Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Sign the Shelter Petition against Rogue Landlords, urges Graham Jones MP.

Rogue landlords are taking advantage of the rental sector boom, Shelter warned today, calling on the Government to give tenants the protection they need and deserve.

Photograph courtesy of

Comedy actors Sean Lock, Chris Oliver and Mike Fielding are supporting Shelter’s campaign against rogue landlords in a new spoof film launched today. The film depicts a scene where a rogue landlord is showing prospective tenants around a grotty and dangerous property, oblivious to any problems it could pose to them. You can view the video of Shelter's facebook page here.

The video can be seen here:

As the number of households privately renting hits 3.4 million (a 40 per cent rise in the past five years), Shelter has seen a worrying 23 per cent increase in the number of people seeking our help for problems with their landlord in the past 12 months.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Graham Jones supports the Campaign for a Fair Society

The Campaign for a Fair Society took to the streets of London at the weekend to March for an alternative to this Government's cuts to vital public services.

Organisers estimated between 400,000 and 500,000 teachers, nurses, firefighters, council and NHS workers, other public sector employees, students, pensioners and campaign groups came to the capital to show their opposition to the cuts. And apart from a very small amount of people who came determined to cause trouble the protest was peaceful and succeeded in raising the importance of those being affected by the cuts.

The Campaign for a Fair Society

According to the campaign website more than £7 billion of the government's £27 billion cuts will be borne by less than 2% of the population - the most vulnerable.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Why the Government needs to re-think its cuts to the defence budget.

This week I wrote for Total Politics on why there is a need for an urgent re-think on the Government's cuts to the defence budget. You can read my article below:

Time to re-think the SDSR by Graham Jones / 25 Mar 2011

Graham Jones MP calls for the government to rethink defence cuts and the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR)

Following the recent developments in the Middle east and the subsequent imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya, David Cameron is finding himself under increasing pressure this week to rethink the cuts to the UK’s defence budget following claims that decisions such as the scrapping of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the Harrier Jump Jet fleet is undermining the UK’s ability to mount military operations.

The government is cutting 5000 personnel from the Royal Air Force by 2015 and an additional 5000 from Navy personnel. There has also been heavy criticism over the decision to reduce the number of all RAF trainee pilots by a quarter.

Last month former Army and Navy chiefs wrote to the prime minister calling for him to urgently rethink the cuts that were previously laid out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in October of last year.

The ongoing problem of illegal entry in to properties for scrap metal

I found this vehicle travelling down back alleys seeking scrap metal. Today I saw another with the cheeky moniker on the side proclaiming green credentials. This vehicle has been reported to the Police.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Why fuel duty is a Tory tax

Thanks to the efforts of Labour MP John Mann who has produced an empirical factual document on changes in fuel duty since 1929 we are able to work out where responsibility lies in fuel duty tax.

It is no surprise then that the Conservatives are waking up to that fact they can no longer play the blame game.

The summary findings are

· The Liberals and Conservatives introduced fuel duty and VAT

· Of every pound spent on fuel, Conservatives are responsible for around 43 pence of tax. Labour are responsible for 17 pence.

· 70% of tax on fuel is Tory tax.

· Conservatives introduced VAT, and raised it four times: from 0 to 10%, from 12.5% to 15%; from 15% to 17.5% and from 17.5% to 20%.

· Conservatives quintupled fuel duty between 1979 and 1997

· In 1999, the Labour Government stopped the fuel duty escalator and the proportion of tax on fuel fell by a fifth to a level not seen since 1992.

Lancashire Police Authority - Viewpoint March

I thought I would publish this months as it focuses on the reckless Police cuts the  Tories have imposed and the Police Reform Bill.

WaterAid. Walking for clean water - Hundreds of thousands walk around the world

This week I agreed to support the 'walk for water' at Westminster as part of a global campaign to raise awareness for the world water and sanitation crisis.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Recession is hitting the poorest hardest, says IFS report.

A new report out today by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that pensioners and poorer households are amongst those that have been the worst hit by the recession. Whilst those earning higher incomes have also seen their income fall, the report also shows that the rich are better able to cope with the brunt of cuts than the poor.

Report summary
Over the last three years there has been a substantial change in the average household income. The report found that from 2008-2011:

• Richest income down 3.8%
• Pensioner income down 2.4%
• Poorest income down 2.1%
• Households with children down 1.1%
• Households without children down 1.8%
• Median income down 1.6%

Across the board, real incomes in the UK fell by 1.6% a year between 2008 and 2011, the study found.

Does Cameron remember the economic misery of the 1980s?

You can read my article for Total Politics here on my hopes for George Osborne's budget this week and the importance of protecting jobs.

Ahead of Osborne’s budget next week, the chancellor must be thinking carefully about how to prevent the further loss of jobs and skilled workers from our economy. Will the government put forward a credible proposal for growth or will they plough ahead with their programme of deep and damaging cuts.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

SORE Save our Respite Establishments - Hargreaves House facing possible closure?

Next Saturday, the 26th at 12.30 in Accrington Town Centre there will be demonstration to save Hargreaves House, one of the 8 respite units for children with disabilities across Lancashire.

The 2011 budget cuts see disabled children's respite under threat. All 8 of the respite units across Lancashire are affected. A number of the units are to close unless the council once again listens and has a change of heart.

The respite units are a home-from-home, a place where children can stay overnight, have fun, learn independence and play and socialise with their peers in a safe environment while their families take a break from 24/7 lifelong caring. It means both child and family get a break from their caring situation.

