BETTS SAYS CLAIM THAT ‘SHEFFIELD LOST £222 MILLION IN HOUSING INVESTMENT’

Clive Betts MP [Sheffield South East] said today that the claim that Sheffield lost £222 million in housing investment over the last decade, because receipts from council house sales were subsumed into a national pot, was simply ludicrous.

The claim was made by Councillor Penny Baker, the SCC Cabinet member for Housing, Regeneration and Planning in The Star. [1]

In a letter to The Star [2], Clive Betts points out that the total of housing grants which Sheffield received from government far outweighed this figure.

Clive Betts has also written to Coun Baker [3] asking her to set out the detailed comparisons over the last decade and to make these figures public.

Give the Home Secretary an ASBO!

We should always welcome a review, because it’s important to know whether a policy is efficient, effective and responsive.

That’s why I have no problem with the new Home Secretary Theresa May’s announcement that she is launching a review of anti-social behaviour policies. My problem was with her speech which accompanied the launch.

Rarely have I read a speech which was so littered with factual inaccuracies, so distorting of recent history, so fatuous in the analysis, so out of touch with reality on the ground in local communities. That should concern all of us.

Theresa May said:
• “she would judge success on whether or not crime and ASB fell.” Well, crime and anti-social behaviour have fallen significantly under the very policies she is now proposing to abolish – crime fell 47% between 1997 and 2009
• “people’s fear of anti-social behaviour had increased” – the British Crime Survey, regarded by all the experts as the best measure of crime trends, has just reported that public perception of anti-social behaviour is at its lowest since records began
• “anti-social behaviour orders don’t work because so many people breached them”. She clearly failed to understand that ASBOs are not the first intervention to stop bad behaviour. Other methods are tried first. Even then, the National Audit Office and the Audit Commission Labour’s approach to ASB worked with 65% of behaviour desisting after the first intervention and 93% after the third.
• “ASBOs criminalise young people” – ASBOs are not part of the criminal law, which is why it has been easier to take action, rather than with possible criminal law alternatives which have stricter standards of proof
• “ASBOs should go because some young people wear them as a badge of pride”. How fatuous can you get? In my youth, some of those who’d been to borstal or detention centre also used to brag about their record. The only impact was on the small minority of their friends who were stupid enough to believe this was something to be admired. The vast majority of young people think their behaviour is contemptible and their bravado foolish.

As she has already announced cuts in the budgets for the police (police on the streets will fall) and diversionary activities for young people, restrictions in police powers to use the DNA database and restrictions on CCTV, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Theresa May, like the Conservative governments of the 1980s and 90s, wants crime and anti-social behaviour to increase again.

Perhaps she should be served with an ASBO before she can do any more damage?

CLIVE BETTS MP (SHEFFIELD SOUTH EAST)

Betts on Forgemasters

In today’s episode of the Forgemasters’ saga:
• Vince Cable (Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills) provided a Written Ministerial Statement, and
• Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister) answered more questions in the House of Commons

Clive Betts MP (Sheffield South East) described the Written Ministerial Statement as a clear admission that “all the previous Government explanations had been simply wrong or grossly misleading.”

Clive Betts said:
“So far, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Secretary and Ministers of State for Business, Innovation and Skills have given a range of reasons for reneging on the agreed loan to Forgemasters. Not one of those reasons holds up to scrutiny.

They’ve said ‘The loan was a bouncing cheque’ – now confirmed to be untrue.

They’ve blamed Forgemasters’ shareholders for scuppering a deal because they ‘didn’t want to dilute the value of their shares’ – simply and demonstrably untrue.

They’ve said ‘If it’s such a good investment, there’d be no problem with getting a commercial loan’ – just demonstrating an ignorance of commercial reality.

It’s been alleged that ‘the loan is illegal under EU rules’. It isn’t.
They’ve said ‘It’s a grant we can’t afford’, when they know that what was offered was a loan, repayable with interest, which would have made a profit for the government.

They’ve said ‘It was a politically-influenced assessment’. They know that is untrue. The proposal was independently assessed over an 18 month period by the Industrial Development Advisory Board, as well as by the Treasury, and recommended on three separate occasions as a good value-for-money proposal. We also know that it scored more highly as a good investment than other schemes that have been approved.

What we do know is that the only documented political influence on the decision-making process has come from Yorkshire’s biggest Conservative Party donor, who failed to disclose his own business and financial interests in scuppering the deal when he secretly lobbied Government Ministers.”

Clive Betts then commented on Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s response to questions from Jack Dromey MP in the House of Commons today.

Clive Betts said:
“I was interested to note that Nick Clegg shifted the Government’s ground yet again today.

