Wakefield Lib Dems: Invest £2,262,120 to double Warm Home Discount and prevent over 8000 pensioners across the Local Authority going cold this winter
Wakefield Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to double the Warm Home Discount for existing recipients and make it available to 1468 extra pensioners across Wakefield Council. The measure would prevent pensioners being forced to “choose between eating and heating this winter”, say the Lib Dems.
The call comes amid fears that local residents, particularly 8079 pensioners on low incomes, could be at risk from the energy crisis this winter.
The Warm Home Discount, funded by energy firms, is due to give people £140 off their electricity bill this winter. It is available to those who receive the ‘Guarantee Credit’ element of pension credit as well as some people on low incomes, with around two million receiving it each year across the UK.
The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to take on the cost of the Warm Home Discount and immediately double its value to £280, helping pensioners cope with soaring bills this winter.
Currently £925,540 is spent on the Warm Home Discount across Wakefield District. Under Liberal Democrat plans this funding would rise to £2,262,120.
Commenting on the new scheme, Liberal Democrat Councillor Tom Gordon said:
“The Conservatives are pushing the most vulnerable pensioners and families into a cost of living crisis. We are seeing a double whammy of rising bills and the slashing of vital support.
“Residents in across our district should not have to choose between heating and eating this winter. We simply cannot allow those who are already struggling to bear the brunt of this government’s terrible mistakes.
“Liberal Democrats are calling for a £2,262,120 investment to help people cope with soaring bills this winter.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP added:
“If Boris Johnson has any interest in offering the most vulnerable in society a fair deal, he will listen to this Liberal Democrat proposal to double and extend the Warm Home Discount to the people who really need help.”
Lib Dems slam Wakefield Council for wasting thousands on unnecessary & unused Zoom licenses
Lib Dem Councillors have uncovered that almost £20,000 was spent on Zoom licenses, almost half of which were either not activated or used.
Despite purchasing the Zoom licenses, Wakefield's inbuilt Skype for Business was used to conduct virtual Council meetings through the pandemic, with Microsoft Teams being used for COVID Recovery Board meetings.
Councillor Gordon said: "It is unclear exactly why Wakefield Council felt the need for a third video conferencing platform, and one which was then never used for Council business.
Wakefield Council purchased 125 licenses between September and November in 2020 at a cost of £17,146.60. Almost half of which were either not activated or unused.
The Zoom licenses were purchased for 12 months in advance meaning a number of licences were purchased for Councillors who then only months later retired or lost their seats.
Cllr Tom Gordon added: "I've spoken to Local Government colleagues elsewhere and no other Council seems to have taken this approach.
"It beggars belief that at at time when many are struggled financially, due to a inflation, stagnant wages, and COVID, that Wakefield Council think they can just waste residents' money".
Lib Dem Councillors are now calling on Wakefield Council to provide alternative pool time to school kids who are now seeing their school sessions cancelled due to horse racing at neighbouring Pontefract Race Course.
Last month it was revealed that there are over 2300 children on waiting lists for swimming lessons across Wakefield Council pools - meaning school lessons are the only many are able to received.
Residents from a local school contacted Councillors after they were notified earlier this week that swimming lessons for 16th & 23rd November were axed due to clashes with race day.
Councillor Gordon said: "Not only can residents not get their children into swimming lessons due to massive backlogs, but now some even face their kids missing out on school lessons due to the shortsighted approach in shutting down local pools and consolidating the service next the race course. Swimming is an important life skill and one our children should have access to but are being denied.
"I spoke with one headteacher who said the school were not told that they would see multiple swimming sessions lost due to clashes with horse racing. Labour-run Wakefield Council must make additional pool time available so that no school kids miss out, and I have written to the relevant Cabinet Member calling for this.
The new Aspire @ the Park facility in Pontefract was plagued with delays after the building site was flooded, and ended up costing more than the original £20million planned.
Cllr Tom Gordon added: "We've already seen residents turned away and inflatable sessions cancelled due to capacity issues at Pontefract Park pool. This is just the latest failing on the Labour Council administration's part."
Wakefield Lib Dem Deputy Group Leader and spokesperson for Culture Leisure & Sport, Cllr Adele Hayes, has called for urgent investment in Council leisure services as shocking figures show over 2300+ children are on swimming lesson waiting lists across out district.
