Thursday, 29 December 2011

Why the governments new metal theft initiative needed more thought

Today I did an interview broadcast on Sky News on metal theft

Next week the government will begin its £5m scheme to tackle metal theft aimed at making it easier to trace sellers. 

The new scheme will be trialled in North East England from January 3, under which people selling scrap metal to dealers will have to provide proof of identity, supported with a utility bill.

Police said they hoped the estimated 240 scrap metal dealers in Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland will sign up to the six-month trial, codenamed operation Tornado.

It's all well meaning but a number of flaws need to be highlighted.

- This is a voluntary scheme. Why would one of the unregistered 900 scrap metal dealers join this scheme? Why would a dealer knowingly  receiving stolen scrap metal join up? Why would a scrap steal thief go to a registered dealer? 

- The idea of identity is important but most of the good dealers already do this as a matter of good practice. The problem they face is contamination from dubious dealers able to remove the identity of stolen material.

-this trial does not include cashless payments which is worrying and goes against the governments prince argument of traceability.

- the 6 month trial, operation Tornado will now end on the 3rd of July with time thereafter for analysis. The Olympics are in July. Are the government going to delay legislation or pass legislation without knowing the results of this pilot? Dithering and confusion seems to exist and in times of austerity can this £5m be justified considering it is not a complex issue and has precedent in new legislation in Belgium, Bulgaria and France as well as many states in the US.

- it fails to join up HMRC and the EA as well as local government, all whom have an important role in the future regulation and tax revenues.

Monday, 19 December 2011

My Private Members Bill takes another step forward

Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): Metal theft is a scourge across the entire country and yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Chris Kelly) and I met the Minister responsible at the Home Office, Lord Henley, and found much agreement with the provisions in the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones), which has widespread cross-party support. Will my right hon. Friend ask the Home Secretary for a statement on this subject as a matter of urgency when the House returns in January?

Sir George Young: I think I am right in saying that there was an exchange on metal theft during Home Office questions on Monday. I can confirm that we are considering a range of measures, which include banning cash payments, supporting scrap metal dealers in identifying stolen metal and seeing how we can make it more difficult to steal such types of metals. We are also working with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the British Transport police have set up a new unit, but I will pass on my hon. Friend’s suggestion that we reconsider the (Graham Jones's) private Member’s Bill to see whether we can make swift progress.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Supporting the Warm Homes Campaign

The Warm Homes Campaign is a national campaign run by the UKs leading fuel poverty charity National Energy Action to raise awareness of fuel poverty and the issues surrounding living in a cold home.

This year has seen energy prices rise to record levels and the number of fuel poor households in the UK is now over 6.6 million. Over 29% of households in Hyndburn are struggling to heat their homes.

No-one should be dying of the cold in this country. I want to work with groups and individuals within my constituency to help them access the support available to insulate homes and reduce energy bills.

The Warm Homes Campaign highlights that there are still millions of people who are simply struggling to keep their homes warm and protect their families from the ill effects of the cold. Fuel-poor households experience a number of detrimental health impacts and reductions in general wellbeing as a result of cold, damp living conditions. Whilst this is unacceptable, the campaign also demonstrates how help is available. It also underlines how important it is that future government schemes are able to target support for the most vulnerable households effectively.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

PMQs and a Government running out of steam

Following several weeks of non prime ministerial PMQs and a Government running out of steam questions have to be asked about Mr Cameron.

If Ed Miliband is so bad, how is it that Mr Cameron loses more than he wins. He offers up windbag answers and when struggling, which is often, rants on about Labour making I up as he goes. His jokes are wooden and he has lost his temper so many times I have lost count. It's got so bad that Tory whips have 'cheer now' boards.

Private tenants 'let down' by unregulated lettings market - new report

Tenants are being let down by an unregulated lettings market, with significant upfront costs, variable fees and a lack of transparency around charges, according to a new report published today by the Resolution Foundation.

In a mystery shopping exercise of letting agents in three cities carried out by the think-tank, the range and type of fees charged varied significantly; for example, administrative fees ranged from £95 to £375.

Total upfront costs (including deposit, admin fees and rent in advance) for a one bed property in London were £2,166, around double those in Manchester (£1,028) and Gloucester (£1,094).


Labour understands the problems people face in the Private Rented Sector and will regulate

Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey has stated that a Labour Government's intention is to regulate the private rented sector (PRS) after he said the abuse of tenants shown in Channel 4's Landlords from Hell programme was 'truly shocking'.

The programme - which uncovered families sent by councils to live in filthy, bed bug-infested homes - aired on Monday night.

I have worked with Jack on a number of housing issues including this the PRS and he is committed to fairness and the right to a decent home before profit.

This week as labour'[s shadow housing minister: “The abuse of tenants that was highlighted in “Landlords from Hell” was truly shocking. Rather than taking decisive action to tackle bad landlords, this out of touch Government has labelled protections for tenants as “red tape”.

“More and more people live in privately rented homes. New research shows that rents are soaring and a growing amount of tenants face abuse. Labour introduced a national register of landlords, regulation of letting and managing agents and compulsory written tenancy agreements, all scrapped by Grant Shapps.

“Labour policy is to regulate the Private Rented Sector to drive standards up and rogue landlords out, protecting tenants and the many reputable landlords.”

Thursday, 8 December 2011

One Planet, Accrington - Community Film

One Planet community shop in Accrington, along with Huckleberry Films have with some of the local people who supply goods to the shop, have created a film documenting their work, showing the processes behind it. It interviews local people about why they like to choose local produce, and the benefits that shopping local can have.

This project has been commissioned by the One Planet shop, a community benefit co-operative in Accrington which sells a wide range of organic, Fairtrade and local products. One Planet is based on six defining principles: local, ethical, sustainable, Fairtrade, natural wellbeing and innovative.

The shop was set up by volunteers who raised £15,000 in shares from local people. For more information about One Planet please call into the shop: One Planet, 54 Abbey Street, Accrington, BB5 1EE, or visit

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

R3 report on Payday Loans

Insolvency trade body R3 has today released a report into payday loans, featured on the Today Programme (clip).
Key findings include:
  • 3.5 million adults are considering taking out a payday loan over the next six months
  • Of those sampled who took out a payday loan, 60% regret the decision and 48% believe the loan has made their financial situation worse
  • Only 13% believe their payday loan had a positive impact on their finances
  • One in six UK adults are only able to pay the interest on their debt rather than paying off the debt itself, so-called ‘zombies’
  • The highest ever levels of concern over debt were recorded this quarter - 60% of individuals are worried about their debt levels

Monday, 5 December 2011

Why the New Homes Bonus is outrageously unfair to the North and East Lancashire

The average amount allocated to each region is £47,900,897. However, the North West which has chronic housing problems is to receive a total of £37,114,439; a full £10.8 million less than the average regional allocation.

If we break this down further and look at the funding which has been allocated for the five local authorities of East Lancashire, we can see an even meaner picture emerge.

East Lancashire:
  • · Rossendale £217,111
  • · Blackburn with Darwen £323,533
  • · Hyndburn £115,313
  • · Burnley £83,442
  • · Ribble Valley £167,234
Total: £906,663

The entire historical region of East Lancashire is collectively receiving only £906,663; which is miniscule when you bear in mind that there are over 100 local authorities which are receiving between £1-10million just for themselves. The entire Pennine Lancashire region is not receiving as much as nearby Lancashire authority Rochdale BC is receiving just for itself. That is not to say that Rochdale does not deserve this money – just that East Lancashire clearly deserves more.

Hyndburn and Burnley fare particularly badly, receiving only £115,313 and £83,442 respectively, putting them both in the bottom six recipients of New Home Bonus funding (See below).

Losers (those LAs receiving less than £150,000)
1. Isles of Scilly - £22,920
2. Copeland BC - £33,446 (National Park)
3. South Lakeland DC - £74,306 (National Park)
4. Oadby and Wigston BC - £78,776
5. Burnley BC - £83,442
6. Hyndburn BC - £115,313
7. Allerdale BC - £100, 138 (National Park)
8. High Peak BC - £147,406 (National Park)
Winners (those LAs receiving over £5m)
1. Tower Hamlets - £10,109,809
2. Birmingham City Council - £7,416,103
3. Islington Council - £5,680,167
4. Leeds City Council - £5,472,579
5. Southwark Council– £5,181,792
6. Cornwall Council - £5,132,877

Jon Snow uncovers more housing scandals in the latest edition of Dispatches tonight on Channel 4

Jon Snow uncovers more housing scandals in the latest edition of Dispatches tonight on Channel 4 at 20:30 as part of ‘The Great British Property Scandal’ series, which will be screening throughout this week. We urge you to watch live or catch up later at this link.