Nick Clegg said
“…..we are willing to look carefully at all proposals ….when the future availability of public funds becomes clearer after the completion of the spending review….the issue was the lack of affordability in this year’s current Budget…….”

This is a completely new formulation of the Government’s position. And, in his statement today, Vince Cable finally admitted ‘this is a worthwhile project.’

Taking these statements together, one can only conclude that the Government at last recognises that it made the wrong decision, has made a complete hash of seeking to justify it, and is now trying to provide itself with some wriggle-room in order to provide itself with the cover to revisit the issue later in the year.”

Clive Betts concluded:

“This has become a political issue only because of the crass way in which the new coalition government has dealt with it so far.

We all need to remember that the proposed investment was to enable a successful and innovative British company become a world leader in a growth sector of the 21st century economy.

That investment would be good for jobs, good for the national economy, good for exports, good for the balance of trade, and especially good for Sheffield and the regional economy.

That’s why I will continue to work hard for a solution.”

Information for Editors:
Vince Cable’s Written Ministerial Statement is attached.

Nick Clegg’s response to Jack Dromey MP is set out below:

T3. [11084] Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): On 22 June, the Deputy Prime Minister told the House that the decision not to proceed with the loan to Sheffield Forgemasters was a consequence of the reluctance of the shareholders to dilute their shareholding. Today, a written statement from the Business Secretary clarifies that it was an issue of affordability. The Government have announced a £1 billion regional growth fund. Were the company to make a fresh application, will the Deputy Prime Minister give an undertaking to the House that it will be considered as a matter of priority, and will he support it as a Sheffield Member of Parliament?
The Deputy Prime Minister: In the written statement to which the hon. Gentleman alludes, the Business Secretary concludes:
“We have made clear that we stand ready to work closely with the company as it pursues its ambitions and we are willing to look carefully at all proposals, as we would for any project”
from any other company
“when the future availability of public funds becomes clearer after the completion of the spending review.”
The hon. Gentleman will know that the issue was the lack of affordability in this year’s current Budget, because we discovered when we came into government that the previous Government had promised £9 billion more than departmental budgets. That was wrong. That is why it was wrong for Government Ministers at the time to write out cheques that they knew would bounce.
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmtoday/cmdebate/01.htm#d2e33

Pointed heads and big feet

Under the last Conservative government in the 1990s, the number of police officers was cut and crime increased dramatically. Further, lack of investment in modern technology and policing systems meant that our police forces were easily amongst the least efficient and effective organisations.

Since 1997, there has been an increase police numbers – and, more importantly, the number of police on the beat and not hidden away in back offices – the introduction of new laws to tackle anti-social behaviour (nearly all opposed by the Liberal Democrats) and modern crime, and a requirement of all police forces to work with other agencies to tackle crime.

The result has been a significant cut in crime, as recorded by both crime statistics – those reported to the police – and the British Crime Survey – which interviews more than 40,000 people each year on their actual experience of crime. The recently published Survey for 2009 suggested that crime fell again by 9 per cent last year to reach its lowest level since 1981; similarly, recorded crime fell by 8%.

But this doesn’t mean that policing can’t be significantly more efficient. You don’t need years of police training and an advanced driving certificate to escort wide loads on the motorway. And, it’s highly unlikely that having a pointed head and big feet are essential pre-requisites for efficiently and effectively investigating internet fraud.

As reports from the Chairman of the Audit Commission and the Chief Inspector of Constabulary have pointed out this month, there is considerably more to be done to get better value for money in policing. But this will require further investment in technology and systems’ reviews. As both of them confirmed, this won’t happen with a 25% cut in police funding as suggested in the right-wing coalition’s emergency budget.

And now, the Conservative Home Secretary is proposing the replacement of local police authorities by a single elected official. It’s no surprise that this is overwhelmingly opposed by both Chief Constables and by councillors of all political parties. There is not a single shred of evidence to support the view that this will improve local policing; but, there is all the evidence to suggest that this will compromise the operational independence of police forces.

Clive Betts MP

SHEFFIELD’S LABOUR MPs KEEP UP PRESSURE ON FORGEMASTERS’ LOAN

Sheffield’s Labour MPs are keeping up the pressure on the Government to reach an early decision on the Forgemasters’ loan.

Today, on behalf of Sheffield Labour MPs – Paul Blomfield, David Blunkett, Meg Munn, Angela Smith and himself – Clive Betts MP (Sheffield South East) has written to Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, urging an early decision to confirm the previous government’s decision to award an £80 million loan to Forgemasters towards the procurement and installation of a new forging press.

