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|Integrated Council/NHS||Pensioners Concerns||Property Guidelines||Sovereign Ward|
By Keith A. Forbes at email@example.com. He and his wife live in Sovereign Harbour North, Eastbourne. A disabled journalist, he is a member of the UK's The Society of Authors and an activist for the elderly and disabled.
Our Pensioners Concerns sub-site shown here is entirely non-political. Sole concerns are the hopes, plights and rights of pensioners locally, regionally and nationally. On this page we show not only local but also other concerns. Unfortunately, the five local concerns, namely the Beware of Estate Rental Charge; Council Tax Injustices; Cyclists using Walkways as cycle paths; Disability Laws Compared; and Social Care System Unfairness, all shown below are not shown on other local websites supported by the local council focusing on the elderly of Eastbourne. We believe they need to be stated as much as the other issues we also mention. We have applied to join the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), the UK's largest and most influential pensioner's organization in hope our own concerns will be included in NPC campaigns.
Accessibility on trains
Older and disabled people are becoming more and more disadvantaged when using trains. Proposed changes to remove staff from stations or guards from trains are having a detrimental effect on them. In other parts of the world it is both expected and legally required that seniors and disabled are offered prompt assistance in getting on and off all trains at any stage of their journey. The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) has produced factual and timely short report into problems older travellers face when getting on and off trains. It can be accessed here.
It must not pass to local authorities, for reasons shown below
We object strongly to any attempt to divert Attendance Allowance to local authorities. We should not be letting them get more and more powers at the same time as their services are costing us 5% or more every year yet we are getting less and less in overall value from the many facilities they are cutting, such as libraries, health centres and more, while at the same time spending millions of pounds on facilities so few of us elderly use. Why we still have to pay in our taxes the huge costs involved in having and maintaining a national Parliament in London if the national government want councils, not MPs collectively, to assume more and more responsibilities traditionally dealt with by MPs? We need more centralization, more more nationwide uniformity of councils' policies and practices in every area, not further dismaying devolution that has already so fractured this country. If you agree, please send a letter to our MP and Prime Minister on the issue. See the efforts of the National Pensioners Convention shown here.
Attempts to discontinue Free TV for over 75s
We are appalled by recent news that the BBC wants government to end free to over 75s’ TV licence by 2019 or 2020.
In no other part of the world do people over pension age have to pay a TV tax. People in Canada and USA are aghast that we are taxed to watch TV until we are 75. Over there, the USA's Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is free, with donations voluntary. We hope any further attempts to eliminate the free TV licence for the over 75s will be squashed and that the BBC's Jeremy Paxman in particular and any others who want to eliminate the "grey vote" will be axed for offensiveness.
Basic Universal Pensioner Benefits
They should be improved, not cut.
We believe current universal pensioner benefits, such as the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes for the elderly must continue and in some cases be increased very substantially. Winter fuel payments have not changed since before 2003 yet cost of living and fuel prices too have skyrocketed since then. Fuel poverty affects over 40% of all pensioners. The official figures on last winter’s excess death rate due to unaffordable sufficient heating were released in late November 2017 and are frightening. The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) has staged a number of protests and more are planned until this disgraceful situation is resolved.
Beware of Sovereign Harbour's £260 a year Estate Rent Charge
So say numerous estate agents.
Pensioners who seek to move to Sovereign Harbour and at the same time need or want to downsize not just in terms of size of a house or flat but also in recurring annual or monthly expenses such as council tax and other overheads, should beware of places with an annual Estate Rent Charge like Sovereign Harbour, East Sussex. Ignoring this advice will be expensive. Why? as you will see from the website shown below a number of law offices of repute warn you to beware of investing in a place with so many covenants and other restrictions. In Sovereign Harbour, a freehold or leased home or flat, whether £180,000 or £800,000 will be at an additional (not reduced) cost to you in the unique (no other place in the UK or Europe or the world has it) and covenanted Estate Rent Charge of £260 in 2018 increased annually by the rate of inflation, also passed on to future purchasers of that property. What also makes it so unfair is that only the 2,700 or so Sovereign Harbour residents pay this flood charge, not the 14.000 residents also in the flood area, east of the harbour, And, if you plan on living in part of Sovereign Harbour South, you will have to pay a further covenanted annual Water Feature charge. Plus, Council Tax, even for a modest 2-bedroom flat, will also be much higher than equivalently-priced properties elsewhere in Eastbourne or beyond. And although all developments are private including the pathways and walkways, the public are free to roam anywhere, with their dogs and cycles, completely without charge, with only the residents having to pay. See www.sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk/Estaterentcharge.htm. If and once this is revoked and other changes are also made Sovereign Harbour will be a much less expensive and restrictive place in which to live. Until then, pensioners needing to downsize not only their properties but their council taxes and other overheads too need to be aware that instead of Sovereign Harbour being the best place in which to live it is the most expensive in the entire UK. Even when other the few other places have an Estate Rent Charge, it is only nominal, £10 or so a year, not Sovereign Harbour's outrageous £260 a year.
