Monday, 24 December 2012

Why we should introduce votes at 16

I have for a long time been a supporter of votes at 16, and was recently passed an interesting document by the Votes at 16 Coalition which made a powerful case for putting the voting age in line with many of the other rights that people get at that age. I believe the positives outweigh any of the potential concerns, and that the concerns about lowering the voting age are largely exaggerated and misplaced.

The key points are copied below:

Young people in Scotland voting in the Independence referendum

The decision to lower the voting age in the upcoming Scottish referendum will newly enfranchise 8.2% of the UKs 16 and 17-year olds. This is a hugely positive step towards a more inclusive and equal political system. It must, however, only be seen as the first step. It becomes untenable to argue that one section of the UKs 16-17year olds are deemed capable of voting whilst at the same time arguing there is another section that is not. As such, allowing Scottish 16 and 17-year olds to vote in the upcoming referendum must be followed by extending this right to all young people of this age in the UK. This is an argument supported not only by their rights but also by public opinion; a recent poll carried out by the Telegraph found that 53% of the population are in favour of lowering the voting age.

It would further encourage youth democratic engagement.

There is a generation of 16 and 17 year-olds emerging from the education system that are well equipped to engage and participate in both this referendum and all further elections across the UK. Every 16 year-old receiving school education will have completed citizenship classes. This is recent education about political processes and democracy. Furthermore, thousands and thousands of 16 and 17 year-olds are already coming together to engage in direct democracy and encourage community participation and leadership:

Over 590,000 young people voted in youth election in the Academic Year 2011/2012
85% of young people go to a school with a school council so they can work with staff to improve their school.[1]

16 and 17 year-olds are knowledgeable and passionate about the world in which they live and are as capable of engaging in the democratic system as any other citizen. These are people who are already seen as capable of voting for the leader of their respective political parties; a right given to 15 year olds by both the Labour and Conservative parties. Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the UK Government is a signatory, grants every child and young person the right to express their views freely, and to have such views given due weight in all matters affecting them. The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly has urged the Committee of Ministers to encourage member states ‘to reconsider the age-related restrictions placed on voting rights in order to encourage young people’s participation in political life’.[2]

Votes at 16 will engage 16 and 17 year olds, who hold many responsibilities in our society, to influence key decisions that affect their lives and ensure youth issues are represented.

We believe it is impossible to justify the automatic and blanket exclusion of 16 and 17 year olds from the right to vote because, at 16, the law allows a person to:
  1. give full consent to medical treatment
  2. leave school and enter work or training
  3. pay income tax and National Insurance
  4. obtain tax credits and welfare benefits in their own right
  5. consent to sexual relationships
  6. get married or enter a civil partnership
  7. change their name by deed poll
  8. become a director of a company
  9. join the armed forces
  10. become a member of a trade union or a co-operative society.
Not only are 16 and 17 year olds by law able to make complex decisions and take on wide ranging responsibilities, they are also showing in practice that they want to make a positive difference. Locking them out is patronising: it relies on out-dated views about young people’s capacities.

Votes at 16 will empower 16 and 17 year olds, through a democratic right, to influence decisions that will define their future.

There are over 1,530,000 16 and 17 year olds in the UK. These young people are knowledgeable and passionate about the world in which they live, and are as capable of engaging in the democratic system as any other citizen.

Participation in free elections is a fundamental human right (protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UK’s Human Rights Act). Because of these laws the reasons for excluding people from the vote have to be fair and balanced.

16 and 17 year olds would be able to raise issues that are persistently affecting young people in their area and vote on whether the introduction of a policy would improve their area for the better.

Other countries have given their young people the right to vote. Currently you can vote at 16 if you:
  • Live on the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey
  • Live in Austria
  • Live in Nicaragua, Brazil or Ecuador
  • Live in Germany and are voting in Länder or state elections
  • Live in Hungary and meet certain criteria, for example if you are married before reaching the age of 18 you have full adult legal rights and can therefore vote
  • Live in Slovenia and are employed
  • Live in Norway and are part of the 20 selected municipalities that the government has given 16-year-olds the right to vote in the September 2011 local elections, as part of a greater effort to get young people interested in politics.
Votes at 16 will inspire young people to get involved in our democracy

16 and 17 year olds today are ready to engage and participate in our democracy, having learnt the principles in compulsory citizenship education. Through being a local youth councillor, a member of a youth parliament or their student union, they are already engaging in significant numbers. The next step is Votes at 16 – a move that would empower young people to better engage in society and influence decisions that will define their future.

