Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has welcomed the concessions on local government funding announced on Monday 8 February.
“I have been shouting from the rooftops on behalf of our taxpayers and local councillors,” the MP said. “I’ve written to the Secretary of State, pointed out in debates, and raised at question times the disgraceful disparity in cuts between rural and urban areas.”
“I’m very pleased that we have made our voices heard. The Government is listening to rural taxpayers and these concessions go a long way towards closing that gap.”
In a statement to the Commons, DCLG Secretary of State Greg Clark MP announced that the Rural Services Delivery Grant would be increased fivefold from £15.5 million this year to £80.5 million in 2016/17.
“With an extra £32.7 million available to rural councils through the transitional grant I have described,” the Secretary of State told MPs, “this is £93.2 million of increased funding compared to the Provisional Settlement available to rural areas.”
“Significantly,” Mr Clark continued, “this proposal ensures no deterioration in government funding of rural areas compared to urban areas for the year of this statutory settlement.”
Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has condemned Whitehall’s plans for local government funding as “unfair” to rural authorities. Speaking in a Commons debate, Sir Edward noted that the proposed Local Government Funding Settlement would, on a per person basis, be cut by 31% for West Lindsey District Council while an urban council like Wolverhampton would only face an 18.6% reduction.
“I accept that cuts have to be made,” Sir Edward told his fellow MPs, but “local government has delivered broadly the same service over the last five years despite having to face considerable cuts.”
“I have worked alongside Lincolnshire County Council and West Lindsey District Council for decades, and they are not spendthrifts,” the MP continued. “They know the needs of our people far more than anyone in Whitehall does. We have already give up much of our invaluable network of local libraries, and got rid of our magistrate’s courts, and our police stations. How much more does Whitehall really expect that rural England can take?”
Pointing out that rural authorities like Lincolnshire include “real areas of deprivation” the MP of thirty years’ service in the Commons said it was “totally unacceptable” that “we are not bearing the burden equally.”
The Local Government Finance Settlement, Sir Edward said, was “totally unfair to the rural taxpayer and our rural authorities” and that it “must be revisited.”
Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has written to the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government urging him to rethink the proposed funding levels for local authorities.
The MP of thirty years’ service in the Commons told Greg Clark MP that he was “disappointed” that the Local Government Finance Settlement “delivers a significant switch in resources from rural shire counties to the urban metropolitan districts.”
“The disparity in funding between rural and urban areas is obvious,” Sir Edward told the press. “I’m working with other rural MPs through the Rural Fair Share campaign to press the Government to do more about this.”
“We accept the need for tightening the belt, but urban districts are seeing an average cut of 13 per cent while our rural councils are facing an average of 34 per cent reduction in funding.”
The MP did note, however, that he is “glad” to see the Rural Services Delivery Grant “has been boosted from £15.5 million for 2015/16 to £65 million for 2019/20”.
This is Edward Leigh’s response to the report.
The Commission’s report is a clever attempt to denude the public square and reduce faith to something that goes on in private while promoting religious indifferentism. Great Britain is tolerant precisely because it is a Christian country and if we banish religion from public life I fear we will become increasingly victim to a creeping conformist totalitarianism dressed in a therapeutic guise. We would certainly be even more subject to the tyranny of naked materialism and self-centredness.
Catholics will view the Report’s recommendation that faith schools be shut as a specific attack on us as well as on evangelicals as we tend to be the only two groups of any size who are bucking the trend and resisting the educational conformism of the official establishment mindset. The Report also, in a mealy mouthed way, accused Catholic schools of fostering sectarianism without giving any supporting evidence. Indeed the only testimony of open sectarianism I read in the report was a Catholic victim of prejudice in Glasgow. How insidious and ingenious to employ the victims of sectarianism as an argument in favour of destroying those victims’ schools, culture, and right to live out the fullness of their faith in modern Britain.
I both hope and expect this report will be ignored. The UN Declaration on Human Rights specifically asserts the rights of parents to direct the education of their children and I’m sure the United Kingdom will continue to comply with this. I’m sure most Catholics – alongside Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, and others – will reject the dull, dreary, conformist, and obsequiously inoffensive society this Commission aims for and instead seek to build a better Britain, to borrow Chesterton’s words, “aflame with faith and free”.
