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Responses from Parliamentary Candidates to the questions posed by SDSAF Members at the AGM 2017

We apologise to residents of those villages which have been taken out of, or are not part of, the Sevenoaks Constituency where we did not ask candidates to respond.  This is an error on our part.  We took information from the Sevenoaks District Council website and worked off that data.  We have asked the District Council to amend their website for the future so that Sevenoaks District residents will ALL get information on the General Election Constituencies that are in the District Council’s area.

The responses given by Parliamentary Candidates are given here.  They are presented in alphabetical order of the surnames of the prospective MPs.

Alan Bullion               LibDem

Colin Bullen                UKIP

Sir Michael Fallon     Conservative

Tom Tugendaht         Conservative

There were no responses from any other candidates for the Sevenoaks or Tonbridge and Malling Constituencies.

COLIN BULLEN UKIP

I assume that you realise that, while UKIP has policies to offer on these matters, the party is not, for this election at least, going to sweep in power, so all we can really do is give you an indication of how we feel on these matters. As is the case for all of the smaller parties it would be easy to make promises, which we know we would not be obliged to live up to in the near future, but I want to give honest answers to the best of my ability.

1.  How do you plan to deal with the National Debt?

Contrary to popular opinion state finances cannot be directly compared to the way in which an individual arranges his own affairs. Mr Micawber was right in his assessment that one should aim to keep one’s spending below one’s income but things are not so simple when it comes to nations. It is quite possible for a sound economy to nevertheless have a large national debt, which can be managed, provided confidence exists that it is indeed manageable. That said it is obvious that it should be controlled and reduced where possible.

In reality the only acceptable way to reduce the debt must be to either increase taxes or reduce expenditure. The problem is that many people understandably don’t want to pay more to the state but also don’t want to see cuts made in vital services. Clearly much of the division between parties is a result of their differences as to how the money should be raised and how spent.

UKIP has an advantage over the parties who either oppose Brexit,or seek only a partial break with the EU. Currently we pay billions in direct payments in membership fees to the EU, to which can be added billions more in expenditure resulting from implementing unnecessary regulations imposed by the unelected bureaucrats of Brussels. Add to this the money saved by cancelling the vanity project of HS2 and replacing the Barnett formula, by which Scotland receives an unfair subsidy, and there would clearly be substantial funds available once we made a clean break with the EU.

Obviously some of this could be used to reduce indebtedness but I suspect that many of your members would rather it was used to help finance some of the other matters raised below.

2.  How do you plan to pay it off and by when?

I think that you can see from my answer to question one that UKIP’s policies would enable us to reduce the debt but it would be foolish to say that we can give a definite date as we have no way of knowing what the future holds and what unexpected costs mights suddenly arise.

TRANSPORT.

3   How are you going to improve local transport networks in the Sevenoaks District?

UKIP policy, as laid out in the manifesto is as follows: “Rural bus services are vital for those living in the countryside who do not have the financial means or the ability to drive. UKIP will provide start-up grants to support community bus operators using smaller and more efficient buses where commercial operators have cut essential services”.

Speaking as an individual I have always believed that transport should be a public service, even if this means running at a loss. This is the position I would take as an MP, even if its meant disagreeing with party policy. I must point out however that this is another area where some of the money we could use to reduce the national debt would instead be used for such a transport policy.

4   How are you going to encourage people on to buses and trains and away from cars?

Obviously the only way is to provide a cheaper, more comprehensive service, orientated to service, not profit. Again more spending, which I would support but would need to be found from other areas.

QUALITY OF LIFE

5 – 8 What value do the candidates think they could add in the following areas for seniors in Sevenoaks;

This seems to cover much of the same ground as concerns about transport. I spent 6 years as a volunteer driver for the Tonbridge Volunteer bureau, taking elderly people to hospital appointments, shopping etc. and it seems to me that this sort of public spirited effort should be supported and encouraged.

I am not sure how one can encourage seniors to become computer literate other than ensuring that courses exist, that they are advertised, and that they are available in locations seniors cans access easily.

9.  RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

What are you going to do about persecution of Christians in Christian countries?

I am a committed Christian and a reader at my Church. I utterly condemn the treatment of Christians receive in many countries and I am tired of the politically correct efforts to suppress a public display of our faith even in our own nation. I always wear a cross on my jacket and I support the right of Christians to profess their faith in the UK, and indeed everywhere.

10.  DISABILITY BENEFITS

What would be your approach to disabled people and their benefits?

Given that I am, as stated above,  a Christian, you can be sure that I support providing help to disabled people and I am angered by the use by government of private companies to deny assess disability, then denying benefits, thus profiting such companies. However, as I have said several times, more expenditure! Justified but still needing funds.

I hope that you feel I have tried to answer your questions honestly.