The hard hitting documentary will highlight some appalling housing conditions and looks at the growing concern around the housing options in place for vulnerable families.

Shelter is committed to working with elected representatives to help alleviate the distress highlighted in tonight’s documentary.

We have been calling on the government to increase the supply of truly affordable housing, as well as provide greater protection for homeless households by ensuring they are not placed in dangerous or unsuitable private rented sector housing. MPs can help with these efforts by maintaining the momentum of our campaign for greater action on tackling rogue landlords, through parliamentary questions and debates.

Shelter is also asking MPs to check their local council’s homelessness policies to ensure that families in their constituency are not being placed in unsuitable accommodation.

On a local level Shelter has been working with councils to promote robust accreditation schemes, to help ensure residents do not fall victim of rogue landlords. If you want to know more about how your local council can crack down on this problem, please read our briefing: Asserting authority: calling time on rogue landlords.

Should anyone in Hyndburn have housing problems please do not hesistate tto contact me or Shelter’s advice services.

Friday, 2 December 2011

More New Homes Bonus misery for East Lancashire

The Governments relentless drive to cut local government, and to cut it even further in the North transferring resources to the south goes on unabated.

The Tories simply don't care about the North. This weeks announcements on New Homes Bonus funding to Hyndburn and Rossendale and indicate there has been no change to the rise in the rich south at the expense of the North.

Last year Hyndburn received £62,942 in its first year allocation of The New Homes Bonus, the 11th lowest from 354 local authorities. This year that has been reduced to just  £52,371.

Last year Rossendale Council received £102,472 rising this year by a small amount to £114,639.

What the Tories don't get is less local funding for Council's in the North - where it must be said there are greater problems and pressures on local Councils -  means local Council's have to reduce grants to charities, voluntary groups and if you are listening Mr Cameron, your Big Society.

The gap is widening at huge rate and the New Homes Bonus is one of the problems, not one of the solutions.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Dangerous legal highs available in local shops?

This letter has been edited for confidentiality. It highlights the fact that legal highs, in this case 'Black Mamba' are dangerous and apparently on open sale locally.

I think it is important to warn people of the dangers of the lunacy of drugs, legal highs and other concocted chemicals made up in 'back street' premises by greedy, ruthless, uncaring gangs. 

People involved in providing drugs are the lowest of the low. Lacking intelligence, compassion or both they fail to understand the misery caused by this industry, both in the foreign fields where democracy is often replaced by violence or death; and on the their own doorstep where families suffer the horrors of addiction, broken homes, wasted youth, ill health and early death.

Dear Graham,

My family have recently have had a terrible experience due to a legal substance known as 'Black Mamba'. I feel very strongly that you should be aware of the effects of this substance and request that it be classified as a controlled substance.

On Friday 26th November our 17 year old son went to a friend's house party in Accrington, he was offered a smoke of a substance and was told that it was legal. As it was legal my son decided to try it and had 1 inhalation. Immediately he started to have very strong effects, his perceptions altered, he felt he needed to grip hold of something tangible to make sure he was holding on to the real world. 

At one point he was bent over with his hands immersed in soil in the friend's garden, he said he was hallucination and it was hugely overwhelming for him. His limbs became very rigid and he could not walk or move unaided. 

He stopped talking and was in a barely conscious state. His body temperature reduced dramatically and his skin colour became grey/green. 

His friend then called me and told me how unwell my son had become. All these events occurred within 30 minutes. My husband and I then immediately took our son to the hospital, I cannot praise the hospital staff enough as they were so helpful, understanding and non judgemental. They had not had a patient before who had smoked this substance so were a little unsure what to do for the best. After a sugary hot drink, wrapping him up in blankets he started to vomit.

After this he started to come round. He was kept in hospital overnight for observations and then was discharged. He has not suffered any adverse effect since apart from embarrassment and being grounded for being so stupid as to put an unknown substance in his body.

I have contacted Trading Standards as legal highs are available from shops locally.  I have contacted my Community Police Team also to inform them about our experience as they may be able to warn and help others. I have also contacted the Health Minister.

I think that the effects are so strong and adverse that it should not be freely available. My husband and I have been researching the substance; 7 teenagers had to receive medical attention in Cumbria recently due to the effects of Black Mamba. There may well be many others who are not able to get to hospital or their friends are too afraid to get help.

Thank you for taking the time to read this but I felt that it is an important issue and needs action taking on it.

Constituent, Accrington

Osborne's £5million task force won't stop metal theft.

Yesterday in his Autumn statement, the Chancellor announced the creation of a £5 million task force to tackle metal theft. It is just a sticking plaster.

While I welcome the fact that metal theft is at least on the Government’s radar, they still shows an apparent unwillingness to legislate and seriously tackle this problem.

Stretching the British Transport Police isn’t going to solve the problem of metal theft, and £5million though nothing to sniff at, isn’t going to scratch the surface of this plague.

It's hurting but it's not working - Osborne set to borrow £158 billion more

Yesteday was judgement day for David Cameron and George Osborne.

After a year and a half in government, we now know that their reckless gamble with our economy had catastrophically backfired.

With prices rising and unemployment soaring families, pensioners and businesses already know it’s hurting.

And with billions more borrowing than planned to pay for rising unemployment, today we find out the truth - it’s just not working.

Click here to share Labour’s alternative

The Government’s independent budget watchdog said today that the Government will break its promise to balance the books by the time of the general election.

George Osborne is now set to borrow £158 billion more than planned a year ago – the bill for the economic failure, higher unemployment and bigger benefits bill his failed plan has created. And it means £37 billion more borrowing in future years than the OBR’s verdict on the more balanced plan Labour set out before the election and this Government ripped up.

As we warned, trying to cut spending and raise taxes further and faster has been utterly self-defeating.

It didn’t have to be this way. Yesterday was an opportunity for the Government to change course and adopt Labour’s five point plan for jobs.

But instead David Cameron and George Osborne are clinging on to a failing plan – and they’re so out of touch they have decided to hit families hard by cutting tax credits, while refusing to repeat the bank bonus tax as Labour has called for.

Today, we need to show people there is an alternative. Click here to share Labour’s five point plan for jobs

George Osborne should listen not just to Labour but also to the IMF and change course now. Labour’s five point plan for jobs would not fix things overnight – but it is a better way to help hard-pressed families, create jobs and support small businesses. And by getting our economy moving again, it will also help to get the deficit down – and do so in a fair way. Because it cannot be right to borrow tens of billions of pounds to keep people on the dole, when we could be investing to get people back to work.

Protecting our economy, businesses, jobs and family finances is more important than trying to protect a failed plan.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Congratulations to Labour Councillors in Hyndburn

Tomorrow DCLG will announce that Hyndburn's Labour Council has been successful in bidding for the full £2.35million it bid for from the Government's exit HMR fund (Transitional Relief Fund).

I know it's been a very demanding for Councillor Clare Pritchard the Cabinet member and the Leader, Miles Parkinson. I have led a Parliamentary campaign here in Westminster with the Housing Minister and his officials to add weight to the enormity of the housing issue in Hyndburn and the parlous state the Council's accounts were left in.

6 HMR areas were asked to bid for a total of £30million with bids totalling a far higher figure of £44million. For Hyndburn to receive it's full amount which I believe is higher than comparable Councils across East Lancashire is testament to the hard work the new Labour Council have put in.

Picking up from the chaos left by the last Conservative administration has been an enormous challenge. £2.6million promised to Woodnook that did not exist. £2.4m of unfunded legal commitments in West Accrington that would have seen the Council in effect made bankrupt and £2m promised to the townships.

The £2m townships fund and other small funds have been corralled together to meet the governments demand for match funding of any Transitional Relief to total £2.35million.

