Thursday, 27 November 2014
The Northern Housing Consortium recently produced a constituency profile for Hyndburn which shows the state of our housing market, and the problems which David Cameron’s Government have absolutely failed to get a grip of.
The profile – available here – makes for unfortunate reading.
The underlying income levels in the constituency, a hugely important aspect of a functioning housing market are below average for the north west at the bottom end, and we have serious levels of under-employment, with 25.9% of working-age people working less than 15 hours per week. While for some this is a choice, for many people it is not.
However the biggest failures of this Government can be seen in their central housing policies.
The profile points out that the supply of new affordable housing has fallen, noting that in the first two quarters of 2014, there were 10 homes were completed by registered providers out of a total of 30 (33.3%) in the period. This compares with 20 social homes out of 40 (50%) in the same period in 2013. It is a worrying downward trend in affordable housing.
The most concerning aspect of the Government’s record on housing in Hyndburn and in the North West is the operation of the New Homes Bonus, which seems as if it was designed to have absolutely no effect in places like ours.
The National Audit Office found that there was “little evidence” that it was have any effect on the housing supply, and most shockingly of all “has shifted cash from poor northern councils to rich areas in the south”. This something that I said would happen when this misguided policy was going through Parliament, and I am angered but not surprised by what the National Audit Office has found.
As the report says, since 2011/12, the three northern regions have been paid 19.4% of New Homes Bonus money paid to English Councils, but have brought a – much higher – 41.5% of the net empty homes back into use under the scheme. Yet another example of the way this Government has a huge southern-England bias, and has no long term plan whatsoever for people across Lancashire.
Following the Second World War, South Asian immigrants came to work in the mills and shoe factories when there was full employment. Their contribution to our community and their struggles in moving to a new country are movingly documented in Horse + Bamboo’s ‘Different Moons’ exhibition currently on at the Whitaker Museum.
I want to be clear though; it isn’t racist to talk about immigration and not just the benefits but the problems that immigration bring.
The sheer numbers of people now migrating to Britain can be unsettling and puts pressure on local services and local jobs. I am quite clear that the last Labour Government did not do enough to address people’s concerns about this issue and Ed Miliband was quick, clear and unequivocal in saying this. Not the defensive political speak we are used to hearing from politicians.
It was unforgiveable for Gordon Brown to describe Mrs Duffy as “bigoted” for expressing her point of view. Indeed, Will Straw and I have often discussed how concern about new waves of immigration are held by people from Asian, Irish and English backgrounds in Rossendale. Will himself was quick to defend the rights of the Britannia Coconut Dancers, a century old traditional Clog dancing troupe from Bacup to blacken their faces in the face of criticism political correctness.
If we are elected next year, Labour will take a different approach on both immigration and on benefits.
I am particularly concerned by employment agencies which only hire from overseas and undercut local people’s job opportunities. This is wrong and unfair. Labour will ban these agencies and put in place tougher enforcement of minimum wage laws stopping agencies who are only recruiting from abroad, or firms that are exploiting zero hours contracts or not paying the minimum wage. We will target sectors with high levels of foreign recruitment for training and apprenticeships so local workers – particularly the young unemployed – can get jobs. We will require large firms seeking to recruit migrants from outside of Europe to also offer an apprenticeship in the UK.
We will retain the cap on non-EU economic migrants and permanently close the route for low-skilled non-EU migrants. We will treble the fines for employing illegal migrants and introduce an escalator for serious offences. We will make serious exploitation a crime to prevent dodgy gangmasters exploiting migrants to undercut local jobs and wages.
Last week Labour laid out plans to get a grip of our borders with 1,000 extra enforcement staff, and tighter benefit restrictions to ensure that entitlements are earned migrants are only entitled to benefits once they have been in the UK for two years to reduce the pull factor for low skill migration that can under-cut wages. This will help restore the important principle of contribution into our welfare system and deter welfare tourism. We will work to change EU rules to stop child benefit and child tax credit from being paid to children not living in the UK. We will make sure people who come to this country learn English – and that public sector workers in public-facing roles are required to speak English.