Colin Bullen

UKIP candidate

Tonbridge and Malling

-oo0oo-

Alan Bullion, Lib Dems

 NATIONAL DEBT

1          How do you plan to deal with the National Debt?

2          How do you plan to pay it off and by when?

1.      National debt is a gross figure of everything government owes. However, you need to look at net debt – what it owes minus what it is owed. The UK National Debt is now estimated to be £1.73 trillion.

2.      The Lib Dems have pledged to balance the UK’s books through prudent day to day spending commitments by 2020. However, the UK may to have repay the EU up to £100 billion for Brexit over coming years, hence the Lib Dem policy to avert the impacts of a Tory/UKIP Hard Brexit and remain within the Single Market for continued economic prosperity and employment.

 see supplementary statement from SDSAF member below

3          How are you going to improve local transport networks in the Sevenoaks District?

We should extend the Oyster card service across Sevenoaks and introduce a Carnet system whereby people can buy books of train tickets in advance. Bus services such as the 401 to Halstead and Knockholt and Sevenoaks Weald need to be kept running, alongside other rural services, and new ones introduced cross-county.      

 4          How are you going to encourage people on to buses and trains and away from cars?

The Oyster and Carnet card systems would simplifying rail travel by making it cheaper and more flexible. A park and ride service for Sevenoaks commuters would also help. Bus fares are also often too expensive for those in work.  

see supplementary statement from SDSAF member below

QUALITY OF LIFE

 5 – 8     What value do the candidates think they could add in the following areas for seniors in Sevenoaks;

 5          LONELINESS AND ISOLATION

- loneliness and isolation especially those who are hidden because they are immobile/live in rural locations

 We need to keep villages pubs, shops, bus and train services open and running. Men’s sheds are also a good new scheme.

 6          SUPPORTED LIVING

- supported living near to shops/surgery/ Church/ transport at accessible prices

 Appropriate housing near bus stops, train stations – such as the upgraded Bat & Ball, and near local shops and amenities.

 7          TRANSPORT

- transport especially to medical appointments, shops and social activities

 Buses should be more frequent and run at times to get people to hospitals, GPs, markets, and local shopping and social centres. If the over 60s could also use them before 9.30am more easily that would help significantly for appointments.  

 8          COMPUTER LITERACY

- strategies to encourage seniors to become computer literate

Local libraries can provide such training and also local schools, colleges and churches, with IT and drop-in centres.

 9          RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

What are you going to do about persecution of Christians in Christian countries?

 No religious believers should suffer from persecution in any countries.   

 10        DISABILITY BENEFITS

What would be your approach to disabled people and their benefits?

 Disability benefits for housing, health and other vital services should be protected and not under constant threat.   

 SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

Questions 1 and 2

 1          Something that concerns me greatly is the size of our National Debt that will continue to grow as long as there is a “deficit”.  Presumably there are plans to pay it off eventually but when? And how?

 Please click on the following to see the size of the problem: http://www.nationaldebtclock.co.uk/ ie nearly £1,859,000,000,000, as I write this and how it is growing at the rate of £5,170 a second …

 Questions 3 and 4

 Transport.

The local network in New Ash Green is totally unsatisfactory.

 From New Ash Green there are buses to the Dartford and Gravesend area but none to Maidstone, Seveniaks or Swanley.

 These buses go to Longfield Station but there has been no attempt to coincide with train arrivals and departures.

I know people, young and older who find the cost prohibitive.

My experience of using buses in other areas is that where they are both more frequent and cheaper, they are full.

11.  Bearing in mind the ageing population, what does your party plan to do in order to keep buses, especially in rural areas. The bus companies make it clear that, without subsidies, they cannot run viable services.

Young families do not use buses as they are too expensive. Cheaper fares and regular services would ultimately increase the use and therefore profitability of bus companies.

This cannot be achieved without help from the government.

I have campaigned to keep the vital 401 bus service running for Halstead and Knockholt. We need more viable bus services via Kent County Council and we already pay for subsidised routes through our council taxes. Allocating more of these for buses should be a key priority. 

Public transport also should be made more affordable for students and young people. Lib Dems are proposing discounted bus fares and free travel to schools and colleges, in order also to keep more cars off out busy roads.

12.  When are MPs going to get off the bandwagon of running down the elderly * and give us some positive improvement in our situations and not keep making them worse?

*  changes in pension annual increases for the worse, being accused of bed blocking, as though we are criminals and that it’s not the responsibility of the Government, caps on how much we have in our meagre estates to pay for all our needs if we become seriously ill physically or mentally.

Lib Dems are fully in favour of keeping the pension triple lock and fully against the Tory Dementia Tax on homes. We would increase income tax by a penny in the pound to help fund our vital health services, and adequately pay for our loyal and hard working care workers, nurses and doctors.

