KEMI BADENOCH’S CYBER-ATTACK: SAFFRON WALDEN LABOUR CALLS FOR MP’S SUSPENSION AND INVESTIGATION

Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch made an astonishing admission that she hacked into a Labour opponent’s website in an interview with the Mail on Sunday published on 8 April.

Recently appointed Vice-Chair of the Conservative Party with responsibility for candidate selection, she said she launched the cyber-attack to sabotage material on a Labour opponent’s website in what she claimed was a “foolish prank”. Conservative HQ has put it down to “youthful exuberance”, although she committed the crime when she was 28.

Tom van de Bilt, secretary of Saffron Walden Labour Party, said: “What Ms Badenoch has described doing is a shocking breach of the Computer Misuse Act: a criminal offence punishable by custodial sentence.

“The Cambridge Analytica revelations show how vital it is that political campaigns stay within the law.  Tory attempts to make light of this as not ‘proper hacking’ because it relied on guessing a password miss the point.

“The seriousness of the offence comes from the effect on the victim and on the reputation of our democracy, not the skill level of the offender.

“Given the current climate of concern around cybercrime, and especially in relation to electoral campaigning, Saffron Walden Labour Party further ask that local Conservatives condemn the hacking of opponents’ websites and urge Conservatives in parliament to withdraw the whip while the matter is urgently investigated.”

Since this press release was issued, the Labour MP whose website was hacked has been identified as Harriet Harman, who was then deputy leader of the Labour Party, Leader of the House of Commons and Minister for Women and Equalities. She has accepted an apology from Kemi Badenoch.

In response, local Labour party secretary Tom van de Bilt said: “In accepting an apology Harriet Harman has been gracious in the extreme and I accept her prerogative as the victim if she wishes a line to be draw under the matter.  However, for Kemi’s constituents this apology will do little to alleviate concerns about her personal judgement a mere two years before first standing for parliament herself; nor does the flippant manner in which she disclosed it give much confidence in her commitment to tackling cybercrime today.

“Failure to discipline Kemi Badenoch, both within the law and through Conservative party procedures, is a green light to illegally disrupt the work of opposition parties in a democracy. It would also show the Conservatives’ ‘respect agenda’ to be empty rhetoric.”

Kemi Badenoch: Misrepresenting Saffron Walden Labour Over Free School Meal Cuts

Walden Local, 21 March 2018

In this week’s Walden Local, local Tory MP Kemi Badenoch accused the local Labour party of lying over changes to free school meals eligibility, but totally misrepresented our position.

Kemi Badenoch said: “Labour’s claims are lies. No-one who is currently eligible for free school meals under Universal Credit will lose their entitlement.”

FACT: Saffron Walden Labour Party never said that entitlement would be stripped from current claimants. We stated: “It will not affect those currently on free school meals where they are in the school system (eg primary or secondary school), but will impact on struggling local families in the future. Labour had pushed to maintain free school meals for children of those on universal credit, as is currently the case under transition arrangements, but was defeated in parliament.” Labour’s general election position was to extend free school meals eligibility to all school children so that no children are left behind.

Saffron Walden Labour Party also pointed out that the changes could affect the future “pupil premium” given to schools for children on free school meals. This is worth tens of thousands of pounds for some local primary schools. Our MP chose not to answer this point.

Kemi Badenoch said: “Under Universal Credit 50,000 more children will receive free school meals than would have done under the old system.”

FACT: Saffron Walden CLP pointed out that automatic entitlement – as is currently the case – will end for all new Universal Credit recipients from 1 April and means-testing will be introduced, ending free school meals for those earning over £7,400. Universal Credit was rolled out in Uttlesford in October and in Chelmsford in December. All those moved to Universal Credit were entitled to free school meals for their children, yet the Tories want to deny it to future children in these districts.

Analysis by the Children’s Society and Child Poverty Action Group shows that once universal credit is fully rolled out, almost 300,000 low-income working parents in England will be excluded from free school meals for their children.

