Thursday, 31 March 2011

More chance of winning the lottery than in getting a No 6 bus to arrive on time!

Clive Betts MP today blasted First South Yorkshire for the continuing poor service on the No 4 and 6 routes, which serve Darnall to the City Centre.

Clive Betts said:
“For several months, I have been complaining to both First and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive about the continuing poor service on the No 4 and 6 bus-routes.

Originally, this was meant to be a 20 minute frequency route throughout the day, but the service was so dreadful that passengers could only treat the timetable as a work of fiction.

First South Yorkshire then changed this to a 30 minute frequency, using smaller buses, and promised that the service would improve significantly. But, passengers are still getting the same poor service. Only now, when a bus goes missing, people know they’re in for an hour’s wait instead of forty minutes.

I simply cannot understand how the service continues to be so dreadful. It’s time First got its act together.”

Local residents have also been persistent in their complaints, but see no improvement in reliability.

Mrs Hobson of Calvert Road said:

“Rarely a day goes by without one, and often more, of the buses just not appearing. The worst case was when we saw an elderly pensioner wait an hour and fifty minutes for a bus to arrive.”

Mrs Goodison of Calvert Road said:
“It seems that, whenever there is a shortage of drivers or a problem with a vehicle, First just treat this route as dispensable.

This is the only practical bus-route for lots of elderly and disabled people. It simply isn’t fair on them to be left waiting so often.

It sometimes seems that you’ve got more chance of winning the lottery than in getting a No 6 bus to arrive on time.”

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Betts rubbishes Clegg’s claims on Council budget

Clive Betts MP has rubbished the assertion by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg MP, that Liberal Democrat controlled Sheffield City Council is making fewer cuts in services and jobs than comparable authorities.

Clive Betts said today:

“Nick Clegg seems to have brought the same level of accuracy to his claims about the real effect of Sheffield City Council’s budget as he did to his assertion last week that pensioners will not receive less Winter Fuel Payment next winter than they received this year. Neither stand up to scrutiny.”

Clive Betts set out his analysis in a speech in the Budget debate and in an Early Day Motion. [Set out below]

In particular, Clive Betts focused on:

  • Nick Clegg’s assertion that Sheffield City Council was only losing 200 jobs – when the Council’s own website confirms that 737 jobs are going. Further
o     these job losses do not include those being made by out-sourced services – including all sport and recreation, museums, refuse collection and benefit administration;
o    these job losses don’t include those in voluntary organisations whose budgets are being cut by 15% by the Council;
  • Nick Clegg’s assertion that ‘no libraries are being closed’, when the Libraries’ budget is being cut by £1.3m. It is already known that several mobile libraries are being cut, but the Liberal Democrats have decided not to announce where the rest of the cuts will fall until after the local elections;

But even more importantly, Clive Betts said that the Council was front-loading the use of the Council’s balances, which means that even bigger cuts will be required for the 2012/13 budget.

Clive Betts said: 

“Even the Council’s Chief Executive and Executive Director for Resources stated in the budget report that the Council is running down reserves to a low level given the scale of risk in the 2011/12 budget. 

It is inevitable that the new political administration – of whatever make-up – will have to start quickly making additional cuts in expenditure in 2011 to enable a lawful budget to be set in 2012/13.”

Clive Betts continued: 

“Further, there has been little comment on the massive cuts being made in the Council’s capital expenditure which will fall from £322.6m in 2010/11 to £61.3m in 2013/14.

This more than 80% cut will be felt most keenly in the private sector, especially the construction sector in the city.

The last Labour government had to spend a decade trying to deal with the Conservative legacy of huge under-investment in housing, schools and hospitals.

Given the scale of the capital cuts, it is inevitable that a future government will have a new legacy                     of failure to address.”

Monday, 28 March 2011

Cleggitis – new symptoms!

Over the last year, people have come to recognise the most common symptom of a dangerous disease called Cleggitis. Sufferers invariably promise one thing and then do another.

At a superficial level, such people can be quite attractive. In the UK, there was a sudden public outbreak of support for them about a year ago. However, that has fallen considerably in recent months – especially amongst students and pensioners - as promises made to them have been broken, one after another.

But, last week, doctors recognised a new symptom and it appears to be contagious.
Let me explain.

A prominent sufferer – called Nick – was on Radio Sheffield. Two pensioners called in to ask him why he was cutting their winter fuel payments by £50 to £100 a year. First Nick told them that the winter fuel payments weren’t being cut and then he told them that, far from a cut, he’d actually increased them. Well, as we all know, it has now been confirmed that winter fuel payments next year will be £50 to £100 less than this year.

So, doctors have added new symptoms to Cleggitis – first, continuing denial in the face of the facts and, secondly, promising you’ve done something when you haven’t.

Cleggitis is obviously highly contagious because, just two days before, Nick’s best friend David also showed symptoms. When David was asked at Prime Minister’s Question Time why he proposed to remove the mobility component of disability living allowance from 80,000 care home residents, he answered “The short answer is that we are not.” Unfortunately for David, the accurate answer was completely different.

Only the day before, David’s friend George had published his Budget Red Book which confirmed that the government would “remove the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance from claimants in residential care”. Further, David’s friend Iain has a Welfare Reform Bill, which says exactly the same thing, going through the House of Commons right now.

It was little surprise then that, forgetting his TV microphone was still turned on, Nick told David: “If we keep doing this we won’t find anything to bloody disagree on in the bloody TV debates.”

Take my advice – stay well away from this disease!

Betts Backs Badgers

 Clive Betts MP will be at 10 Downing Street today with the Badger Protection League to hand in a 10,000 signature petition against the culling of badgers.

Whilst the Government is still to a final decision on killing thousands of badgers as a strategy to control Bovine TB in cattle in England, the Welsh Assembly has already voted to go ahead.

Clive Betts said:

“There is a long-standing problem with bovine TB in the UK. But, there is a huge amount of contradictory evidence about whether badgers give TB to cattle or cattle give it to badgers. 

There is also no scientific evidence that culling badgers actually deals with the problem of TB in cattle; indeed a past trial shows it could actually make it worse.

That was why the last Labour Government decided not to cull badgers, but to look for vaccination as a long term solution, as there is considerable scientific evidence that that policy would work

But now the coalition government is proposing that any landowner can apply for a licence to cull badgers. Leading scientists and ecologists have described the proposals as fundamentally scientifically flawed.”

Pauline Kidner of the Badger Protection League said
“The government should not underestimate the extent of feeling against this ill conceived plan. I think the Government will be stunned by the response from people all over the country if they go ahead with this ill-conceived scheme.”

Mark Jones, Director of Care for the Wild International, said
”We all want to see a healthy countryside for both livestock and wild animals. Cattle strategies introduced in 2008 have already substantially reduced the incidence of Bovine TB in cattle, without any badgers being slaughtered. The secret to controlling TB in cattle lies in stringent testing and restrictions on cattle movements, and the introduction of vaccines (which are currently being tested) for both cattle and badgers.”

Clive Betts continued:
“There is a healthy badger population in my constituency, particularly around Mosborough and Woodhouse. Although many local residents have never seen them, a number of local groups and individuals have been quietly ensuring that their habitat is protected. These groups are very concerned about the cull proposals and the potential impact on local wildlife.”