13.  Any progress in grammar schools for boys in Sevenoaks?

Yes, if a satellite or annexe to an existing school similar to the Weald of Kent arrangement can be agreed for Sevenoaks and a suitable site should be found for this.

14.  What are the plans for housing in Halstead?

Lib Dems support affordable and sustainable housing but linked up with good public transport and appropriate road networks. That is why I am campaigning to keep the 401 bus service for Halstead and Knockholt. New housing should be built on brownfield and not on Greenfield sites, farmland or areas of outstanding natural beauty. That’s why I strongly opposed both the Dunton Green and Swanley planned large housing developments. There also need to be amenities such as shops, schools and GP surgeries on site or close by.

15.  Are there plans nationally to reduce the speed limit to 20 mph as they have in Tunbridge Wells?

Yes, the Lib Dems as the second largest party now in Kent are pressing for these zones to be introduced more widely across the county.

-oo0oo-

SIR MICHAEL FALLON

NATIONAL DEBT

1 How do you plan to deal with the National Debt?

Michael: The foundation of national economic success is responsible public finance. It is what the Conservatives have practiced in government over the last seven years, and it is what we will continue to pursue in the next parliament.  We have already reduced the deficit by two-thirds. 

2 How do you plan to pay it off and by when?

Michael: We will borrow less and continue to grow the economy, finding the right balance between reducing our deficit, preserving fiscal flexibility and investing in Britain’s future. The fiscal rules announced by the Chancellor last year will guide us to a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade.  From that point we can start to reduce the national debt. 

TRANSPORT

3 How are you going to improve local transport networks in the Sevenoaks District?

Michael: The Conservatives will provide £1.1 billion to improve local transport by 2020, and I will be working hard to ensure our local area gets its fair share.  That means ensuring more people have more options, whether for elderly people to visit town centres to shop or socialise, or for younger people to work locally or in London. 

For buses, I will support routes to rural areas and the expansion of new partnerships between companies and local authorities to deliver services local people need.  

With roads, more needs to be done to ease congestion and reduce pollution.  We need to focus on getting haulage off the A25 to reduce air pollution levels in areas around Bat & Ball Station, and agreeing on a way to divert lorry traffic from towns like Westerham whilst ensuring our Green Belt remains protected.  

With trains, I want to secure more rail improvements so that the 7000 daily rail passengers in our area get a better deal.  This means more capacity on our trains, improved information for passengers, enforcing minimum service levels during periods of industrial dispute, and better ticketing systems like the Oyster-style systems I will continue to campaign for. We will review rail ticketing, removing complexity and perverse pricing, and introduce a passenger ombudsman to stand up for the interests of rail users.

4 How are you going to encourage people on to buses and trains and away from cars?

Michael: I will encourage people on to buses and trains and away from cars by making public transport more convenient, increasing capacity, and working hard to maintain current routes through rural areas. 

QUALITY OF LIFE

5 – 8 What value do the candidates think they could add in the following areas for seniors in Sevenoaks;

5 LONELINESS AND ISOLATION

Michael: I will support new legislation to allow local authorities to work with bus companies to secure better access for disabled and immobile people on buses.  We will ensure that pensioners continue to have free bus passes so they can travel into town and join in social activities.

6 SUPPORTED LIVING

Michael: Recently I officially opened the new affordable housing development at Andrews Court with rooms designed for those with impaired mobility; providing more dignity in old age, supporting people to support themselves, and giving them more independence. We are committed to building thousands more affordable homes in the next parliament, and I will be working with our local councils and housing associations to ensure we have the supply to meet the demand for more affordable housing.

7 TRANSPORT

Michael: We will keep free bus passes for pensioners, and I will campaign to local services.

8 COMPUTER LITERACY

Michael: We will equip people with the digital skills they need now, and in the future, by introducing a right to lifelong learning in digital skills, just as we have done for literacy and numeracy.

9 RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

What are you going to do about persecution of Christians in Christian countries?

Michael: I believe we should celebrate the role of Christianity in our country.  We have a strong tradition of religious tolerance in this country, stemming from our commitment to protecting freedom of speech and our Christian heritage. We’re encouraging religious freedom here at home, and will establish new legislation that allows new faith schools to be built across the country. It is unacceptable that today people are still being attacked and murdered because of their Christianity.  We are determined to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to practice their beliefs in peace and safety and, under Theresa May, we will take further measures to address this.

10 DISABILITY BENEFITS

What would be your approach to disabled people and their benefits?

Michael: We will build on our proud Conservative record in supporting those with disabilities, including the landmark Disability Discrimination Act of 1995. We want to see attitudes to disability shift as they have for race, gender and sexuality in recent years: it should be completely unacceptable for people with disabilities to be treated negatively. We will get 1 million more people with disabilities into employment over the next ten years. We will harness the opportunities of flexible working and the digital economy to generate jobs for those whose disabilities make traditional work difficult. We will give employers the advice and support they need to hire and retain disabled people and those with health conditions. We will continue to ensure a sustainable welfare system, with help targeted at those who need it most. We will legislate to give unemployed disabled claimants or those with a health condition personalised and tailored employment support. 