The Votes at 16 coalition is made up of over 70 organisations including the British Youth Council, Funky Dragon, Children’s Rights Alliance England, UNITE, UNISON, TUC, EIS, The Co-operative and the National Union of Students.               

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Food poverty in the UK is far too high

Food poverty in the UK is far too high – in 2012 this should not be the case. I am shocked on a daily basis at the rise in food banks, and the reports I hear from parents and teachers about the numbers of children who go to school hungry. As an indication of the scale of the problem, in 2011, the amount of food distributed by food charity FareShare contributed to more than 8.6 million meals, feeding around 36,500 people each day.

The Trussell Trust estimates that they will have to feed 230,000 people in the coming year – double the amount between 2011-12.

I am joining the calls from Labour to encourage supermarkets and major food retailers to donate more of their edible food to charity rather than send it to landfill. At this time of year particularly, a small amount of effort could both reduce the shocking amount of food that is wasted and help people who are in genuine need of food handouts.

Currently only 1-3%o of retail food waste is donated to charity.

However this is a sticking plaster on a much more serious problem. The Coalition Government has presided over a double dip recession, and is currently presiding over a cost of living crisis in the UK. Wages have stagnated or in some cases been reduced, people are able to work fewer hours and those who are in genuine need of benefits are having them reduced.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

The growth in legal highs and the growing number of fatalities


This quick photo of an article in London's Metro last month highlights the problems found on East Lancashire's streets. The growing menace in the high street of legal highs now totalling some 57 types this year so far. Black Mamba particularly has had press coverage of people who have badly affected by it.

Significantly the number of deaths from legal highs rose between 2009 and 2010 from 5 to 43. The picture it pints is truly shocking and parents must be vigilant to the danger of their children being drawn into using this substances.

I have written to Hyndburn Council and Lancashire County Council Trading Standards to see what can be done to tackle this problem. I have also sought parliamentary answers to the fatality figures for 2011 and 2012.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Hyndburn businesses looking for export opportunities/UKTI help in the far east... read on

The APPG for Trade & Investment will be hosting a Trade Mission to Southeast Asia next year, due to depart Saturday 9th March and return on Saturday 16th March 2013.

The trip is kindly being sponsored by Barclays and Prudential, and is also being supported by UKTI, Asia House, the UK-ASEAN Business Council, and British Airways.

The perils of legal loan sharks - why we must act

As Christmas approaches, a large number of people will be looking for credit over the festive period. However I want to offer a Christmas warning about using payday loan companies – or what are commonly referred to as legal loan sharks.

Legal loan sharking risks putting people into a spiral of debt, with people having to take out other high-interest loans to pay off their existing ones. These companies prey on the poor and vulnerable and have in recent years began an extensive advertising and lobbying campaign. However there are very few people who do not have a financial stake in the industry who would stand up for the status quo.

I am a member of Haslingden Credit Union, a much safer, fairer and more ethical means of lending money for a short term. I urge my constituents to avoid using these high interest short-term legal loan sharks, and look instead to credit unions in the area.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Government go ahead to shale gas extraction

I have expressed on several occasions in the past that I have certain reservations about the merits of fracking for various environmental reasons. I am not blindly opposed to fracking, however it has always been a balancing act between whether we believe the benefits of cheaper gas will a) materialise and b) outweigh the physical downsides of the process.

I fully endorse the words of Caroline Flint, Labour’s Shadow Energy Secretary, who said recently:

“Labour has always said that fracking should only go ahead if it is shown to be safe and environmentally sound. If the Government believes that this is the case then we will look carefully at their proposals against the six clear conditions we have set. But the idea that this form of gas extraction can have the same impact here in the UK as it has had on gas prices in the United States is considered wishful thinking by most experts.”

Letter to the Free Press: Agapao International & international aid

I want to update people living in Haslingden about the efforts my office is taking to prevent the market disposal of the Mary Hindle Centre in Haslingden by Agapao International.

I’d like to thank Caroline Collins, Kate Crane, Tony Nixon, Peter Sweetmore, Christine Calhoun Bulling, Barry Payton, Paul Lydiate and all those whose concern over the Mary Hindle Centre led to a very a very informative public meeting. Subsequent to that I have spoken with Jake Berry MP and we are united on the issue.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Accrington Observer Column - Hyndburn's housing crises

With 2013 almost upon us I would like to wish all readers a merry Christmas and a peaceful new year. It’s a time when most of us can relax with our families and friends, reflect on the year and look forward to the following year.

For some though, Christmas is time of loneliness and isolation and I think we should all make that extra effort to share a moment of our time with our neighbours; the elderly pensioner who may be alone or the vulnerable single person to who it would mean so much.

