Kemi Badenoch Risking Local Economy By Supporting Hardliner Tory Group

Saffron Walden Constituency Labour Party has hit out at local MP Kemi Badenoch for supporting a hard Brexit group that is causing chaos in the Tory party, disrupting the UK’s Brexit negotiations with the EU and putting local jobs in peril.

Jane Berney, Saffron Walden CLP parliamentary spokesperson, said: “The resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson have only served to highlight the utter chaos that is the Tory government’s handling of Brexit.

“Whatever you may think of Brexit, the role of the UK government is to seek the best deal for all of us, not to be side-tracked by the divisions within their own party.

“It is not just the national government that needs to be held to account, where is our MP Kemi Badenoch in all this?  We know that she is a member of the European Research Group which favours a hard Brexit: by their lack of support for Mrs May she and they are only adding to the chaos.

“The local economy is anchored by the Stansted Airport and the life sciences sector, which are all highly exposed to the EU market and depend on access. Collapse of our biggest employers will have a domino effect across the constituency, affecting small and medium sized enterprises that supply them with goods and services.

“By participating in the ERG, Ms Badenoch’s championing of hard Brexit is a pledge of economic suicide for her constituency in the pursuit of a failed ideological crusade.”

Tackling Declining Council Housing Should Be At The Heart Of The Local Plan

Now that the Local Plan is moving to the next stage following a council vote to go to public consultation, Saffron Walden Labour Party has called on Uttlesford District Council to put social housing at the centre of its housing strategy.

Uttlesford has seen a net loss of more than 60 council properties since 2010 as right-to-buy has eroded the council’s housing stock. In 2017, despite 21 new social houses being built, 16 council homes were sold and 12 were demolished – a net loss of seven council houses. The proportion of the housing stock in council ownership has fallen from 9.0 per cent in 2009 to 7.8 per cent in 2017.

Social housing is increasingly provided by ‘private registered providers’ who often sell what is supposed to be social rented housing on the market at a huge profit. An example is Hill House in Saffron Walden’s High Street, which consisted of low-rent housing association flats but is being turned into luxury apartments.

Daniel Brett, Saffron Walden Labour Party housing spokesman, said: “Labour believes that well-planned new towns with sufficient local employment opportunities are crucial to building genuinely affordable housing. Uttlesford must resolve its own broken housing market, address years of failed council policy on employment and do its bit to address the national housing crisis. The new garden communities are the best option and can help reduce the unplanned urban sprawl along arterial roads that cut through villages such as Newport, Takeley and Little Canfield.

“Local income growth is falling behind both inflation and local housing costs due to Uttlesford District Council’s failed economic development strategy. In 2017, the median wage paid in Uttlesford was £29,493, which represented a massive decline of nearly £1,100 since 2013 after accounting for inflation. Add into that local house prices with average housing prices roughly 12 times average local wages. Uttlesford needs a strategy to help deliver higher wages, more local employment and lower house prices to improve standards of living.

“Our community’s young people are being pushed out of the district due to soaring housing costs and low wages while those in retirement on fixed income pensions are also struggling. Local statistics show that 60 per cent on the council waiting list require one-bedroom accommodation with more than half of these eligible for housing for the over-60s. Yet, just a fifth of council stock is one bedroom. This imbalance needs to be addressed.”

Saffron Walden Labour Party is calling for the following measures:

  • The Tenants Forum – an elected body representing local tenants and leaseholders at the council’s Housing Board – should be at the heart of discussions in the next stage of the local plan.
  • The local authority should develop affordable housing that reflects local wages and universal credit and not indexed to market prices.
  • The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) definition of garden cities should be included as policy, which means a commitment to most new houses as affordable (60-70 per cent), half of which should be socially rented.
  • All social rented accommodation delivered in these garden communities should be owned by the local authority.
  • Ambitious Development Planning Documents (DPD) for distinctive garden settlements including high quality housing with low carbon, low water consumption, as well as plenty of amenity land and cycleways that directly connect with public transport.
  • Our member of parliament should be active in campaigning for changes to planning laws that ensure: viability assessments do not undermine affordable housing targets; the council can expand its housing stock without attrition from right-to-buy; and that other agencies have the funds to deliver the healthcare, education, roads and public transport that new communities need to be sustainable and successful.


Saffron Walden Labour Party is calling on Uttlesford District Council to partner with a local credit union to introduce an affordable childcare loan for local parents so that they can return to work without ending up out of pocket.

Currently, parents who meet the qualifying rules may be able to get up to 85% of their childcare costs with a maximum of 85% of £760.42 per month for one child (£646.35) or £1,303.57 (£1,108.04) per month for two or more children.

In Saffron Walden Labour’s proposed childcare loan scheme, Uttlesford could act as reinsurers, protecting credit unions from the risk of loan default to maintain their involvement. The council could also contribute towards the administrative costs of running the scheme as well as act as intermediary between claimants and the lender.

Labour spokesperson Jane Berney said: “We want to incentivise work and support parents. Many women want to go back to work after having children but find local childcare too expensive. A low-cost loan with a long repayment period would help local working families. We believe this innovative, yet common-sense approach should receive cross-party support at UDC.

“The advantage of using credit unions as opposed to commercial insurers is that they emphasise best value for stakeholders, whereas commercial operations seek to maximise profits for shareholders and investors. A partnership between Uttlesford, a credit union and parents requiring childcare loans would emphasise meeting needs, as opposed to profit chasing.

“While non-performing loan rates are likely to be higher than the market average due to the insecurity of work and low incomes, such a scheme would pay for itself in the long-term by helping working parents to get back into work and raise their income levels. Ultimately, this would reduce the welfare costs and create a net benefit in terms of tax revenue.”

In Uttlesford, according to the website, average nursery costs are around £750 per month for children in full-time childcare, so the maximum that a Universal Credit claimant can receive in support is £637.50 for one child. This leaves parents needing to find £112.50 per month in costs, equating to over 14 hours work per month on the minimum wage. It amounts to an annual cost of £1,350, a cost that some low-income families would struggle to meet. Families with more than one child would be even worse off with a family with two children in childcare requiring an extra £392 per month, the equivalent of over £4,700 per annum.


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.



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:

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.