The Children’s Society states that: “Up to now the Government has allowed all claimants on Universal Credit to receive free school meals. Introducing the proposed net earnings threshold of £7,400 represents a huge step backwards from this position.

“A million children in poverty will miss out on a free school meal under the Government’s proposal. Children are going hungry at school and the Government is missing a golden opportunity to address this.”

If it was such a good policy, why did our MP vote for a £7,400 cap on earnings for free school meals availability in her own constituency, but voted to cap it at £14,000 in Northern Ireland? It is simply a deal to keep Conservative allies the Democratic Unionists happy and Theresa May’s weak and wobbly government in power. It has nothing to do with fairness.

Kemi Badenoch claimed that Channel 4’s Fact Check “completely rebutted” the position Labour has taken, which is based on research by the country’s eminent children’s charities.

FACT: Channel 4’s Fact Check states exactly the points we have made in our press release. It says: “The government’s plan to introduce a means test to free school meals will reduce the total number of children who are entitled to free school meals to 1 million. Assuming a 65 per cent take up rate, that means only about 650,000 children will be getting a free hot meal at school.

“In short: if everyone on Universal Credit were entitled to free school meals, then by the time it was rolled out across the country, 1.8 million children would have a free school meal every day. The new means test will see only about 650,000 children on free school meals. That’s a difference of just over a million.”

Channel 4’s Fact Check simply pointed out – as Saffron Walden Labour Party did – that those currently receiving free school meals will not be affected by the changes.

Saffron Walden Labour Party requests a full and public apology from Kemi Badenoch for misrepresenting its position on the removal of free school meals eligibility for future local school children.

Research by Saffron Walden Labour Party finds that over 300 children in the constituency currently benefit from free school meals, based on Schools Guide data. Even under current arrangements for universal credit, many children living in poverty do not qualify for free school meals or their parents have not taken up the scheme. Poverty levels are a lot higher than free school meals take-up with over 3,000 children in poverty across the constituency in 2017, according to the End Child Poverty Coalition statistics.

Kemi Badenoch should start representing the poorest in our community who are suffering under years of Tory austerity, instead of dismissing any criticism of her voting record as a “personal attack”. She should stop taking offence and start working to alleviate poverty for the worst off .

Hundreds of local children face cuts to future free school meals eligibility

Saffron Walden Labour Party has hit out at local MP Kemi Badenoch’s vote to slash free school meal eligibility, claiming that it will plunge hundreds of local school children into poverty when the plans come into force under benefit reforms.

From 1 April 2018, free school meal eligibility will only apply to children of those earning under £7,400 on top of the new universal credit. It will not affect those currently on free school meals where they are in the school system (eg primary or secondary school), but will impact on struggling local families in the future. Labour had pushed to maintain free school meals for children of those on universal credit, as is currently the case under transition arrangements, but was defeated in parliament.

Saffron Walden Labour Party schools spokesman Simon Trimnell, who is father to two local school children, said: “Saffron Walden constituency is always described as wealthy, but there are several pockets of poverty.

“The cost of living is very high and rising fast with food and housing costs growing faster than earnings. You need to earn a lot more than £7,400 on top of benefits to survive.

“Kemi Badenoch has voted to remove free school meals eligibility for hundreds of children in the future.

“Lots of children living in poverty will not have free school meals. Labour supports free school meals for all children, funded by tax on private school fees, to improve nutrition and education for all children.”

Research by Saffron Walden Labour Party finds that over 300 children in the constituency currently benefit from free school meals, based on Schools Guide data. Even under current arrangements for universal credit, many children living in poverty do not qualify for free school meals or their parents have not taken up the scheme. Poverty levels are a lot higher than free school meals take-up with over 3,000 children in poverty across the constituency in 2017, according to the End Child Poverty Coalition statistics.

Labour believes the worst affected area locally will be Stansted South ward, which has consistently had the highest rate of child poverty in the district, estimated at 26.2% in 2017, according to the End Child Poverty Coalition.

