Last Saturday I was invited to meet with Unite members from Yorkshire and the North East to discuss the cuts to local government and devolution.
Local councils are being forced to make cuts because of Tory government policy and I spoke about the damage these cuts are having in the North of England. Labour is strongly opposing these cuts. Labour councils are also working very hard to try to protect the people they represent and we all should commend them in this difficult task.
The reality on the ground is that councillors now find themselves in a horrible position whereby they are being forced to cut the services that they were elected to protect.
Some people have advocated the setting of illegal budgets. Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and I released a letter on this topic before Christmas. In it we said that under the 1992 Local Government Act councils have to set legal budgets. If a council fails to set a legal budget, senior council officers have a legal duty to make cuts regardless of the position of elected councillors. We feel that this would be a far worse outcome than Labour councillors deciding the priorities difficult though this is.
I believe that what Labour and unions such as Unite should be doing is highlighting and challenging the impact that these cuts are having on people. I’m pleased that I left Saturday’s meeting with an agreement to continue to work with local unions to build a wide movement against austerity and more cuts.
The union members I spoke to argued strongly that George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse was not real devolution. If we are not careful it will just delegate cuts rather than the devolution of meaningful power. Labour council leaders have a difficult job to do in negotiating what concessions they can get from government. Labour Groups have to decide on whether or not to sign up to devolution deals. Weighing up carefully whether or not it’s in the interests of local people to do so.
Ultimately George Osborne's Devolution settlement will not endure. Our responsibility as a Party is to come up with a better plan which will devolve real power to the North and unlock the region’s economic, social and cultural potential.
I enjoyed the meeting on Saturday. I believe in the work that unions carry out so it’s always a great honour to be invited to speak at such an event. As representatives of workers, trade unions see the impact this government’s policies are having on a daily basis. I will try and do my best to represent those concerns in parliament.
Last Saturday I was invited to meet with Unite members from Yorkshire and the North East to discuss the cuts to local government and devolution. Local councils are being forced...
On Friday I met residents of Havercroft and Ryhill to discuss the problems they are having with bus services in the area, along with Councillors Maureen Cummings, Faith Heptinstall and assistance from Albert Manifield. I was informed that Arriva have readjusted their 193, 194, 195 and 196 routes from Havercroft and Ryhill missing out Cow Lane which has left workers, shoppers and schoolchildren stranded.
I was told of one elderly man who has fallen twice in the middle of the road because he’s been forced to walk all the way to the end of the village to catch the bus. This is unacceptable and shows the desperate need for a replacement route through the villages.
We discussed the residents’ concerns with a representative from Metro who agreed that, while Arriva maintain the route is not commercially viable, there is a social need for a replacement route and would look into putting out a contract for such a service.
It is clear that this issue is affecting the everyday lives of many people in the area; our residents rely on bus services with an average of 65 journeys per head per year in the Yorkshire area.
Whether it be workers having to walk an hour down country lanes to get to work or elderly residents being forced to walk to the other end of the village, the reduction of bus subsides by 27% since 2010 is clearly undermining the social and economic activity of this area.
It is yet another example of how Government policy is making life more and more difficult for our communities.
On Friday I met residents of Havercroft and Ryhill to discuss the problems they are having with bus services in the area, along with Councillors Maureen Cummings, Faith Heptinstall and...
I’m very pleased to hear that Wakefield Council have announced they will extend the lease for the Squires Tea Room at the Anglers Country Park.
The full credit should go to the many people who wrote, emailed and protested against the closure of this facility. Having spoken to many of my constituents, I appreciate how strongly the community feel about the Tea Rooms and it is their passionate campaign that contributed greatly towards its continuation.
I understand that Wakefield Council will be working with Mr Davey, at the Tea Rooms, to develop plans to further improve the country park for all users. Hopefully this fantastic community attraction will only continue to grow in popularity going forward.
I’m very pleased to hear that Wakefield Council have announced they will extend the lease for the Squires Tea Room at the Anglers Country Park. The full credit should go...
Asking questions today in the House to the government Jon Trickett raised the recent ONS (Office for National Statistics) report on the economic gap between the North and South. The report showed that the North and South economic gap is widening.
Jon Trickett said:
“The ONS recently reported that the North and South economic gap is widening. Londoners produced about £42000 each, whilst in North East it is less than half at £18000 per person.
This is due to the continued underinvestment in the North.”
He went on to ask the government:
“In the place of more cuts will the Minister now include specific, substantial and urgent Northern investment in his local government settlement later this week?”
However, the government failed to address the inequality and economic imbalance that is seen in the North of England.
Asking questions today in the House to the government Jon Trickett raised the recent ONS (Office for National Statistics) report on the economic gap between the North and South. The...
Today I will be voting against the Tories’ Trade Union Bill which is an uncompromising, undemocratic attack on the freedom and rights of workers.