Campaign to Save Our Buses
Many bus routes are being cut or eliminated.
The Campaign for Better Transport has been running a Save Our Buses campaign to make the case to both the national government and councils to stop paring or eliminating bus routes, particularly but not exclusively in rural communities. They are one of the victims of ever-increasing council budget cuts despite the constant upward creep of council taxes. See the website at www.bettertransport.org.uk. In our case, our hourly bus service that used to but no longer routinely goes to the Eastbourne General Hospital is a case in point.
Cap on Energy Charges coming
Welcome news to pensioners paying the standard tariffs.
Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill; On February 26, 2016 the government's Energy Minister announced these. Pensioners are the biggest single group paying standard tariffs. Current charges will not be affected but the intention is to ensure those who pay these standard tariffs instead of annual less expensive fixed-rate do not get their costs hiked at the whim of energy suppliers without good reason. The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons and given its First Reading on Monday 26 February 2018. The Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday 6 March 2018. This Bill was then committed to a Public Bill Committee which met on 13 March 2018, when it held an oral evidence session before commencing its line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill. Results are awaited.
Cyclists using walkways as cycle paths
Throughout Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne, nuisance cyclists, many not living in the harbour area, interfere daily with the safe passage of walking pedestrians
Many of whom are elderly and with limited mobility or disabled or both. Cyclists believe they have an unrestricted right to cycle on both the narrow North Harbour beachfront pedestrian-only path (not a cycle path), which is not wide enough to let four people pass without giving way) and the wider inner harbour walkways and that they have the right of way so demand walkers make way for them. They are wrong on both counts. They either do not know about or likely deliberately avoid the less scenic but purpose-built cycle track shared pavement running the entire length of Atlantic and Pacific Avenues. Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex Council, both with jurisdiction, seem powerless or reluctant to stop this. They should act before an elderly person gets hurt.
Council Tax Injustices go on and on
Council Taxes are described by leading newspapers as Britain's most hated taxes for nation-wide unfairness. Pensioners needing or wishing to downsize are particularly affected.
As merely one newspaper's international condemnation see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10431722/Britons-pay-the-highest-property-taxes-in-the-developed-world.html published in June 2016. Massive inequities since 1991 have been consistently ignored by British Members of Parliament of all political parties who have never attempted to change the system and its massively unfair practices in 27 years, contrary to other countries that are required by law to routinely re-assess their property taxes every 3-5 years to ensure fairness The UK's present system of low council taxes even at the highest Band H for the most expensive central London properties but much higher council taxes for much lower-priced properties at Band E in Eastbourne and elsewhere in the country is manifestly unjust.
It is not disputed that there has to be a council (property) tax on every property in a local authority. But it has to be seen to be balanced, fair, equitable, logical and consistent. It should be a reliable indicator of the fair market value of a property including the house or flat or cottage or bungalow, land on which it sits, what outbuildings or garages there are. It should not matter for evaluation purposes whether the property is a house or flat or cottage or bungalow, exactly the same criteria should apply, instead of it being so discriminatory as it is now.
What should matter are the actual or accurately assessed market price, a legislative methodology to ensure the entire valuation system is reviewed regularly at least every five years, the assessment is open enough to ensure that every property bought and or sold routinely shows both its market price and its council or property tax on property particulars and by doing so avoid any accusation of discrimination, with the valuation of every property open for public inspection to achieve complete transparency. It should not be just a single isolated local authority tax but one mindful of and comparable with council taxes in other areas.
It should have enough council tax banding width to easily ensure that unless a property is equal in total value to Buckingham Palace it should be council taxed at merely a fraction of the latter's council tax. And if/when market prices fall instead of going up, the property tax should also fall. Unfortunately, no such fair, decent, consistent, regularly updated methodology applies to Council Taxes in Eastbourne. Instead, the Eastbourne Borough Council at www.eastbourne.gov.uk, and its East Sussex Council partner, with the approval of the British Government and all its 650 legislators, applies such a massively unfair council tax system that even small modest two bedroom flats with a market value of under £270,000 and no property-owned land at all pay appreciably more Council Tax than (a) other local properties with an often far higher market value and (b) 775-room Buckingham Palace in London, 90 miles away, worth about £980 million and other multi-million pound properties and their personal gardens in the most affluent areas of London. As the latest examples of (a) in January 2018 a spacious penthouse 3 bedroom apartment in the affluent area of Silverdale Road, Lower Meads, Eastbourne, was advertised for sale at £385,000 showing Council Tax D but a 2 bedroom upper ground floor apartment on San Diego Way, Sovereign Harbour North, Eastbourne, worth much less, £260,000, has to pay a higher tax, in Council Tax Band E.