Free school meals are available to children whose parents are on income support, job seeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and universal credit. Universal credit will soon replace all the other benefits.

Under the new system, once a family with one child passes the £7,400 mark, they would need to earn an extra £1,000 a year, working 2.4 hours more each week at the national living wage, to cover the cost, according to the Children’s Society which says a million children nationwide will lose out.

Schools also receive a ‘pupil premium’ worth £1,350 per primary school child and £935 per secondary pupil eligible under this scheme to tackle educational under-achievement among low income groups.

There are fears local schools’ pupil premium funding will be threatened with cuts in free school meals eligibility.

Based on data from the Saffron Walden Labour Party has identified the schools likely to see the biggest impact on removal of free school meals:

  • Stansted’s Forest Hall School could see dozens of children from low income families potentially being made ineligible for free school meals. Nearly one in six children attending the school currently qualify for free school meals with data suggesting the school receives over £55,000 of funding under the pupil premium.
  • Stansted St Mary’s primary school and Takeley’s primary school have relatively high free school meals ratios at 9.4%. According to Labour’s estimates, they receive at least £36,400 and £48,100 in FSM-based pupil premium, respectively.
  • In Saffron Walden, Katherine Semar and St Marys schools have FSM ratios of 9.4% and 8.1%. Around 45 children in the town are currently eligible for free school meals.
  • At Great Dunmow St Marys, 29 children (6.9% of the total) currently receive free school meals
  • While most smaller settlements have very low levels of FSM eligibility, Thaxted Primary stands out with 7.2% of pupils currently receiving meals under the scheme. Thaxted also has a relatively high child poverty rate with one in five children living below the poverty line.
  • Primary schools in the Chelmsford portion of the constituency will also lose out with the percentage of children currently qualifying averaging around 9.7%. Labour estimates over 90 children currently receive free school meals in these schools.

 

 

Labour Councillor Elected Deputy Mayor Of Saffron Walden

Saffron Walden’s deputy mayor-elect Cllr Arthur Coote (left) with Labour activist Simon Trimnell

Labour councillor Arthur Coote was elected deputy mayor of Saffron Walden for 2018/19 by nine votes to seven on Monday, coming ahead of Conservative councillor Sam Goddard.

Cllr Coote was elected in 2015 as Labour councillor for Saffron Walden Castle Ward, the first Labour councillor in the town for many years.

Although the only Labour councillor on the town council, his election is an acknowledgment by fellow councillors from other parties of his reputation as a hard-working councillor and a champion for residents’ concerns.

Uttlesford Response Raises More Questions Over Tory Councillor’s Council Tax Affairs

A set of new questions over Cllr Goddard’s non-payment of council tax has arisen since Saffron Walden Labour Party first highlighted the matter, casting further doubt on his future as a council portfolio holder and committee vice-chair at Uttlesford District Council (UDC).

Saffron Walden Labour Party submitted a Freedom of Information request to UDC on 1 March and received a prompt response which indicated that Cllr Goddard had been summonsed for non-payment in the 2017/18 tax year in addition to the non-payment for 2015/16 and 2016/17.

In the light of facts revealed by UDC’s FOI response, we believe that some of Cllr Goddard’s statements to the press lack clarity and contradict information now on public record.

Saffron Walden Labour Party has produced a dossier, including corrections to Private Eye‘s report, questions over Cllr Goddard’s statements to the press and UDC’s FoI response.

Failure to pay council tax can result in a prison sentence of 90 days, which underlines the gravity of the offence. If his personal administrative affairs have been in such a chaotic state over a three-year period, how can voters have confidence in him to carry out his responsibilities as a councillor, particularly in the light of his non-attendance on council business?

Ordinary people are often shamed by councils over prosecution for council tax non-payment. When it comes to Cllr Goddard, it was only the Private Eye investigation that brought the matter to light, not any effort by the council leader to demonstrate transparency and accountability.

