie was joined by former MP Graham Allen and local school children at the opening event