11        Bearing in mind the ageing population, what does your party plan to do in order to keep buses, especially in rural areas. The bus companies make it clear that, without subsidies, they cannot run viable services.

Michael: With more investment, we will support audio-visual displays for bus passengers and community minibuses for rural areas poorly served by public transport. We will maintain the pensioner benefit of free bus passes. We will introduce significantly discounted bus and train travel for apprentices to ensure that no young person is deterred from an apprenticeship due to travel costs. 

 12        When are MPs going to get off the bandwagon of running down the elderly * and give us some positive improvement in our situations and not keep making them worse?

 Michael: A decade ago, pensions were in crisis and poverty blighted the retirement of many older people. The Conservative government has helped to put that right. We have lifted the incomes of millions of older people, reducing pensioner poverty to historically low levels. We will keep our promise to maintain the Triple Lock until 2020, when we will then introduce a new Double Lock, meaning that pensions will rise in line with the earnings that pay for them, or in line with inflation – whichever is highest. We’ve always safeguarded the rising state pension and will continue to support the successful expansion of auto-enrolled pensions, enabling more people to increase their retirement income with help from their employers and government. 

Our manifesto is honest and upfront about the challenges we face in social care.  There will be two million more people over 75 years old in Britain over the next decade, and the social care system will collapse unless we make some important decisions now about how to fund it. We are the only party in this election prepared to face up to the reality of our ageing society and offer a long-term solution. Already many families are having to pay large amounts for residential care of their relatives.  That’s why we’re proposing a better funding model for social care.  Under this proposal, nobody will have to sell their family home to pay for care, and there will be an absolute limit on what people need to pay.  Vitally, you will never have to go below £100,000 of your savings, so you always have something to pass on to your family. We will consult on the detail through a government green paper. But that consultation will definitely include an absolute limit on the amount that people have to pay for care costs. 

13        Any progress in grammar schools for boys in Sevenoaks?

Michael: I have championed the cause for a new grammar school for years, and I’m delighted the new girls’ grammar will open in Sevenoaks this September.  Our manifesto encourages new grammar schools, and I hope we will see a boys’ grammar open in the next Parliament.   

 14        What are the plans for housing in Halstead?

Michael: Redeveloping Fort Halstead is priority.  Once DSTL leave the site in 2018, 450 homes are planned to be built as well as an 80-bed hotel and a business park.  This will create over one thousand new jobs.  The new development has already attracted government funding. The next step is to ensure that public services are adequate for these new residents.

15        Are there plans nationally to reduce the speed limit to 20 mph as they have in Tunbridge Wells?

Michael: No but it remains open to any local area to put forward proposals.  

-oo0oo-

TOM TUGENDAHT

Dear Mr McConnell,

Many thanks for inviting me to answer the questions you and your fellow members of the SDSAF have put to me. I would welcome further correspondence from anyone in your group living in Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling.

While Sevenoaks proper is, of course, not part of the Tonbridge and Malling constituency, some of the questions you’ve posed are echoed by the views shared with me during this campaign. We’ve knocked on over 12,000 doors and, with a week to go, will be knocking on thousands more, listening to people’s concerns and responding to their comments face to face.

When I announced I was going to stand again as a candidate, the Kent Messenger said: ‘Since becoming MP for Tonbridge and Malling in 2015, Tom Tugendhat has become well-known in his constituency for fighting for local amenities’. These include the Post Office, the retention of a doctor’s surgery under threat of closure, maintenance of local bus routes, and better service on Southern and Southeastern train services. My record speaks for itself. I am dedicated to making our communities stronger and more coherent, served by high-quality local services that make all our lives easier, for every age and stage of life.

My campaigning for greater awareness of dementia started before I was elected. I am a Dementia Friend, as are many of those in my office. I know the difficulties retired and elderly folk endure, not least through the many people I have met and tried to help in my two years as an MP. I always stand ready to do what I can to make life better for those who have contributed so much to our community and country throughout their lives, and look forward to continuing this work if I am re-elected.

Now to your questions.

1 How do you plan to deal with the National Debt?

The National Debt will be paid down gradually over the medium term by a mix of tax revenues and public expenditure savings. This is not going to be easy, given the weaker growth forecasts and lower tax revenues we have seen recently. Coupled with the economic uncertainty that Brexit is causing, we are going to have to look very carefully indeed at every penny the government spends. That’s why I support a steady, sustainable reduction in the debt over the medium term. I don’t think it is realistic to offer an end date to moving the public finances into surplus but that is, of course, what I want and I’ll be working hard to ensure the government moves in this direction over the course of the next parliament.