Cllr Goddard puts his council tax arrears down to postal and direct debit problems

While £80 court costs are typically charged in such summons, the cost of UDC pursuing the matter in terms of staff time is likely to be more. Councillors persistently going into council tax arrears set a poor example to the community and undermine public faith in the council. Paying council tax is the basic duty of any household. Timely payment is crucial to maintaining our local public services and councillors must set a good example.

UDC leader Cllr Howard Rolfe says the issue of Cllr Goddard’s repeated non-payment of council tax has been concluded through the appropriate channels, suggesting it is no longer a relevant issue. We do not believe this is a sufficient response to repeated failure by a councillor to pay council tax on time. Moreover, we do not have confidence in Cllr Goddard’s ability to hold the sports portfolio and fulfil the duties of vice-chair of the licensing and environmental health committee, two roles that confer authority to the holder.

Labour does not yet have representatives on the district council, so we call on councillors from other parties to debate a vote of no confidence in Cllr Goddard in relation to his council roles.

Government Reforms Must Free Uttlesford To Invest In More Council Housing

Government plans to reform the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will not resolve the yawning deficit in genuinely affordable housing in Uttlesford, said Saffron Walden Labour Party this week.

Theresa May has pledged to end the abuse of the viability assessment by developers, which has enabled them to negotiate down their affordable housing commitments. This would not be an issue if Uttlesford was not reliant on the goodwill of developers to leverage housing commitments for local need.

Uttlesford needs the power to build more council houses, instead of forever being at the mercy of profiteering developers. Tinkering around the edges of the planning system is far from the change needed to provide sufficient homes for local need.

Daniel Brett, Saffron Walden Labour housing spokesman, said: “Due to massive rises in local housing costs, there are just under 1,000 households on the Uttlesford council housing waiting list. Despite some limited council house building in recent years, the council housing stock still fails to meet the quantity and pattern of demand.

“With the average housing price at 10 times the average salary in Uttlesford, the area is rapidly pushing out local families from the community. ‘Affordable’ housing at 80 per cent of market rates, which is the standard definition, is still out of the reach of many local households. The council can’t meet current demand for social housing, let alone future requirements.

“If the government really wants to address the housing crisis, it should end right-to-buy and relax restrictions on council borrowing for investing in council housing.

“Instead of relying on Section 106 agreements with developers, Uttlesford must be free to borrow the money to build a new generation of council houses that are truly affordable, as recommended by the Treasury Select Committee.

“The benefit of local authority building is to have a long-term plan that would enable Uttlesford to control assets and recoup costs, rather than being always at the mercy of developers who prioritise profits.”

In February, there were 993 households on Uttlesford’s waiting list. Of these, just over 60 per cent require one-bed accommodation with over half of these eligible for accommodation designated for people over 60 whether that be a bungalow or sheltered housing. However, the social housing stock does not match demand with over three-quarters being two- and three-bedroom houses, according to local authority housing data published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

Tory Councillor Should Be Stripped Of Position Over Council Tax Issues

Note: Since this article was published, further facts have come to light over a court summons for non-payment in 2017/18 and Cllr Goddard’s comments to the press. Click here for our latest article and here for our dossier on the issue.

Private Eye has revealed that Tory Councillor and Uttlesford cabinet deputy for sport Thom Goddard was taken to court by the council for a second year running for non-payment of council tax in 2016/17.

Following a successful motion by Tory council leader Howard Rolfe to remove Cllr Tina Knight as chair of the Standards Committee over her controversial remarks on the Presidents Club dinner, Saffron Walden Labour Party has called on action against Cllr Goddard.

In 2016, Cllr Thom Goddard (Stansted South & Birchanger) was told to pay £2,548, including costs, when Uttlesford took him to court for non-payment of council tax after he ignored a reminder from UDC. The matter came to light after Private Eye staged an investigation into councillors convicted of council tax non-payment, using Freedom of Information requests to councils throughout the country. Uttlesford Tories appear to have taken no action in response, beyond preventing him from voting on the 2016 council budget. He apologised for a “genuine error.”

