My Diary Week Ending 8th October 2017.
Former Prime Minister John Major adds his voice today to the many who are raising serious concerns about the likely impact of Universal Credit as it is about to be rolled out in North Lincolnshire.
I and my staff team have had a number of very useful briefings form Jobcentre Plus staff who are keen to make the new system work. But the devil will be in the detail of implementation. One of the biggest areas of concern is the change that means that rent will be paid to the tenant to pass on to the landlord, rather than going to the landlord direct. With people in the pilot areas having to wait around 6 weeks for their first payment the pressure to spend when the money comes through has meant rent arrears rising. So I was pleased to spend time with the fabulous Ongo UK team who try to get people back on track when they get into arrears. They were hugely professional and firm but fair in their approach to tenants in difficulty.
The last thing they want is for tenants to lose their home and they were very concerned that Universal Credit has the potential to make this more likely. I also met with the Council to see how well prepared they are for the task ahead. I reminded them of their lamentable performance in using Discretionary Housing Payments to support local people who get into difficulty.
Believe it or not Conservative North Lincolnshire is the worst performing council in the country sending most of its Discretionary Housing Payment money back to the Government rather than spending it on helping local people, which seems ridiculous.
On the theme of housing I had a meeting with Lincoln Court residents concerned about the likely impact of the scooter policy that Ongo are now enforcing. I have had representations from a number of people across area on this issue. Hopefully Ongo will find a way to address their concerns around safety without jeopardising residents' independence.
I've written to Thames Ambulance Service about complaints I've received about their service. When they took over the patient transport service a year ago they were full of good intentions and high ambition but that doesn't seem to being matched by what is now going on.
Another service that isn't quite delivering how local people want it to is the police. Since massive Conservative Government cuts of over 20% they do seem to have been struggling form one reorganisation to another and the number of concerns I've received from local businesses about the impact of anti-social behaviour on them has risen. So I was pleased to meet with the new Chief Inspector for our area who was able to assure me that there will be an increase in resources locally and that should lead to a better service.
It was great to pop into St Lawrence Academy, Scunthorpe and see how well the new school year has started. I also enjoyed meeting potential apprentices and a range of employers at North Lindsey Colleges apprenticeship event.
Congratulations to North Lindsey College on progressing their merger with Doncaster College and University Centre which they are confident will make them even stronger and more able to respond to the needs of our area.
Another successful business I spent time with last week was our local independent Wortley House Hotel who have such an excellent reputation and are totally committed to our area.
Finally the week wouldn't have been complete without another visit to Scunthorpe Market this time to look round the non food stores. There is such a buzz from customers and traders and a determination to make Conservative North Lincolnshire think again before it makes 250 people lose their livelihoods by moving the market. If you haven't already signed the petition to Save Scunthorpe Market please do so at: https://www.change.org/p/north-lincolnshire-council-save-sc…