The Government’s autumn statement deliverd last week with dark nights winter up on us, brought home the chilling reality of their failed economic policies - austerity is here till 2018 at the very least. With government debt and government borrowing rising, the icy economic news continued with credit rating agency Standard and Poor putting Britain’s Triple AAA rating on negative watch – something George Osborne promised to protect.

With rising energy bills, the drop in temperature outside has been unwelcome, especially for the poor and pensioners. There is not a day goes by I don’t think about those in Hyndburn less fortunate.

Poverty in Hyndburn is rising. More families, some in work, are becoming reliant on food banks whilst the Conservatives have been accused of having to ‘fiddle’ poverty figures by the Institute for Fiscal Studies as the government have no chance of keeping their pledge to end it.

I have always been driven by the desire to help the next generation in Hyndburn to achieve their ambitions, to escape poverty. To fulfil their ambitions would not only improve their lives as they grow up, but would make Hyndburn a much better place to be both socially and economically. Every day I am presented with a much sadder reflection of life in Hyndburn.

Speaking to teachers in Hyndburn I have been made increasingly aware of the growing numbers of young children turning up to school hungry, not well kept, unable to concentrate and struggling with their education. Some of this is down to welfare cuts; some of the responsibility lies with poor parenting with wasteful household budgets or parents unable to manage their own children; children who rarely if ever see one of their parents, who never have a book read to them or experience a family day out.

I hope this Christnas day that every child has a book or two in amongst their presents – and of course a parent to read it.

There is third reason for child poverty and it is the housing crises for which we cannot just blame the Tories. Gordon Brown and particularly Tony Blair made mistakes. The dislike of social housing and promotion of the private rented sector has seen rent levels rise to almost twice the rent of Hyndburn Homes and more often than not substandard housing conditions.

One single mum who loved her kids and was doing the right thing came to see me recently. She had been forced to rent a 3 bedroomed former council house, now owned by private landlord through Right to Buy. Her rent was £600 per month. The rent at the Hyndburn Homes property next door was just £300. She was the victim of domestic abuse and her partner had abandoned her and their children. She received £425 in housing benefit - the extra £175 is being picked up by taxpayer because it is privately rented. To add to her problems the landlord refuses to carry out essential repairs and the house is in a poor condition. Nearly every case of someone living in poverty has two common elements, a greedy landlord and often an old terraced house in disrepair. The government’s Housing Benefit bill now stands at £24billion and is rising as the governments only answer to the housing crises is growth of the private rented sector.

With a thought for our neighbours or those in need, I wish everyone all the best for the new year.

Electrical Safety Campaign to improve safety in the Private Rented Sector

I have been campaigning for improved electrical safety in the private rented sector. Currently landlords are not required to have electrical safety certificates unlike Gas where they are required to be certificated as safe.

The law does state that 'electrical installations are safe at the beginning of any tenancy' under the 1985 Housing and Tenant Act. 

I have visited numerous properties where electrical installations are dangerous death traps. Often rented out to the most vulnerable in the most desperate of conditions, unwilling to complain, no understanding of the law, their rights or risks or how to deal with the danger and often housing young children with inquisitive fingers. It is shocking. An awful accident may well be preventable.

Eastgate parking issue - National Motorists Action Group step in to help

NMAG looking to take a test case to civil court and shed light on the companies involved.
The National Motorists Action Group have approached my office and told me that they are prepared to look at assisting those who have paid the fines (and are being refused a refund) on a pro-bono basis to seek justice and refunds for motorists unfairly penalised at Eastgate Car Park (as yet it isn’t clear as to which company is operating the car park).

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Eastgate parking update - A case of immoral business practices

Cllr Clare Pritchard, Cabinet Member for Town Centres, spoke today in response to a statement issued by Excel parking, the company responsible for issuing parking notices at Eastgate car park during the summer.

Great Harwood Health Centre - Almost there!

Great Harwood Health Centre has reached the final stage.

A Full Business Case approval is expected from the Strategic Health Authority any day and I am told definitely before Christmas. Work on site would is expected to start by end of January 2013.

As MP this scheme has been a top priority. It is important the the northern towns, particularly Great Harwood have 21st century health care facilities. I have lobbied the PCT, the Council, the strategic health authority and the Secretary of State on this issue.

Hyndburn's Labour Council - Woodnook Community Update | Dec. 2012

Your Labour Council continues to invest in Woodnook with further plans for wider  neighbourhood investment.

The Labour Party is committed to Woodnook with a £multi-million refurbishment programme about to begin.

The Tories failed to do anything in 13 years in Woodnook.