That with the Governments £2.35m should pay off the legal commitments in West Accrington, pay of any shortfall in the purchase of properties around Augusta Street, and allow the Council to complete a small programme in Woodnook.


Graham Jones MP Welcomes hard-won £2.35m HMR Transitional Relief Money for Hyndburn

Following a year of campaigning, Graham Jones MP has welcomed the news that Hyndburn Borough Council is to receive the full amount of funding from the Government HMR exit fund – officially known as the Transitional Relief Fund.
“This has come as the result of 12 months hard work. I have led a Parliamentary campaign here in Westminster to add weight to the campaigning which has been led by Labour Councillors in Hyndburn. The fact we are to receive the full £2.35 million we bid for shows that we have gone some way to making the Housing Minister and his officials properly recognise the size of the housing problem in Hyndburn.”
6 Housing Market Renewal (HMR) areas were in competition for a total of £30 million in Transitional Relief Funding, with total combined bidding in the end reaching £44 million. Hyndburn Council successfully received the full £2.35 million which it asked for. Graham said:
“For Hyndburn to receive its full amount – which I believe is higher than comparable councils across East Lancashire – is testament to the hard work that the newly elected Labour Council have put in. I know it has been very demanding for Councillor Clare Pritchard and Council Leader Miles Parkinson, but we are all very pleased with the outcome.”

The funding is particularly important given the state that the Council’s finances were left in by the previous Tory administration. Graham said:
“Picking up from the chaos left by the last Conservative administration has been an enormous challenge. They promised £2.6 million for Woodnook that didn’t exist; they left us with £2.4 million of unfunded legal commitments in West Accrington and £2 million of unbudgeted spending on the townships fund.”
Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister Jack Dromey MP said of Graham’s efforts:
‘Ministers abandoned Hyndburn, dashing the hopes of local people for better homes and jobs. Today, following a year-long campaign led by Graham Jones, the Government has retreated, restoring to your local community that which was committed by a Labour Government.

Sadly, not all the communities in England that lost out have won justice in the same way. But Hyndburn has, thanks to Graham’s tireless efforts. I have seldom seen an MP fight so hard and long to put right a wrong. He is a credit to the people of Hyndburn’.

The recent 'Water Works campaign' raises an issue of vital importance.

Globally, an estimated 2.5 billion people still live without effective sanitation and the Department for International Development estimate that this causes over 2 million avoidable deaths each year.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

NSPCC 'All Babies Count' Campaign

NSPCC have launched ‘All Babies Count’, a new campaign aimed at ending cruelty towards vulnerable babies. In the UK today, 198,000 babies under 1 year old have parents who are affected by domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems, and more shockingly, 23 children under 1 are killed each year.

There are many complex reasons why babies are abused, and no simplistic explanation as to why this happens are available. However, three parental factors increase the risk to babies: mental illness, domestic violence and substance misuse. The government has stated that it understands the importance of early intervention, and this campaign aims to make it a reality.

The campaign calls on the Government to ensure that resources are available to support vulnerable babies, by securing a 1% year on year increase in the early intervention grant, this is an affordable yet meaningful allocation of resources being spent on something which could mean the difference between life and death.

The campaign also calls for the Government to make Local Health and Wellbeing Boards responsible for providing support for vulnerable babies and potentially risky parents. This would provide a coordinated response to the needs of these babies and the parents who could put them at risk without intervention.

Finally, the NSPCC is calling on government to undertake biannual Early Intervention Reviews, so that it could better understand how its policies are effecting the provision of these services.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Get Connected, charity aimed at helping young people who feel that they have nowhere else to turn

As an MP I receive a lot of correspondence from young people in Haslingden and Hyndburn concerned about the future and about the way things are going in their lives.

It is currently one of the toughest times it has been to be young in recent memory. On top of the problems young people face, youth unemployment this week rose to 1.02million.

That is why I want to promote Get Connected, a charity aimed at helping young people who feel that they have nowhere else to turn. They help young people through difficult times and provide support and advice when things look bleak.

They run a free and confidential phone line as well as a web chat and text service for anyone aged up to 25 years old. You can talk to them about any issue.

Their phone line is open from 1pm to 11pm every day on 0808808 4994, you can text them on 80849 or you can visit their website at

I am supporting the consumer Focus and Citizens Advice heating bills campaign

I am supporting a new awareness campaign led by Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice, aimed at letting people know where they stand legally, should they have problems covering the soaring cost of energy.

With winter just around the corner, lots of constituents have contacted me expressing their concerns about energy prices and it is incredibly important that people know their rights should they be unable to pay their bills. It is clearly worrying that the number of people with debts on energy bills is set to rise and these people need to get the right help.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Private Members Bill to prevent Metal Theft

On Tuesday I will be introducing a bill to the House which will go some way to cracking down on the crime of metal theft.

Metal theft is endemic in this country. There have been 6 fatalities and over 50 serious injuries this year alone, plus the disgusting story recently regarding the theft of a war memorial. The reason that this war memorial was stolen, sold and scrapped, is because the regulatory framework surrounding metal recycling is so weak, that in combination with the soaring international price of metal – it effectively creates incentives to steal.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

28 Days to send your Boundary Commission submission to save parliamentary seat of Hyndburn

Hyndburn has had an MP since 1875. The Government's proposals to change the boundaries in favour of the Tory Party are almost coming to the end of the consulation period. There are just 28 days left.

There are two arguments that are being made. Save Hyndburn as a seat. The Labour Party are the only party to keep Hyndburn together, including Padiham to make up the required numbers.

We have made the case that the regional map can be redrawn protecting many historic boundaries including Hyndburn.  We will carry campaigning for this with the rest of the North West who have been adversely affected as the preferred option.

However we also have to mindful the Boundary Commssion may reject that and that leaves a problem in Accrington where the Boundary Commissions proposal is perverse. It puts West Accrington in East Accrington and vice versa. For those affcted there is a sense that we have to make both cases.

The Boundary Commission are likely to be minded to reject alternate politically motivated boundaries (Labour/Tory/LibDem) which offer no flexibility to the Commission.

West Accrington is made up of Church, Central and Spring Hill which should be kept together and East Accrington of Baxenden, Barnfield, Peel and Milnshaw which also should be kept together - as natural communities.

The Commission have swapped Baxenden and Central and this makes no sense at all. Baxenden spans two wards, Barnfield and Baxenden and the village will be in two constituencies. Central has long had community links that span Church and Spring Hill both at local County and neighbourhood level.

Please take the time to fill in the online form and campaign for a unified seat of Hyndburn and secondly point out the error of the Boundary Commission in getting Baxenden and Central the wrong way around.

The text to submit could be something like this...

The Boundary Commission’s proposals only divide Hyndburn, but divide Accrington in a way that divides streets and neighbourhoods that share common identities and importantly structures. Parts of East Accrington (Baxenden Ward) are included with West Accrington and parts of West Accrington (Central Ward) are included with East Accrington creating a sense of confusion and that slices through every social, community and local government tie that exists as well as geographically leaving two islands disposed into other communities.

It is important to stress these two wards are of the same size. Switching these two wards, Baxenden and Central makes every sense.

West Accrington is clearly defined as Church, Springhill and Central
  1. It has a neighbourhood management and local government area committee structures which span this area.
  2. There is also a West Accrington Residents Association that covers part of the Central and Church wards.
  3. Its demographic represents the BME demographic with a sense of place and with community structures.
  4. Spring Hill ward wraps all around Central Ward.
  5. The Lancashire County Council electoral division (known as Accrington West) covers Spring Hill, Church and Central.
  6. The urban geography and road network links these three wards together.
  7. Major government programmes such as HMR and new LIFT health centre (ACORN centre) are built around exclusively the West Accrington area and constituents (similarly East Accrington)
East Accrington is clearly defined as Peel, Barnfield and Baxenden (and Milnshaw)
  1. Baxenden village is divided between two wards, Barnfield and Baxenden. The proposals split the village in to two differing parliamentary areas
  2. Baxenden has nothing in common with Church Central or Springhill
  3. The Lancashire County Council electoral division is Baxenden, Barnfield and Peel (known as Accrington South but covers most of East Accrington).
  4. There is no road that connects Baxenden to Spring Hill or any other part of the Darwen constituency which lies wholly within the Borough of Hyndburn, however under the Boundary Commission’s current proposals both wards are in the Darwen and Haslingden seat.
  5. In the village of Baxenden its community structures, both voluntary and at local government level, are connected to East Accrington such as Hambledon Moor to the east of the village and the old clough nature walk to the west, both which encompass the village and exist exclusively in East Accrington.
  6. Major government programmes such as HMR and new LIFT health centre (PALS centre) are built around exclusively the East Accrington area and constituents (similarly West Accrington).
  7. There is no doubt that Hyndburn is at risk of being divided but I would urge the Commission to accept that if such a division takes place it does so with great consideration to the natural social and economic boundaries that exist in Accrington.
  8. I would therefore urge the commission to include Baxenden in the Burnley South and Accrington seat where it naturally belongs and Central Ward in the Darwen and Haslingden seat.