The letter reads:
Dear Vince

It is with real concern that, as Sheffield MPs, we learnt of the Government’s decision to review a decision of the previous Government to support an £80 million loan to Sheffield Forgemasters, enabling them to purchase a major new forging press.

The purpose of the forging press – and the reason that the previous Government agreed to support its purchase – is to put Sheffield Forgemasters in a unique position to win worldwide contracts to produce essential parts for the replacement nuclear power stations that will be required internationally over the next few years. Linked to the Government investment in the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, it will provide the basis for the development of related manufacturing which will bring investment and new jobs to the local region. The press will also put Forgemasters in a unique position to gain contracts for other major castings, for example in the renewable energy sector.

As there is no other company, outside Japan and Korea, capable of producing forgings of such a size, any withdrawal of support for this loan will simply transfer the work and jobs abroad. It will also have the effect of taking work away from companies in the supply chain, such as Davy Markham which is also based in Sheffield, and remove the potential of increased export markets for these and other British companies.

Given the obviously long lead in times for such investment, and the fact that Forgemasters are already developing their plans on the basis of the previous Government’s support, it is absolutely essential that the Government not only come to a correct decision but a speedy decision as well. Indeed, Forgemasters are committing resources on the understanding that interim funding will be available very soon.

We look forward to a reply indicating that the support for Forgemasters will be confirmed.

David Blunkett said:
“The original application from Forgemasters went through a lengthy and detailed appraisal process. The decision of the previous Government to make the loan was taken after the investment in the project provided good value-for-money – for the government and the company, and for Sheffield and the UK. A positive decision to confirm this loan needs to be taken as quickly as possible.”

Paul Blomfield said:
“This loan levers in a massive amount of private investment – not just at Forgemasters, but at a large number of other manufacturing companies, such as Davy Markham, which would form part of the supply chain.”

Clive Betts said:
“Taken together with the considerable private sector and government investment in the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, the investment at Forgemasters provides the basis for the development of cutting-edge manufacturing and new jobs in Sheffield and the local region.”

SHEFFIELD’S LABOUR MPs KEEP UP PRESSURE ON FORGEMASTERS’ LOAN

Sheffield’s Labour MPs are keeping up the pressure on the Government to reach an early decision on the Forgemasters’ loan.

Today, on behalf of Sheffield Labour MPs – Paul Blomfield, David Blunkett, Meg Munn, Angela Smith and himself – Clive Betts MP (Sheffield South East) has written to Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, urging an early decision to confirm the previous government’s decision to award an £80 million loan to Forgemasters towards the procurement and installation of a new forging press.

The letter reads:
Dear Vince

It is with real concern that, as Sheffield MPs, we learnt of the Government’s decision to review a decision of the previous Government to support an £80 million loan to Sheffield Forgemasters, enabling them to purchase a major new forging press.

The purpose of the forging press – and the reason that the previous Government agreed to support its purchase – is to put Sheffield Forgemasters in a unique position to win worldwide contracts to produce essential parts for the replacement nuclear power stations that will be required internationally over the next few years. Linked to the Government investment in the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, it will provide the basis for the development of related manufacturing which will bring investment and new jobs to the local region. The press will also put Forgemasters in a unique position to gain contracts for other major castings, for example in the renewable energy sector.

As there is no other company, outside Japan and Korea, capable of producing forgings of such a size, any withdrawal of support for this loan will simply transfer the work and jobs abroad. It will also have the effect of taking work away from companies in the supply chain, such as Davy Markham which is also based in Sheffield, and remove the potential of increased export markets for these and other British companies.

Given the obviously long lead in times for such investment, and the fact that Forgemasters are already developing their plans on the basis of the previous Government’s support, it is absolutely essential that the Government not only come to a correct decision but a speedy decision as well. Indeed, Forgemasters are committing resources on the understanding that interim funding will be available very soon.

We look forward to a reply indicating that the support for Forgemasters will be confirmed.

David Blunkett said:
“The original application from Forgemasters went through a lengthy and detailed appraisal process. The decision of the previous Government to make the loan was taken after the investment in the project provided good value-for-money – for the government and the company, and for Sheffield and the UK. A positive decision to confirm this loan needs to be taken as quickly as possible.”

Paul Blomfield said:
“This loan levers in a massive amount of private investment – not just at Forgemasters, but at a large number of other manufacturing companies, such as Davy Markham, which would form part of the supply chain.”

Clive Betts said:
“Taken together with the considerable private sector and government investment in the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, the investment at Forgemasters provides the basis for the development of cutting-edge manufacturing and new jobs in Sheffield and the local region.”