Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Save our Local Courts

Epping Forest Green Party are concerned about government cuts that will mean our local Magistrates Courts at Epping and Harlow being closed. I have said said "There are enough pressures on our justice system as it is: closing these courts, and forcing more work on Chelmsford, is just crazy. Justice should be seen to be done locally and not just far away. There are also rumours that Epping Police could close; if so this would put unbearable pressure on Loughton. This petition is calling on the government not to do this and allow justice to stay local."

You can sign our online petiton here or download a paper copy here

Monday, 16 August 2010

Coaltion cuts hit poorest

“Conservative-Lib Dem cuts will hit the poorer people in society”, says Lucas

New Green MP and Party Leader has had some interesting things to say about housing benefit after a Crisis report:

She has warned that the coalition government's cuts to housing benefit could result in increasing social problems with serious debt and homelessness.

The Green Party leader was commenting on a recent report published by homelessness charity Crisis (1). The report highlights the social risks of housing benefit cuts, which will affect 936,960 households across the UK who are currently claiming local housing allowance (LHA). On average, these households will lose over £600 a year (2).

The report also warns that cuts to housing benefit could have hidden costs in the future, in order to deal with the social problems of homelessness, including health problems and providing accommodation.

Housing benefit cut is equivalent to big increase in income tax for poorer people

Caroline Lucas MP said:

“Consider someone earning £16,000 (after tax-free allowance) and receiving housing benefit. If they lose £728 that would be the equivalent of paying an income tax rise of over 4.5 per cent (3, 4, 5).

“These particular Tory-Lib Dem cuts will leave more people struggling to pay the rent, more people falling into serious debt and ultimately more people becoming homeless.

“This is very unfair, coming at a time when many of these people are facing economic uncertainty or even redundancy.

“Once again we see the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition’s cuts hitting the poorer people in society. The government could avoid these cuts by properly tackling tax avoidance and tax evasion perpetrated by some of the wealthiest, which could raise billions of pounds a year (6).”

It seems we too in Epping Forest will be affected with 1,000 households being hit. (7)


1. The report by Crisis can be found at Crisis comments, “The Government announced cuts of £1.8bn to housing benefit in its emergency Budget soon after coming to power. According to an impact assessment by the Department of Work and Pensions, every one of the 123,000 households in the region reliant on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) — the form of housing benefit paid to tenants in the Private Rented Sector — will be affected. On average, claimants in the South East will see their LHA cut by £12 per week, or £624 per year.”

2. Figures from “New figures reveal areas hardest hit by housing benefit cuts”, Crisis news release of 12 August 2010:

3. £728 is the extra rent that people in one-bed properties in Caroline’s own constituency, Brighton and Hove will be forced to pay annually due to cuts in housing benefit. The amount will vary from area to area due to the government’s method of calculation. The calculation of housing benefit is complicated. The level of benefit you can claim is linked to local rents in the area and is calculated at the median rent level. The government is moving the basis of calculation of entitlement from the 50th to the 30th percentile (of rental costs of properties in a given area). The reason for the relatively high figure in Brighton and Hove is that there’s a bigger gap between the 30th and 50th percentiles. This is because there’s an especially large private rented sector in Brighton and Hove, so rent levels are more spread out, hence the bigger gap, hence the higher average cut in benefit.

4. £728 as a percentage of £16,000 = 4.55%. Of course taking into account tax-free allowance, the actual percentage would be much higher.

5. This and all other raw figures here are derived from the aforementioned report by Crisis, citing two government sources: and

6. See Cuts: The Callous Con Trick by Caroline Lucas et al, See also Green Party news release of 19 June 2010, “Cuts ‘destructive and unnecessary’ says Green Party leader”, at

7 The figures can be found here:

Friday, 13 August 2010

Potholes and the future

Over recent years we have had a regular pothole problem each winter. Potholes have been filled in. I have been taking photos from around Buckhurst Hill and, along with some residents, have met with council officials. I was glad of the prompt response by the council. I am surprised that many were left unfilled from the previous winter. Of course we had the dictat from the previous Labour government over the depth the holes needed to be before being filled (not, as some have claimed, the Tory County Council). Let’s be fair - they had their hands tied. In the long term we need a complete overhaul of our roads. The council officals agree. However we have one thing stopping this: Coalition Government cuts will mean this cannot happen or that it will be a stretch to make it happen.