Labour Counclllors and I expect that residents will be kept informed. Below is the second Council newsletter detailing current policy (and progress) in Woodnook as part of Labour's promise to regenerate the neighbourhood.

Further, as your Labour MP I have added my thoughts (italics) on the future of Woodnook. I am excited that finally after years of broken Tory promises, development is finally about to begin, that a Labour Council has pursued and secured further funding, the very high quality of the refurbishments with low running costs, that working families will add to the stability of the neighbourhood and the local primary school, and crucially that there will be a 50% reduction in rents compared to a typical house in Woodnook.

Woodnook Newsletter

A few months have passed since our last newsletter and there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes during this time; the Council have secured extra funding from the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) to tackle the wider issue of empty homes in Woodnook; the joint venture between PlaceFirst and Twin Valley Homes has secured funding to deliver the first phase of property refurbishment and, together with the Council, we are developing a plan to invest in further property refurbishment, public realm improvements, and neighbourhood management across the wider Woodnook area.

A summary of the key developments since our last newsletter is highlighted below.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Carbon monoxide safety advice

Leading TV soap-opera Coronation Street will feature an episode over Christmas with one of its leading characters becoming seriously ill as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. The cause was a faulty boiler repair undertaken by an unqualified friend as opposed to a Gas Safe registered installer.

BBC. New life for Accrington ghost streets of terraced homes

Developers are converting "two-up, two down" homes into four bedroom houses in Accrington

Waiting for customers can be a lonely vigil for Mohammed Zahir in his corner shop.
His business is marooned among a sea of boarded up terraced houses in Accrington, east Lancashire, serving a remnant of a once thriving community.

"There's no customers, there's nobody in the houses", he said.

But there is hope that the Woodnook neighbourhood's fortunes are going to be revived by a private developer and a housing association backed by the local Hyndburn Council.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Energy Minister agrees to visit Hyndburn to see problems for himself

In Parliament in committee last month I raised several issues of importance regarding new energy efficiency measures being introduced by the Government.

Notably that the Green Deal which excludes tenants in privately rented properties from applying until 2018 unless their landlord gives them express permission to do so. The text of which is below. I have written in next weeks Accrington Observer about rising child poverty, unfair PRS rents and children arriving at the school gates hungry and unable to concentrate.

I also raised the issue of higher costs for prepayment meters and how they fit in with Green Deal repayments given they are not a fixed amount. See text at foot.


On Wednesday the Energy Bill will come before Parliament for second reading. Briian has to get it's energy policy right but what we see at the heart of government is division and and confusion. A Prime Minister who has promoted John Hayes, climate change sceptic and wind farm objector to the heart of the department in direct conflict with the the LibDem Secretary of State.

This week the Committee on Climate Change warned that there is a real risk that the Government’s energy policy will lock Britain into a high-cost, high carbon energy supply, when we should be investing in new sources of clean energy.

Energy bills are soaring, contributing to the cost of living crisis afflicting millions of families. But this Tory-led Government is out-of-touch, out-of-date and puts the interests of the big energy companies ahead of ordinary families and pensioners struggling with soaring energy bills.

Hard-pressed families have already seen their energy bills rise by nearly £300 since this Tory-led Government came to power. To get the fair energy bills the public deserve the Government must commit to a clear target to clean up Britain’s power sector by 2030 and get behind Labour’s plans to break the dominance of the energy giants, open up the energy market, and create a tough new energy regulator with the power to force energy companies to pass on savings to consumers.

When the Energy Bill returns to Parliament at Committee Stage, I and my colleagues sat on the Bill committee will be doing the utmost to ensure that Britain's has a long sustainable plan for energy.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Supporting Accrington Women's Centre

I recently donated £100 to the Women's Centre, a worthwhile cause.They are located on Blackburn Road.

LINK ...

East Lancashire Women's Centres offer a range of services and opportunities that help us to meet our aim to ‘Support, Encourage and Enable’ all women to get the best out of life for themselves and their families.  We support emotional wellbeing through group work, personal development courses and counselling.  We deliver employment support and life skills training to make work more accessible.

The centres provide a safe, non-judgemental and professional environment that is female only between the hours of 10am - 3pm.  Whatever their needs, women can drop-in or telephone during our opening times to speak to a member of our team.

Telephone Accrington 01254 871771 

Dear Mr Jones - A Residents Association letter on the success of HMR

(and why demoliton is important) 

Dear Mr. Jones, Having read your blog, I thought here is someone who has common sense and sees the real picture, who listens to residents opinions, much like our Councillor Alan Dean.

Let me tell you of our experience.

