Denise Fowler appointed the new Housing Ombudsman

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has confirmed the appointment of Denise Fowler as the new Housing Ombudsman.

Fowler, who was previously the Deputy Legal Director at the Head of Planning Law Reform within the same department, said that:

“I am delighted to have been appointed as the new Housing Ombudsman. Effective local complaint resolution builds trust and improves landlord and tenant relationships. Obviously there are times when such consensus is not possible and we then have a responsibility to investigate complaints impartially as swiftly and efficiently as possible. I hope that I can help the organisation to continue to develop its already excellent service.”

Further information about the services offered by the office of the Ombudsman can be found at


Labour pledge to cut tuition fees to £6,000


Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, has pledged to cut tuition fees to £6,000 a year from the current cost of £9,000. The move, which would be introduced in 2016, would help reduce the debt faced by graduates once leaving university.

A Labour Party spokesman said:

“At the moment, people with incomes over £150,000 get tax relief on pension contributions at a rate of 45 per cent – more than twice that of basic rate taxpayers. This means that although they are only the top 1 per cent of taxpayers, they receive 7 per cent of all Pension Tax Relief. So we will make the system fairer by restricting Pension Tax Relief by £2.9 billion for those on the highest incomes.”

Vince Cable, the Business and Skills Secretary, criticised the move saying that:

“This tax on pensioners will not go to universities, it will go to the Treasury. And we know from past experience the Treasury will pocket the money and it will be used to reduce the deficit.”

Tuition fees were introduced by the Labour Government in 1998 requiring students to pay up to £1,000 a year by way of a loan which would only been repaid once they reached a certain income threshold. The fees were increased again by Labour in 2004 and then again under the coalition in 2010.

Possible Conservative Candidates for Kensington seat



Following the announcement by Malcolm Rifkind, pictured above, that he was standing down as the MP for Kensington at the General Election there has been debate on who might succeed him.

Ladbrokes have published their odds for the next Conservative candidate which include:

10/1 – James Cracknell

10/1 – Syed Kamall

16/1 – Andrew Strauss

20/1 – Ruth Davidson

20/1 – Tim Montgomerie

33/1 – Iain Dale

33/1 – Sol Campbell

50/1 – Frank Lampard

Other names suggested include Dan Snow, Michael Portillo and Jeremy Paxman who haven’t declared themselves as not standing although another suggested candidate, Kirstie Allsopp, has said that she doesn’t intend to stand.

It is thought that a high-profile candidate is likely to stand in the constituency and sources close to Downing Street have said that David Cameron, the Prime Minister, is likely to be consulted over the choice. The final candidate will though be chosen by the members of Kensington Conservative Association.


Church of England criticised for failing to pay wages it demanded from others



The Church of England has been criticised by a number of MPs and businesses after it was revealed that they have been failing to pay the living wage despite telling other businesses to do so. The church had paying the living wage was necessary to allow employees to “live decently” but admitted paying lower wages itself.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said that the situation was “embarrassing” whilst Charlie Elphicke told the Sun newspaper that:

“It’s astonishing that the Church of England can call for the living wage to be paid by employers but don’t pay it themselves.”

One of the jobs paying beneath the minimum wage was at Canterbury Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which offered £6.70 per hour for a kiosk assistant. The national living wage for areas outside of London is £7.85 and £9.15 inside London.

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, had said that:

“Our call for a Living Wage recognises that we need to value each and every person and that people should be paid a fair wage for a fair day’s work.”

The church said that it wasn’t in a position to pay the living wage to all employees but didn’t comment on how that related to the comments made by John Sentamu which suggested that all employers should be paid a fair wage.


Sir Malcolm Rifkind suspended from the Conservative Party


Picture credit :

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign Secretary, has been suspended from the Conservative Party following his meeting with Michael Gove, the Conservative Party Chief Whip.

The suspension announcement follows an investigation into politicians offering their services for cash. The sting was conducted by Channel Four and it found two former Foreign Secretaries who were prepared to accept money, the other was Jack Straw. Straw, unlike Rifkind, immediately resigned the party whip whilst investigations continue with both politicians denying the charges.

