Anger over PM’s visit ‘snub’ to town

Prime Minister David Cameron and (right) Jonathan Brash
Prime Minister David Cameron and (right) Jonathan Brash

A COUNCILLOR has hit out after the Prime Minister snubbed his invitation to visit Hartlepool to “face the people”.

Labour councillor Jonathan Brash wrote to David Cameron in April asking him to visit the town and take part in a public debate on issues affecting the town such as council funding cuts and high unemployment.

He also raised issues including a lack of Government support during a bid for a new wind turbine factory, tax hikes for pensioners, and the axing of a school building programme.

But a reply he received from a Government official made no reference to the invitation to visit Hartlepool.

Coun Brash, who represents the town’s Burn Valley ward, said: “If you’re a millionaire Tory donor, Mr Cameron is only too happy to listen to you and change policy for you.

“But if you are an ordinary Hartlepudlian trying to get by in the face of his Government’s disastrous policies, then he simply ignores you.

“I know he is a busy man but for him, or one of his staff, to not even acknowledge that he had been invited to Hartlepool just shows the level of disdain he has for our town.”

Councillor Brash also asked Mr Cameron why Hartlepool Council has had funding cuts of £200 per person compared to more affluent areas in the south like Surrey.

Hartlepool received £7m less funding in 2011/12, an 11.9 per cent cut, and £4.2m this year.

The letter from MP Bob Neil, Under Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government, said: “I do recognise the pressures on local authority budgets, however it is for councils to manage these pressures from within their overall budget.

“The Government has made some tough decisions to meet our deficit reduction programme; local government makes up a quarter of all public expenditure so it is right that it plays its part.

“The settlements for 2011-12 and 2013 are fair, protecting areas and people who are most dependant on Government funding.”

Mr Neil stressed no one would be worse off because of tax changes introduced by the Government and said the state pension would increase by £5.30 a week in April.

But Coun Brash said a report by The Institute for Fiscal Studies shows the average pension stands to lose £83 a year and around 700,000 people turning 65 next year will lose £323 a year.

Mr Neil said the Government’s Work Programme launched last June will help people find employment.

He added the axing of the Building Schools for the Future programme, which many Hartlepool schools were set to benefit from, had been a “hard choice” but said it did not mean the end of capital investment in schools.

Despite his disappointment, Coun Brash vowed to keep writing to the Prime Minister asking him to come to Hartlepool.