Norgrove report on child welfare is regretful

The Norgrove erport last week led to some debate about childresn welfare. The argument by Norgrovwe in denying esentially fathers rights is to keep the courts free from a tsunami of legal challenges from embittered and embattled parents who put to one side their childrens welfare whilst they rough each other up.

Some fathers hopes of securing equal rights over their children have been potentially dashed with Nogroves review of family law. The Norgrove Family Justice Review has also reject calls to enshrine in law that children should have a 'meaningful relationship' with both their father and their mother. Not exactly in tune with the PM and IDS's belief in stable relationships.

The Government must consider health and related issues in planning policy

Last week I spoke up about poor quality developments being the only viable option in low demand or run down areas.

That these poor developments are because of a Brownfield first policy. Where those with priviliged access to green belt want to stop any development on virguin turf. Where a subsequent shortage of housing land forces up Brownfield land values and release of old mills for housing in areas where often private landlords and boarded up properties proliferate.

My point was clear. The Government must consider health and related issues in planning policy. Open space, recreation and self sustaining, thriving communities. No-one will build such a society with these brownfield sites in low demand areas such as Peel.

Following my speech I receieved a very kind personal hand written note from Labour's new Shadow DCLG Secretary of State, Hilary Benn. This was followed by a supportive amendement tavled by the Labour front bench which the Tories defeated last night calling for sustainability using various criteria whould be the basis for any planning applications.

Support my Private Members Bill next Tuesday

I have campaigned recently on Metal Theft. In early summer I met with the Energy Networks Association to gauge the scale of the problem. In September I had a debate in the Commons on the issue. House of Commons Hansard Debates for 06 Sep 2011 (pt 0005) (Scroll to near bottom).

You can support my Private Members Bill to prevent Metal Theft on the 15th November by signing the epetition.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Labour’s five point plan for jobs and growth

Yesterday's growth figures confirm that the British economy has been flatlining for the last year – well before the eurozone crisis of recent months.

Just 0.5% growth in the twelve months since the Tory-led government’s spending review compares to 2.6% growth in the previous twelve months when we were starting to recover from the global financial crash.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Direct Accrington to Manchester rail link to be reinstated.

I  welcome the £8.8m Regional Growth Fund spend on the direct rail link to Manchester which will see the the Todmorden Curve reinstated.

The reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve is something I have campaigned on years, and it is great news for the residents of Hyndburn. This improved connection with Manchester and the South will make Hyndburn a viable part of Manchester’s commuter belt, and allow the area to take full advantage of the economic opportunities this brings.

Average weekly wages in Hyndburn are around £390, whereas they are average £500 in Manchester.

The Curve will be a huge improvement on the bus service, making journeys to Manchester shorter and more reliable, reversing the terrible legacy of the Tory Beeching cuts, which cut Hyndburn’s rail link and doubled commuter times. This decision should go some way to restoring the infrastructural link which existed before 1962.

The Beeching Cuts were the cuts to British Rail made in the 1960s, which resulted in the closure of thousands of miles of train track, and left communities up and down the country unconnected to major economic hubs by rail. Hyndburn’s connection to Manchester was cut in 1962.

The reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve has the potential to bring in regeneration money, as Accrington becomes only 40 minutes away from Manchester. But there is potential for much more. If the council get the town centre strategy right, in particular regarding the heritage funding bid, then there is a fantastic opportunity for Accrington to become an attractive destination.

Provisional timetabling allows for an hourly service between 7am and 11pm. In my conversations, Northern Trains have expressed a good deal of interest in running the service. Pricing, the number of stops and the quality of rolling stock are all issues that need to be considered to ensure this is a resopunding success.

Friday, 28 October 2011

I welcome the Government's support for the Daylight Savings Bill today

Today the Government announced support for the Daylight Saving Bill – calling for a change to the way we set our clocks. As a long-time supporter of the bill, and the Lighter Later campaign behind it, I welcome the move.

Today's announcement will be warmly welcomed by the road safety organisations, sporting bodies, tourism industries and community groups that make up the 80 strong coalition backing the Lighter Later campaign. Evidence suggests that moving an hour of light from the early morning to the evening could make our roads safer, cut the UK’s carbon while boosting its economy and provide more time for leisure activities and sport.

Government's Community First Programme somewhere between a sticking plaster and a joke

Government's Community First Programme somewhere between a sticking plaster and a joke. The £30 Million available over the next fours years is to fund community projects in some of the most deprived areas of the country.

Looking at the list of the 597, it is clear that Lancashire has been abandoned again. East Lancashire has faced the heaviest of al the Government cuts and has disproportionately seen unemployment rise faster than elsewhere in an area where wages are amongst the lowest in the country.

Lancashire - Hyndburn - Central £33,910
Lancashire - Lancaster - Heysham North £33,910
Lancashire - Hyndburn - Peel £33,910
Lancashire - Preston - Ribbleton £33,910
Lancashire - West Lancashire - Tanhouse £33,910

Whilst some metropolitan areas have numerous wards and are in receipt of £150,000 per ward, Lancashire has just 5 and they receive the minimum amount. It is amazing to think that Burnley gets nothing. It's a joke.

Even in Hyndburn, my own ward Peel is ahead of Church and Spring Hill surprisingly. That in itself seems inequitable and more over, a top down diktat rather than a local decision which the Government seems to want to trumpet so often.

My Campain to combat Metal Theft

Since my debate in Parliament with the minister and my Twitter exchange with Channel 4's Jon Snow, the issue of metal theft has taken on more national and local significance. Channel 4 TV followed this up with a 'Fact Check' (follow the link on Ch4's website).

The Accrington Observer carried a front page headline this week highlighting the issue. On the 23rd of November I will, in partnership with the Energy Networks Association be tabling a Private Members Bill to amend the law and bring in restrictions.

Thefts are occurring from our nation infrastructure; overhead power lines, substations, railways, BT, gas and water, from our local infrastructure; grates and gates, park benches, graves and public art, and individuals and organisations; from back yards, lead theft from roof's and all the metal in abandoned and empty dwellings.

It's happening to more and more people and when it does, there is a sad realisation that no-one is immune. That it anyone is vulnerable. That upsetting the voltage by removal of copper at a substation that happens to provide you with electricity may well double the current to all your electrical devices causing them to overheat and burn out. Boilers, electrical cabling running alongside gas pipes, TV's. For those affected it has brought them in to a three way argument over responsibility. You, your insurers and the electricity provider.

It is right to assume that scrap metal merchants will be at the forefront of the distribution problem and that police enforcement is almost impossible given so much metal is in existence.

At the debate I highlighted six points. Each of the changes was accepted by the minister.

From Hansard
House of Commons Hansard Debates for 06 Sep 2011 (pt 0005) - Scroll to near bottom

I call on the Government to consider making the following changes.
  1. They should amend the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964. Instead of the current registration scheme, the UK needs a robust licensing regime, with scrap metal dealers paying a licence fee to fund the regulation of the licence.
  2. Property obtained through theft should be regarded as criminal assets; that would allow the provisions in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to apply.
  3. In line with alcohol licensing powers, police authorities should have the power to search and investigate all premises owned and operated by a scrap metal dealer, and to close scrap metal dealers where criminally obtained materials are discovered.
  4. We should restrict trade in scrap metals to cashless payments, and introduce a requirement that scrap metal must not be sold or processed until payments have been cleared. Photo identification and CCTV should be used to identify sellers of scrap and their vehicles.
  5. Magistrates should have powers to add licence restrictions and prevent closed yards from re-opening, and
  6. Criminal gangs should be charged in a way that is proportionate to the consequences of the crime, not the scrap metal value. I ask the Minister to use all his efforts to ensure that something is done before it is too late.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Channel 4 - FactCheck: Why copper theft is the perfect crime

FactCheck: Why copper theft is the perfect crime

Metal theft has caused at least six deaths, 50 injuries, 60 fires and - a contender for stat of the year here - a total of 673 days of train delays in the last three years. But unless personally blighted by it - as Jon Snow was over the weekend - you'd be forgiven for being oblivious to the problem.