Rifkind claimed that he was self-employed and wasn’t paid by anyone although he is still an MP and claims the full salary. Defending his business activities on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme he said:

“If you are trying to attract people of a business or a professional background to serve in the House of Commons, and if they are not ministers, it is quite unrealistic to believe they will go through their parliamentary career being able to simply accept a salary of £60,000. That sounds a lot to a lot of people earning less than that but the vast majority of people from a business or professional background earn far, far more than that. If they are told they have to choose one or the other they just won’t come to the House of Commons at all and Parliament will lose their skills.”


Gandhi Statue to be unveiled in London


A statue to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi is to be unveiled in London on 14 March 2015. The statue is located at Parliament Square opposite the Houses of Parliament and was funded by over £1 million of donations.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said:

“Mahatma Gandhi is an inspiration. His approach of non-violence will resonate forever as a positive legacy – not just for the UK and India, but the world over. He was a man of great insight and many of his observations remain as fresh and relevant today as when he first made them – that we should be the change we wish to see in the world is timeless advice, well worth following. The statue in Parliament Square not only marks his huge importance in the history of both our countries, but will enrich the firm bond of friendship between the world’s oldest democracy and its largest.

Our ties with India have remained close throughout history and continue to go from strength to strength – through mutual respect as equals, through cooperation, trade, and of course through the one-and-a-half million Indian diaspora living in Britain today who bring our two nations closer, to the benefit of both.”

Further information about the fund raising is available at .

Brentwood Borough Council admits that its Chief Executive lives in Cyprus

brentwood borough council

Brentwood Borough Council has admitted that its Chief Executive is living in Cyprus. Jo-Anne Ireland is paid £105,000 a year despite permanently moving overseas in December 2014.

The Brentwood Gazette quoted Louise McKinlay, the leader of the Conservative group, as saying “the section 151 officer is a statutory role and it is statutory role for a reason because it is so important. The person who holds that office is responsible for all the finances of the council” but Barry Aspinell, the Liberal Democrat leader of the council, rejected this “she can do her role of section 151 officer from the top of Mount Everest“.

The council also confirmed that Jo-Anne Ireland was taking on the role of Chief Executive temporarily due to potential changes to the structure of the council but that she was not prepared to live locally for the length of her temporary role. Ireland was formerly the Chief Financial Officer of Bolsover District Council before moving to take over a similar role at Brentwood Borough Council.

Debt of NHS Foundation Trusts in England increases


The NHS regulator, Monitor, has said that the debt of NHS Foundation Trusts has increased to £321 million which is five times higher than was planned.

The report also found that there had been both staff recruitment issues as well as an increase in the number of services required. There was an 8% increase in the number of journeys which were made by ambulances and there was an increase of 134% to 42,600 in the number of patients waiting for more than four hours.

The report also found that the target for making efficiency savings wasn’t substantially short, £210 million short of the target of £1.2 billion. The Foundation Trusts also spent £419 million more than expected on contract and agency staff due to staff recruitment issues.

The report looked at the figures provided by 149 Foundation Trusts in England. The Government said that it was committed to increasing funding to the NHS and that efforts needed to be made to cut the cost of contract and agency staff.


Baroness Anelay has condemned Mogadishu attack


Baroness Anelay, a Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has condemned an attack on a Mogadishu hotel which took place earlier today. At least fifteen people were killed in the bomb attack including two Members of Parliament and a Deputy Mayor.

Baroness Anelay said in a statement:

“I am appalled by today’s attack in Mogadishu on members of the Somali Government and Parliament, which has also caused deaths and injuries to a number of security personnel and civilians. My thoughts are with the families and friends of all the victims.

The terrorists who carried out this senseless attack have no role in Somalia’s future and will never achieve their objectives. No terrorist attack can derail the process to bring greater peace and stability to Somalia. We continue to stand in solidarity with the Somali people.”

Rozanne Duncan, the former UKIP councillor for Thanet District Council, denies being racist

Rozanne Duncan

Rozanne Duncan, the former UKIP councillor for the Cliftonville East ward of Thanet District Council, has refused to stand down after being recorded saying “I don’t know why but I don’t like negroes or anyone with negro features.”

Duncan, who stood as a Conservative candidate in 2007, was immediately suspended by UKIP in December 2014 when the allegations came to light. The comments were made whilst the BBC was filming a documentary on the party which supports Britain leaving the European Union. UKIP said that Duncan was asked to leave the party after bringing it into disrepute and that she didn’t appeal against the decision.

Thanet Council confirmed that at least one complaint had been made to the council and that Duncan would be investigated by the Standards Committee.