Minister urges people to register their appliances

Consumer Minister Margot James and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are supporting Register My Appliance Day with the Association of Manufacturers and Domestic Appliances (AMDEA).

Encouraging people to take a few minutes to register their white goods, Register My Appliance Day raises awareness of product safety and recalls.

By adding product details onto the AMDEA Register My Appliance portal, people can be contacted swiftly in the event that a safety repair is needed. The portal is currently used by 45 leading brands, including the UK’s major white goods manufacturers. (more…)

Inquiry into supported housing funding reform launched

HousesJoint inquiry into the Government’s funding reform for supported housing.

Commons Select Committee for Work and Pensions and
Commons Select Committee for Communities and Local Government

Opens: 15 December 2016
Closes: 3 February 2017

The Work and Pensions Committee and the Communities and Local Government Committee launch a joint inquiry into the Government’s funding reform for supported housing.

Scope of the inquiry

The inquiry examines the planned changes for 2019–20, when core rent and service charges for supported housing will be funded through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit up to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate. For costs above this, funding will go to local authorities for disbursement locally.

The Committee considers whether the new system will ensure that the varied rate of the LHA cap will not adversely affect tenants and providers in low-value parts of the country. It examines how existing tenants will be protected following the switch and ask whether the changes should be piloted.

The inquiry also looks at the effect that uncertainty about the new model is having on the sector and explores whether separate funding models are needed for refuges and other short-term supported housing services, or sheltered housing services for the elderly, which would require a higher cap.

How the localised funding pots would work, including how the money will be ring-fenced and which factors should be used to determine an areas allocation, are also investigated by the Committees. (more…)

Local pharmacies have been around for generations

pharmacy logoHelping you, your parents and your grandparents. If you want your local pharmacies to be there to help the generations to come, please lobby your MP.

The Department of Health (DH) has indicated it believes that there are up to 3000 too many pharmacies in England. At the same time, they have proposed a series of policy measures which would divert investment from local pharmacies to other care settings or to online suppliers of medicines. The current direction of policy, if not challenged, could lead to a serious fracturing of the pharmacy network in England, leaving many patients with reduced access to face to face advice and treatment and putting extra pressure on GPs and hospitals.

Go to the campaign website to lobby your MP

2018 Boundary Review initial proposals launched

bce_306_aw_1Boundary Commission for England

Opens: 13 September 2016
Closes: 5 December 2016

The independent Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has published its initial proposals for new Parliamentary constituencies. The publication marks the start of 12 weeks of consultation, during which the Commission needs to hear from you to help shape the proposed new constituency boundaries.

Following a decision by Parliament to reduce the number of constituencies in the UK to 600 from 650, and to ensure that the number of electors in each constituency is more equal, the BCE has been asked to make independent recommendations about where the boundaries of English constituencies should be. The BCE must report to Parliament in 2018 and, if agreed by Parliament, the new constituencies will be in use at the next scheduled General Election in 2020.

Publication of the initial proposals today is the first time people get to see what the map of new constituencies might look like. The rules that the Commission works to are such that wide scale change is inevitable. Under the proposals announced today, only 68 of the existing 533 English constituencies remain unchanged.

The proposals for Ashford would see large parts of the west of the existing Ashford Constituency,  moved to a new constituency named High Weald and a swathe of the existing Folkestone and Hythe Constituency moved to Ashford.

The towns and villages that would be moved out of the constituency include Charing Heath, Egerton, Little Chart, Smarden, Bethersden, Biddenden, High Halden, Tenterden, Rolvenden, Small Hythe and Newenden. The villages moved into Ashford would include Hastingleigh, Brabourne, Smeeth, Aldington, Bonnington, Bilsington and Ruckinge.

Sam Hartley, Secretary to the Commission, said: ‘Today’s proposals mark the first time people get to see what the new map of Parliamentary constituencies might look like. But they are just the Commission’s initial thoughts – during the next 12 weeks we want people to take a look and tell us what they like and don’t like about our proposals. Parliament has set us tight rules about reducing the number of constituencies, and making them of more equal size, and we now need the views of people around the country to help us shape constituencies that best reflect local areas. Use our website to tell us what you think, or come along to one of our public events to give us your views in person.’

It is easier than ever to get involved, by using the BCE’s website at or by coming along to a public hearing in your area. People can comment on anything from where the proposed new boundary lines are to the names of the constituencies. The consultation closes on 5 December 2016. There will be a further two rounds of consultation in 2017. Following the conclusion of all three consultation periods, the BCE will look at all the evidence received and make final recommendations to Parliament in September 2018.

The nearest public hearings will be held on 3-4th November at County Hall, Maidstone. Attendance must be booked in advance via the links from the BCE consultation page

Boundary Commission for England 12 September, 2016

Tell us why parks in South Ashford matter

Victoria ParkSouth Ashford Community Forum (SACF) are asking for your help in telling a parliamentary committee why parks in South Ashford matter.

South Ashford Community Forum (SACF) is considering submitting evidence to the Inquiry into the Future of Public Parks being undertaken by the Commons Select Committee for Communities and Local Government (CLGC).