Graham Jones, MP for Hyndburn in Lancashire, says it was the "constant concerns" of his wife and son - who both work for Electricity North West - that brought it to his attention. He is not alone in calling for a reform of the Metal Theft Act of 1964, which was slammed in the Lords last month for being "still legally in the age of Steptoe and Son". But are we really dealing with a cable crime wave or has Mr Jones got his wires crossed?

FactCheck dons its hard hat.

The claim
“Metal theft (has) grown over 700 per cent in two years”
Graham Jones MP, in a Twitter response to Snowblog, 10 October 2011

The background
Metal theft has caused at least six deaths, 50 injuries, 60 fires and – a contender for stat of the year here – a total of 673 days of train delays in the last three years.

But unless personally blighted by it – as Jon Snow was over the weekend – you’d be forgiven for being oblivious to the problem.

Graham Jones, MP for Hyndburn in Lancashire, said it was the “constant concerns” of his wife and son – who both work for Electricity North West – that brought it to his attention.

He is not alone in calling for a reform of the Metal Theft Act of 1964, which was slammed in the Lords last month for being “still legally in the age of Steptoe and Son”.

But are we really dealing with a cable crime wave or has Mr Jones got his wires crossed? FactCheck dons its hard hat.


The analysis
The police don’t yet have a crime code for “metal theft” so there’s no national figure for it – but as you can see from our graphic, it’s on the rise across the board.

It costs the economy an estimated £770m a year, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). And that’s a “conservative estimate”, a spokesman for the British Transport Police (BTP) told FactCheck. He said the rail networks are the worst affected, as it is extremely difficult to protect thousands of railway tracks with cable running alongside them, especially in rural areas.

Network Rail puts the costs at £43m over the last three years, while the Energy Networks Association claims that in the first six months of this year cable theft has cost the energy industry £13.25m.

Why copper?
Copper wiring and plumbing are vital in the construction of buildings and in power generation, but demand in 2011 is expected to outstrip supply growth, according to the International Copper Study Group (ICSG).

In the last 50 years, world demand has surged by around 300 per cent, the ICSG estimates, and in 2009 China was the largest consumer of refined copper – gobbling up 7m tonnes. Electrical power companies were the largest consumers of copper last year.

At its peak of $10,000 a tonne in February, copper was worth more than seven times what it was in 2001 – $1,425 a tonne, the London Metal Exchange told FactCheck.

As it is used so widely for infrastructure projects, copper is often seen as a thermometer for the global economy – so while copper prices peaked in February, the recent drop off to $8,313 a tonne last month made grim reading.

Who’s stealing it?
Both BT and Electricity North West have raised concerns that they are being targeted by organised crime units. A spokesman for BT told FactCheck: “There’s evidence of criminals selling for a (drugs) fix but there’s a lot of evidence now that points to organised crime gangs moving in, in quite a big way. BT is working with SOCA (the Serious Organised Crime Agency) to look at how to identify and curb illegal exports outside the UK”.

Mr Jones too, has raised the issue of “theft tourism” in parliament last month, explaining to FactCheck that Electricity North West recently recovered some of its stolen copper from a container at Hull port.

He said: “They believe it was about to be shipped directly to China.”
However, across the tracks the British Transport Police told FactCheck it was largely opportunistic:  “The vast majority of the attacks are low level – people wanting a quick buck.”

BT, among others, wants the government to introduce a cashless trading model to stop people walking into scrap metal traders and handing over bits of copper wiring with no questions asked. At least 30 states in the US now operate cashless systems, alongside France, Holland and Belgium in Europe.

BT’s spokesman told us: “The UK is a bit behind the curve”.

The verdict
No need for a scrap on this one: Mr Jones is right. Metal theft rose by 700 per cent in the two years to June 2011 according to the Energy Networks Association. And BT told us it has already seen a rise of more than 100 per cent this year, compared to last.

Why should you care? Not only are the costs directly passed on to customers in their electricity bills and train tickets, but the power surges blow up houses, kill and maim people – and at the very least cause thousands of pounds worth of damage to TVs, boilers and other household staples.

In July alone, a 16-year-old boy died attempting to steal copper from an electrical substation in Leeds, and in West Yorkshire a botched theft sparked a dramatic explosion along a row of houses, moments after firefighters evacuated 30 people from the scene.

Cable theft brought down 16,000 phone lines and 20,000 broadband connections in Salisbury in July – it even affected air traffic control and Inland Revenue operations, and it took up to three days for BT to fix.

Graham Jones told FactCheck that copper theft is the perfect crime, because the crime doesn’t equate to the punishment. “The sanctions are disproportionate,” he said, “They are charged on the basis of the sell-on value of the copper; which might be £20 – but it doesn’t equate to the damage done to the 500 or so properties (which are disrupted or damaged by cut cables).”

The Home Office told FactCheck that the first cross-department ministerial meeting on the topic was held last month. We’ll be keeping an eye out for any sparks that fly.

By Emma Thelwell

Why Haslingden & Hyndburn people should sign the petition to end legal loan sharking

Many Haslingden and Hyndburn residents will have noticed an alarming increase in the number of payday lenders on our streets. These high-cost credit providers are taking advantage of recent economic woes by offering short-term loans to people desperate for cash to make ends meet. And as Christmas approaches, with all the financial pressures the season brings, these lenders are set for a bumper haul at the expense of vulnerable consumers. There is no legal limit to the amount they can charge, and as a result residents in Haslingden and Hyndburn regularly come to me in dire financial straits as a result of taking out loans with payday lenders and other similar high-cost credit providers.

In other European countries, consumers enjoy protection from exploitation by the high-cost credit industry, but in Britain Government has consistently delayed taking action. That’s why I am supporting a new petition calling on the Government to introduce a range of caps on the total cost of credit that can be charged by these lenders.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The National Planning Policy Framework. My comments on the floor of the Commons

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has had been a topic of concern recently. You may have read that many people who live near green fields have been out objecting to the government's proposal to relax plannng constraints on virgin turf.

Led by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and the National Trust with over 5 million members combined.

There argument is to build on Brownfield sites. An argument I am concerned about. I do not want to see towns and cities, particulartly deprived areas who are sat in old industrial inner urban areas having to shoulder future development.

This will deny the open space to deprived areas, open spaces CPRE and NT are trying to protect for their wealthy supporters. It will result in low value, low demand areas suffering cheap developments that refelect the surrounding market conditions.

How often do we see in Hyndburn's poorer areas, aspirational or affluent housing being built. Never. It is usually cheap build unless the site is significant to buck neighbourhood market values.

The debate was about many aspects but inthe time I had to speak I wanted to concentrate on this issue. Unfortunately my 10 minutes speech was incomplete when the time allocated by teh speaker was reduced to 5mins only moments before I spoke.

This is the full draft text which I spoke around on the floor of the House of Commons and the parts I didn't get to say.

Green Grants

Dear Member of Parliament,
As you’ll undoubtedly be aware, volunteers, schools and non-profit organisations across the country are coming together to create wonderful environmental projects for the benefit of the communities in which they are based.

At The Green Insurance Company we like to encourage such projects and last year launched our Green Grants initiative inviting community groups with green projects to apply for individual grants of up to £2,000 either to get an idea off the ground or expand already successful projects. We were delighted with the success of the scheme and are launching Green Grants 2011 this week, offering £40,000 of grants including a one off special grant of up to £10,000 which will be voted for by the public.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Why Osborne is wrong on the economy and Labour's response - Ed Balls

Dear Graham

A year ago this week, George Osborne announced the biggest spending cuts and tax rises of any major country.

