March 2009 Archives
THE Government has moved back from plans to increase business rates by 5% tomorrow, instead limiting the rise to 2%.
The remaining 3% rise will be spread out over the following two years to offer "real and genuine help" to firms, he announced in the Commons.
There has been widespread anger in the business community and the news promoted cheers from the Labour backbenches.
Perhaps they should be thanking the Local Government Minister John Healey who I am told played a central role in persuading the Treasury to make the tax change.
Such news is highly unusual before a Budget, due on 22 April.
Gordon Brown has regularly promised to help people suffering from pleural plaques, or at least given the impression that is concerned and wants to do something.
But the problem has been that despite pledges of seeing what can be done, the PM has not yet done anything.
Now I think he may be questioned about at Prime Minister's Questions tomorrow. And who knows, maybe he will have something definite to say this time.
Just been in to see the PM.
He is promising to fight for North companies amid fears that other nations will slam the door to our exports.
And Barack Obama will be landing in the country soon.
But just to top off the increasing atmosphere, there is now a massive rally of literally thousands of bikers clogging up the streets - apparently over parking charges.
This is going to be one crazy week
Is the controversial additional costs allowance - often used by MPs to pay interest on mortgages - going to be binned?
Here are some interesting comments from Nick Brown, North East Minister and Chief Whip, and Housing Minister Iain Wright.
Mr Brown said: "There is a cost to both being in the North East and being in London.
"And it is reasonable that the true cost of staying away from home is met in exactly the same way as it is for any public official, civil servants, locally elected councillors and private organisations."
"There is of course a long-term debate as to how it should be paid.
"My personal preference would be for a per diem system similar to that for councillors, public officials, people working in private companies.
"In other words we should no better or worse off."
Mr Brown, MP for Newcastle East and Wallsend, added: "MPs would get an overnight allowance for when they were in Westminster.
"They would have to sort out their own arrangements for hotels and so on."
Mr Brown said such an allowance could be used towards buying a property, but stressed MPs would effectively have to bear the burden of that themselves.
Junior Housing Minister Iain Wright, MP for Hartlepool, said: "I think the public absolutely hate the system but I think also in terms of MPs from the North East what are we meant to do?
"I am a working class lad, I would need some level of support in order to have some degree of accommodation down there.
"There is some need for a second home allowance in some form, but the public are in a very foul mood as regard to it."
Our elected representatives in Parliament are not going to get a good press over their expenses claims. In fact it is going to be really bad.
London's Evening Standard is leading the direction that the national newspapers may take tomorrow, along with a host of regional and local papers.
Click here to see its story.
It looks like North MPs have billed taxpayers more than ÃÂ£600,000 for second homes.
And while there is an argument that MPs from the North some sort of help with accommodation, what is interesting is the range of claims put in.
They range from the top whack of ÃÂ£23,083 from a large percentage of MPs, and more with bills above ÃÂ£20,000.
Now how does that square with one MP able to claim under ÃÂ£10,000 and others virtually half the maximum allowed?
And while this sounds weird, Gordon Brown may be slightly relieved that this will take his own economic record off the front pages - with billions and maybe trillions of pounds spent to prop up greedy banks as a result of failures in the regulatory system he set up as Chancellor.
A top mandarin at the Treasury has tonight admitted that the Treasury was "dragging its heels" for years over bank regulation before the Northern Rock crisis hit in autumn 2007. See tomorrow's Journal for the story.
MOST husbands give their wives affectionate pet names. Unfortunately I have no such luck.
Looks like a busy week in Westminster.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is under pressure over her expenses claims and has been seen going into No 10.
And the latest annual claims from MPs are set to be published in little more than 20 minutes.
That comes after I did a bit of digging to show that taxpayers have been forking out hundreds of thousands of pounds to help North MPs live in London.
More than ÃÂ£600,000 has been claimed by the region's MPs towards the costs of living in the capital, according to the latest available annual figures.
Many claimed the maximum ÃÂ£22,110 permitted under the additional costs allowance (ACA) scheme - often used to help pay interest on mortgages for London properties - in 2006-07.
And then we have got the G20 meeting, with President Obama rolling into town, and the fear of riots in the City of London.
Saturday night was Earth Hour and a candle lit supper had been planned at Chez Heywood.
In the end, what with one thing or another, I simply didn't get my rear into gear and my good intentions, once again, went into the recycling bin.
SHOCK NEWS - Home Secretary Jacqui Smith allegedly bills taxpayer for "adult" films while hubby is at home.
She is to pay back parliamentary allowances claimed for pay-per-view television services after "mistakenly" claiming for the TV package while billing for an internet connection.
The films include two viewings of the film Ocean's 13 - at ÃÂ£3.75 each - and an additional ÃÂ£3.50 to watch the film Surf's Up.
Now, I don't know why anybody would want to watch Ocean's 13 twice let alone once!
And what the deal's with a surfing penguin, featured in Suf's Up?
Click here for the BBC report.