The Welsh streets in Liverpool 8 seems to have been the catalyst that started the interference by SAVE and Empty Homes Agency, as we have had various media coverage since 2005, when we have put our point about HMR to the public at large, only to have our side of the matter edited out of broadcasts and credence only given to the views of the Anti-demolition campaigners.

Osborne’s 'strivers tax' on working people

David Cameron and George Osborne have tried to claim their new cuts announced in the Autumn Statement were aimed at the ‘shirkers’ and ‘scroungers’.

But the truth is that six out of ten people hit by these cuts are people who get up every morning and go to work. The factory worker on the night shift, the carer who looks after elderly people around the clock and the new mum who will lose her maternity pay. These are people David Cameron and George Osborne never meet and whose lives they will never understand.

The people that are losing out here aren’t skivers; they’re strivers. It’s hard-working people, trying to do the right thing, who are paying the price for the Tories’ economic failures.

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, in a speech today on the One Nation Labour approach to cultural diversity and integration in Britain

I know that local people have worries about the pace of change in Haslingden and Hyndburn – about immigration and the challenges it can bring.

People worry about the impact of rapid change on jobs and our economy; and they want to know that, as we welcome people who have come to Britain to work and contribute to our society, we will have integrated communities, not separate ones.

Ed Miliband’s One Nation Labour understands these concerns. We’ve put forward a number of proposals – from stronger English language requirements in our public services to fining private landlords who crowd families into inadequate housing and tackling separate communities.

He praised the achievements of successive generations of migrants and the British people as a whole in creating a diverse society where people of different backgrounds are capable of working and living together.

But he said we must not sweep under the carpet public anxiety about the cultural identity of Britain and about the separateness of some communities: anxiety which has been heightened by the pace of migration in recent years.

He acknowledged that Labour made mistakes on this issue in the past and emphasised that we cannot assume that people will simply learn to get along together automatically.

Instead, Britain needs a comprehensive strategy for integration. Such a strategy should focus on substance, not symbols, as it has too often in the past.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

£46m Health and Wellbeing Committee for Lancashire all set to fail?

Dear Board Members,

I write with a great deal of concern for the future of health and wellbeing in Lancashire. The purpose of the Health and Wellbeing boards is to integrate health and wellbeing into local government service provision. However, the recently constituted and launched Health and Wellbeing Board in Lancashire seems to be largely comprised of clinicians, the result of which means that the Board is focused on clinical needs, not the health and wellbeing needs of the people of Lancashire.

Wrong body for these priorities

The Health and Wellbeing Board’s stated priorities are:
  1. · Smoking in pregnancy
  2. · Loneliness in older people
  3. · Affordable warmth
  4. · Early response to domestic violence
  5. · Support for carers
  6. · Alcohol liaison nurses
  7. · Identify those who are at risk of admission into hospital and provide appropriate intervention
  8. · Self-care – encourage people to take control of their own health & wellbeing
  9. · Healthy Weight – Environmental measures
  10. · Joined up support for vulnerable families (first pregnancy)
I am deeply concerned that the majority of these are clinical issues that fail to tackle the bigger issues such as obesity, poor housing, under employment that contribute to poor health and wellbeing. The result is that the Board simply functions as a crutch for the NHS in Lancashire.
Background note for readers:
One of the implications of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 is that almost half of NHS funding on public health services is to be transferred to local authorities in 2012/13. Using baseline expenditure data from 2010/11 he Department of Health have estimated that a projected £4.6 billion pounds will be spent on public health in 2012/13 and £2.2 billion of this will be spent on services that will fall in within the responsibilities of local authorities. These services are to be funded by a ring-fenced grant distributed directly to local authorities.

Why SAVE Britains Heritage and Empty Homes Agency are wrong in opposing demolition

I have updated the artcile at the foot with a letter of reply from the EHA and my response.

Last year (2011) I led the campaign for exit funding from Government after they axed with immediate effect ongoing Housing Market Renewal (Pathfinders) schemes leaving them half way through.

Many areas had rows of abandoned homes boarded up with only a percentage in council ownership leaving a permanent unresolvable blight.

Following the campaign, then Housing Minister relented but, having caved in to the anti demolition lobby indicated that HMR transitional relief (exit finding) could only be used for relieving trapped homeowners.

Some authorities have engaged in demolition but their position is that the demolitions were funded through other funding.

The bottom line is demolition is crucial. Stock reduction is the only option. These are areas of depopulation left with more homes than families. Where the types of homes consumers want, modern, energy efficient in more aspirational neighbourhoods are in short supply exacerbating the oversupply.

1.2m new jobs Mr Cameron? Where?