Figures from Wakefield Council revealed that 2370 children are currently on waiting lists for swimming lessons at Council run facilities. This includes over 1100 children waiting for lessons at the new Aspire @ the Park in Pontefract, and over 640 for Sun Lane.
Councillor Hayes, who was elected to represent Knottingley & Ferrybridge earlier this year, said: "In recent weeks I've had more and more parents getting in touch who are growing increasingly angry and concerned about months long waiting lists to get swimming lessons for their children.
"We knew there was a backlog and issues with the availability of lessons, I can't get my 10 year old daughter lessons anywhere, but I am shocked at the size of the backlog and it seems the problem is bigger than anyone thought.
"It's obviously really frustrating for residents in places like Castleford & Knottingley, where the Council chose demolish and centralise services rather than keep them local in communities. We have many parents who simply can't afford the bus fare or travel and it's clear now that the Council's decision awhile back has made swimming and an important life skill inaccessible to many."
Councillors Tom Gordon & Adele Hayes at the site of the former Knottingley Swimming Pool
Wakefild Lib Dem Council Group Leader, Tom Gordon, has slapped down revived Government plans for COVID passports as 'unworkable and illiberal'.
Councillor Gordon, who has been vaccinating the public as a volunteer, has voiced concern and branded the direction "dangerous".
Councillor Gordon, a Biochemistry and Public Health graduate, said: "I think I've demonstrated, & made it explicitly clear, that I am 100% that I am in favour of getting people vaccinated.
"However, I completely oppose the introduction of divisive & discriminatory domestic ‘vaccine passports’ which are both unworkable & illiberal.
"These plans could not only deny individuals access to pubs/restaurants, but also vital services and even jobs.
"The proposed vaccine passports would create a two-tier society, restricting the freedoms of young people who haven't had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, and those who it is recommended do not received the vaccine
"The successful vaccination roll out should mean we start getting our freedoms back. Vaccine passports - essentially COVID ID cards - take us in the other direction"
Wakefield Lib Dem Council Group Leader, Tom Gordon, has branded Labour-run Wakefield Council's failure to meet it's tree planting targets, and lack of urgency and action on identifying carbon saving quick wins, as yet more "over promising and under delivering by a tired clapped out administration".
On Monday at Wakefield Council's Monday's Climate Change & Environmental Wellbeing Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting, Councillors were informed that the 2 year target to plant 100 hectares of trees to carbon offset was not going to be met, and the latest revised figure of 50 hectares was still unlikely and could be just as little as 30 hectares.
Councillor Gordon, who was previously opposition spokesperson for Environment at Newcastle City Council , said: "This Labour Council has a strong track record of over promising and under delivering, to miss one target the Council set itself is unfortunate, but to miss two looks like carelessness and incompetence".
Wakefield Council declared a Climate Emergency in a meeting in May 2019, at the meeting - which was Cllr Gordon's first, he spoke on the motion and cited quick wins that the Council could be doing now and was critical at the lack of urgency and timescales.
Councillor Gordon added "To still be identify and talking about quick wins two and a bit years after Labour Councillors said this was the most important issue is quite frankly pathetic. It is clear that Labour's only intent on virtue signalling and pontificating on the climate emergency, rather than actually leading"
Councillor Gordon also once again took aim claim that Wakefield Council could never claim to be Carbon neutral if it was still profiting from the West Yorkshire Pension Fund and renewed calls for the Council to call for divestment.
Councillor Gordon added "The Liberal Democrats are the only party fighting to tackle to climate crisis here and the natural home for residents who want to see a greener, cleaner, more caring society."
Councillor Tom Gordon and the Lib Dems fight to give carers a voice
Wakefield Liberal Democrats are asking people across our community who care for relatives to get in touch and share their story – to mark national Carers Rights Day.
Liberal Democrat party leader Ed Davey has said he wants the party wants to be a "strong voice" for the millions across the country – including over 33,000 people across Wakefield District who care for those who need it.
Ed himself knows the burden put on carers for family members - having been a carer for his mum when growing up and now caring for his disabled son.
Carers can get in touch and share their experiences at www.libdems.org.uk/carerssurvey
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford, Councillor Tom Gordon, has called for action from the Local Authority, Unions, and MP at once as over 200 staff are facing losing their jobs at the Haribo site in Pontefract.