It will fundamentally undermine the balance between workers and employees, causing more industrial unrest in the future.
Below are just few examples how the Act will impact the workplace:
- Agency workers will be allowed to replace striking workers. This undermines the workers’ ability to negotiate, but, furthermore, poses serious health and safety concerns regarding inexperienced replacement workers.
- In some public services (fire, health, education, etc), 50% of members must turn out to vote for strike action and 40% of the entire membership must vote in favour. This threshold is incredibly high compared to most other organisations, including the Tory Party for selecting their mayoral candidate. If the Government is serious about promoting democracy within the trade union movement they should secure electronic and workplace ballots.
- All public sector employers will have to publish information on the cost of time off for union reps, plus a breakdown of what facility time is used for – collective bargaining, representing members in grievances or disciplinary action, or running training programmes. This change will hamper the ability of employers to invest in good relations with their employees and add more red tape to trade unions when they should be focused on representing their members.
The Government are claiming these are moderate changes, but it is clear they have the potential to undermine our human rights. Instead of eroding the role of trade unions and alienating millions of workers, I call on the Government to work towards creating a harmonious relationship between employer and employee. Only by respecting the interests of both parties can we achieve the vital balance our economy needs.
Today I will be voting against the Tories’ Trade Union Bill which is an uncompromising, undemocratic attack on the freedom and rights of workers. It will fundamentally undermine the balance...
Tax Credits were introduced by the Labour Party to support families in work. For many low income families in my constituency, they have been the thin line between security and poverty.
However, the Tories’ cuts puts thousands of people in this area, and millions across the UK, at real risk of financial hardship. It is estimated that 58% of families in my constituency receive tax credits; who will be pushed further towards the breadline.
In addition, it is inevitable that these cuts will increase child poverty. Around 63% of children in Hemsworth are in families that receive tax credits. I’ve spoken to many parents in my constituency who tell me they do not know how they will be able to afford the bills if the Tories go ahead with their cuts.
Despite Cameron’s claims that the living wage will offset these cuts, the Institute of Fiscal Studies has produced a report which indicates the average family will overall be around £1,300 a year worse off.
This is the politics of planned poverty and food banks. We must not accept this injustice and that is why I am launching a campaign in Hemsworth to call on David Cameron to stop the tax credit cut.
I urge you to sign our petition at www.labour.org.uk/taxcredits and get involved with our campaigning.
Tax Credits were introduced by the Labour Party to support families in work. For many low income families in my constituency, they have been the thin line between security and...
The Sutton Trust has published a Mobility Map which measures social mobility through education across the country. Their study shows that the prospects of young people in the Hemsworth constituency are fundamentally lower.
Hemsworth ranks as follows among the 533 parliamentary constituencies in England:
- Performance of disadvantaged pupils in early years tests: 308 out of 533
- Performance of disadvantaged pupils in Key Stage 2 tests: 456 out of 533
- Performance of disadvantaged pupils at GCSE: 354 out of 533
- Progress of non-privileged/disadvantaged pupils to universities: - out of 533
- Progress of non-privileged graduates to professional occupations: 303 out of 533
- Overall: 478 out of 533
This is represents another example of how the Tories are leaving the North behind and another generation disadvantaged by their place of birth. In 21st century Britain, anyone should be able to fulfil their true potential regardless of where they are from.
At a time when Tories cuts are undermining all public services, it is clear that we need to support the work of the Sutton Trust in highlighting this systemic injustice and promoting the need for greater investment in education.
The Sutton Trust has published a Mobility Map which measures social mobility through education across the country. Their study shows that the prospects of young people in the Hemsworth constituency...
David Cameron’s comments before his speech in Leeds today show what he really thinks of us here in Yorkshire.
The comment, which came from the Prime Minister when he thought the microphones were off, was: “We just thought people in Yorkshire hated everyone else, we didn’t realise they hate each other.”
Some may think it was just an off the cuff comment, but I think it reveals something deeply troubling about our Prime Minister’s attitude to over 5 million Britons.
Yorkshire has been hit hard by this government and has been consistently left behind by economic and social policy. Average incomes are way below the national average, child poverty is higher and GDP per head is lagging behind.
It is simply not acceptable that a Prime Minister who claims to believe in “one nation” can consign an entire region of this country to such derogatory remarks.
I have people coming into my office every week who are feeling the horrendous impact of this government. And I tell you something Mr Cameron, we don’t turn people away, we don’t hate each other or anyone else. We embrace people and we live by values of solidarity and compassion. We also like a good joke, but yours isn’t very funny.
David Cameron’s comments before his speech in Leeds today show what he really thinks of us here in Yorkshire. The comment, which came from the Prime Minister when he thought...
