North West sees
increase in Council Tax
THE average North West Band
D Council Tax bill for 2012/13 will see a small increase, according
to the country’s most authoritative survey of Council Tax, released
by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).
The average North West Band D bill for 2012/13 will be £1,472.66, an
increase of £3.95 (0.3%), from the 2011/12 figure of £1,468.71.
Across England, the average band D Council Tax bill has increased by
0.3% (£4.39). This is a relatively small increase compared with last
year’s average which was a decrease of 35 pence. The
Department for Communities and Local Government has urged councils
to freeze Council Tax this year and offered them funding to do so.
Despite the number of households who are seeing an increase in their
Council Tax bill, the survey shows that overall the response to this
offer from councils has generally been positive. Of those
authorities increasing tax, none are increasing by more than 4.0%.
Following the introduction of the Localism Bill, local authority
constituents now have the right to a referendum on Council Tax if it
increases by over a percentage pre-determined by central government.
This percentage is currently 4.0% for police and fire authorities
and 3.5% for other authorities and, at present, no councils are set
to exceed this limit. Ian Carruthers, CIPFA Policy Director,
commented:- "This small increase in the North West
demonstrates local politicians have generally heeded Government
calls to freeze Council Tax. Councillors must take Council Tax
decisions based on local priorities, For the most part, councils
have responded positively to the Government’s offer of Council Tax
freeze funding. Where rises are planned none appear likely to
trigger a local referendum. Service and job cuts are likely to
continue as councils must balance their budgets. Our recent survey
of finance directors’ confidence is indicating that there is
significant anxiety about the financial years 2013/14."
British Gas sees
profits fall, but many homeowners still suffer
BRITISH Gas has announced
that its profits for 2011 have fallen 30% compared to 2010,
following what it has called a year of turbulence and challenge. Its
parent company Centrica, however, has posted a slight increase in
The flat overall results for Centrica will do little to quell the
anger of homeowners across the country who are paying over the odds
for their energy bills. And with energy prices expected to rise
further in the coming months and years, fears are growing that
vulnerable and financially excluded people will be faced with a
choice between heating and eating.
Ofgem have announced intentions to make the energy market simpler
and easier to navigate but in the short-term many will be left
struggling to pay their bills for the rest of the winter and beyond.
The value now lies in looking beyond the Big Six and households need
to be proactive in seeking the best deals, which are increasingly
being offered by smaller energy companies.
Danny Jatania, CEO of consumer champions Pockit believes that now is
the time for UK households to take control of their spending.
He said:- "Fortunately the weather was mild last year but
still it didn’t stop energy customers feeling the pinch when it came
to paying their bills, even though their consumption was lower
overall. The reason many are suffering is because of the overly
complex energy market. The news of SSE scrapping its confusing range
of tariffs is encouraging but this approach must be adopted much
more widely throughout the industry if customers are to be able to
make savings on their bills.
At Pockit we are encouraging people to monitor their spending more
effectively and the best way to take control of your energy usage is
to find deals that offer the free installation of smart meters,
which ensure that customers only pay for the energy they use."
The backlash against the Big Six has been sparked by estimates that
5.5million UK households are in fuel poverty and 3,000 winter deaths
are caused by fuel poverty every year. The financially excluded are
faced with a bewildering range of tariffs and the prospect of
estimated bills charging them for energy that they have not used.
With many people turning their backs on payment options that
generate debt, such as credit cards, inaccurate estimated bills can
have a devastating effect on the households of those who cannot
afford to wait for compensation payments.
Danny continued:- "Millions of consumers are paying more than
is necessary for their energy. The aim is for the energy market to
become more competitive, which will see prices being driven down and
the emphasis being placed upon the customer. While Ofgem is trying
to encourage a more competitive energy market, households can take
the initiative by shopping around and rewarding energy companies
that are innovating and providing fairer deals."
BSL Messy Church
returns to Liverpool Cathedral
THE next BSL (British Sign
Language) Messy Church will take place on Saturday, 3 March 2012, in
Liverpool Cathedral’s Lady Chapel between 4.00pm to 5.30pm.
Messy Church is a common expression of church in the Church of
England. It encourages whole families to come together for craft
activities, food, story-telling and celebration around a Biblical
theme. The idea is to make Church accessible and fun for the whole
family, offering something different to usual Sunday morning
The Cathedral Messy Church will be conducted in British Sign
Language (BSL) as well as spoken English and it will be aimed at
families who use BSL because either parents, grandparents or
children are deaf. The idea isn’t about providing access to a
hearing project for deaf people, but establishing an entirely new
group where all can participate together regardless of whether they
are deaf or hearing.
Rev Dr Hannah Lewis, Team Leader in the Liverpool Diocese for Work
Among Deaf People and who runs the sessions said:- "We were
very encouraged by the pilot sessions last year. We attracted about
35 people in total; helpers and families; deaf and hearing adults,
and deaf and hearing children with three generations of some
families coming along. There has been a lovely atmosphere of adults
and children working, celebrating and eating together. Deaf mums
have enjoyed the rare opportunity to meet up and chat, children of
deaf parents enjoy not being the only ones, family members enjoy not
having to worry about if their deaf family are able to access what
is happening. People have gone away seeing old, familiar stories
(we’ve done Noah and the Good Samaritan so far) in a new light, and
hopefully have been touched by God. We are truly meeting our aim of
building up a new Christian community for all involved."
more information or contact Rev Hannah Lewis via
email or by using a
mobile text message to:- 07919 411817.
A New LookWebsite for Steam Packet Holidays
STEAM Packet Holidays has
revamped its website to bring it in line with the main IOM Steam
Packet Company site, which was
redesigned in April last year.
As part of the Steam Packet Company’s ongoing commitment to market
the Island as a destination. The
website features a number
of great value ferry and accommodation package deals. It also
showcases many of the festivals and events held in the Island, with
several cut price deals to help attract visitors.
Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said:-
"While this is essentially a cosmetic revamp of the existing site,
it does represent a further investment that we believe will help
sell the Island as a destination and therefore, we put money in to
the hotels, restaurants and other attractions around the Island."
For anyone wishing to travel off the Island, the site also features
package deals throughout the UK and Ireland and includes details of
the popular day excursions, such as the Grand National in April, and
Chester Zoo and Alton Towers during the school holidays.