2 How do you plan to pay it off and by when?

As per my answer above.

3 How are you going to improve local transport networks in the Sevenoaks District?

We all know the problems of Southern Rail. They have tortured many of us with their delays for months and, as a regular user of the Uckfield Line, I know how bad it has been. That’s why I have campaigned hard for union leaders to be held on accountable for their actions and fought government to get investment where we need it. I have also worked with local bus companies to improve services across our community. Perhaps most importantly, I have been working with Sevenoaks District Council to ensure we have a taxi service that is dementia-friendly and able to work for everyone in the community. I want to see part of the National Productivity Investment Fund – £23 billion – spent on improving infrastructure, including transport in the communities of Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling. Before the election, I successfully campaigned for funding to help those affected by flooding in my community; I want to do the same for transport.

4 How are you going to encourage people on to buses and trains and away from cars?

I believe in a mix of transport rather than a focus on public means of travel alone. There is no use pretending that people are going to stop driving cars; they are a terrific convenience and a necessity in the outlying villages in our community, but we need options wherever possible. That’s why I’m working with bus and rail companies to help them develop ways to improve their services. We’ve got a way to go but I have been using all the tools I can to put pressure on those who can make the changes we need. The National Productivity Investment Fund will help services improve, and I want to see Kent get its fair share of this to ensure people can get to and from work quickly and easily.

What value do the candidates think they could add in the following areas for seniors in Sevenoaks;

5 Loneliness and isolation, especially those who are hidden because they are immobile/live in rural locations

Loneliness is not just a social problem, it is also causing medical issues. Too many find themselves alone and without companionship particularly in old age. This isn’t just a problem for government but for our whole community and must be addressed by communities, families, faith groups and many others in our society. I am lucky enough to have a family but know that there are many elderly people who rely on carers. I want to support those who offer care for an elderly relative, that’s why a Conservative government will give workers a new statutory right to carer’s leave. Sustainable transport links will help people get around and see each other and enable families to come together more often, but I also value the many volunteer organisations, faith groups, and other informal support networks make life better for those living alone or away from village and town centres. Of course there are also many new technological changes which make it easier to ameliorate isolation.

6 SUPPORTED LIVING

Ease of connection to essential services is necessary to maintain activity and prevent loneliness from isolation. I have been supporting the Jo Cox Foundation to campaign against loneliness and hope very much to continue to do more to ensure taxi companies and others in our community play their full part in ensuring that those who need it get the necessary support not just to live but to live full lives as active members of our community.

7 TRANSPORT

I have long been a supporter of the Edenbridge transport volunteers and have spoken to them about how I can help them find more drivers. I look forward to doing more to help them should I be elected.

8 COMPUTER LITERACY

- strategies to encourage seniors to become computer literate

Digital technology to me is something that makes life easier and more fun, increases productivity, strengthens my network of friends and family, and supports a thriving economy. Those who have online access, including the people you mention living in rural communities, can conduct their banking online, converse via video with friends and family far away, shop and order food, pay bills, order taxis. Anything and everything that one wants to do in real life can be done online. Your group should already have access to classes through local schools and libraries that can help them make the most of their time online. Today many classes are available and I hope members of the group are taking advantage of them. I know that in many of our communities, good connections to the internet are lacking and I have held a packed public meeting recently to talk about the poor provision of broadband to people in our area. If re-elected I will do more of these meetings to bring providers and customers together and find solutions to the problems we face.

9 RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

What are you going to do about persecution of Christians in Christian countries?

I have made regular representations on this very issue to Government. Having served our country in places where freedom of expression is punished by death, I know the value of freedom of religion and argue its case regularly. Before the election I was an officer for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Freedom.

10 DISABILITY BENEFITS

What would be your approach to disabled people and their benefits?

It is completely unacceptable to me that anyone with a disability of any kind is treated negatively. Our Manifesto supports getting those with disabilities back into work that suits each individual, and wants to maintain a sustainable welfare system with help targeted at those who need it most. It promises to legislate to give unemployed benefits claimants personalised and tailored employment support. Disabled access to licensed premises, parking and housing will be reviewed, and a Conservative Government will work with providers of everyday essential services, like energy and telecoms, to reduce the extra costs that a disability brings with it. And, as always, every person who faces difficulties in their dealings with agencies, housing associations, or companies they deal with are always welcome to contact me and my office for personalised help with their case. I stand ready to support and help anyone who asks me for it, as I have done over the years since my initial election as an MP.

11 Bearing in mind the ageing population, what does your party plan to do in order to keep buses, especially in rural areas. The bus companies make it clear that, without subsidies, they cannot run viable services.