On Tuesday, 17th November he presented a proposal for a Bill, which has cross-party support, to amend the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 to make provision for IPSA to become responsible for paying, oversight and complaints about allowances, expenses and financial interests of members of the House of Lords.
The Bill will also calls for changes to the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 to provide for the compulsory retirement of members of the Lords under certain conditions and to reduce the number of peers. Sir Edward, who is chairman of the Public Accounts Commission, a body of MPs which overseas the National Audit Office, said it was time for the Lords to adopt a ‘modern expenses’ system less open to abuse. Sir Edward said:
“The idea is to drag the House of Lords into a modern setting with a modern expenses regime.
“The system of paying peers a tax-free attendance allowance is open to abuse and is used by some peers as a second pension, which is not how it should be.”
Sir Edward also suggested it was wrong for peers to be paid the attendance fee when their main home was in London.
No one has broken any rules, but there is a growing perception that a new tax-free payment of up to £300 a day, that seems weighted in favour of those based in London, is being exploited.
Analysis has found 124 of the 161 members of the Lords who live in London have claimed the daily allowance this year. Previously only peers who classed their principal residence as outside London were allowed to claim an overnight allowance of £174 to cover the cost of mortgage payments, rent or a hotel. But because the £300-a-day entitlement, which was recently introduced, is determined by attendance, not residence, peers living in the capital get the same as those who live elsewhere.
Sir Edward’s proposal received the support of the House of Commons on Tuesday, 17th November to be prepared as a bill for the bill’s second reading before the House on Friday, 4th December.
Sir Edward Leigh MP has welcomed the Government’s commitment to provide faster broadband speeds across the country.
The Prime Minister has outlined plans to ensure that everyone can access broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps by the end of this Parliament in 2020. People will have a legal right to request an affordable, fast connection, regardless of where they live. The Government will also work to bring in a broadband Universal Service Obligation, putting it on a similar footing to other essential services like electricity and water.
The announcement follows cross-party calls by Members of Parliament for the Government to invest in broadband and Sir Edward has consistently called for improved broadband for rural communities like those of the Gainsborough Constituency. Prime Minister, David Cameron said:
“Access to the internet shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a right – absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain. That is why I’m announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain. Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it. That’s right: we’re getting Britain – all of Britain – online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe.”
Sir Edward Leigh commented:
“There isn’t a single aspect of government or everyday life that isn’t being transformed by digital technology, but slow broadband in rural and even some of our more urban areas leaves many people and businesses behind. This problem is urgent and we must act to ensure that there is no digital divide between cities like London and areas like Lincolnshire.
“The Government’s response shows that they understand the need for mobile and broadband providers to do more. A 10Mbps minimum service obligation will bring the all to many not-spots up to the standard our economy needs for the future.
“This announcement is particularly welcome for my area of Lincolnshire where, despite good progress in the overall roll-out of faster broadband, we still have areas which suffer very slow connections. Faster speeds will ensure that local families, communities and businesses can stay online and reap the benefits provided by a good quality, reliable broadband connection.”
Sir Edward Leigh MP has welcomed the Minister for Local Government’s announcement that the Caistor wind turbine appeal has been called in for the Secretary of State’s determination.
The Conservative Member of Parliament, whose Gainsborough constituency covers Caistor, had personally requested that Secretary of State Greg Clark MP decide on EDP Renewables’ appeal against the district council’s rejection of a 102-metre-high wind turbine proposed for a site on Moor Lane next to the Caistor Equestrian Centre.
The planning committee of West Lindsey District Council had determined that the turbine would result in ‘unacceptable’ harm to the setting of Caistor Conservation Area and that it would have a detrimental visual impact upon the views and setting of the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Sir Edward said:
“I’m pleased the ministerial team at the Department for Communities and Local Government have accepted my request that this be decided by the Secretary of State and not the Planning Inspectorate”
“We are firm believers in local decision-making, and I remain very hopeful that Greg Clark will back the decisions wisely made by West Lindsey District Council. Local residents are very much opposed to this development, and it’s our responsibility to back up their voices.”
Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Gainsborough, has welcomed the news today that a future Conservative Government would take the family home out of inheritance tax.
