Labour pledges help with rates bills

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 15/07/2014

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Labour will look to ease the burden of rates bills on low-income earners if elected in September, a Manawatu Grey Power meeting has been told.

About 20 Grey Power members met Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway and Labour's spokesperson for senior citizens Ruth Dyson yesterday.

A bone of contention for some Grey Power members was the rates rebates scheme, with some saying married pensioners did not qualify and others complaining their rebate this year, in the Manawatu District, would be only about $50.

The scheme is government-funded and subsidises a portion of the rates bill of people on low incomes.

Dyson said Labour had adjusted the scheme each year to match rising rates bills but National had not touched the payout levels since taking office.

Dyson said this was something Labour would look at if returned to office. Another move it was considering was opening up the scheme to homeowners who now lived in retirement homes, as they were not currently eligible.

Health was another big topic at yesterday's meeting, with Grey Power Manawatu president Lew Findlay shocking the meeting with two stories of people he had recently met who had lengthy waits at Palmerston North Hospital's A&E waiting room.

Findlay said he was not being critical of the staff at the hospital but something was not working.

Lees-Galloway said there were several issues at play. Health funding had not kept up with inflation and population growth under National, he said. Labour would increase funding for health and education each year to meet those factors.

"We're going to ensure our health system is appropriately funded to meet our population's needs," he said.

The cost of visiting a GP was too high, Lees-Galloway said. That meant people who should be seeing a GP were instead going to the emergency room when they did not need to and as a result clogged up the system.

"As the cost of going to the GP has risen, so has the number of avoidable admissions to hospitals, they almost go hand in hand," he said.

Dyson, a former minister for social development, was asked about Labour's plans for social welfare and unemployment. She said Labour would abandon the "punitive approach" employed by National.

"I don't think the way to help people who are asking for help from social security is to make them feel like rubbish," she said.

As an example, she said rather than forcing solo parents to find part-time work or do "meaningless" courses, Labour would look at what was best in the long term. This might mean starting with correspondence courses while the child was at home that led to higher-level education as the child grew older.

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- Manawatu Standard

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