On 28 February 2018, he told the Walden Local the error was caused by “a simple mistake while moving bank accounts [which] has not hindered my work for the Council.”

Last month Private Eye‘s latest investigation stated that Cllr Goddard was summonsed again for non-payment of council tax in 2016/17, this time owing £2,637. [Update: On 8 March 2018, the Saffron Walden Reporter reported Cllr Goddard’s claim that he had not received the 2016/17 reminders as his post had been mislaid due to a postcode mix-up. His subsequent moving of bank accounts affected his direct debit, which led to a further “legal notice” in 2017/18. He denies being taken to court, being fined or being barred from voting on the budget.]

Cllr Goddard is deputy cabinet member with responsibility for sport and vice-chair of the licensing and environmental health committee. Despite being a portfolio holder, Cllr Goddard’s attendance record is one of the worst at UDC. Since he was elected in May 2015, he has attended well under half of the meetings he was expected to attend. Between May 2017 and January 2018, he attended just two meetings at UDC out of the nine he was expected to attend.

Council tax non-payment saw 4,800 people in England and Wales summonsed to court with at least 62 jailed in 2016/17. In many cases, legal action by councils has seen people shamed in the local media.

Saffron Walden Labour Party believes it is hypocritical for Cllr Goddard to maintain his portfolio and committee positions. This is a fundamental issue of standards and values and if he does not face the same measures as Cllr Knight, Tory double-standards will erode public confidence in the council.

Legal action taken by UDC over 2015/16 council tax bill. Source: Private Eye
Legal action taken by UDC over 2016/17 council tax bill. Source: Private Eye

Tory NHS cuts will slash local access to specialist care

Residents in Dunmow, Thaxted and surrounding villages could see local specialist care moved to Basildon under new plans.

The proposed Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), which local health campaigners have dubbed “Slash, Trash, and Privatise”, will see Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford merged with the hospitals in Southend and Basildon.

All three hospitals will be combined into one organisation with one specialist service concentrated at one of the hospitals, most likely Basildon. The proposals come just months after Broomfield Hospital’s A&E department was saved from closure.

Local health campaigners will be protesting outside Waterstones Chelmsford (76 High Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1EJ ) from noon on Saturday against the plans: https://www.facebook.com/events/1977513352574494/

Saffron Walden Labour health spokesperson Kevin Adair said: “The NHS in our area is stretched as never before. And yet the truth is that local services are being cut.

“In the future, if these proposed local hospital merger plans go ahead, patients and their loved ones face travelling long distances with no practical means of public transport.

“Anyone admitted to hospital requiring specialist treatment who lives anywhere in the local area from Chelmsford to Dunmow and Stansted will face the possibility of being transferred from Broomfield Hospital to Basildon. This is totally unacceptable.”

Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford is the nearest hospital for around 40% of the population of Saffron Walden constituency. Its future has a big impact on local health services.

Poor public transport links between Basildon and Dunmow and other parts of Saffron Walden constituency would also make it difficult if not impossible for patients and their relatives to get the specialist care they need.

If specialist emergency care was moved from Broomfield to Basildon, patients in Saffron Walden constituency will have to travel over 20 miles more for treatment. In Dunmow, the distance will be tripled from 11 miles to 33 miles.
Nearest A&E: blue = Broomfield, green = Princess Alexandra, orange = Addenbrookes. Source: NHS Direct

The move has no clinical basis and is driven by the government’s bid to slash £400 million from health budgets over the next few years. The Mid & South Essex STP’s consultation document talks about “closing our financial gap”, “address[ing] the financial challenges”, “to live within our means” and “more economical ways” to deliver local health services.

While Broomfield has been affected by the same A&E crisis seen across the UK, Basildon is adversely affected by Tory cuts with an A&E routinely on ‘black alert’. Campaigners have cast doubt on its ability to cater for additional demand on its services if it became the specialist emergency centre for mid and south Essex.

