Addressing Child Poverty in the North East‏

In the wake of today’s story in the Chronicle that child poverty is rising to such an extent that almost 50% of young people in some parts of the North East (47%, Elswick, Newcastle) are living in poverty, I was asked on Twitter for my views.

Sometimes, 140 characters just isn’t enough to do justice to an issue.  I don’t think that even a single article is enough to do justice to it, either.  I believe that we have genuine poverty today in a way that we didn’t see when I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.  At that time, people spoke of poverty in relative terms.  But I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about in the 21st century.  We’re talking about families who literally struggle to put food on the table, children going to school hungry and without having suitable clothing.

Douglas Carswell, UKIP’s first elected MP, said “If we speak with passion, let it always be tempered with compassion”.  In just a few words, he’s articulated exactly what UKIP should be about.  I may be passionate in opposing the waste of our foreign aid budget, when it goes to countries in the G20 or those with nuclear and space programmes.  But I am equally compassionate when I hear of those suffering with and dying from Ebola, those whose livelihoods are wrecked by tornadoes, earthquakes and floods. In those cases we should be the first to help.

I may be passionate about having a controlled immigration policy, but equally compassionate about helping our fair share of refugees who are genuinely fleeing persecution.  I may be passionate about having a much tougher stance on crime, yet believe in compassion and mercy where the circumstances warrant it.  I may believe that our National Health Service should not be an international health service, yet still believe that it’s right to make exceptions in a case like that of Malala Yousafzai – whether on humanitarian grounds or simply to send out a message to the world.

That’s the UKIP way: passion, tempered with compassion; libertarianism, tempered with common sense; democracy, tempered with nothing.

I’ve seen the problem of child poverty through visits to food banks.  I don’t believe that in the 21st century we should still have a society where food banks are needed – but we do.  And whilst we do, as well as having a responsibility to speak out as an elected Member of the European Parliament, I believe I have a responsibility as a citizen to do my bit in donating.

Many children in poverty have parents who are in work, for whom the minimum wage just isn’t enough.  What can be done?  We can’t adopt Labour’s £8/hour minimum wage plan, because it would be beyond the ability of many companies to pay (particularly here in the North East).  That would just increase unemployment and wouldn’t help anyone.  Instead, we should raise the tax threshold so that those on minimum wage aren’t paying a penny piece in income tax.

For others the problem is sick leave; some people fall through the gaps when they’re ill and only capable of working sporadically.  In the absence of a regular income, the bureaucratic nature of the benefits system means that they often get nothing at the time they need help the most.

The answer here is to simplify the benefits system; well-meaning but misguided Labour politicians from 1997 to 2010 made the system so complicated that many people don’t get the help they need when they fall on hard times.

Still others struggle for lack of a job, and our North East unemployment is the highest in the land.  The answer here is to create jobs: to have a bonfire of EU regulations, make British business more competitive, scrap laws pushing our energy prices higher, and to provide tax relief for small businesses.

Politicians of all parties will say things like “we have to do more to stop child poverty”.  I don’t disagree, but the best approach would be to unravel the mess that they’ve created.

No tax on minimum wage, a simpler and fairer benefits system, and encourage businesses to grow and create jobs.

Shock new figures show UKIP could be set to win Hartlepool

UKIP could be set to win Hartlepool at next year’s general election according to shock new figures released by a national newspaper over the weekend.

UKIP came just 617 votes off Labour’s Liz McInnes in last Thursday’s Heywood and Middleton by-election, with the party increasing its share of the vote from just 2.63% in 2010 to 38.69%.

Figures reported in The Sun show that if the same swing was reported in Hartlepool, it would see Labour’s Iain Wright lose his seat, and UKIP pick up their first in the North East of England.

UKIP’s North East Euro MP, Jonathan Arnott, said “Hartlepool will be a two horse race between UKIP and Labour next May. Lazy Labour have taken their voters for granted in Hartlepool, and people don’t just feel neglected, but completely and utterly betrayed too. We got a fantastic result last week in Heywood and Middleton in what was an incredibly short campaign. If we emulate that next May, we will win here”.

UKIP picked up two councillors last May and came top in the town in the Euro elections.

Arnott added “Many people across Hartlepool like our policies such as ‘no tax on the minimum wage’, having a fair Australian-style points based immigration system, and stopping the political elite from continuing to privatise our NHS. Rather than focus on the tiresome left/right struggle, we’d much rather prioritise what’s right and wrong”.

Seized cash should be used for communities

Jonathan Arnott, the region’s local UKIP MEP, has thrown his weight behind calls for communities blighted by crime to receive all of the assets and cash seized from local criminals by councils

“I fully support the Local Government Association (LGA) in their demands for communities affected by crime to benefit from the assets seized from those responsible.

“At the moment councils get less than half the assets they recover from convicted crooks and the government keeps the rest,” said Mr Arnott, UKIP’s North-East Euro MP.

The LGA says that councils help recover an estimated £40 million in cash and assets fraudulently stolen by benefit fraudsters and rogue traders using powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 every year.