Councillor Gordon said: "Clearly this is a very anxious time for employees and for the economy of Pontefract and across the Five Towns. I’m calling on Wakefield Council, Unions and the MP to do all they can to support Haribo employees and establish a task force to save jobs and safeguard the future of this site."
Haribo informed employees about the expected job losses at a meeting on Friday 4th September. Any changes are expected to take place over the next 18 months and Haribo will be engaging in consultation with those affected and their representatives.
Councillor Gordon added: "I've been in touch with Haribo and the Managing Director has agreed to speak with me next week. Pontefract and the wider area simply cannot afford to lose jobs on this scale. A number of residents have already been in touch and are deeply worried about what this means for them and their families. We need to make sure we do all that we can in these circumstances and try to ensure we reach the best possible outcome for those employees who are facing redundancy in the middle of a global health crisis."
Councillor Gordon told residents affected by this news that they can contact him at [email protected]
Millfields Care Home, in Pontefract, has officially opened its new reminiscence room - which is designed specifically to help those with dementia connect with the past.
The newly fitted out room was designed in collaboration with residents and features a range of period items from the 1950-1970s including a record player with a range of music, a Singer sewing machine, and even a pub bar and bell.
Care Home Manager, Laura Jones, said “We’re really excited to be able to offer something unique to our residents, we know how much of a positive benefit a facility like this can have on health and well-being, especially for those living with dementia. At Millfields our staff are always looking for new and innovative ways to support and engage with residents. It was particularly heart-warming to see how residents got involved & contributed their thoughts on what they wanted this room to be like.”
Activities & Fundraising Co-ordinator, Victoria Jenkins said “It has been hard work getting this up and running especially with the added difficulty of COVID. We’ve spent hours trying to find period items online that would really bring the reminiscence room to life. In the short time we’ve had the room kitted out we’ve already seen how this has made a real difference to the lives of residences”.
Councillor Tom Gordon, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Normanton, Pontefract, & Castleford, was invited to open the room on Thursday 30th July.Due to COVID, the event was a slimmed-down and socially distanced affair, rather than the party that had been originally planned for residents and their loved ones.
Commenting Cllr Gordon said “The staff at Millfields should be super proud of themselves, they are second to none, and residents absolutely thrilled with their latest idea. It’s been lovely speaking with few residents I was able to meet and hearing their stories about our local area – they’ve even taught me a thing or two. I’ve already been invited back for a quiz and to meet with residents properly when it’s safe to do so, and I can’t wait”.
The staff, tireless in their efforts to think of ways to support their residents, are now setting out to fundraise for a minibus in hope that they can take residents away on day trips.
Millfields currently have vacancies for respite care, day care, full-time residential, and enquiries can be made by calling 01977 690 606.
A specially convened meeting of Wakefield Council’s Climate Change & Environmental Scrutiny Committee was called after three committee members, including Lib Dem Councillor Tom Gordon, called in a delegated decision made by Council Leader Denise Jeffery to approve a budget of £300k to commission a consultant for the Council’s land at the City Fields site.
Speaking on the webcast meeting, Cllr Gordon queried the Corporate Director for Regeneration and Economic Growth on the recurrent appointment of expensive and out of the area consultants, and asked whether the Council could build capacity and expertise in house to reduce reliance on outsourcing to consultants, and with a view the council could then tender and bid for external contracts.
On the meeting Council Officers acknowledged that internal staff did in fact have the expertise to deliver this work, contrary to what was noted in the delegated decision notice, and cited a lack of staff capacity as the main barrier.
Commenting Cllr Gordon said “We should be looking to employ local people rather than constantly outsource to expensive consultancies in places as distance as London, and today we heard that this is possible. Wakefield Council should be looking to do this ourselves, it would be a win-win situation and mean we would be employing more people locally, who in return are more likely to spend their money in our area helping our local economy recover from COVID.“
Corporate Director Tom Stannard said he anticipated it would be a similar level of cost to employ additional staff and do the work in house. Councillor Gordon also questioned whether it be feasible for an increased staff team at the Council to also compete for external contracts to which Tom Stannard seemed to suggest was possible.
Commenting Councillor Gordon said “Not only could we complete works in house for roughly the same price, we could be looking at opening up a potential new revenue stream for the Council if we developed our Councils capacity and expertise enabling us to also compete for external contracts too, meaning that residents will see better value for money.”