Bus companies are increasingly coming up with imaginative ways to support rural routes. We should do more to achieve this. By creating local networks we not only allow communities to stay connected, we can generate business. I am working with Arriva, Nu-Venture and Kent County Council to bring back services. We have had some success but there is much more to do, I know.

12 When are MPs going to get off the bandwagon of running down the elderly * and give us some positive improvement in our situations and not keep making them worse?

Our manifesto contains policies which are unpopular with those in retirement, I know, but these policies are necessary to help pay off the national debt (by reducing public expenditure), and right the balance between protecting the dignity of the elderly with promoting opportunities for those in work. While it would not be right for pensioners to fall into poverty, nor can it be right that today’s taxpayers must sustain increases faster than their own wage growth, particularly as, given the country’s demographics, this really isn’t sustainable. There will be 2 million more people over 75 years old in Britain over the next decade alone and a third more people aged 85-plus in 2024 than there were in 2014. This is wonderful news. It means more grandchildren will know their grandparents and more young people will get the opportunity to learn from their elders, but it does also have consequences.

It is a myth that needs to be exposed that the taxes you pay and the national insurance contributions you make throughout your lifetime go to fund your retirement. They do not. For all but the very richest of us, they don’t even cover the medical services we use in our lifetime, let alone our retirement. Taxes pay the retired at the time. There is no pot, no investment income, just taxation. People of working age paying taxes and NICs right now are funding retirement, and as the proportion of working people falls, the impact on those paying is increased.

We need to make sure that we strike a balance between the different generations in our community. I want to ensure that we continue to provide dignity to older people while simultaneously being fair to those at work so that we do not encourage them to seek opportunities abroad, thereby reducing the our domestic tax base. The double lock on pensions, which replaces the triple lock, will deliver this.

Universal payment of the winter fuel allowance will be means-tested, meaning that everyone except those in what is deemed fuel poverty is likely to see his or her allowance decreased.

Social care – we can drop in your entire letter, if you want

13 Any progress in grammar schools for boys in Sevenoaks?

I have long championed additional places for boys in all schools in Tonbridge, Edenbridge and Malling.

14 What are the plans for housing in Halstead?

Halstead is not within the constituency I hope to represent.

15 Are there plans nationally to reduce the speed limit to 20 mph as they have in Tunbridge Wells?

Tunbridge Wells is not within the constituency I hope to represent.

Best wishes

Tom

 -ooOoo-

Thank you to all those candidates who responded.

 -ooOoo-

Bedroom Tax or the Under-Occupancy Charge

ARE YOU AFFECTED?

Do you receive Housing Benefit?

Are you are a housing association tenant?

Are you below the age of retirement?

It used to be 60 for women and 65 for men but it’s not like that any more!  By 2018, women will be 65 before they can get their state pensions.  By 2020 (only 4 years away) men and women will be 66 before they get their state pensions.

Do you have a spare room?

If you answered yes to all four questions then your housing benefit can be cut.

Bedroom tax does not affect you if you live in private housing but like all these government regulations, it can be complicated, so if you are concerned, check it out!  Look at the Shelter website;

CLICK HERE

There is a petition going around to stop these changes.

See http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-impending-bedroom-tax-on-pensioners

Why is this important?

Pensioners will be affected.

The hardest hit will be the poorest of pensioners, those on state pensions.

LIFE ASSURANCE TAX

Did you know that Life Assurance Premium Relief has been dropped dropped?  In the past the Government gave us tax relief on our premiums so on a £10 premium we were paying £8.75.  From 6th April 2015, we have had to pay the full £10.  A removal of a previous tax relief amounts to a new tax.

LOTS ON SCAMS

Kent Police warn that criminals are calling elderly people, claiming to be from HMRC and threatening arrest unless “unpaid tax” is paid at once – with iTunes vouchers. They aim to frighten victims into paying up to make the threat go away.

Please check any claim regarding your tax directly with HMRC. In any case they would not demand payment in vouchers.

Fraudsters are also impersonating National Crime Agency officers. Don’t fall for it!

An NCA officer will never ask for access to your computer, for personal details like account numbers or passwords, or that you transfer money ; nor bully you to do any of those things.

If in doubt, call NCA Control Centre to check the caller’s identity:
0370 496 7622.

ANOTHER NASTY SCAM – SCAMMERS PRETEND TO BE THE TAX MAN!

 Information has come in via one of our Members from an accountancy company in Otford.  I quote;

We would like to notify all of our clients, and anyone else we can, that there are bogus emails being sent out claiming to be HMRC and stating you have a rebate to be paid back to you. They ask for your address details, your card details and your bank details. PLEASE do not give it to them! HMRC always notifies you via post regarding a refund…

Many thanks to our Member. Derrick, and to Sharon at Self-Employed Accounts, Station Approach, Otford.

OUR SCAM THOUGHTS

WATCH OUT – SCAMMERS ABOUT !