He boasted that Britain was out of the danger zone. And he claimed austerity would boost confidence, jobs and growth. Do you remember how Tory MPs cheered and waved their papers in glee?

Well I can’t hear anybody cheering now. Because the evidence is mounting day by day that this reckless Tory plan is hurting but it’s not working. Our economy hasn’t grown since this time last year.

Families and pensioners are being squeezed by soaring inflation. And here’s the real scandal: there are now more people out of work than for 17 years – when the Tories were last in. And the result? More people out of work and the dole means it's going to be harder to get the deficit down. In fact, there’s going to be £46 billion more borrowing than the government planned.

There’s got to be a better way.

And that’s why Labour has set out a five point plan for jobs and growth – to help struggling families, get young people into work and support small businesses. If you’re out campaigning this weekend help us get the message out there.

Ed Balls

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Individual voter registration

Today's date has been put back due to 2 government statements. The motion aims to question the Governments proposals to move from mandatory household voter registration to individual registration which is optional.

This issue is part of the gerrymandering of the next election. In short some estimates put the numbers of voters who will choose to register will be 60% of those currently registered.

The vast majority of unregistered voters will be urban areas that traditionally vote Labour.
There are now between 3.5m and 6.5m unregistered voters. This is going to make a mockery of the new boundaries under discussion. It will also ensure that elections will be meaningless and that we will have a Tory government for the next few decades.

Helping young people - a very special community bus

Community Evolved Learning - making learning more accessible

The Community Evolved Learning is an extension of Resolve 180, but it uses a mobile learning vehicle, operating directly into the heart of the community. It delivers a range of programmes and accredited courses making access to learning more achievable to adults.

The benefits of our mobile unit is that learners can not only access training programmes and courses, but also use its facilities to search for jobs, receive support to complete job applications and CV’s, with access to the latest job vacancies through the internet, newspapers and bulletins.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Private rents in England unaffordable, says Shelter - and I agree

Shelter last week  published Shelter’s Rent Watch. It is the first in a series of reports examining local rent levels and affordability compared to average earnings in each local authority.

The report reveals just how much people are struggling to pay their rents in each area of the country and includes statistics for people living in Hyndburn.

• Private rented sector rents are unaffordable for average earners in over half of local authorities.
• In the last five years, the number of people renting privately has increased by almost 40%.
• It’s not just students and young professionals who rent: there are now more than a million households with children who rent privately - almost a third of the whole sector.
• From 1997 to 2007, rents increased at 1.5 times the rate of incomes.

People in the Private Rented Sector are trapped. 50% work and with rents running at near £100 may always be priced out of home ownership. Those on benefits will trapped between the Governments decsion to cut benefits to force landlords to cfharge less and landlords who will always want a fixed return on their asset.

People are being treated like rabbits in hutches. Properties that are so bad they aren't homes and rents that result for manty a life sentence of dispair, lack of any hope or aspiarion and at worst absolute misery. The children affected by this have poorer health, poor educational achievement and I was delighted that Jack Dromey' labour's new hosuing minsiter has committed Labour to establishing standards in the PRS.

Find out more about rents and affordability in your local area by visiting Shelter’s Rent Watch.

We think that both national and local government strategies need to contain significant new thinking to tackle rental affordability. If you would like to find out more about this or wider issues affecting the private rented sector please get in touch with Shelter’s public affairs team at

Shelter, 88 Old St, London, EC1V 9HU
0344 515 1182
07899 918597

Private rents in England unaffordable, says Shelter
from BBC
Just 12% of areas in England have affordable rents, research by housing charity Shelter found.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Lancashire County Council suffering epidemic of grate thefts

My campaign for the Government to act on this matter has gathered momentum in the last few weeks.

Last week MP's raised in the Churches debate the increasing incidence of lead theft from the roofs of church estates.

Last weeks Hyndburn Highways Bulletin report the theft of 230 gully grates in Hyndburn with "officers having difficulty ensuring locations with missing grates are maintained in a safe condition". It is presenting a danger to pedestrians and vehicles.

Today I wrote to the Police to clamp down on vehicles which appear to have 'rounds' cruising frequently back alleys (and avenues) with people stood on the back prying into back yards.

Great Harwood residents press the case for saving their Recycling Centre

Great Harwood residents have made their views known to the County Council in significant numbers. A huge 5,252 objections were received by County, almost three times as many as were received for Garstang and over a 25x greater than Bacup.

The table below highlights the passsion of Great Harwood residents to save their recycling centre.

I have taken this up on their behalf in Parliament, supported the grassroots campaign and wrote to Lancashire County Council. MP's in the other areas who have remained silent on closures.

County Councillor Ciaran Wells and Councillor Gareth Molyneux of Great Harwood have worked with Great Harwood residents and Great Harwood Community Action Group to ensure that local views were represented in the County Hall consultation.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Results - Shelter England

People come into my surgery complaining about the private rented sector. Desperate cases. Children and families with only a miserable future to look forward to. Condemned to a life of poverty in childhood. Where home is a damp and mould. Cold and sometimes dangerous. Bleak.
I make the point that voting matters. That campaigning matters. Below is the data set for your previous Conservative Council (1999-2011) who were given nearly a £100million in housing funding from the Labour Government but who allowed this shocking rise in misery. Local Conservatives never cared enough. These figures, given the staggering amount of money they were given is shocking.
Hyndburn (Stats provided Shelter's rent watch)
1997 - 1203
1998 - 909
1999 - 640
2000 - 1096
2001 - 1243
2002 - 1193
2003 - 1455
2004 - 2392
2005 - 3251
2006 -3430
2007 - 2643
2008 - 2831
2009 - 2088
2010 - 2842
2011 -

FactCheck: Why copper theft is the perfect crime | The FactCheck Blog

Following the debate I had with the minister in the House of Commons on the increase in Metal Theft, several journalists and MP’s have picked up on the issue which seems to be gathering momentum. This week I did an interview for Channel 4 and you can see the FactCheck on the issue on their web page here;

Friday, 7 October 2011

Todmorden Curve - a decison due anytime now on the £8m funding

Anytime now the Government are going to make a decision on the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) bid to Government for around £8m to rebuild the direct train route between Accrington and Manchester (Victoria) via Burnley and Todmorden.

I have campaigned over many years to see this line reinstated which will provide around a 40 minute journey to Manchester rolling back the Tory 'Beeching' cuts made of 1962 which cut Hyndburn from Manchester and the south.

There are real economic opportunities for Accrington town centre and the wider area.

Should it get the green light we should see increased development around the train station in Accrington. Buildings such as the Conservative Club and other historic buildings need regenerating. It should also increase the desirability of current sites such as the Globe Centre. Hyndburn is in a beneficial position with development and business opportunities around the station with the station is near the town centre.

Crucially it will be reliable direct service offer an alternate offer to commuters working in Manchester. The X40 and X41 despite being frequent but always caught up in heavy congestion and been late when I have caught them. Average weekly wages in Hyndburn are £380 compared £500 per week in Manchester. This rail link has the potential to make Hyndburn a satellite of Manchester's economic growth.

It will also connect Hyndburn better to West Yorkshire and Manchester Airport through Victoria Station. Should it get the green light, it will be about taking advantage rather than sitting back.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Questions remain about Treasury's role in the 3000 job losses at BAe systems.

An article in the FT yesterday - EADS to slow production of Typhoon jets - -  is interesting as it is saying there will be no job losses from our Eurofighter partners in Finmeccanica in Italy or EADS in Germany who are part of the agreed slowdown.

BAe tell me the number of units produced is being reduced from 61 to 36 resulting in the partner companies reducing the numbers of parts required and made from 61 to 36 at all companies. Each company makes one part of the Eurofighter exclusively and swaps it with the others. The article says the reduction is from 53 to 43 but BAe deny this is the slowdown numbers.

These orders are made exclusively by the 4 core nations who have control over production and who have exclusivity over export orders too.

The slowdown agreement with the other core nations seems to have been struck in July by the MoD and Treasury, well before Biz turned down the Lancashire's Enterprise Zone bid for BAe's sites Wharton and Salmesbury. A decision that was reversed last week when the job losses were announced.