WALDEN CRIME SOARS 45% IN 2017 – LABOUR ASKS LOCAL MP: WHERE ARE OUR POLICE?

With Saffron Walden’s reported crime soaring 45%, the town’s Labour party spokesman Simon Trimnell has demanded local MP Kemi Badenoch deliver on her promise of more police resources.

Number of crimes per month

In November, Ms Badenoch urged local people to report crime, saying: “the police numbers allocated to us are calculated based on the number of crimes reported. This means that by not reporting crime we are making it more likely that police resources will dwindle even further – and so the vicious cycle continues. The answer? Report every incident, no matter how minor.”

While crime is approaching record levels, the town’s police resources have shrunk to the lowest level ever with no promise of extra cash from the Police and Crime Commissioner. Instead, Uttlesford District Council and Saffron Walden town council are having to stump up the cash to pay for a PCSO, who has fewer powers compared to a normal police officer.

Saffron Walden town council and Uttlesford district council have agreed to pay for a PSCO on a 50/50 basis over two years. The total annual cost of funding a PSCO in the town is £37,652. Labour town councillor Arthur Coote supported funding for the PSCO, but Labour is also demanding additional funds for more policing to stem the crime wave.

Simon Trimnell said: “A PSCO is no replacement for a traditional bobby on the beat and it shouldn’t be up to Uttlesford and the parish council to fund policing, that’s not their role. It is better than nothing, but still a lot less than the level of policing we had years ago.

“Austerity policies are making Saffron Walden more unsafe with fewer police. On the doorstep, we’re hearing more and more reports from residents of burglary and nuisance crime. I’ve lived in the town all my life and I’ve never known it this bad.

“It all comes down to central government policy. Where is Kemi Badenoch? Is she getting more funding for more police in the town now she’s been promoted in the government?

“Labour is promising 10,000 new police officers on the streets of Britain, paid for by reversing cuts to Capital Gains Tax, to return our police service to its former strength. Only then will Saffron Walden stop the rapid rise in crime.”

Saffron Walden Labour Party’s latest crime report has published the following statistics:

  • Overall crime was up 45% in January-November 2017 compared to the same period in 2016
  • Anti-social behaviour represented the largest proportion of reported crime at 29% of the total
  • Violent crime was the second largest contributor at 21%, followed by criminal damage and arson (11%)
  • The rise in crime was caused by a 40.5% rise in ASB, 60.2% rise in violent crime and a 63.0% rise in burglaries

Saffron Walden crime statistics can be viewed here: http://www.ukcrimestats.com/Neighbourhood/1248

Tina Knight Debacle Highlights Need for Cabinet Equalities Post

Saffron Walden Labour Party is calling on Uttlesford leader Howard Rolfe to appoint a Cabinet Member for Equalities to address issues arising from the controversies around Cllr Tina Knight’s comments to Radio 2 on the Presidents Club.

Said Alexandra Routledge, Saffron Walden Labour Party’s Women’s Officer: “Many members of the public were rightly upset by Cllr Knight’s comments and we are pleased there is cross-party determination, both nationally and locally, to confront abusive behaviour towards women. Condemnation of one person’s misguided statement is not enough. We need to tackle harassment and abuse of women and the attitudes that are contributing to the problem.

“Saffron Walden Labour party believes we all need to take ownership of these problems and create practical solutions. A member of cabinet dedicated to equalities issues can help promote standards in public life and inclusiveness in policy-making.

“Many councils have created this portfolio and it has helped in their role as service providers and employers as well as improving the overall quality of local debate.”

On 29 January, UDC published its latest guidance on equalities, covering discrimination based on sex, age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and other matters. This is an obligation on the council under the Equalities Act 2010, which seeks to strengthen the laws preventing discrimination and the inequalities that still exist in society today.

The council is required to conduct equality impact assessments and implement equality policies. An Equalities cabinet portfolio would help put this strategy into practice.