First Victory Declared in Battle to Reverse Councillors’ Pay Hikes


Press Statement from Richard Wilson, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Guildford

First Victory Declared in Battle to Reverse Councillors’ Pay Hikes

15 July 2014 – for immediate release

Labour activists in Surrey are today declaring a victory in their campaign to reverse the massive pay hikes which leading Conservative county councillors voted themselves. In May, the Tory majority group on the council voted to ignore their Independent Remuneration Panel and hike their own Special Responsibility Allowances. Later that month, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Guildford, Richard Wilson, started a petition which thousands of residents have signed on Surrey County Council’s own website to reverse the hikes. Today, the council’s Leader, Cllr David Hodge, issued a personal statement at the start of the full council meeting where he complained about the public not understanding his position but agreed to reduce his and his deputy’s allowance to the level recommended by the IRP.

Richard Wilson said, “Thank you to everyone who signed my petition. We have forced Cllr Hodge into this U-turn against his will. We are declaring victory today but our victory is not yet complete so I ask people to continue signing my petition. I aim to reverse all of these pay hikes, not just the Leader’s and Deputy Leader’s 60% hikes.

“Until today, Hodge defended his 60% pay hike as the minimum necessary to do his job. If this is true, then surely he will now resign since his new lower allowance will not be enough. Hodge has been slammed by Conservative MPs, ministers and local parties. The public have spoken with one voice in supporting my campaign to reverse his ill-judged money-grab. His reputation has been irreparably damaged by this and I call on him to consider his position.”

Ends

Note 1. Leader, Cllr Hodge, will now receive an SRA of £35,548pa, up from £27,000 last year but less than the £43,000 he previously said was the minimum he could accept. This is on top of his councillor’s basic allowance of £12,418pa.

Note 2. Richard Wilson’s petition is here: http://petitions.surreycc.gov.uk/moneygrab/

Note 3. Richard Wilson is on 01483 511272

 

 

Richard Wilson

Parliamentary Candidate

Guildford Labour Party

Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Website | YouTube | Donate

 

Promoted by Alex Wilks on behalf of Richard Wilson, both of 9b Martyr Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4LF

My submission to Licensing Sub-committee on The Boileroom


Owner Dominique Frazer, Richard Wilson and Alex Wilks

Owner Dominique Frazer, Richard Wilson and Alex Wilks

Regular readers will be aware of the threat to The Boileroom, Guildford’s independent music and arts venue. It has been subjected to a review of its licence by (possibly) 2 nearby residents. After carefully researching the venue and the claims made against it, I decided to support the venue and write to Guildford Borough Council’s Licensing Team with my personal evidence.

You can read my submission here: Submission to Licensing sub-committee

If you would like to add your opinions, please email licensing@guildford.gov.uk

Click to enlarge to read the official notice

Click to enlarge to read the official notice

Letting Agent Fees


Recently I received an email from a local letting agent asking me to support his position that he should be allowed to continue to charge tenants administration fees. He said that Shelter, the housing charity, do not understand his point of view and charging tenants fees helps his business employ a number of staff.

I had to disappoint the letting agent because I believe that such fees are part of the reason that the accommodation market is broken in this country. Having healthy competitive markets is essential for a growing economy. Here is my reply:

Dear <redacted>,

I will not be supporting your position to allow letting agents to continue to charge tenants fees the way they do. I support Shelter’s campaign and I am pleased that this will form part of Labour’s manifesto for two main reasons: evidence I have personally encountered of unfair behaviour by letting agents and my belief that markets can benefit society but only if they are properly constituted to prevent abuse.

 

As a young graduate starting out on my career I was a tenant in the private rented sector for about ten years and paid large amounts in letting agent fees and had inexplicable sums deducted from deposits. Like most tenants, I had no choice, could not shop around between letting agents, and had no way of taking letting agents to court to recover my money.

 

I am pleased to hear that you believe you give tenants a good service. I have to inform you I have never encountered any private tenant who has told me they have received a service worth the money from any letting agent. Tenants say they feel exploited by letting agents. The industry has comprehensively lost the trust of tenants. I can understand why you would like to continue to charge tenants fees but your argument seems to be based solely on your own interests, not the tenants’.

 

The private rented accommodation market in broken. There are too many predatory market participants and money is extracted from the end customer without the healthy competition that a functioning market provides. While landlords can shop around for letting agents, tenants cannot. Therefore, tenants should not be paying the fees. Since you claim you are able to supply a competitive service, you should not be worried about customers (landlords) leaving you for other suppliers.

 

I do not agree with you that this will increase rents. Rents are set by landlords at the maximum level the market will sustain and this will continue to be the case.

 

In a functioning market, the customer must have choice. Currently, tenants only have the choice between paying letting agent fees to renew their lease or moving house. There is no market mechanism to hold these fees down. This has permitted the abusive behaviour by some letting agents which has made this new policy necessary.