Serious questions now need to be asked of the Treasury, Biz and the MoD over the loss of so many British jobs in light of information that is surfacing.

EADS to slow production of Typhoon jets -
EADS will slow the production of Typhoon fighter jets at its German and Spanish factories without cutting any jobs, the aerospace company said on Monday. The news marks a contrast with BAE Systems, which last week said it was laying off almost 3,000

Campaign to re-instate the No12 service goes on

In the last two months June Harrison who has been tireless in her efforts and I, along with Terry Hurn (Baxenden Conservative Councillor) and David Hartley (Labour Baxenden candidate) have campaigned for the reinstatement of a Baxenden bus service following the subsidy withdrawal from LCC and consequent ending of the previous service.

We have spoken to bus operators in the hope that a market day service may be revived based on sufficient patronage on that particular service.

Both as a County Councillor and MP, I have also begun a review of the County's bus operations and whether it may be beneficial to change the system to a franchised system with franchised routes as in London.

Michelle's Accrington & Rossendale Jobs Page

Michelle is an Employment Support Officer at Accrington & Rossendale College. She has set up a job page to try and help out with job vacancies. You can ascribe to Michelle's Facebook page to receive updates.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Help Direct - Safe Trader Scheme in partnership with Lancashire County Council Trading Standards

Help Direct - Safe Trader Scheme set up by the previous Labour County Council through County Council Trading Standards department aims to protect consumers across Lancashire.

Since being elected I have pressed for empowering consumer rights and this is one way. I wrote to Ed Miliband back in the summer to highlight what a big issue this is for ordinary people and I am grateful he has made announcements that the Labour party aim to tackle this issue.

I spoke with John Denham at Party conference on this matter and I am delighted we are going to put bad businesses and bad traders on the back foot. I will keep pressing this issue of responsibility in business or elsewhere.

Send a message to the cowboys and rip off merchants by only using traders accredited on LCC's HelpDirect Safe Trader Scheme website. With your help they will soon be struggling for business.

The Safe Trader Scheme aims to help people find traders for property repairs, home improvements and also domestic services such as cleaning, laundry and shopping delivery. It is funded by Lancashire County Council as part of the Help Direct service.

Find a trader

All members of the Help Direct Safe Trader Scheme have shown they are committed to treating their customers honestly and fairly by committing to a Code of Practice. Traders also agree to work with Trading Standards to resolve problems if they should occur.

Businesses on the scheme are monitored using customer feedback. Read more about our membership criteria.

Need extra help?

Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) in Lancashire provide impartial help, advice and support on all aspects of home improvements, adaptations, repairs and maintenance works to your homes. For more information see:

The Scheme cannot guarantee the financial standing of members, their health and safety procedures, or that their work will never give rise to complaint. By using a member firm, consumers can minimise the risk of dispute and be assured that if there are problems we will assist in resolving them.

LCC Chief Exec paints a pessimistic outlook for the future of Great Harwood Recycling Centre

I wrote to the Chief Executive of Lancashire County Council over the proposed closure of Great Harwood's recycling centre which I have objected to along with thousands of people from Great Harwood, Clayton and the Ribble Valley.

An online epetition can be found here. A written petition was also collected and this I presented to Parliament.

The reply (see below) paints a gloomy picture and gives the impression that it will close. The arguments why this is the wrong decision can be found here

Friday, 30 September 2011

Zero tolerance for rogue private landlords to tackle illegal behaviour

Shelter supporters demonstrate against bad landlords, London, 2002. Photograph: Johnny Green/PA- written by Kay Boycott

It is unlikely to come as a surprise to readers of the housing network that the private rented sector is growing exponentially, by more than 40% in the past five years. Less understood is the corresponding rise in rogue landlords taking advantage of this boom, landlords who blight the lives of tenants living in their properties.

Last week Shelter launched the latest phase of its evict rogue landlords campaign. We contacted every local authority in England to build a picture of both the scale of the problem with rogue landlords, and what is being done to tackle it.

The results showed that across the country complaints about landlords had reached a staggering 86,628 in the last year. Yet despite the sharp increase, only 270 landlords were successfully prosecuted during that period.

Of particular concern is that complaints about serious and potentially life-threatening hazards, including dangerous gas and electricity connections, have risen by 25% over the past two years.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Surestart - Willows family and child centre is to close

It is with sadness that that Willows family and child centre is to close. Sure Start have replied and I attach the reply at the bottom.

The Government have stated that "we are all in this together", "the deficit will not be cut on the backs of the poor" and the Prime Minister guaranteed any minister coming forward with cuts to front line services "would be sent straight back".

All seem a distance away now and somewhat hollow.

Sure Start in Hyndburn was set up by the ideological Tories as a Limited Company and I have always had my doubts about its operational capability and questioned the role of it's lead advisor and their decisions. It has flirted with financial instability previously and LCC were asked to intervene.

Gypsy and Traveller problems in Hyndburn - Dear Eric...

Dear Eric [Pickles]

22 Sept, 2011.... We all want to see people treated fairly. Sadly travellers passing through Hyndburn have treated the Borough with great disrespect and the sympathy that did exist has long evaporated away.

It’s about time travellers who cause damage and leave Council’s to clear up after them are forced to pay like the rest of society has to. Hyndburn has a very high number of traveller pitches and there is no excuse for illegal encampments.

Travellers hide behind a ‘cash poor –asset rich argument’ leaving Councils and businesses to face all the costs with no chance of recovery, and unable to do anything but a long delayed and costly eviction on behalf of beleaguered battle weary residents.

The law means it is the Council tax payer and businesses who has to forgo everything. Time, energy, resources.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Gypsy and Travellers: Is Moss Lane the next battleground?

The Labour Council have taken a tough line on Gypsy and Traveller encampments despite only being in power since May. Swift evictions have occurred on Arden Hall and Huncoat playing fields already.

It may seem harsh but years of being fair have resulted in unreasonable and unruly behaviour, an increase in petty criminal acts and illegal sites left looking like rubbish tips.

A new Gypsy and Traveller policy is being drawn up I understand with regards to the problems in the Moss Lane area. Swift legal enforcement has begun already alongside a review of planning rules to block green belt abuse.

We all want to see people treated fairly. Sadly travellers passing through Hyndburn have treated the Borough with great disrespect any sympathy has been completely lost.

Save Great Harwood Receycling Centre petition goes to Parliament

Great Harwood Household Waste Recycling campaign goes on. Last Wednesday I took the petition to Parliament calling on self proclaimed 'greenest government ever' to write to LCC to oppose the closure of Great Harwood Household Waste Recycling.
Graham Jones, House of Commons, 14 September 2011;
"I should like to present this petition, on behalf of the residents of Great Harwood in Lancashire and of surrounding areas, to save the recycling centre in said town. A petition in similar terms, asking for the same action, has been signed by a number of my constituents. Great Harwood Community Action Group has gathered a petition of some 1,500 signatures; 3,000 signatures against the closure were gathered at the recycling centre prior to that; about 600 protest letters have been sent to the county council; and I personally received 84 letters of objection to the closure at the beginning of the process.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Great Harwood, Lancashire and others,

Planning reform - it needs to happen - its just a question of how

Planning reform needs to happen. It's complex and it is slow to react. It distorts local views and often angers communities and citizens.

Controversial elements of the Governments planning reform (National Planning Policy Framework) include presumption in favour of sustainable development on green field sites and removing the town centre first planning rule.

The Government have a point on the former. There seems to be a lobby congealing around the National Trust that all development should be at the expense of the poorest and to the benefit of the wealthiest members of society.

In terms of spatial planning that people in well to do urban fringe communities should have their Jerusalem protected whilst the urban poor can choke in their Sodom and Gomorrah hell of post industrial over crowding and a lack of meaningful green space that the National Trust seem unwilling to pursue.

Boundary Commisison protests to close to home for the Government - Conservative protests begin

There has been an up swell of constituents bemoaning Government imposed boundary changes. "Why has the government abolished our constituency?", or "Why have they divided up our town or broken up our community?"

The reality is some 400 seats have changed radically out of 533 current English seats. Scotland and Wales find boundary proposals come later this year. The BBC suggested just 57 remained unaffected. The majority of these in England are actually Conservative seats.

