Karen Allen

I fought South Shields at the May 2010 General Election for the Conservatives, gaining a 6.4% swing which was a 4% vote increase. The Conservatives polled 7,886 up from 5,207 in 2005. I was born in the North East and grew up in South Shields. I currently live in London and am employed as a Director at Lloyd's Broker Howden International.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Great North Run 2009

This weekend, I started my training for the BUPA Great North Run. I hope by starting my training program early – the race is on Sunday 20th September – that I’ll be in better stead. Growing up on a street, which was spitting distance from finish line, I vividly remember watching the tired but satisfied looking runners return to their cars having completed the race and always wanted to try to do the run myself one day.

So instead of putting it off for another year I thought this would be the year I enter and also I can try to raise some money for charity. I’m running for Cancer Research, so a little bit closer to the run I’ll post details on how, if you’d like to, you can sponsor me.

I’m in South Shields from Wednesday next week (April Fool’s Day!) so I’m hoping to get some good runs in along the coastline in between meetings and appointments. Now we are on British Summertime, there’s a little bit longer to run in the evenings. Watching the sunset over Tynemouth Priory as I ran across the Leas last month was quite breathtaking. So fingers crossed for some more good weather!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stay positive? I'm finding it increasingly difficult....

I think I am a pretty positive person – generally optimistic and trying to make the best in difficult situations. I am, however, very sorry to say that I am finding it extremely difficult to stay positive about the state of our economy and I am particularly struggling to find any faith that this Government has the competence to get us out of this recession as quickly as possible. You just need to look at some of the “measures” already taken – the 2.5% VAT reduction – when there are already 50-75% reductions in store, has anyone felt an additional 2.5% has made any difference whatsoever? All the Government has done is further saddle taxpayers with debt, as a £12.5bn hole is gaping in the Treasury coffers.

So you could say I read the David Miliband interview in last week's Gazette with some amazement and frankly disbelief.


I’m glad to hear Mr Miliband wants to "help small businesses [and] not put obstacles in their way," but instead of giving us these soundbites we want to see actions to this effect. The UK’s unemployment is rising faster than most other European countries and I this is not down to bad luck. This Government is not doing anything to stop job haemorrhaging, so for goodness sake, Mr Miliband, can you please remove from your website you are delighted “that unemployment in South Tyneside has fallen consistently since 1997.”


So, I’ll say it again, but not to be a gloom merchant, but because I am facing facts and I am deeply concerned. I can't be positive about what's happening in South Shields. I want to see more done, because I just don't believe this Government is giving businesses the best possible chance to get through the recession.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Get Rid of Labour Form Filling for Small Business Rate Relief

As reported in the Gazette today


Small business rate relief was introduced in 2005, allowing small firms to claim up to 50 per cent off their business rate bills. However, firms have to fill out paperwork to claim the rate relief, despite the fact that Whitehall’s tax inspectors know precisely which firms are eligible for it.

· According to the most recent figures, 977 firms claimed small business rate relief in South Tyneside.

· The Local Government Association has estimated that some 870,000 firms are eligible for the rebate nationally but less than half have claimed. It is estimated 31% of businesses in South Tyneside who are eligible for the relief have not taken it up.

· By contrast, in Wales, small business rate relief has been automatic since 2007.

After rent and staff, business rates are typically the next biggest cost to local firms. Business experts have warned that 32,300 businesses will fail in 2009. Firms face a hammering this April from the Government thanks to soaring business rates:

· Business rates are to rise by 5.0 per cent in April 2009, despite RPI inflation forecast to be negative this year, due to a statistical quirk in the way business rate rises are calculated.

· Transitional relief from the 2005 business rates revaluation has expired, pushing up bills further for many firms in April 2009.

· The Government has slashed rate relief on empty properties. As the recession bites, firms are unable to rent out vacant property, and have to pay rates in full without any income from rent.

· Firms located within ports across the country face a further blow, as the Government is imposing retrospective hikes on ports firms’ bills, backdated to 2005.

Small shops and businesses across South Tyneside are facing tough times in Labour’s recession. These firms, from our corner shops to local pubs, are the lifeblood of our local community. A responsible government would do more to help them. Yet Gordon Brown is making it as difficult for small firms to claim the tax relief to which they are entitled. He is compounding their misery by finding new ways to drive up business rates by stealth and we can see King St demising even further. The neglect and lack of investment into our town centre is a disgrace.