 

Thank you again for getting in touch. I regret that we are not in agreement on this issue. You have my permission to place this email conversation in the public domain in any way you see fit. Would you be happy for me to do the same? Please contact me on this or any other issue in future.

 

Best regards,

 

Richard Wilson

Labour PPC Guildford

Promoted by Nick Trier on behalf of Richard Wilson, both of 9b Martyr Road, Guildford GU1 4LF

Save the Boileroom!


Yesterday, along with community activist Alex Wilks, I had the chance to look round The Boileroom, a small independent music venue in Guildford which is threatened with closure. The owner, Dominique Frazer, introduced us to the dedicated staff and showed us how they try to live in harmony with their neighbours.

Owner Dominique Frazer, Richard Wilson and Alex Wilks

Owner Dominique Frazer, Richard Wilson and Alex Wilks

I had heard about the threat to The Boileroom from friends on Facebook and through the local newspaper’s website. There is a massively popular petition to keep the venue open.

There are no other venues in Guildford, and very few in the South East, which provide opportunities for local aspiring independent musicians to develop their talent and play alongside more established acts. The Boileroom pays local bands to perform and is credited by the Musicians’ Union as being a vital part of the live music industry. The Boileroom is hosting the launch event for the Guildford Fringe next week. They put on events for schools, train future music industry staff and succeed despite their more commercial rivals receiving public money as subsidies. They have even won an award from the Noise Abatement Society!

Unfortunately, new neighbours arrived in the next-door house about 18 months ago and they are having a speculative attempt at closing the venue down.

One of the reasons given is that they are disturbed by noise from the venue. We had a demonstration of the sound-proofing yesterday. Inside, some very loud music was played on the speakers. We went outside, through heavy double-doors and it was almost inaudible right outside the door. In fact, the traffic on York Road is far louder and sometimes we had to wait for it to die down to be heard when talking. These doors do not allow enough sound through to be a nuisance. There is a locking system which prevents one door opening until the other one is closed, therefore it is impossible for both double-doors to be open at the same time. It was suggested to me that perhaps windows might be opened if it was too hot inside. However, none of the windows in the noise-protected part of the building open and there is powerful air conditioning so that is not necessary.

The list of alleged breaches of the licence seems to comprise smears and unprovable anecdotes. The suggestions of harm to children are totally made up. The complainants claim that there have been “allegations” that the venue was overcapacity when running an event for schoolchildren. There were no such allegations. Also, the claim that parents have difficulty crossing the road is untrue and the local school confirm this.

Unfortunately, the people who have made the complaint against The Boileroom may have committed an offence by knowingly supplying false information. The Licensing Act allows for high fines to be levied on complainants if they are not honest.

Click to enlarge to read the official notice

Click to enlarge to read the official notice

The Boileroom is a valued community hub. I spoke to a passing neighbour when we were outside on the pavement. He confirmed that Dominique and her team do everything possible to live in harmony with nearby residents. The huge number of signatures collected on their petition already shows what a strong following they have. It is a shame that the local LibDem councillor has not taken up the invitation, like we did, to look round the venue and see what a fantastic asset it is to the community.

It is very disappointing that selfish neighbours can launch this speculative application to review the licence and cause so much heart-ache to so many people. Regular readers of this blog will be reminded of the fight to gain planning permission for the Terry Jayne School of Dance in Lightwater. The Taleban try to stamp out singing and music, let’s stand up against their equivalent in Guildford!

Save the Boileroom!

Surrey County Council “acutely aware” of the crisis they have caused in our schools


The Surrey Advertiser has covered the overcrowding in Surrey’s infant classes which came to light in my recent research:

Surrey Ad 20 June on class sizes

The Tory council say they are “acutely aware” of the problem. They should have been “acutely aware” that this crisis was going to happen years ago and should have done something about it. Surrey’s youngest pupils are suffering due to the council’s neglect of their responsibilities. This probably does not affect many Tory councillors’ families, who will be able to afford private schools for their grandchildren.

By awarding themselves 60% pay hikes, the Tory leadership of Surrey County Council have added insult to injury to the parents and pupils of Surrey.

Enjoy Royal Ascot but don’t get caught short!


The final day of this year’s Royal Ascot race meeting is tomorrow. If you are planning to travel there by train from Guildford via Aldershot there is something you might want to know about:

South West Trains have replaced the usual rolling stock with sub-standard, old, worn-out carriages with no toilets! Private Train Operating Company, SWT say they recognise the need for toilet facilities on the 62 minute journey but they haven’t invested in new trains fast enough.

Travellers in Surrey are used to being forced to settle for second best, on the roads, rails and cycle routes, but this move is degrading for passengers. People tell me they work hard for a living and a trip to the races on Saturday is a small treat that they deserve. Now, the journey home could ruin the whole day. I won’t spell out what the lack of toilet facilities could mean in terms of discomfort and embarrassment.

