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Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff & Buchan

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LOCAL MP HIGHLIGHTS ‘PAYE’ BACK TIME UNFAIRNESS

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Local MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has questioned the Westminster Government’s commitment to ‘fairness’ after a Parliamentary Question from the SNP revealed that people receiving an unexpected bill from HM Revenue and Customs would be charged interest at 3%, while those owed money by the taxman would only be paid at a rate of 0.5%.

HM Revenue & Customs is in the process of sending letters to 1.4 million people who have underpaid tax and 4 million people who have overpaid following errors in the PAYE system.

Dr Whiteford, a Member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, said:

“The Tories and LibDems talk about fairness, but where is the fairness in charging six times as much in interest to those who, though no fault of their own, have found they have underpaid tax than will be paid by HMRC to those who have overpaid.

“More than a million taxpayers face the prospect of an unexpected tax bill because of errors made by HMRC, and in some cases these repayments will cause hardship for households.

“We still need to get the bottom of how and when this problem occurred. It is essential that taxpayers can have confidence in the PAYE system, and though this fiasco was Labour’s last data disaster, the current coalition Government must now get a grip.

“This whole debacle further underlines the need for Scotland to have control over taxation. From 10p tax to this, the UK Government lacks all credibility.”


The SNP’s Parliamentary Question is detailed below.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what steps HM Revenue and Customs plans to take to assess hardship in cases where individuals cannot afford to make repayments of underpaid tax as a result of historical errors in the PAYE system; [15457]

(2) at what rate interest will be charged on underpaid tax owed by individuals as a result of recent miscalculations of tax liability made by HM Revenue and Customs in the PAYE system; [15461]

(3) at what rate interest will be paid on overpaid tax owed to individuals as a result of recent miscalculations of tax liability made by HM Revenue and Customs in the PAYE system. [15462]

David Gauke, Treasury Minister: It is a normal part of the PAYE cycle that changes in circumstances that cannot be reflected in in-year tax deductions need to be reconciled annually. This is not a Revenue error but the PAYE system not being able to react quickly enough to changes. PAYE works well for the majority of people, particularly those with stable circumstances, but because the processes remain fundamentally unchanged since they were introduced in 1944 there are limitations. The coalition Government are looking at how to reform PAYE further and make it more efficient.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) charge 3% interest on late paid tax and pay 0.5% interest on repayments of tax.

Following HMRC's recent end of year PAYE reconciliation exercise for the years 2008-09 and 2009-10, amounts overpaid will be repaid together with any accrued repayment interest.

For individuals who have underpaid tax by less than £2,000 HMRC will where possible collect this through salary deductions by adjusting tax codes. Interest is not chargeable in these cases.

HMRC has put in place a new process for people with 2008-09 and 2009-10 underpayments that cannot automatically be paid through their salary deductions-generally those who owe £2,000 or more. Individuals in this position will be offered the same length of time to pay as those with smaller underpayments and not face interest, provided they engage with HMRC and agree to pay their underpayment. Individuals who owe £2,000 or more will also have the option where possible of paying up to £2,000 through their salaries.

People facing financial difficulties in paying will be treated sympathetically and, where necessary, will be able to spread their payments up to three years.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm101018/text/101018w0005.htm#1010199000586

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LOCAL MP MEETS WITH MINTLAW GROUPS OVER COUNCIL SHUT-OUT

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has met with local sports and community groups in Mintlaw who have been told by Aberdeenshire Council that their use of the community facilities at Mintlaw Academy out-of-hours has effectively ended.

Sports clubs and youth groups who use the facilities in evenings and at weekends have found themselves without access to pitches and changing facilities following recent changes in the council’s janitorial service.

Following a meeting of club representatives and Dr Whiteford, the local MP has taken the matter up on their behalf with Aberdeenshire Council.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“I’m very concerned at the manner in which Aberdeenshire Council has gone about this, which has left many local clubs and sports groups without facilities.

“I understand there are changes in the janitorial service which affect overtime but it should not be beyond the capability of the council to accommodate that and still provide a service to the community.

“If this is a cost-cutting measure then it is way off-target because the potential social cost to our communities is huge. We saw in the 1980s the social problems created when extra-curricular activities provided by schools dried-up. I don’t want to see a repeat of that and I am sure nor do the youngsters affected, who simply want to get on with their sports and I will be making that point forcibly to the council.”

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LOCAL ECONOMY PUT AT RISK BY SPENDING REVIEW

Friday, 22 October 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has hit out at the Comprehensive Spending Review and warned that it could result in serious damage to the local economy of the North-east.

Speaking after the announcements Dr Whiteford said:

“A significant number of people in the North-east are directly employed by the public sector and many local businesses also rely on contracts from the public sector. These cuts, therefore, present a very serious threat to the local economy.

“Unfortunately the Chancellor has not given details of where job losses will occur and it is very difficult to ascertain, at this stage, the exact impact it will have locally but clearly it is likely to be substantial.

“What is worse is that the London Government argues that the private sector will create jobs to take up those losing their jobs in the public sector yet Price Waterhouse Coopers last week issued a report that demonstrated that the proposed cuts would lead to a similar loss of jobs in the private sector. Small and medium-sized local businesses will feel the impact of job losses elsewhere in the North-east economy.

“It is bitterly disappointing that the Chancellor has ignored the cross party case made by the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to protect growth in the economy and so set the course for sustainable public finances.

“Scotland is on the road to recovery, but these cuts risk cutting off that recovery and plunging us back into recession. The London Government is cutting too far and too deep rather than investing in the future.

“This highlights the need for Scotland to secure economic and financial powers to grow our economy and boost revenues.”