We want to see stronger border controls to deal with illegal immigration - for example we should have proper checks on people entering and leaving the country to stop people overstaying on their visas, and stop criminals too. For the first time, people will be counted in and counted out. We will strengthen enforcement of illegal immigration, including reinstating fingerprint checks for illegal migrants at Calais.
Labour are committed to European cross border policing unlike UKIP and reluctant Tories. 4,000 foreign criminals have been deported on average within 42 days, not the 10 years it once took from outside the EU; and 500 British sex offenders including paedophiles have been identified to our UK police under EU policing powers.
Most people I know celebrate our diversity – and we mustn’t forget the benefits we all enjoy meeting different people from different backgrounds to ourselves. However it isn’t wrong or racist to have genuine concerns over immigration. The Labour Party was established to defend the economic interests of the working class and I am determined to ensure that this Labour tradition continues.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
Tuesday, 18 November 2014
But although the UK has some of the safest roads in the world, five people still lose their lives from collisions every day. Not only is each of these a personal tragedy, but they come at a huge cost to our economy too – around 2% of annual GDP in the UK.
This week thousands of children, schools and colleges, workplaces and police officers from across the country will join together to call for action in Road Safety Week. The annual campaign reminds us how much more there is to do to make Haslingden and Hyndburn a safer place to be.
The charity leading the campaign, Brake, are calling for everyone to look out for each other. We all share the road space, and all road users need to respect each other to make them safe places to be. It is not right that over two thirds of primary school children believe the roads in places like Haslingden and Hyndburn are unsafe for walking and cycling.
Sadly recent figures show that progress on road safety is at risk. In the first half of this year we have seen worrying increases in the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on the roads. It should be a wakeup call for the Government.
Progress on road safety demands strong leadership. That’s why the last Labour Government was right to make road safety a priority. There are now almost 17,000 fewer deaths or serious injuries in a year than there were in the mid-1990s.
I’m worried about the Tory-led Government’s attitude to safety. Why have they axed targets to cut deaths and serious injuries on our roads? Since 2010 they have failed to deliver improved young driver training and testing, have hiked HGV speed limits on flimsy evidence and cut the frontline police vital for traffic enforcement. The Government’s cuts have forced local councils to cut the numbers of lollipop men and women, who have helped children in Haslingden and Hyndburn get to school for over 60 years.
A Labour Government will not tolerate the relegation of road safety. We will restore targets to focus minds and efforts on progress, prioritise the most vulnerable by ‘safety proofing’ roads for pedestrians and cyclists, and take action to make HGV’s safer too.
This week I’m supporting people in Haslingden and Hyndburn to look out for each other on the roads. And I’m calling on the Government to end the complacency and commit to saving lives.
Grassroots Football: a matter of life and death?
Fresh from yet another underwhelming performance of the English national team at a World Cup Finals (as the other home nations struggle to qualify for any sort of tournament at all) and after an eye-watering £835 million has been spent by Premier League clubs during the last transfer window, amateur and grassroots football leagues up and down the country are dying because of rising costs and poor facilities, as more and more young people turn their backs away from playing our national game.
How can we improve the state of grassroots and amateur football for the long term benefit of football in this country?
How can grassroots football be saved?
Join the Houses of Parliament Outreach Service at the home of Accrington Stanley FC (‘the club that wouldn’t die’) on Friday 21st November at 7pm as we debate, discuss and seek ways to increase dialogue amongst Parliamentarians, lobbyists, campaigners and football enthusiasts about the way grassroots football is organised, governed and financed in this country.
Speakers at the event will include:
• Graham Jones MP for Hyndburn and a member of the APPG for Football,
• David Crausby MP, submitter of an e-petition about grassroots football
• Kevin Rye (Supporters Direct)
• Kenny Saunders, grassroots football campaigner and football coach
• A representative from the Football Foundation
• Other guests to be confirmed
Cost to attendThis event is free of charge.