Come on, South West Trains, if you don’t want to be known as Sub Standard Trains, give us our usual trains back!

SWT

Infants in Over-crowded Classes Soar In Surrey by 122%


Press Statement from Richard Wilson, Labour Parliamentary Candidate, Guildford
13 June 2014 – For immediate release

The number of infants in large classes of over 30 pupils has increased by 951 in Surrey since 2010.

In January 2010 there were 779 infant pupils in large classes and the figure is now 1,730, an increase of 122%.

Richard Wilson, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Guildford, said, “Over-crowded infant classes pose a real threat to children’s education and wellbeing. As the son of two teachers, I know the additional pressures that large class sizes place on teachers too.”
Before the General Election, David Cameron promised “small schools with smaller class sizes”.
But the new figures released on Thursday 12 June show it’s a promise they have failed to deliver.
Richard Wilson said: “Conservative Surrey County Council is failing pupils and parents. Infant class sizes are soaring and there is a shortage of school places for all ages. Local parents tell me that they cannot get places for their children in their preferred, nearby, state schools because the council has failed to provide enough places. This is a crisis for the families affected who will now face difficult school runs every day. This comes as leading councillors award themselves 60% pay hikes.

“Surrey has a critical shortage of school places while millions are being wasted elsewhere in the South East on Free Schools where there is a surplus of places. A future Labour Government will prioritise new school places in areas where there are shortages, have rigorous local oversight of schools and ensure that all teachers have or are working towards qualified teacher status.”

ENDS.

Government statistics from 2010 (see Table 14b) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/218954/local_20authority_20tables_20sfr092010.xls

Government statistics from 2014 (see Table 11) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/319510/SFR15_2014_LA_tables.xlsx
Number of infants in large classes (over 30)

Jan-10
Jan-14
Difference 2010-14
% change 2010-14
SOUTH EAST (4)
4,980
12,710
7,730
155%
Bracknell Forest
62
62
0
0%
Brighton and Hove
62
155
93
150%
Buckinghamshire
529
745
216
41%
East Sussex
562
1,094
532
95%
Hampshire
528
1,707
1,179
223%
Isle of Wight
65
187
122
188%
Kent
816
2,718
1,902
233%
Medway
62
319
257
415%
Milton Keynes
284
217
-67
-24%
Oxfordshire
186
563
377
203%
Portsmouth
62
217
155
250%
Reading
31
0
-31
-100%
Slough
126
186
60
48%
Southampton
124
219
95
77%
Surrey
779
1,730
951
122%
West Berkshire
190
282
92
48%
West Sussex
383
1,747
1,364
356%
Windsor and Maidenhead
128
282
154
120%
Wokingham
0
279
279

In their 2010 manifesto, the Conservative Party promised to create “small schools with smaller class sizes”.
A Conservative government will give many more children access to the kind of education that is currently only available to the well-off: safe classrooms, talented and specialist teachers, access to the best curriculum and exams, and smaller schools with smaller class sizes with teachers who know the children’s names.
Conservative Party Manifesto 2010, p. 51
David Cameron said in 2008 that it was “important to have small schools” so that children don’t “get lost”:
“…the more we can get class sizes down the better. It is also important to have small schools. Some schools have got so big that the children get lost in them. …What I want most in a primary school is one where the headteacher knows my child’s name and they’re not part of some enormous mass. You want your child to go somewhere where they can feel warm and safe and loved and identified.”
David Cameron, Yorkshire Post Q&A, 18 April 2008
David Cameron has created a crisis in primary school places. Two-thirds of all the places created by the Free School programme (aggregate figure for both primary and secondary) are not in the areas most in need of primary places.
NAO, Establishing Free Schools, 11 December 2013, http://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/10314-001-Free-Schools-Book.pdf
Last month, it was revealed that Michael Gove had diverted £400 million away from areas in need of new primary places to fund his Free School programme.
The Guardian, 10 May 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/10/gove-lunatic-raid-free-schools
In 2012 Michael Gove relaxed the rules on class sizes and the 30 pupil limit introduced by Labour.
“Schools can breach the limit in exceptional circumstances for 12 months on the proviso that numbers are brought down the following year.
But that requirement has now disappeared from the School Admissions (Infant Class Sizes) Regulations – quietly introduced a year ago – in a move that gives heads more freedom to maintain 30-plus lessons for a number of years without having to employ more teachers.
School leaders have admitted that growing numbers of heads were preparing to take advantage of the rule change to increase class sizes.”
Telegraph, 7 April 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9969834/More-infants-to-be-taught-in-supersized-classes.html

Richard Wilson
Parliamentary Candidate
Guildford Labour Party
Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Website | YouTube | Donate

Promoted by Alex Wilks on behalf of Richard Wilson, both of 9b Martyr Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4LF

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