Conservative proposal would ensure that small firms automatically receive rate relief, cutting their paperwork and tax bills and giving many of them a fighting chance to stay afloat.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Soviet State

I only need to do a quick survey amongst my friends and family to establish that the Public Sector is the biggest employer in the North East. A staggering 66.4% of jobs in the North East are in the Public Sector. This figure is up from 58.7% in 2005 and 53.8% in 1997 when Labour came to power.

Theresa May, Shadow Works and Pensions Secretary said:

“Labour has failed to encourage private sector investment across the country. Instead of supporting enterprise and small businesses, Gordon Brown has used the public sector to cover up his failures.”

It is frightening that state now looms far larger in many parts of Britain than it did in former Soviet states such as Hungary and Slovakia as they emerged from communism in the 1990s, when state spending accounted for about 60% of their economies.

The large-scale layoffs seen at Northern Rock (1,500 jobs lost) and Nissan announcing three weeks ago that it was to cut its workforce in Sunderland by 1,200, will mean an increase in benefits payements. Those who are finding new jobs are finding jobs in the public sector, according to One North East, the state development agency. One of the biggest public sector employers in the northeast is the Department of Work and Pensions, which employs 13,400 there, hundreds of them in jobcentres. My brother is working for the DWP in Washington and frankly some of the stories he has told me - which I did relay to Chris Grayling when he was Shadow Minister for Works and Pension - of the waste and actual overfunding in the sector appalled me.

We need to find ways to cultivate new and small businesses in the North East, the Labour Party has done nothing to help small businesses. All they have done is increase bureaucracy and "hand out" culture. Conservatives have pledged to scrap form filling rebates available for small businesses, to try to give our businesses the support they need at this very difficult time.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Full House

What with everything seeming all a bit doom and gloom at the moment, I thought it might be an idea to engage in something a little bit more social – so I thought of popping down to the Mecca Bingo on Dean Road.

Bingo Halls have long been a form of entertainment and an important social hub for many people – particularly for the elderly - who might not otherwise get out as often and have the chance to socialise. In the last two years over 50 clubs have closed across the country and a major contributing factor to the industry’s demise has been certainly been Labour’s imposition of a system of ‘double taxation’ in 2005. Labour introduced new regulations – yes, yet another Bill in their infinite wisdom – which meant bingo revenue is subject to the payment of both 15% VAT and 15% gross profits tax. No other form of gambling or leisure industry in the UK is subject to a comparable regime.

Unless the Government reforms bingo taxation, clubs will close, thousands of people who work in the clubs will be left unemployed, millions of customers will suffer the loss of an important social amenity and British taxpayers will be left to foot the bill for the loss of bingo's substantial contribution to the economy.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Cross Party Consultation

I thought it would be both interesting and perhaps useful to engage or at least introduce myself to some of my Labour colleagues. So when I heard a North Eastern voice in the Sports and Social bar in the House of Commons a couple of months ago, I was only too keen and eager to go over and introduce myself to Jarrow’s MP, Stephen Hepburn, MP and talk about some of the issues in the region.

We were both in strong agreement that it was a disgrace the A1 upgrade had been degraded to of regional significance rather than of National Importance and of course Mr Hepburn was also in agreement that the lack of investment prohibiting future employment in the region was likewise a disgrace. It’s such a shame therefore that before Mr Hepburn had even had the chance to meet with Secretary of State for Defense, the work which looked promised to A&P was awarded a yard on the Clyde. To have been given a £75m slice of the £2bn contract is a huge disappointment for the region – the apprenticeships and jobs that contract would have brought to the Tyne would have been such a boast for South Tyneside.

Also, just thought I’d mention in case Mr Hepburn is reading, the £25m awarded to my old school, Harton, isn’t to build a rocket - it’s for a sixth form and other improvements. Check out the school’s website www.harton-tc.co.uk. Let’s just hope the work still goes ahead though and doesn’t’ become another promised PFI project which is cancelled or delayed.

I haven’t had the pleasure yet of meeting Mr Miliband. I have offered to buy him lunch but he hasn’t got back to me. I am sure he responds to his constituents more timely. I guess he’s busy in India or somewhere…. I must drop him another line....