Saturday, 15 November 2014
Energy bills have increased by a staggering £300 in the past four years. Investing in energy efficiency is the best way to keep bills down and to lift people out of fuel poverty. In our constituency there are currently 5,088 households living in fuel poverty – this is a scandal and it has to stop. That is 13.1% of the constituency – well above the North West Average and the UK Average.
This commitment to help low income and fuel poor families across Haslingden and Hyndburn will save households on average, an estimated £270. Moreover, with some of the poorest insulation and hard to treat properties in the UK, this could save householders in Haslingden and Hyndburn even more.
Under a Labour Government, at least five million homes will be made more energy efficient over the next 10 years – cutting heat loss and bills for low income families. Labour will also provide half a million personalised home energy reports a year as well as offering up to one million interest-free loans to cover the costs of energy efficiency during the next Parliament.
I recently held a debate in Parliament on the issue of energy efficiency, where I made the point that this Government's ever-changing, inconsistent and contradictory energy policies have essentially let the energy companies off the hook by no longer forcing them to pay for energy efficiency measures for households in need. I am very proud that under a Labour Government, real action will be taken.
Thursday, 6 November 2014
That’s why we in Labour have set out our plan to transform Britain by rewarding work, building more homes, raising the minimum wage, creating more apprenticeships and saving our NHS.
We’ll tackle the cost-of-living crisis by helping working families so, when the economy grows, the wages of everyday working people grow as well.
People in Haslingden and Hyndburn tell me that there are not enough high quality apprenticeships available for school-leavers. So we will give all young people a shot in life by ensuring as many school-leavers go on to apprenticeships as go to university.
For many people in our area the dream of home ownership is just that: a dream. So to meet demand for new homes, Labour will double the number of first-time buyers getting on to the housing ladder each year.
One in five British workers do the right thing and work long hours but still find themselves struggling on low pay. So the next Labour government will raise the minimum wage to £8 by 2020, a move that will put an extra £3,000 a year in the pockets of Britain’s lowest paid workers.
And we’ll create a £2.5 billion Time to Care fund to pay for 36,000 new NHS staff to save and transform our health service so it’s fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
The next Labour government will balance the books by the end of the next Parliament so the Time to Care Fund will not be paid for through more borrowing or by raising taxes on everyday working people. Instead, the money will be raised by asking those living in houses worth over £2m to pay more tax, a co-ordinated crackdown against tax avoidance, and asking the tobacco companies to contribute towards the costs they impose on the NHS.
These policies are the pillars supporting Labour’s national mission to build a new Britain that rewards everyday working people. If we work together, we have an opportunity to create the change our country so desperately needs. Let’s seize that opportunity.
Monday, 3 November 2014
This policy ended the exploitation of millions of Britain’s workers and increased productivity without job losses. But the challenge we faced 15 years ago is different to the one we face today and the one we will face in the coming years.
That’s why Ed Miliband has today announced Labour’s plan to raise the NMW to £8 an hour by 2020.
One in five British workers find themselves struggling on low pay, often relying on benefits or tax credits to top up their wage so they can simply afford the essentials, even though they often work long, hard hours. This can’t be right. If you work hard you should be able to bring up your family with dignity without relying on the taxpayer to make up the difference.
But under David Cameron and George Osborne often people are not getting the rewards because the Government’s recovery is only benefiting a privileged few.
I know people in Haslingden and Hyndburn who aren’t yet feeling the economic recovery.
So the next Labour government, working with businesses and the Low Pay Commission, will raise the NMW to £8 by 2020, a move that will put an extra £3,000 a year in the pockets of Britain’s lowest paid workers.
This is an important move that will end the scandal of five million Brits struggling to make ends meet because they are on low pay. But Labour understands that businesses need time to adjust their models to support higher wages. That’s why we will raise the NMW over the five years of the next Parliament so businesses will have enough time to plan for the long-term goal of £8 an hour by 2020.
The Tories are boasting that the economy is fixed but we’ve seen a recovery that is working just for the few. Labour’s plan for Britain’s future will ensure we become a country that rewards hard work again. That begins by guaranteeing that everyone in Britain should be able to live on the wage they earn.