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Southport and  Mersey Reporter -  Your free online newspaper service covering the Merseyside region - (Greater Liverpool).
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Issue:- 3 October 2013

Autumn Steam Gala 2013

ON Sunday, 6 October 2013, The West Lancashire Lancashire Light Railway will be holding its annual late season gala for enthusiasts young and old, will be running 11.30 am to 4.30 pm. 3 locomotives will be in steam and will be:- Montalban, Utrillas, and Joffre. - All 3 will be hauling frequent passenger trains. In addition, this event traditionally celebrates the varied industrial background of many 4 locomotives, steam and diesel. Diesel locomotives will be in action, and demonstration goods trains will operate at intervals through the afternoon. Admission to the site is free. Fares (valid for unlimited rides):- Family - £10.50; Adult - £4.00; - Senior - £3.50; Child (2+) - £3.00... Lineside passes for photographers also available.

CLA scrap metal victory will frustrate thieves

THE licensing laws introduced this on 1 October 2013; as a result of campaigning by the Association; will make it tougher for thieves to dispose of stolen scrap metal, says the CLA in the North.  The Association said metal theft has a huge impact on rural businesses in the region, and often vital pieces of equipment or building infrastructure are stolen and sold for a tiny fraction of their value.

CLA North Regional Director Dorothy Fairburn said:- "We are pleased to see the results of our lobbying victory put in place so metal theft can begin to be tackled. Farm machinery, lead stolen from roofs, and copper cable taken from phone lines all cause major problems to rural business and communities. These much-needed changes to the system will give local authorities real power to combat the rise of metal theft."

The CLA's Scrap the Cash campaign won a major victory with the passing of the Legal Aid Act earlier this year after the CLA President met the former Home Office Minister Lord Henley to ensure cash payments by scrap metal dealers would be prohibited.

Miss Fairburn added:- "We believe new regulation should only be put in place in certain circumstances. In this case, it is crucial to deal with the menace of scrap metal thieves."

Rent arrears spiral – Bedroom Tax in Merseyside 6 months on

MERSEYSIDE Housing Associations; working together to assess the impact of Government welfare reforms; have released new figures today on the 6 month anniversary of the introduction of the benefit changes.  They show spiralling rent arrears; as vulnerable tenants struggle to make up the shortfall as a result of benefit cuts; as well as sharp increases in the number of empty properties and the time it takes to re-let homes when they become vacant.  According to the latest data, arrears in Merseyside have increased by £2.2m when compared to the same period in 2012.  This loss of income could help build more than 125 houses in the region, which in turn would; create 280 jobs or have an economic impact of over £10.5m, according to the National Housing Federation.

Ian Thomson, Executive Director of Asset Management at First Ark Group which includes KHT said:- "The impact of the bedroom tax or under occupancy charge is having a major impact on our tenants and communities with over 60% of those affected finding themselves in arrears for the first time. The reduction in housing benefit payments, along with paying Council tax for the first time and the squeeze on incomes through rising prices and falling wages is pushing many tenants into increasing indebtedness.   This is placing vulnerable tenants under major pressure and while there are not enough smaller homes available for them to downsize is trapping them in cycle of debt and desperation. As a result we have seen a 30% increase in void properties and in particular a 130% increase in 3 bed houses becoming void, with a resultant increase in void times, costs and rental loss.  We would urge the government to review this policy as a matter of urgency as not only is it making the most vulnerable within our communities suffer severe hardship but is and will cost the public purse more."

At the same time "void" properties have increased by 29% to 1,956 and the average time it takes to re-let a property when it becomes empty has increased from 28 to 38 days.   The result is a loss of rent to social landlords of £616,662 per month compared to £397,224 last year.  

Daniel Klemm, North West External Affairs Manager at the National Housing Federation, added:- "Today's figures from Merseyside are yet more evidence to show that the bedroom tax is pushing vulnerable families into debt.  People can't even move to smaller homes to avoid the Bedroom Tax because there aren't enough smaller properties. Housing associations are working flat out to help their tenants cope with the changes, but they can't make one-bedroom houses appear out of thin air.   The Bedroom Tax is an unfair, ill conceived policy that is hurting Britain's poorest families and it must be repealed."

On April 1 2013, the coalition Government began cutting the housing benefit of people living in social housing who it believed had one or more unused rooms and gave them a choice: find the extra money to pay the rent, or move to a smaller property, irrespective of whether demand issues that exist in areas like the South East were applicable in locations like Merseyside.  A group of social landlords on Merseyside began campaigning against the Government's Bedroom Tax. The housing providers believe the Bedroom Tax is unfair and does not achieve what it sets out to.  They conducted the survey of housing associations across the Merseyside area; both those involved in the campaign and others; to gain a picture of the ongoing impact of the benefit changes.

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