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News Roundup: Community

Bringing you the latest headlines from the community and beyond…

PM Recommends Criminal Checks for Cab Drivers following Taxi Driver Rapist Case

Prime minister David Cameron has recommended that cab firms ought to carry out criminal records bureau checks (CRB checks) before hiring potential taxi drivers, to ensure passenger safety.taxi-drivers-CRB-check

His warnings come shortly after the decision was made by Milton Keynes council  to allow a convicted rapist to become a taxi driver. Mr. Cameron commented that it was a “bad decision” on part of Milton Keynes mayor, Subhan Shafiq.

Nadeem Ahmed Kiani, 44, was convicted of rap and serious sexual offence in 1994, for which he was imprisoned for eight years.

He was then granted a taxi license in 2011 and has since been allowed to be in confined environments with potentially vulnerable people.

Despite the council looking into Mr Kiani’s criminal past, Mayor Shafiq had vouched for his “good current character and family circumstances” and describing him as “a friend”. However, it is reported that the council had looked over a document detailing how Kiani had picked up prostitutes in a vehicle and threatened them with weapons, before raping and sexually abusing them.

David Cameron condemned the council’s actions.

[quote]”Its obvious in this case that the council followed the correct procedures but then made a bad decision,”[/quote]

he said.

[quote]”When that happens, the person making that decision should bear the consequences.”[/quote]

Indeed, Mr. Shafiq stepped down from his post last week. Milton Keynes Council leader Peter Marland said that the former mayor should “examine his conscience” over whether he could even continue as a councillor.

Scottish Pensioners Promised Better Pension from Yes Campaign

pension-credit-ssScottish pensioners are being promised a more generous pension for their later years, if Scotland should become independent from the UK following the upcoming referendum.

The Yes campaign is giving Scotland’s 1.2 million pensioners a personal commitment to voting in favour of independence, as the nation struggles with the second lowest state pension in the OECD.

SNP Depute leader and Yes Board member Nicola Sturgeon said:

[quote]Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but for too many people – including far too many of our older people – it just doesn’t feel that way.

Our pensioners have contributed largely to society and are entitled to get a fair deal in return for that. But under Westminster rule, the state pension is the second lowest in the developed world.”[/quote]

The Yes campaign is setting out an ‘independence guarantee’ which lays out the 10 reasons why pensions will be better in an independent Scotland. Among these are a proposal for a single tier pension of £160 minimum a week; the retention of savings credit which provides additional income for pensioners, and the assurance that pensions and benefits will keep pace with the cost of living.

Ms Sturgeon also added that an independent Scotland will review Westminster’s decision to raise the state pension age to 67.

Over One-Third of People Claim to Feel ‘Worse Off’ Post-Recession

A survey for the website VoucherCodes.co.uk has suggested that more than a third of people feel worse off as the UK is slowly emerging from the recession.money-management-budgeting

Of the 2000 people surveyed, around 37% said that their financial situation was not as stable or secure as before the 2008 recession kicked in, with basic costs such as utility bills, food and transport becoming common worries for families.

35% said they had changed their regular shopping habits to compensate, including moving to a cheaper store to save money. One in eight said that they had needed to take out a credit card in the last year to help them balance essential monthly costs and one in 16 (6%) even said they had turned to a bank budgeting loan.

VoucherCodes managing director Claire Davenport said:

[quote]It’s clear that the debt problem isn’t going away anytime soon, but there are lots of resources available, with advice on everything from budgeting to switching utility providers to help householders get back in the black.”[/quote]

DWP Defends its Message to Staff to Support UK Government

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been criticised for its message to staff to “support the UK government” in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum.

Back CameraThe message was said to be overly patriotic and possibly interpreted as the DWP telling its staff in Scotland which way to vote in the vain of preserving the UK union.

According to the BBC, the memo issued to DWP staff read:

[quote]The UK government has a clear position to maintain the union and so it is legitimate and necessary for UK civil servants to support the Government in this objective.”[/quote]

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond reacted strongly to the memo, saying it was an attempt by the DWP to tell Scottish civil servants how to vote.

The DWP defended its wording in the memo however, insisting that was only intended to inform staff of restrictions of the purdah period in the days leading up to the ballot.

[quote]Of course the department has not told its staff, or anyone else, how to vote.”[/quote]

it said.

Dave Penman, general secretary of senior servants’ union the FDA, said the memo was “factually accurate” but also “ill judged”.

[quote]It probably could have been written a lot more sensitively,”[/quote]

he said.

Redcar MP Criticises Teesside Council of Poor Management of Social Fund

MP Ian Swales has thrown criticism at Redcar and Cleveland council in Teesside, UK, for its “poor management” of the social fund designed to help residents most in need.

Control of the Discretionary Social Fund was passed from Government to local councils in 2013, meaning that help would be granted on local case basis.

However, this has led to problems in monitoring and auditing. MP Ian Swales claims that in the first year, Redcar and Teesside council managed to spend £256,000 out of a total budget of £764,700, with only 195 applications for help
being successful.

He claims there was 2100 requests for help overall.benefit-fraud-stafford

Speaking after a Westminster Hall debate, Swales said:

[quote]Last year, the allowance of £764,000 was in the hands of the Labour council which allowed a £500,000 underspend – turning down more than 90% of applications from people in need, often sending them to food banks instead.

The council is using its own set of perverse criteria to sit in judgement of people who often, through no fault of their own, find themselves in financial hardship.”[/quote]

He went on to argue that Labour councils were “playing politics with people’s lives”, pointing out that 66% of applications were approved in 2012-13 when it was in control of the DWP. Spend for this period stoof at £717,000.

In comparison, he said, only 9.3% of applications were approved by councils in 2013-14 and half of money spent went on council administration and staffing costs.