One boundary change which would 'move' historic Gloucester Cathedral into the rural Forest of Dean Parliamentary constituency was condemned as 'madness'. The 900-year-old cathedral and also Gloucester docks - the UK's most inland port -becoming part of the Forest of Dean constituency.

It's not surprising that Conservatives are leading the campaigns against their own legislative proposals by the Boundary Commission. Wedded to community out of the large urban areas, they are the ones who are hurting the most.

In Hyndburn local Conservatives have begun a petition to change to boundaries whilst the local newspaper is beginning a campaign to protect the historic parliamentary seat.

Playing with people's identity cuts deep into the psyche of ardent non-voter, never mind the feelings of all voters of whatever persuasion. It's a dangerous game and just maybe the Government will get the message to refrain from changing the ties of community.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Support for bereaved Armed Forces families

I attended an event at the House of Commons organised by The Royal British Legion to highlight the importance of supporting bereaved Armed Forces families.

It was very informative about the Legion’s work to improve the welfare of the Armed Forces family in the local area and more pressingly, the Legion’s concern that the Government should support bereaved Armed Forces families by appointing a Chief Coroner to improve investigations into deaths of Service personnel.

I was pleased to meet John Hardiman, our local Region Manager and offer my full support for Armed Forces families in the area. The Legion does very important welfare work for some of my most vulnerable constituents in both the serving and ex-Service communities. It is vital that we, as a nation, are there for those serving in current conflicts, and especially for the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I was grateful for the opportunity to learn more about how, in its 90th anniversary year, the Legion stands shoulder to shoulder with all who Serve, including bereaved Armed Forces families. They deserve as much support as we can give them.

John Hardiman, the Legion’s County Manager for Cumbria, Isle of Man and Lancashire, said, “It was great to see MP’s concerned about the work the Legion does. We really appreciated Graham making the time to drop in. Many people don’t realise that we spend nearly £1.4 million a week on helping both the serving and the ex-Service communities, including their families, so we were delighted to tell MP's about the range of services we provide. The Legion is currently celebrating its 90th Anniversary Year, and campaigning for the Armed Forces family is as important to us now as it was in 1921. Our main campaign at the moment is calling on the Government to do all they possibly can for bereaved Armed Forces families, specifically by appointing a Chief Coroner to spearhead reform of the inquest system.”

Friday, 9 September 2011

Yobs need to get a life

Well done Adrienne Seed for campaigning on an issue that leaves a life sentence hanging over those affected.

The yobs who think that violence and abuse is a way forward are mindless. Had one of their relatives been infected through for example contaminated blood they would realise.

What joy and satisfaction is there in wishing misery on others?

Priority School Building Programme

I have again written to the County Council regarding funding for improved school buildings in Hyndburn from central government. I attach for interest their response.

Sent from mobile.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Ministers have been asked to reconsider regulating the private rented sector.

On Monday I asked Minister, Andrew Stunell if he would give local authorities the powers to impose the decenty homes standard as part of licensing a private rented property

“The main problem with selective licensing, of course, is that it does not deal with stock condition, and we see many properties in selective licensing areas that are squalid. Can the Minister assure local communities that the Government will allow councils to include the most recent decent homes standard as a licence condition?”

Stunell replied: “Licensing conditions are matters for local authorities when they draw up their proposals” which was not teh question. The 2004 Housing Act which allows local councils to licence private landlords does not allow Council's to apply a put in the licence as a condition any stock conditions such as double glazing, heating.

I had asked earlier if the Government has carried out any assessment of the effectiveness of selective licensing scheme's.
Stunell said theGovernment hadn't and said that local authorities would be encouraged instead to carry out their own reviews.

Labour MP Chris Williamson accused the housing minister in Parliament of failing in his responsibilities and allowing slum landlords to flourish.

But CLG minister Andrew Stunell made it clear that instead of regulating landlords, local councils could choose to introduce their own selective licensing schemes.

Williamson, who represents Derby North, said: “With more than one million people living in sub-standard privately rented accommodation, and with massive front-loaded cuts to council budgets making it harder to tackle slum landlords, the Housing and Local Government Minister is clearly failing in his responsibilities.

“However, as Henry Ford once said: ‘Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.’

“Will the Minister therefore adopt a more intelligent approach and abandon his laissez-faire attitude to regulation, which is creating a charter for slum landlords, by implementing the light-touch licensing system recommended by the Rugg Review, adopted by Labour and welcomed by the National Landlords Association and the Association of Residential Lettings Agents?”

The Rugg Review recommended compulsory licensing of all letting agents plus a mandatory register of all private landlords.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Assocition of registered Letting Agents attacks government for lack of regulation on private rented sector

ARLA has reacted angrily in response to the latest announcement by housing minister Grant Shapps that he will not seek to regulate the private rental sector.

Graham Jones, MP for Hyndburn who has campaigned in Parliament for greater regulation and higher standards said

"The housing minister is gaining a reputation for not listening. For sitting on his hands. Choosing to follow a right wing ideological line, in the pockets of the laissez faire landlords, rather than deal with the evidence. Those with an interest in housing are beginning to doubt the minsiters abilities to deal with the problems."

Announcing his backing for the voluntary SAFEagent scheme, Shapps said he preferred to work with the industry on initiatives to improve it, rather than tie it up in red tape. He has failed to provide evidence that his anti-regulation stance will have any positive impact.

In a confrontational reply, Ian Potter, operations manager at ARLA, said his organisation was being undermined by Shapps.

He said: “We are disappointed that the housing minister has once again refused to implement any kind of regulation on the private rental sector.

“There is no requirement for lettings agents or landlords themselves to take any kind of professional qualification. This means their professionalism cannot be guaranteed.

“In today’s market, when people are becoming increasingly desperate to find a home, there will be increasing opportunity for unethical operators to take advantage of consumers.

“We have worked hard to introduce a licensing scheme for letting agents to boost consumer protection among our members and we would recommend any consumer uses an ARLA licensed agent. All licensed ARLA members offer consumer redress for service failure and client money protection should the agent default with its clients’ funds.

“However, we have no power to force agents to become licensed and, as long as there is no centrally-led regulation, our work is being undermined.”

Mr Jones added, "The people of Hyndburn are becoming aware that Mr Shapps does no understand the scale of their problems, is out of touch with peope in these areas and his policies are having a damaging effect".

Making work pay – the childcare trap

Dear Graham,

Save the Children and Daycare Trust have surveyed more than 4,000 parents on access to childcare and the impact of childcare costs on family incomes and work prospects. The government’s promise to make work pay is crucial if we are to tackle child poverty. However, the results of our survey have led us to be greatly concerned that, unless more resources are found for support for childcare costs, the government will not be able to deliver on this vital pledge to Britain’s poorest families. Please see the attached briefing for the detail of the survey’s findings.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Landfill Tax Credits Community Grants - Does Hyndburn miss out on Whinney Hill landfill taxes?

All waste disposal companies are charged landfill taxes for sending residual waste to Whinney Hill. This includes other local authorities who have no landfill capacity within their boundary.

As long as the group is within 10 miles of a site (which it will be) the group could apply, however, there are two types of available funds; the Main Grants which is up to £40,000 and Small Grants which is up to £15,000, both funds do not cover all of the cost of a scheme so there will be a need for match funding

I have highlighted the link to their website where there is under "Quick Links" a guidance note to both types of grant which seems very comprehensive, please have a read of them and let me know if you have any questions.,com_frontpage/Itemid,1/

The next deadline for applications is 3rd October and then early in January 2012.
The receipts of which go towards funding community grants which I have listed below for Hyndburn.

Project Title Grant Offer made
£15,000 - Saheli Community Garden, Accrington
£30,000 - Lowerfold Naturalised Play Project (phase 2), Gt Harwood
£30,000 - The Hollow Play Area, Huncoat
£30,000 - The Woodlands - Wheels for All - Clayton Le Moors
£14,328 - Foxhill Bank, Oswaldtwistle, Biodiversity project
£18,000 - Woodnook Vale/Priestly Clough Improvements, Accrington
£30,000 - Hyndburn Towpath Improvements Leeds Liverpool Canal
£18,038 - Temple Sensory Garden-Mercer Park, Clayton Le Moors