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LIBDEMS DEFEND ‘CALLOUS’ MOBILITY CUT FOR DISABLED

Thursday, 21 October 2010

SCOTTISH SECRETARY UNAWARE HOW MANY AFFECTED BY WELFARE CHANGES

The Liberal Democrats have been branded ‘callous’ over welfare reforms, after Scottish Secretary Michael Moore admitted he had no idea how many people in Scotland would be affected by welfare changes, and LibDem President Malcolm Bruce defended the removal of the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) from people living in residential care.

A transcript of exchanges on BBC Newsnight are detailed below in which Mr Moore, on being asked how many people in Scotland would be affected by changes to the Employment Support Allowance said “We don’t have that figure.”

LibDem President Malcolm Bruce also defended the removal of the mobility component of DLA which allows disabled people to hire or lease a mobility car at an affordable price, or use a taxi to get out and about.

Commenting, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“It is frankly shocking that the Secretary of State for Scotland is unaware how many people in Scotland will be affected by his party’s welfare cuts, and that the LibDems president is defending a callous mobility cut which will hit disabled people.

“It is no wonder the Treasury got their figures wrong about how deep their cuts are in Scotland when they can’t even say how many people will be affected by their welfare cuts.

“Removal of the mobility component of disability living allowance from people in residential care is one of the cruelest cuts within the CSR, and one which will hit disabled people specifically. This is a lifeline allowance which gives people, including children at residential special schools, some independence.

“Few residential facilities provide free transport, and the component is used so that, for example, disabled people can get a taxi for essential hospital appointments, go shopping, or even just meet friends and take part in activities in their community.

“Removing this allowance is a hammer blow to people’s independence as well as their pockets. It will effectively mean some people can no longer get out and about and will be confined to their residential care home.

“Nobody doubts that welfare reform is necessary, but this cut by the Tories and Liberal Democrats is totally unfair and will impact on the lives of the most vulnerable in society.”

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REMOVAL OF MOBILITY ALLOWANCE BRANDED CRUELLEST CUT

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Responding to welfare reforms within the CSR, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP has branded the removal of the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) from people living in residential care as one of the coalition's cruellest cuts.

At the moment the component is paid at two levels, lower at £18.95 or higher at £49.85 per week. Higher rate mobility component can, currently, be used for disabled individuals to hire or lease a mobility car at an affordable price.

Dr Whiteford said:

"Removal of the mobility component of disability living allowance from people in residential care is one of the cruellest cuts within the CSR, and one which will hit disabled people specifically.

"We are talking about a lifeline payment which gives people, including children at residential special schools, some independence.

"Few residential facilities provide free transport, and the component is used so that, for example, disabled people can get a taxi for essential hospital appointments, go shopping, or even just meet friends and take part in activities in their community.

"Removing this allowance is a hammer blow to people's independence as well as their pockets. It will effectively mean some people can no longer get out and about and will be confined to their residential care home.

"George Osborne needs to say whether disabled people in residential homes will now have to hand back the keys of their motability cars.

"Nobody doubts that welfare reform is necessary, but this cut by the Tories and Liberal Democrats is totally unfair and will impact on the lives of the most vulnerable in society."

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WHITEFORD CONCERNS OVER POSTAL PRIVATISATION

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

LIB-DEMS SELL-OUT OVER SELL-OFF

Commenting on publication today (Wednesday) of the Postal Services Bill, Banff & Buchan SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford expressed concern at the absence of an upper limit on how much of Royal Mail could be sold off to a private company.

Overseas firms will be among those allowed to buy 90% of the Royal Mail, with 10% going in shares to postal workers.

Speaking from Westminster, Dr Whiteford said:

“We can now see in black and white just how far the Tories and Liberal Democrats are prepared to go, with no upper limit on how much of the business can be sold-off. Even Lord Mandelson offered to insert a legislative guarantee that only 33% could be privatised.

“After following the lead of the previous Labour Government and spending months of running-down Royal Mail, Vince Cable is now talking it up in the hope of flogging it off. The wording of any prospectus should be interesting.

“The truth of the matter is that the present state of the Royal Mail has arisen because successive governments have taken money out of the company rather than investing it back into the system.

“If the company is sold off it is inconceivable that there will not be increased pressure on the Universal Service Obligation. Vince Cable has already indicated that he is prepared to reduce the six day a week service.

“The maintenance of a comprehensive mail delivery service is essential for areas like Banff & Buchan and that could best be achieved by keeping the company in public ownership. We have already seen the chaos that has overtaken the Post Office network by the rush to "liberalisation".

“A similar situation could devastate mail delivery services. The report recommending part privatisation also suggests that local sorting centres could be closed.

“Royal Mail is a vital public service and the maintenance of the universal service obligation is essential for communities and small businesses throughout Scotland. Many small businesses rely on Royal Mail and any threat to it could be disastrous at a time of recession when it is essential to support small local businesses.

"It is clear that Royal Mail requires investment, but that should be public investment for the future and to ensure a universal service.”

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MP’s PRAISE FOR WILLOWBANK PERFORMERS

Friday, 8 October 2010

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford has praised the performers who took part in the Willowbank Centre’s production of ‘The Hoose’ which took place at Peterhead Community Theatre over two days.

Dr Whiteford was part of the audience for Thursday evening’s performance which told the story down through the centuries of the buildings in Peterhead’s Threadneedle Street which are currently being renovated to provide supported accommodation. The performance was supported by the National Trust for Scotland, which is involved in the refurbishment project and involved residents, friends and staff of Willowbank.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“This was a terrific performance by everyone involved which really brought the history of Peterhead to life for all those lucky enough to get to see it.

“It was a truly inspired way to celebrate the provision of the new supported accommodation at Threadneedle Street while at the same time reminding us of the history of Peterhead and some of the characters within it.

“My congratulations go to all those involved both on stage and behind the scenes for a very enjoyable evening.”

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