The House of Commons Library latest constituency unemployment figures for November 2012 which were published today at 9.30am by the Office for National Statistics reveal that the number of unemployed claimants in Hyndburn constituency in November 2012 was 2,163.

This represents a rate of 5.1% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64, the 286th highest of the 650 UK constituencies. (1st = highest rate of unemployment, 650th = lowest rate of unemployment.)That the number of claimants is 7 higher than in November 2011 and 2 lower than in October 2012.

The number of unemployed claimants in Rossendale and Darwen constituency in November 2012 was 2,211. This represents a rate of 4.7% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64, the 320th highest of the 650 UK constituencies. (1st = highest rate of unemployment, 650th = lowest rate of unemployment.)
The number of claimants is 9 lower than in November 2011.

Following on from the all the funding cuts directed at the North and places like Hyndburn and Rossendale, the huge rise in working people using foodbanks, it is hard to see how we are all in this together and hadr to see how that the economic situation is improving.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Hyndburn's New Homes Bonus just £5,320 out of £199 million distributed nationally

I have raised the issue of the unfairness of this issue in the commons previously; How the New Homes Bonus is designed to take money from local councils in huge cuts and then redistribute it to southern councils.

Hyndburns New Homes Bonus is just £5,320 this year. Bottom - last - in the league table on funding. No 352 out of 352 local authorities. Rossendale are 7th from bottom with £73,085 and I would be interested to hear my colleague's Jake Berry MPs' explantion for this given his support

The amount Hyndburn and Rossendale are being given is a paltry amount considering £232m is being handed out.

The reality is local Councils do not build houses. House builders meeting unet demand provides incentives for house builders.

The reality is that services in Rossendale and Hyndburn will have to be cut deeper than anywhere else. Fairer funding would allow the building of a new swimming pool in Haslingden.

It is disgraceful that this Tory-led government is targeting Labour areas, targeting poor areas where they kinow they won't have to pay out grants. Areas where the housing market has collapsed and house building is put on hold. The Tories know that Borough's like Hyndburn do not have huge housing demand. The New Hones Bonus is a scheme designed to inflict more austerity and pain whilst rewarding wealthy leafy Tory Boroughs.

Surrey County Council which as a shire authority only receives 20% NHB is getting £2,825,000 million.Central; Bedforshire is getting £2,082,087 and Aylesbury Vale £1,553,233.

LINK ... League table of New Homes Bonus here.

Local Conservatives should be ashamed of their own governments policies and their impact on places like Hyndburn. 

Below is the letter from the minster.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Digital TV: Tory Council negotiated a terrible deal with little protection for Baxenden residents

This week Energiekontor have made an improved offer to Baxenden residents.

The offer (see foot of article) by EnergieKontor is a significant improvement on the agreement they made with the former Conservative Council and I am grateful that the company have moved a considerable way from the obligations they agreed with that former Council. 

However whilst some may find it a satisfactory offer with an improved digital TV offer, there may well be some Baxenden residents who are affected who do not, primarily those who feel forced to pay the £60. I will continue to speak with Energiekontor to ensure Baxenden residents receive a return to a digital TV service they would not unreasonably expect.

However the reality we have to face is that the former Conservative Council signed an agreement that has left residents liable for their own repairs costs in most cases.

The Conservatives negotiated and signed a legally binding Section 106 agreement limiting EnergieKontor to a maximum £10,000 ceiling on making good any lost digital TV reception due to the wind farm. Energiekontor have reminded me that legally they are not obliged to spend a penny over £10,000.

Hyndburn Council have provided this information;
The Section 106 agreement does include a TV reception sum of £10,000. Notwithstanding this sum of money EnergieKontor have given an undertaking to continue to re-align TV aerials where necessary even if the £10,000 sum is exceeded. The re-alignment would be in respect of resident's antennas to receive the Haslingden TV transmitter. 
EnergieKontor has confirmed that they will endeavour to ensure that the quality of TV reception is at least the same as indicated in the submitted Baseline Study submitted to the Council prior to the erection of the wind turbines. The Section 106 agreement requires that that the quality of TV reception is to the same level as the Baseline Study following erection of the wind turbines. 
The Section 106 agreement does not require EnergieKontor to address the quantity of channels available to view at each property. Notwithstanding this EnergieKontor have given an undertaking to contribute £100 towards a Freesat system in certain cases. This is not a planning requirement and residents are advised to seek further information from EnergieKontor about this matter (email  

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Westminster News - This week’s mini-Budget hits strivers, not shirkers


The evidence at the Leveson inquiry, including the harrowing testimony of victims such as the Dowlers and the McCanns, has shown the need for real reform of the press complaints system and to ensure that any new system is truly independent of both politicians and the press.

A strong, irreverent, fearless press that holds the powerful to account is essential to democracy. But a free press must also be a clean press – it can’t hold power to account if it is abusing power itself.

Elected to Vice Chair of APPG Housing Group

I have been elected to the vice chair of the important APPG of the Housing Group. I hope in my time we can shift the debate from predominently Social Housing to the more work on the impact of Private Rented Sector

On that note new chair of the APPG for Housing, Annette Brook MP, has recently tabled EDM 815 which urges the Government to require lettings agents to be members of a Government-approved redress scheme and to meet statutory minimum professional standards to trade.

RICS calls on MP's to support residents in your constituency and bring about reforms to protect them from unscrupulous letting agents. 

I met with RICS lately to discuss the issue of the PRS and issue of first buyers being priced out of home ownership with the escalating costs of the PRS.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Cummins Mellor

Cummins Mellor are a recruitment agency in Accrington and a real success story considering the current economic troubles that the area and country is facing. They have recently refurbished their office and held a small launch party, and are looking forward to an equally successful 2013.

I am happy that there are some business success stories in the area that we can be proud of. It is easy to be negative about the current state of the economy, our area has been very badly hit by almost any measure. Unemployment, and particularly long term youth unemployment are far too high, and from what I hear from local businesses, confidence is low.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Anderson Schools Challenge to raise awareness of autism

I am supporting the Anderson Schools Challenge to raise awareness of autism in our primary schools.

The Anderson Schools Challenge is a joint campaign between The National Autistic Society (NAS) and the Anderson Foundation, which asks schools to complete 50 fun and easy tasks in celebration of the NAS’ 50th Birthday.

Monday, 3 December 2012

SET for BRITAIN 2013 - a major scientific competition

Dear Colleague, I am writing on behalf of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee to alert you to a major scientific competition and exhibition in Parliament and ask you to encourage eligible candidates in your constituency to take part. SET for BRITAIN will be held in the House of Commons on Monday 18 March 2013 between 12.30pm and 9.00pm during National Science and Engineering Week 2013.

Baxenden digital TV loss - latest

This morning the Council agreed that Energiekontor would supply an updated spread sheet of residents affected by the loss of signal in accordance with the S106 Agreement.

It is expected that this would be updated daily on Energiekontors web site to minimise calls to Hyndburn Council and them to direct councillors and the public alike to such a spread sheet.

  • Antibiotic resistance, lack of antibiotics and Newsnight

    Dear Member of Parliament, further to my recent email and letter to you with information about the lack of new antibiotics and the Antibiotic Action initiative, I am writing to inform you that this topic was featured on BBC Newsnight yesterday evening (Friday 30th November). You can view the episode here

    If you have not already signed the petition, and you agree that action must be taken to discover, research and develop new antibiotics, please sign on-line; it will only take a few minutes. If you also wish to join the APPG on antibiotics, which will be chaired by Jamie Reed MP, please email me.

    Sexual Health Education

    Dear Mr Jones, we're a nationwide online magazine geared towards the LGBT community in the UK and today (1st December 2012) sees the launch of our free, confidential and crucially, online sexual health clinic.

    With WorldAIDSDay today the world's focus for one day is on HIV, we all dream of a world without HIV, AIDS or any sexual health infections. Of course that hope and dream of a world without these infections starts with education, which is why we've teamed up with 56 Dean Street the UK's most popular sexual health clinic.

    As I'm sure you're aware (as reported in the HPA yesterday) for the first time since 1999 new homosexual diagnoses of the HIV infection rose to record highs - clearly the message isn't getting out there through traditional means - which brings me back to our campaign. #AskUsWeWontJudge

    Shelters 'The Housing Report' Third Edition - the coalition so far

    Shelters 'The Housing Report' Third Edition - An online report in to whether the coalitions housing policies  are succeeding.

    Taking part in the worlds biggest coffee morning

    Recently I took part in the worlds biggest coffee morning to raise money for McMillan Cancer Support in Accrington. It is a wonderful charity that provides so much to those who find themselves facing one of life's great disease's. I was delighted to help raise as much as possible and talk to people about the event.

    Sunday, 2 December 2012

    Mobile Operators Association - 4G TV update (Baxenden/Hyndburn)

    Graham, I noted your PQs on 4G and television services (the impact it will have on services, the lack detail in the governments £180m compensation scheme, the fact that Winter Hill be the worst affected)).

    I'd be very happy to brief you on the issue. Please find attached a briefing paper on the issue. Do please get in touch if you'd like anything further on this.

    Best wishes, Graham Dunn
    Policy and External Relations Manager
    Mobile Operators Association

    From the Mobile Operators Association


    You may have heard about the coming introduction of ‘4G’ mobile services, which will bring superfast broadband on our phones at speeds similar to those you would expect now from a home broadband connection. Consumers are increasingly choosing to access the Internet via a mobile device. Across the UK, 58% of adults now own a smartphone, 20% owns a tablet computer, and 11% of people have a ‘dongle’, modem stick or data card for mobile broadband usage.

    Saturday, 1 December 2012

    Michael Gove can't defend his own schools policy.

    Michael Gove for all his gusto and self promoting directness has failed now on several occasions to answer a simple question.
    There are two schools who compete for the same number of children. One is a sponsored Academy with a rich philanthropic backer whose latest act of generosity is apparently a £2.5m swimming pool, the other a state school. The state school, free to take as many children as it wishes takes an extra 30 and the local authority school, funded on a per pupil basis loses 30 and has to make 20 staff redundant.

    Friday, 30 November 2012

    Moving towards the plain packaging of tobacco & cigarettes

    I was recently contacted by Tobacco Free Futures regarding the issue of plain packaging for cigarettes. There is a great deal of support in the constituency for the introduction of these measures in the UK, and it is something with which I have a great deal of sympathy – however with all measures, the devil is in the detail. I would not want to exacerbate or create an adverse problem.

    The Australian Government passed a bill last year that requires tobacco is sold in olive green boxes with large graphic health warnings. This was based on research which supposedly showed that this colour would be the most off-putting to smokers.

    The UK has been very active in the past when it comes to reducing smoking, and the public have broadly backed measures to achieve this. Plain packaging of tobacco could help further reduce the burden of smoking in this country.

    Today is national Carers Rights Day

    National Carers Rights Day supports Carers UK’s campaign urging people caring for ill or disabled loved ones to access all the support they are entitled to.

    There are around 6.4 million unpaid carers in the UK who provide care and support to family, friends and neighbours, saving the country an estimated £119 billion each year.

    This year, new Carers UK research has also pointed to the additional pressure faced by ‘sandwich carers’ who are juggling childcare with looking after ageing or disabled relatives. A survey of over 1,000 ‘sandwich carers’ showed that 4 in 10 were struggling to cope, with two thirds reporting strain on marriages and personal relationships and three quarters saying they had seen a drop in earnings as they struggle to combine work with family responsibilities.

    Policing on the cheap; ASBO's being replaced by 'restorative justice'.

    At the request of the Police Federation, I recently met with several concerned police officers from across East Lancashire, who serve in various roles and at various levels within Lancashire Constabulary. They wanted to meet with me to tell me what impact the Government’s police cuts are doing to policing in Lancashire. 

    Thursday, 29 November 2012

    GUARDIAN - Top Tory accuses Michael Gove of 'bully boy tactics' over academies

    Lancashire county council leader, Geoff Driver, turns on education secretary for ignoring improvements in LEA schools.
    Michael Gove has been accused by one of the Tories' most senior figures in local government of resorting to "bully boy tactics" to drum up support for his flagship academies and to undermine traditional schools.

    In a scathing letter to the education secretary, the leader of Lancashire county council says it is "incredulous" that he fails to acknowledge improvements in schools still under the control of local education authorities.

    Geoff Driver, a Conservative who represents Preston North on the county council, turned on Gove in a five-page letter after the education secretary said in a letter to Lancashire MPs that its schools were under-performing. His letter followed a warning in July by Dr Elizabeth Sidwell, the schools commissioner for England, that primary schools in the county would thrive as academies "rather than staying under the control of the local authority, which clearly isn't working".

    Read more at ...

    Wednesday, 28 November 2012

    Press release – Eastgate Parking 28.11.12

    Excel parking, the company responsible for issuing parking notices on Eastgate car park over the summer have finally issued a statement. They have advised motorists who received a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) in respect of a parking contravention between 2nd June 2012 to 8th July 2012, that:

    Baxenden digital tv reception - my own mystery?

    I have never contacted EnergieKontor personally about my grandmothers house in Baxenden but this week had a call from them saying their engineer could not get access. The engineer pushed this note through the door (see below) with scrawl on it and a bogus telephone number.

    When I queried this with the co-ordinator Nathan Wicks he said "someone calling themself Graham Jones MP has left a message with telephone number, asking us to check his aerial last Tuesday".

    Monday, 26 November 2012

    Age UK published its new campaign report, ‘The Cost of Cold’,

    Thousands of older people die avoidably each winter and yesterday Age UK published its new campaign report addressing the issue, ‘The Cost of Cold’, which you can find on our website here.