Fraudsters become ever more devious and shameless. We all need to be wary, even suspicious.

Warnings about scams are available from Kent Police, ActionFraud, Which? and others. See overleaf for some examples.

Malware

Criminals will try to get malicious software, “malware” for short, into your computer. Most often they try to trick you into clicking on what pretends to be a Web link or electronic document, but actually will install the bad software. It’s like an infection – and as sickening.

One form of this is ‘ransomware’ , which locks up your computer files and demands payment to restore it. The widely reported recent attack on the NHS and many others highlighted this threat. Warning: fake e-mails from ‘BT’ about upgrading security are themselves malware!

Other sorts of malware hide in your computer and steal sensitive information, like your bank details and passwords. The criminals can then use those to take money from your account, buy e.g. tickets with your credit card, or even steal your identity.

Beware: fraudsters can “spoof” an e-mail address to make it look like one used by someone you trust, such as your bank, or utility provider.

Tip > move your computer cursor on top of the link but without clicking on it. That brings up the Internet address to which the link leads. If it looks dodgy, stay well clear.

It is good practice to install software updates at once, to help keep secure. Regularly back up important files, e.g. to an external hard drive, memory stick – but don’t keep it connected to your computer. Then if some crook does lock your files, you can get them back.

some examples of scams

Doorstep callers

Fraudsters do not only operate online. They may turn up on your doorstep, and pose as charity workers, trading standards officers, other officials, or even police in an attempt to gain your trust.

A genuine caller will be only too happy to wait while you check their identification, or if you tell them to come back another time because you are unsure. Check the identification by ringing their claimed employer: be sure to look the number up in the directory, not trust any number they give you. If you suspect fraud, call 101 or 999.

Don’t agree to have work done on your house until you get a second opinion. Don’t fall for callers who say “we are only in the area today”.

E-mails offering you money

If it seems too good to be true – it most likely isn’t true!

Such e-mails may say that you are due a refund, e.g. of income tax, TV licence fee, council tax. They will request your bank details, with a link leading to a website which looks genuine, but in reality will steal your bank details.

Demands for payment

You get a convincing looking e-mail which says you are liable for a parking fine, or a realistic looking utility bill, or notification from ‘Amazon’ about something you didn’t order…. criminals are forever coming up with new dodges.

Such an e-mail will invite you to click on a link, to check the evidence or the bill or the order. All together now – don’t click on the link!  It will put malware onto your computer, or steal your sensitive details.

Fake bank letters

Lloyds recently alerted customers to letters, which look genuine but are not from the bank, about “unusual transactions”. They ask you to call a supposedly ‘customer service’ number, and enter your card number and other details. The criminals will steal and misuse them.

If suspicious, call your bank at the number on the back of your card.

Flight bookings, court summons, Blue Badge, mobile phone upgrade, PayPal …. the fraudsters will try any angle. Please be wary !

 

 

SEVENOAKS DIRECTORY

sevenoaks-directory-70

This is a really good web site for the whole of the Sevenoaks District (click the logo).   It shows all kinds of activities for people of all ages to enjoy.  Take a look at the whole site, spend ten minutes ‘surfing around’, you might be amazed at how much happens in the District!   Most ‘Directory’ web sites are put together by big companies who really don’t know the area they are serving but this site is locally based – and it works!

HOME ENERGY REPORTS

Do you get Home Energy reports from Eon?  Are you told constantly that you use more energy than similar homes around you?  Should you be worried about this? 

It seems that Eon compares homes on a very limited basis.  Older people often have different needs to their neighbours.  There’s a greater chance of older people having medical problems that mean a different energy use in their homes.  Clearly, we all need to consider how much energy we use and we need to be very efficient but wouldn’t that be easier to do if we had better advice than this broad brush approach from a big energy company?

CONCESSIONARY FARES – YOUR BUS PASS

From one or two comments made at recent Members meetings, it’s clear that a bit of extra information is needed about getting your bus pass for the first time.  Bus Passes no longer come along at 60!  Thanks to KCC, who issue the bus passes, SDSAF can give you the following table of information.  Look up your date of birth to see when you can have a bus pass and don’t forget to apply well in advance.  More details on the KCC website. 

My KCC contact writes;

From 6 April 2010, the eligibility age for the National Concessionary Travel Pass changed to mirror the state pension age. This means the earliest date on which you can get your Pass will depend on when you were born and, if you were born on or after 6 April 1950, this date will be later than your 60th birthday. For men, the eligible age is the pensionable age of a woman born on the same day.

THE ENERGY SAVING TRUST

The Energy Saving Trust’s website says;

‘So let’s make this clear: we never cold-call, door-step or even sell anything directly to any householder, for that matter. We’re here to give independent advice, and train other, legitimate companies and organisations to give accurate advice’.