CLGC Chair, Clive Betts MP, has said: “Whether it is kicking the ball about with friends, joining a parkrun, walking the dog or just relaxing with a paperback, people value their local parks, but with councils under enormous financial pressures and with no legal obligation to fund and maintain public parks, these precious community resources may be at risk. (more…)

Future of public parks inquiry launched

Victoria ParkThe Communities and Local Government Committee launches an inquiry into public parks to examine the impact of reduced local authority budgets on these open spaces and consider concerns that their existence is under threat.

Public parks inquiry

The Committee looks at how parks should be supported now and in the future. This includes studying alternative management and funding models, such as a mutual or a trust.

Send a written submission

The Committee invites submission of written evidence to its website on the following issues:

  • Who uses parks and open spaces, how often and for what
  • The contribution of parks to the health and well-being of communities
  • The impact of reductions in local authority budgets on parks
  • What the administrative status of parks should be in light of declining local authority resources for non-statutory services
  • How new and existing parks can best be supported
  • What additional or alternative funding is available and what scope is there for local authorities to generate revenue from park users
  • What the advantages and disadvantages are of other management models, such as privatisation, outsourcing or mutualisation

The Committee would be grateful to receive written submissions by 30 September 2016. (more…)

East Kent Councils consider closer working

ABC CrestEast Kent leaders have been taking part in a series of discussions about options for closer collaboration between the five East Kent district councils of Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Shepway and Thanet.

This work is in response to the Government’s devolution agenda, financial challenges facing local government and the opportunity to drive improvements and growth in the East Kent region.

These discussions are in the very early stages and have led to a consensus to explore the potential benefits and savings that could be achieved through the merger of the five East Kent district councils, into a single district authority. It would also seek to explore the best place for services across the three tiers of local government (county, district and town & parishes) to ensure the most accessible and efficient services for the public.

In the coming weeks, each Council will consider a short paper seeking agreement to carry out a thorough evaluation of this opportunity. At this stage the reports are not seeking formal approval to go ahead with a merger but are seeking approval for a ‘statement of intent’ which then allows the councils to start exploring the options, through a business case evaluation.

The options will then be brought back to each Council around the end of the year for formal consideration and should the business case show that there are significant advantages, there will of course be consultation before a final decision is taken.

Ashford Borough Council, 7th July 2016–1401/ ➚

Get your dog microchipped

You must make sure your dog is fitted with a microchip by the time it’s 8 weeks old.

You can be fined up to £500 if your dog isn’t microchipped by 6 April 2016

Your dog’s microchip must be fitted by a trained professional

‘Building Better Places’ report welcomed

Civic Voice - talking civic senseA House of Lords Committeee have released a report titled Building Better Places

Civic Voice have welcomed the report in a press release, emphasising the recommendations for maintaining and improving local control and community engagement in the planning process, and preservation of the historic environment:

The House of Lords Committeee on National Policy for the Built Environment have released a Report of Session 2015-16 titled Building Better Places last week. The report (which is available here) covered areas such as the recent trends in the built environment, creating better places through design, quality and standards, building for the long-term, delivering more housing and local leadership, delivery and skills. Members of the committee included Baroness Andrews, who works with Civic Voice to raise our issues in the House of Lords. (more…)

Electricity Rebate Deadline 28 February

Don’t miss out on the £ 12 Electricity Rebate

Prepay customers may have to take extra steps to claim rebate

The Government Electricity Rebate (GER) is a £12 government contribution to help lower the impacts of these Government environmental and social policy costs on consumer energy bills.

Most households will not need to take any action to receive the rebate. If you pay by Direct Debit or on receipt of a bill (e.g. quarterly) you will see a credit automatically applied on the next bill.

However, if you pay for your electricity through a pre-payment meter, you may need to actively redeem the rebate.

Your supplier should inform you about how you can claim the rebate but is likely to be one of two methods:

  • You may be sent a voucher (likely with a barcode) to be redeemed for electricity credit when you next top up at your usual retail outlet. This voucher must be redeemed at a pre-payment vending site within the validity period stated on the GER voucher. You will need to show a valid form ID along with the voucher.
  • Alternatively, you may receive the rebate automatically as your supplier will have sent an electronic credit which you will pick up when you next top up.

Arrangements for how pre-payment customers receive the GER will depend on suppliers.

What to do if you think you have not received your rebate

The GER should have been paid to eligible domestic electricity customers over the course of the autumn from the 11 October 2015.

If you pay for you electricity by cash, cheque or direct debit you will have this applied directly to your account and will be notified of receiving the rebate on your next bill or statement.

If you are a pre-payment customer – you should have received a letter from your supplier between October and November which should include either a £12 GER voucher or instructions to take your pre-payment key to a pre-payment vending site to collect your £12.

If  you have still not received your GER, you should get in contact with your electricity supplier.

Suppliers must attempt to provide the rebate during the payment period (11 October– 27 November 2015) but can extend this to 28 February 2016 (the cut-off date) if required.