The money helps fund support and compensation for victims, crime prevention initiatives and further trading standards investigations into fraudsters and counterfeit goods. It also goes towards improving local areas and has paid for park regeneration schemes, anti-graffiti projects and youth clubs.

Amjad Bashir MEP, UKIP’s Communities spokesman, added “It is plainly right that criminals should have their cash and assets confiscated and to my mind it is also plainly right that all of that should come back to benefit the affected community.

“It should all be spent improving the lives of local people and not just disappear into government funds. We are talking of millions of pounds which would make a huge difference to our communities and help fund further investigations and prosecutions.

The Government is strengthening Proceeds of Crime Act powers under the Serious Crime Bill, which returns to the Lords on October 14.

EU Anti-Fraud Chief admits fraud is on the rise in the EU budget

A UK Independence MEP caused a stir in the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee recently after he obtained a startling admission from the head of the European Union’s anti-fraud body – that fraud within the EU budget is rising.

Giovanni Kessler, the Director General of OLAF, was appearing before the European Parliament Committee speaking to a report which showed that they issued a record number of recommendations for legal action and prosecution against fraudsters last year.

UKIP’s North East MEP Jonathan Arnott asked “Mr. Kessler, you tell us that reports of potential fraud are at their highest level and that it is set to rise still further in 2014.  You also tell us that you are issuing more recommendations because you are finding more evidence of actual fraud.  Now it seems to me that that increase must be the result of one of two things.  Either it is that the actual level of fraud is increasing year upon year, or it is that the success rate in detecting that fraud is getting better year on year…I know I’m asking you to speculate here, but which of those is the most accurate?”

In his response, Mr. Kessler said “Mr. Arnott put me a simple question…let me give you a simple answer.  It is a bit of a mix of both.  We had more incoming information and more recommendations.”

Jonathan Arnott said “Taxpayers would be alarmed to learn that OLAF is detecting hundreds of cases of fraud each year, with no-one knowing the full extent of the problem.  Worse still, although they’re catching more it seems that fraud is on the rise.  Even a single case of fraud would still be too much, because it’s our taxes that are being wasted when it happens.”

For the full question and answer, please see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3cxuZl1ofU

Hypocritical Labour should stop conning voters over Cost of Living increase claim

The Labour Party should stop conning voters into believing that the cost of living has increased since they left office, according to UKIP’s North East Euro MP, Jonathan Arnott.

A report published by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) crushes Ed Miliband’s claim that hard-working voters are worse off since Labour left Downing Street in 2010.

It shows inflation was almost double average wage rises between 2010 and 2013.

But the report, by leading economist Dr Tim Morgan, also reveals average salaries in Labour’s last three years of power – 2007 to 2010 – rose by 5.8%, while inflation was at 10%.

UKIP’s local MEP, Jonathan Arnott, said “There is a serious cost of living crisis across the UK which urgently needs to be addressed. However, the elephant in the room for the Labour Party, according to this new report, is that real living standards started to decline whilst Gordon Brown was Prime Minister.

“Labour have no idea how severely their ill thought through increases in green taxes throughout their time in power has effected pensioners and families throughout winter. In addition, it seems ludicrous to me that those who want to work hard, and manage to get a job on minimum wage, have to start paying income tax straight away.

“UKIP does not want to see anyone who earns the minimum wage pay a penny piece in income tax”.

CPS director, Tim Knox added “The deterioration in living standards is a clear consequence of Labour’s mismanagement of the economy”.

Save Stockton’s Shops Says Local MEP

Car parking charges should be scrapped for the first two hours across Stockton in the run up till Christmas, in drastic attempt to draw shoppers back to the streets according to UKIP’s North East Euro MP, Jonathan Arnott.

According to figures released by the Local Data Company (LDC), the North-East is the only region in the country to have shown a decline in its fortunes with an increase in shop vacancy rates by 0.4% to 16.4%.

Stockton is the area with the fifth highest rate of empty shops in Britain, with 23.9% vacant, according to figures compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC).

Arnott, the region’s local MEP, said “The report highlights how the North East’s once thriving high streets are being left to the dust bins of history whilst the rest of the country moves forward.

“Drastic action is needed to attract businesses and customers from the convenient out-of-town shopping malls and back to the high street, which were once the life blood of communities right across the country.

“In Stockton, scrapping the first two hours parking charge would be a step in the right direction to draw greater business interest into the local area and shoppers into the town”.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, said: “The first half of 2014 has shown a positive improvement in vacancy rates across the country both by geography and location type.

“What is very clear, however, is that this positive trend is not universal and hides significant variances.”

The North-east is the part of Britain where retail parks are performing best against high streets, with 18.6% of high street shops empty, compared to 7.8% in retail parks.

Arnott continued, “Yet again, a worrying pattern is emerging; whilst the rest of the country’s fortunes improve, the North East is left behind. I would urge councillors, not just in Stockton, but right across the North East to consider reducing car parking charges in a small step to attract business and punters back to the high street”.