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Archive for March 19th, 2014

A campaign of misinformation

One likes to be charitable, but when people consistently fail to check their facts, it makes them look like liars. Recently, the Labour Party claimed we had voted against extending free school meals, although they knew we had offered to find money to fund the proposals properly – which they had failed to do.

The latest is a Labour Party press release claiming that Tower Hamlets failed to apply for cycling grants. Out of ignorance or malice, they did not mention that in fact we were not eligible for any of these grants.

The first mentioned, to apply to TfL for a new ‘London Cycling Grid’, was meant for boroughs in central London without Super Highways. We of course have two Super Highways through our borough.

I find it difficult to believe that Labour councillors were not aware of these highways. Perhaps, instead, they were too lazy to look at what the rules were for applying to this fund.

But they make the same mistake with the Mini-Holland programme, which is in fact only intended for boroughs in outer-London. That’s either incredible complacency, or a cavalier disregard for the facts. And what they failed to mention is that we have in fact applied for funding for Quietways, the element of the funding we are eligible for.

We’re committed to improving cycling in our borough, and our initiatives include free cycle training for any adult who lives, works or studies in Tower Hamlets; ensuring that our highways-related contractors are fully engaged in the London-wide Heavy Goods Vehicles safety accreditation scheme; and finally, yes, my high-visibility cycling safety packs – which have proved extremely popular.

This is in addition to the £200,000 I put in last year’s budget to support cycling and the £300,000 we have received from TfL to improve local cycling.

I am proud to be able to provide concrete examples of how I am helping the residents of Tower Hamlets to feel safer on the roads. In stark comparison, the Labour Party candidate John Biggs seems happy to fling insults when he has managed to assert no measurable influence over cycling at the GLA, of which he is a member.

The Labour Party called me out in the same press release for ‘shameless publicity seeking and dangerous inaction’. What is shameful is that the Labour Party think that they can win this election on a campaign of misinformation; with see-through, half-baked policies supplemented with a smear-campaign based on a fraction of a percentage of my budget. It is an insult and a disservice to the people of Tower Hamlets that the Labour Party think voters don’t understand enough to see through their lies.

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I am appalled at this government’s relentless assault on the poor and
vulnerable which is redoubled in this budget. It was bad enough to set a punitive cap on how much help a family can get from the government, but to set a total cap on government spending on welfare – irrespective of the number requiring help – is ostentatiously vindictive and callous.

This attacks disabled people, the low paid and all those who are likely to need help – it even includes statutory maternity and paternity pay.

In contrast, the chancellor crowed that he was raising the tax threshold on the highest paid, “because I am also passing the full benefit of today’s personal allowance increase on to higher rate taxpayers”. These are people earning 42,000, 43, 50, 60, all the way up to £100,000 who will be paying less income tax because of this budget.

When it comes to substantial policy announcements the Chancellor again shows a lack of creativity. In housing, his plans to extend the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme will do no more than inflate London’s already over-heated housing market and the creation of a new Garden City in Ebbsfleet will only create an additional 150,000 new homes. Shelter estimated last year that we need to be building an additional 250,000 new homes every year to meet need. Whilst £150m to regenerate housing estates is a drop in the ocean, it is to be welcomed. But only if it will create more truly affordable family homes.

In the real world, outside the blinkered bunker of Conservative thinking, it is clear that the way to improve government revenues is to grow the economy, creating real jobs, improving infrastructure and putting money directly into the hands of people who will spend it. This budget fails on all these counts.

Here in Tower Hamlets, we will be redoubling our efforts to do all we can to mitigate the worst effects of this budget.

UPDATE

We have just heard from the GLA that projects including Blackwall Reach would be eligible for part of the £150m funding for estates regeneration. I look forward to seeing the detail.

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