Zero-hour contracts represent everything that is wrong with Tory Britain; insecurity and exploitation disguised as flexibility and economic necessity.
It has been announced that the number of people on zero-hour contacts has risen to 1.5 million. These contracts were intended to be used as an exception, to help small businesses, but instead they have become the norm.
The next time someone supports zero-hour contracts by claiming that workers like their flexibility, I challenge them to meet one of the many constituents of mine that are trying to survive from month to month because they don’t know how many hours of work they’re going to get. Not knowing whether they’ll be able to pay the rent or buy food.
I have met many people on zero-hour contracts and they have explained to me the everyday cost of having no guaranteed work. It means that they cannot plan ahead. People cannot think about owning their own home because they don’t have a guaranteed income and are refused a mortgage. It means that they have to wait until two o’clock in the morning to see if they’ve been given any hours.
The Tories are turning back the clock in terms of worker’s rights and this is a prime example. It reveals what they really are; the enemies of hard-work, aspiration and stability.
Zero-hour contracts represent everything that is wrong with Tory Britain; insecurity and exploitation disguised as flexibility and economic necessity. It has been announced that the number of people on zero-hour...
On Saturday I addressed a rally of Jeremy Corbyn supporters in Sheffield.
The event was enormous and very enthusiastic. I first attended a meeting of the Labour party in 1969. In the intervening years I must have been to thousands of such meetings. But the meeting in Sheffield was not like any one I have ever been to before.
Labour’s leadership contest has shown that there is a huge appetite for a new form of politics. Many people in the country feel that we cannot go on in the same old way.
But big political change is never achieved by single leaders on their own. Only when tens thousands of people come together in a common movement does change happen. It is now apparent that there are indeed tens of thousands who want Labour to renew itself by returning to our true values of community, social justice, decency, dislike of inequality and so on.
True Labour values will not accept a social order where the millionaires are rewarded whilst there a millions who are left behind.
The Tories will always look after the richest 1%. It is Labour’s task to represent the rest. Both the poorest in our country but also the millions on middle incomes who are finding it more difficult to manage household budgets as austerity continues to bite.
It is Labour’s task too to ensure that everyone has a chance to achieve their dreams rather than, as at present, inhabit a country which too often puts a cap on our ability to make progress.
The purpose of my speech was to launch a new organisation: Northern Futures.
A part of what is wrong with our country is the way that some regions have been left struggling. A country which truly believes in social justice, strong communities and fair treatment for all must not condemn whole areas to being left behind.
The North – which was the engine room of our national prosperity for so many decades – has been left decisively weakened by a triple whammy
- De-industrialisation which was the Thatcher government’s lasting legacy has left many parts of the North stripped of productive economic activity
- Centralisation of power in the Cities of London and Westminster means that the key decision-makers have often had little regard for Britain’s regions
- Austerity, which forced the real people of our country to pay off the debts of the bankers through lower incomes and reduced public services, added a further vicious twist to the North’s difficulties.
The North is a vast area covering millions of people, far bigger than many countries in Europe. We are being left behind in the global economy. An area which has lost its primary economic purpose and which has yet to find a new role, inevitably finds its sense of morale, identity and direction all impaired.
Our infrastructure is weak. Investment has been lacking. Our businesses are not as profitable as they need to be. Communities have been damaged, and there has been an unacceptable spread of low pay, part time and temporary working, agency labour etc.
But the people of the North retain strong values of hard work, fairness, solidarity, and caring for one another. These are the values which regions like the North of England gave to the Labour Party. And these are the values which require us to stand by the area.
The Tories will never address these issues. Osborne’s concern for the North is entirely synthetic. His proposals amount to a pretence to be interested but in reality to hand over responsibility for cutting services to Labour councils so that they are seen to be to blame.
Look at the figures. It is estimated that London received 24 times as much expenditure on transport as the North East, and created 6 times as many new jobs as were created in the North East. This is not to say that we should be against the growth and investment in our country’s capital. But fairness demands that similar efforts are made elsewhere.
In the place of a Tory agenda of delegating cuts to Labour’s Northern Councils, we need a policy of determined devolution of real power and authority.
But we cannot rely on a handful of Leaders at the top to bring about the renewal of the North. Instead we need a real political movement. This is the task of the new organisation. Northern Futures is intended to bring forward a multitude of northern voices as part of a pathway to a new settlement.
We are unashamedly campaigning for new way of governing Britain based on four principles. Rejection of austerity. Renewal of our democracy, but on a new basis. Rebalancing our regions. Regenerating our economy.
For well over a century the North has stood by the Labour party. Now the Labour party must stand by the North.
We can make it happen.
If you agree, please join us.
On Saturday I addressed a rally of Jeremy Corbyn supporters in Sheffield. The event was enormous and very enthusiastic. I first attended a meeting of the Labour party in 1969....