The Prime Minster has committed to introducing a new allowance into the tax system, which will effectively increase the Inheritance Tax threshold to £1 million for married couples – meaning only the very rich would pay inheritance tax. This will be paid for by increasing taxes on very wealthy people’s pensions.
“Family is the most important thing,” Sir Edward said, “and people who have saved their entire lives, putting hard-earned money into their home shouldn’t be crippled with inheritance tax when passing it on to their children.”
“This new allowance increasing the Inheritance Tax threshold to £1 million for married couples will be of gread benefit to people in our part of Lincolnshire. For most of us here in the Gainsborough constituency this should take the family home out of inheritance tax.”
“Our plan has been to cut taxes on the people who work hard and do the right thing. Income tax for basic rate taxpayers has already been cut by £825 and we’ve committed to increasing the tax-free personal allowance to £12,500 in the next Parliament.”
“The Conservatives are the only party who’ve made an explicit commitment not to increase taxes on working people. Voters are faced with the choice of stable prosperity with the Prime Minister’s team, or the chaos and debt of the SNP propping up Ed Miliband in Downing Street.”
Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh has declared victory over another wind turbine application in West Lindsey. “I am delighted to hear that permission for the wind turbine at Kingerby has been refused,” the Conservative MP of over thirty years’ standing said.
“The appeal on the original application has been turned down by my colleague the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, and I understand that West Lindsey District Council have very wisely determined that a modified application is ‘deemed withdrawn’ for failing to overcome previous objections.”
“These ominous blades would have swung 165 feet in the air and loomed over our countryside,” the MP continued. “The Government has been right to back local decision-making so that our district councils aren’t overwhelmed by appeals.”
“If Labour gets back into power, we won’t have a friendly ear at the Department anymore, and we could very well be faced with a whole new epidemic of wind farm applications. I hope voters will see off this threat as we have seen off so many before.”
Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, heralded newly released figures which showed yet another drop in the number of unemployed people in his constituency.
“The statistics for February 2015 show 1,381 people claiming the Jobseeker’s Allowance here in Gainsborough,” the MP said. “This is 502 lower than a year earlier, and 76 lower than last month.”
“Since the Conservatives took over the Treasury we’ve seen a 26.93% drop in unemployment here in the Gainsborough constituency. With 30.9 million people in work nationwide, Britain now has the highest employment rate in the history of the country. The overwhelming majority of these jobs are full-time, and wages are rising faster than prices, too.”
“We are creating a jobs-led recovery so that the economy benefits all people across Britain. Given the extraordinary levels of debt Labour accumulated, I very much hope voters across the country will send a strong message and vote in a Conservative majority come May.”
Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has welcomed Network Rail’s announcement that they are re-evaluating their plans for Gainsborough Central station. The MP wrote to the rail infrastructure body objecting to their plans for new bridges at the station that would be inaccessible for travellers in wheelchairs, parents with prams, and mobility-impaired people.
“Network Rail have let me know that they are ‘actively seeking an alternative solution’,” the MP said. “I welcome this change, and I hope Network Rail will keep in mind the full range of passengers who travel by rail.”
Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, has hailed yet another decline in the unemployment rate for his constituency. The Office for National Statistics revealed the number of jobseekers in Gainsborough stands at 1,457, a 23.8 per cent drop from the same time last year.
“I’m very pleased that we have 456 fewer people on the Jobseeker’s Allowance here in Gainsborough,” the MP of thirty years’ standing said. “The number of young unemployed has declined as well, with a 24.8 per cent drop in the number of unemployed ages 18-24 here in the constituency.”
“The private sector is driving growth,” Sir Edward continued. “The increase in private-sector employment is over five times the fall in public sector jobs, and we have nearly 2.2 million more people employed in the private sector than in 2010. The overwhelming majority of these – 76 per cent – are in full-time jobs. Overall, the country’s jobs-wanted figure is at 718,000, the highest number since records began.”
“We’ve also increased prosecutions of tax dodgers fivefold to ensure the very rich are paying their share. Meanwhile, Ed Balls is attacking ordinary working people and saying they should demand receipts for small cash jobs. I’d say he’s got his priorities wrong.”