Many families describe their respite unit as their 'lifeline'.

The Save Our Respite Establishments (SORE) was formed by parents of disabled children in 2006 when Lancashire County Council proposed for closure -simply due to budget cuts- Maplewood House, a disabled children's respite unit. SORE supports families who use the respite centres and will continue to highlight the importance of the respite units for families.

Driver does screeching U-turn... but in wrong direction..

Back in 2009 Conservative's in Lancashire described the closures by the then Labour County Council as 'hitting (the services) of those who rely on them most' with £150,000 of cuts to respite care homes. See flyer below.

This was is the fire storm of the economic downturn. Now the Conservative plans to go much further than mere savings but to close these centres entirely and scale back services. Clearly it wasn't time for change as indicated on the bottom of the leaflet.

If you feel you could benefit from this service contact them for further details:

Alexandra House, Lancaster, Tel: 01524 37606
South Avenue, Morecambe, Tel: 01524 411530
The Bungalow, Preston, Tel: 01772 716252
Maplewood House, Bamber Bridge, Preston, Tel: 01772 336384
Grimshaw Lane, Ormskirk, Tel: 01695 572861
Long Copse, Chorley, Tel: 01257 264485
Reedley Cottages, Burnley, Tel: 01282 602245
Hargreaves House, Oswaldtwistle, Tel: 01254 235675

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Graham Jones writes for Left Foot Forward

Axing of housing regeneration scheme could set communities back a decade.

Graham Jones MP (Labour, Hyndburn) writes for Left Foot Forward

At the end of this month the Housing Market Renewal programme (HMR) introduced back in 2002 under the previous Labour government, will come to an end; so, what is HMR? Housing Market Renewal (HMR) Pathfinders have operated since 2002 in areas of low housing demand.

They were introduced under the previous Labour government with the aim of rebuilding housing markets and communities in parts of the North and the Midlands where demand for housing is relatively weak – areas which have seen a significant decline in population, dereliction, poor services and poor social conditions.

The intention of the strategy was to renew failing housing markets and reconnect them to regional markets, to improve neighbourhoods and to encourage people to live and work in these areas.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Is this Cameron's idea of localism? Woodnook faces the brunt of housing cuts

Spending cuts stall regeneration plans as housing minister ends 10 years of community regeneration efforts, says Graham Jones MP for Total Politics Magazine

A decade-long housing regeneration programme will come to an end at the end of this month leaving £2.2bn worth of taxpayers' money invested in projects only halfway through completion.

The Housing Market Renewal (HMR) programme, introduced in 2002 under Labour, operated in some of the most deprived areas of the country. Its aim? To rebuild housing markets in areas of social and economic decline.

Originally intended to be a 10 to 15-year programme, the government has pulled the plug on it eight years in, at a time when many of the schemes were beginning to see results.

This week, a report released by the Audit Commission commended the HMR programme. It found that HMR made a substantial contribution to improving housing and economic circumstances in some of the country's most deprived areas.

Dromey calls on Government to think again on abandoning Housing Regeneration Programme

Jack Dromey, Labour’s Shadow Local Government Minister, has called on the Government to think again following the release of a report today which highlights the success of the Housing Market Renewal programme which will be terminated by the Government on 31st March, 7 years earlier than planned.

The report by the Audit Commission shows that the programme has:
· generated £5.8 billion of economic activity across the economy
· created some 19,000 jobs in construction and related industries
· for every £1 of HMR investment, attracted over £1 in additional investment from the private and public sectors – and it anticipates that this could have risen significantly had the programme been allowed to run its full length.
· refurbished more than 108,000 existing homes
· attracted private investment to complete over 15,000 new homes

The report suggests that the termination of the programme “untimely and premature” and it states that “the emphasis must be on completing current key interventions; not least to ensure that promises made to communities are met and to reduce the risk of previous investments being undermined by leaving a legacy of uncompleted projects.”

Monday, 7 March 2011

BBC News - Pathfinder home regeneration schemes scrapped

This morning BBC TV News ran a piece about the cuts in Housing Market Renewal which Hyndburn was one of the most significant recipients receiving some £8.5m per year. This money has been axed and Woodnook, East Accrington and parts of Blackburn Road will remain derelict and run down.

The Government has stated in this interview and others that ‘enough money has been provided’ to finish legal obligations. Hyndburn has received just £2.7m to cover around 1400 properties. £2,000 per property or around 100 demolitions.

The Government has run in trouble as Hyndburn Borough Council have decided to spend the funding large scale election promises in marginal seats. Funding has not been ring fenced for the purpose the minister has identified and Conservative Hyndburn Council is taking full advantage.

Early indications suggest that current commitments and a minimum exit strategy to avoid blight becoming the norm will cost in excess of £2.7m allocated. To watch the full piece follow the link below.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Ratings website for private renters could help show bad landlords the door says consumer watchdog

The private rented sector generates more complaints than almost any other. According to a new report issued today by Consumer Focus, the consumer watchdog, one of the biggest issues is that private renters often know very little about their landlords before signing a tenancy agreement.

Today the watchdog has written to some of the largest letting agents and deposit schemes in England calling on them to explore how online feedback could empower tenants by giving them a better insight into their potential landlords.

The new report – ‘Opening the door’ – outlines the information imbalance which works against consumers in the private rented sector. Just 15 per cent of tenants surveyed were able to find all of the information they wanted about a prospective landlord or letting agency.