We have asked the NPC if it will circulate comments nationwide about this unfairness.
Disability laws compared to Europe, Canada, USA, etc.
UK disability laws need updating and improving to match disability laws elsewhere.
Yet many local disability groups are not demanding legislative changes at both local authority and national parliamentary level. There is no comparison with the USA's powerful and effective Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) - see http://www.ada.gov or similar in Europe, Canada and beyond. (In Canada see http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/fda/1006). The lack of UK legislative teeth has so infuriated some overseas visitors that they have complained. We got them because we are networked with overseas groups. When we sent the last of those emails to the Eastbourne access group involved, instead of being concerned and willing to refer them to their councils and legislators in hope of action to remedy defects, all we got were complaints.
We have a World Wide Website duty to let all disabled visitors to the Eastbourne area from anywhere abroad who are long-used to disability provisions in their own countries being protected by law both in the public and private sectors, know they should not believe, from the incomplete access information they receive from any other UK source, that similar comprehensive disability laws apply here. They do not, as we demonstrate clearly in www.sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk/ESHDisability.htm. Hopefully, when starting from late November 2017 the UK Parliament debates how European Law will be incorporated into UK law prior to Brexit, it will mean that much broader and comprehensive EU-wide Disability laws will replace the very inferior UK disability laws.
Elderly Care Choices
Helping you understand them, from Which. See https://www.which.co.uk/elderly-care
Free Wills Months- March and October
A group of well-respected charities in the Eastbourne area offer over 55-year old members of the public the opportunity, via participating solicitors, to have their simple wills written or updated free of charge. it is hoped, but not a requirement, you will leave a gift to your chosen charity, See the captioned website for named charities and solicitors in your area and if you make an appointment with one of the solicitors named, go armed with full prepared-in-advance relevant paperwork details as recommended to keep things simple and affordable.
Labour calls for Pets Charter
Included in Labour's plans if elected at next General Election.
It is a pledge to give leasehold tenants in both public and private buildings a default right to keep pets in the leased or rented properties. Labour says it wants to create or strengthen the rights of tenants to keep most smaller types of pets (cats, dogs, birds, etc). Many current leases and rental agreements deny that right completely. Many pensioners in particular have cats or dogs, or fish in tanks or birds in cages as their only full-time companions. But there also must be a proviso that pensioners and others are physically able to clean up after their pets, indoors and outdoors, will put their dogs on leashes, will walk them - and pick up dog messes.
Law Commission proposes Leasehold Reform
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. New government initiatives to modernize living conditions for the elderly in particular.
Many affect pensioners and young people living in Sovereign Harbour and elsewhere..
One is Commonhold instead of Leasehold. Those living in leasehold not freehold properties are asked by the Law Commission to consider the advantages of commonhold over leasehold, such as ownership not expiring so the costly procedure of lease extension does not arise; management responsibility rests exclusively with a commonhold association made up of unit holders - and more. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone 020 3334 5333 or write to Rachel Preston, Law Commission, 1st Floor, Tower, 52 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AG.
Social Care unfairness of Councils
The current social care system used by local authorities throughout the UK cheats residents, unlike the methodology long-used in the European Community
There, National Health Service and Local Authority equivalents were long ago integrated and treat all citizens fairly and equally, from general taxation. In contrast, here in the UK those with total assets including their homes not exceeding £23,500 are given NO local authority funding or support while others can get up to 100% local authority funding. Scandinavian and other European countries are appalled by this monstrous injustice. A new type of social care system – a combined National Health and Social Care Service – integrated with the NHS and funded through general taxation, is called for, urgently. A few years ago, the Scottish Government introduced it throughout Scotland and while not perfect, it is working. The rest of the UK should, too. See http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Health/Policy/Health-Social-Care-Integration and http://isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Health-and-Social-Community-Care/Health-and-Social-Care-Integration/ and https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/integrated-care-northern-ireland-scotland-and-wales. See What it Means in Scotland, at http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2013/05/16/what-integration-with-health-means-for-scotlands-social-workers/ and our own summary about this at www.sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk/Integratedservices.htm.
We have asked the NPC if it will circulate comments nationwide about this unfairness in England, compared to what has happened in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Keith also writes
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© 2018. Revised: May 21, 2018