So, who are these scammers who have phoned me three times in the last fortnight and claim to be from the Energy Saving Trust?  Of course, they are SCAMMERS!   Don’t be fooled.  Don’t be polite.  Put the phone down.

COUNCIL TAX BILLS

Did you know you can now pay your Council Tax bill over 12 months rather than ten?   If you wish to reschedule your payments over 12 months you have to write and tell the Council.  If it’s too late for your first payment then they will change the following eleven for you.

DOMESTIC ABUSE     

DAVSS (Domestic Abuse Volunteer Support Services) is a charity providing vital support services for women and men.  They have a big team of trained volunteers, with more being trained, managed by two professionals.

“I do not know how my client would have managed without the volunteer’s unflagging support and insight into her difficulties during a very difficult case.”

Domestic abuse is a problem across all of society, every bit of it, and people who suffer it or perpetrate it can be helped.    Helpline 01892 570 538 website www.davss.org email  office@davss.org.uk

CRAFT WORKSHOPS

The Kent Association for the Blind (KAB) run craft workshops in Sevenoaks on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month and have room for more people to come along to their sessions which run from 2 to 4 in the afternoon.  One of our Members, Ramon, is involved in these workshops and tells us that they have quite a few volunteer helpers but have room for more people who have any visual impairment to come along and join in the creativity.  You don’t have to be an expert already!  Also, you don’t have to be registered blind or be members of KAB.  If you, or anyone you know, might enjoy these sessions call 01622 69 13 57 for details.  

TO INSULATE OR NOT TO INSULATE – THERE IS NO QUESTION

In the last couple of years Mr and Mrs Website Editor have insulated our loft to the current suggested depth – and it cost nothing.  We had cavity wall insulation installed and we contributed £87  for it – but that doesn’t apply to everyone .  I have just submitted my meter readings for the winter quarter.  Over the last couple of years our bills have gone down.  Insulation works – and saves you money.

If you would like to increase the insulation on your house (and you might get it ALL for free), start by talking to your energy supplier.

EHIC WARNING

The European Health Card is FREE and you should not use any organisation that offers to get you one for a fee.  Many of these organisations are thought to be fake and simply steal your credit card details.

EUROLOCKS

There are some concerns about Eurolocks.  They are the locks that we see these days on modern front and back doors.  If yours protrude like this on the left, then you may be advised to get them changed.  Apparently they are just too easy for the burglars!

This is an old design and can be replaced quite cheaply, i.e. the lock is not expensive but the fitting might cost you a bit.  I am assured by my neighbour who fits these doors for a living that it’s an easy DIY job.  Put the key in the lock, undo the screw that holds the lock (it’s on the side edge of the door), turn the key slightly in the lock to pull the whole barrel out, push the new barrel in using its key and tighten the screw to hold it in place.

Your new lock should protrude only a little like the picture on the right.

TRAVELLING TO SOMEWHERE LOCAL?

Committee Member David White told me of a very useful website which helps you to plan a journey.  It’s at http://www.travelinesoutheast.org.uk/se/XSLT_SELTT_REQUEST?language=en&itdLPxx_multiSTT=1

I’ve tried it out as follows;

Location:  I chose Shoreham – why not! – Pressed SUBMIT then I picked Shoreham (Kent) from the list and SUBMIT.

Up came a map of Shoreham with bus stops on it.   I pointed the the mouse at a stop in the HIgh Street and a window popped up on which I chose the ‘Plan a Journey from here’ option.  Then it wanted to know where I wanted to go.

To:  I entered Maidstone Hospital in the box and when I want to leave – Tomorrow at about 11 am.   Up came the details of when to leave with bus, train and walking details.  Not a journey I would fancy but one which is a good example of what our Members have to do if they don’t have a car.

As we can’t use bus passes early in the morning then the first bus we can get is the 12:41 which would begin the journey to get us where we are going at 14:31.    So if they give you an appointment, it needs to be after 2.30 pm.  

If it helps, here are the postcodes for these hospitals;

Darent Valley   DA2 8DA               Maidstone   ME16 9QQ               Pembury   TN2 4QJ

 Princess Royal, Orpington   BR6 8ND                                      Sevenoaks           TN13 3PG

SURVEYS

Transport Access to Hospital Survey

Our survey on how easy or difficult it is to get to the doctor or to the hospital or any other health service is still going on.  For an update on what over 140 people have so far told us, click here.

Transport Survey

Beyond the medical transport survey, we have another transport survey asking how people get around.

The surveys are important because if we need to press our case with the authorities, whoever they are, we need to have good strong facts on how the situation really is.

We may already have scored a success in alerting our two hospitals to the fact that many of us need appointments after the 9.30 start of bus passes.  That need was publicised when one of our members spoke up at a public forum meeting.

© 2012 Sevenoaks District Seniors Action Forum Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha