Saturday, 30 June 2012

Northern Future debated at Westminster

An article by The Hannah Mitchell Foundation:

Over fifty people, including a large number of MPs and peers, attended the Hannah Mitchell Foundation’s first meeting at the House of Commons on Tuesday June 26th.

The Foundation’s president, Linda Riordan, MP for Halifax, opened the meeting and stressed that now was an ideal time to look at new forms of governance for The North of England, as the gap between North and South widens and the debate about Scottish independence gathers momentum.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Eastgate retail car park ticket scandal - Addendum

Latest update:
The Council have spoken to the letting agents Aston Rose agents.They have written to the tenants of Eastgate to ask if they are OK with the parking time allowed to revert to 3 hours (Morrisons have already indicated they are OK with this). The question raised here of course is did they write and gain approval in the first place to shorten the waiting time to one and half hours?

The letting agent is still chasing the parking people regarding what signs went up and when. As far as Iis known there were two signs (one next to the car wash & the other in the far r/h corner covered by some trees) put up for a period of about three weeks during June. Last weekend after a number of complaints another 4 signs were put up around the periphery of the car park. If anyone can confirm this it would help.

The letting agent is suggesting to the car parking firm they rescind the tickets issued between the time period between there being  two signs and when the extra four signs went up i.e. beginning of June to last weekend – however depending on the facts this may not happen. He is also asking that those people who have complained to the Council have their tickets cancelled – again this is ongoing.

Finally it is worth pointing people to the following link: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/reclaim/private-parking-tickets#fight as this seems to advise people not to pay the ticket as it is very unlikely the car parking company will pursue it (worth a look).

The Council will continue to update you on the matter as and when.

Yesterday

I as MP and the Council have received a flood of complaints about car park parking fines on a FREE car park in Accrington. The car park on Eastgate in front of Morrison's Supermarket and the other stores has decreased the time you can park free there from three hours to one and half hours. 


As a consequence the opportunity managers of the site have instructed a car clamping company to begin issuing fines which appear on badly printed form demanding £60 immediate payment or face a £100 fine. Tickets are not being issued, residents are simply receiving a payment notice via post to their home address.

Miles Parkinson the Council Leader has instructed the town centre office to act quickly to resolve this disgraceful greedy practice.

My own view is that shame on Morrison's and the others for allowing this happen. They claim to offer customers value then rip them off with car parking charges. I cannot believe that a company such as Morrisons do not have an agreement on free parking as part of their lease arrangements. I intend to pursue this matter.

If you have been fined, contact your local councillor immediately.

The town centre manager visited the site yesterday and there are now 6 signs dotted about the place that contain information about the use of the ANPR.

He has already been in contact with the letting agents again and had long a conversation with Morrisons. There seems to be no hard evidence this car park is being ‘abused’ by people using it to go elsewhere and I nor anyone else has ever seen people queuing to get in.

Following those conversations the town centre manager has been assured that the owners will definitely extend the hours to 2 hours and he is trying hard to convince them to go back to 3 hours which they are hopefully considering.

In terms of reimbursements the letting agents have asked the Council to gather the names and addresses of the people that have received tickets so they can try and determine the actual numbers, so if you could let either myself or my staff know, or your local councillor know what you know and your details can be forwarded.

The Council are consulting planning and legal to check the original consent and it would appear that the notices given are not penalty charges as they are on private land but rather a charge for ‘loss incurred’. The view seems to be that if the owners took everyone to Court a judge would have to decide whether £60 is a reasonable charge for ‘loss incurred’ on that car park, which common sense would suggest it isn’t as parking is free.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Hyndburn residents are in one of England’s highest repossession risk areas


Hyndburn residents are in one of England’s highest repossession risk areas

Hyndburn has one of the highest proportions of homeowners at risk of repossession compared to other local authority areas.

This follows the data released last week which made the front page of Guardian (Tues 19th June) – here and here which stated that 30% of all households in Hyndburn (second on the list of vulnerability in the UK) are at risk of slipping into 'official poverty'. Described as just ‘one bill away’.

Shelter’s new research reveals the numbers of households that have been issued with mortgage possession claims in each local authority in England during 2011/12. We hope this research helps you to anticipate the support your residents may need and consider whether your local services will be able to cope with the increased demand.

Whilst the figures appear low per 100 households, 1 in 200 the reality is people in Hyndburn are really struggling highlighted by the data next week.

Lancashire MP Graham Jones questions Lancashire's rural broadband subsidy

Lancashire MP Graham Jones questions priority of rural broadband
Jennifer Scott for Computer Weekly
Thursday 21 June 2012 12:48

http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240158448/Lancashire-MP-Graham-Jones-questions-priority-of-rural-broadband

Lancashire County Council's investment of £32m to get superfast broadband to rural areas is being brought into question by a local MP, who claims other, more pressing social issues should take priority.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Lancashire’s Health and Wellbeing Board – fit for purpose or a political vehicle?


Lancashire’s Health and Wellbeing Board looks politically skewed and one has to question whether it can make the best judgements for the health and well being of Lancastrians given it’s unrepresentative nature.

It is not just politically biased but geographically leaving it less accountable. Hyndburn is completely unrepresented.

There are six politicians on the new Board: five Tories and one Labour – a new member, giving the Tories a huge majority voice. The question of direction and policy mirrors the problems with the Government’s NHS reforms – healthcare becomes partisan and decisions potentially not made based on absolute need but relative need.

In the case of Lancashire we have a Health and Wellbeing Board which is mainly comprised of Conservative County and District Councillors, all of whom represent more loosely populated rural areas. Aside from the new member Julie Cooper in Burnley, none of the old industrial and mill towns are represented – despite the fact that they have greater need.

This isn’t some tea and biscuits committee. They will have a budget of £70million for the purpose of primary care in Lancashire.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Plain packaging of tobacco products – what it is and why it is needed

By Action on Smoking & Health.

On 13 June an article in the FT headlined ‘Philip Morris hits at UK over plain packs’ highlighted two reports commissioned by the company - the first saying that the DH evidence review was unreliable and the second that plain packs would make counterfeiting easier and lead to an increase in tobacco smuggling.

There is no hard evidence in either report to justify these conclusions.

The real reason behind the industry’s campaign against plain, standardised packaging is that it will prevent tobacco manufacturers using the pack as a promotional tool to recruit new smokers.

Plain standardised packs can be designed to make them just as difficult to counterfeit as current packaging, with covert markings making them easily distinguishable from counterfeit packs.

Morality of Tax - My piece for yesterday's Sunday Times

Jimmy Carr, Gary Barlow – it’s been quite a week for moralising about tax fairness at the top. Mr Cameron has launched in with both feet describing Carr’s Jersey tax arrangements as "straightforward tax avoidance" and in doing so offering a veritable feast of inevitable and uncomfortable stories about other Tory tax dodging donors and in the case of Gary Barlow OBE, supporters who have rewarded with an honour.

It’s been a bad three months for the Conservatives on tax arguably still fending off Ed Miliband’s now famous conference speech calling for a moral society, highlighting Britain’s disdain of the naked and negative impacts of aggressive capitalism parking Ed’s tanks on the lawns of yearning Tory nostalgia.

George Osborne in another mea-culpa is the Conservative responsible for the opening of Pandora’s problematic moralising tax box describing in his budget aggressive tax avoidance as "morally repugnant". This populist banana skin has the potential to gain Olympian legs. The Tories have for generations politically hid behind the collective line that "tax is a private matter".

Sunday, 24 June 2012

YourNHS.com - Labour’s NHS Check Report - Cameron’s Health Lottery

Dear Graham,

In 2012, the NHS has shot back up the agenda - and you helped put it there.

By signing petitions and campaigning in every part of the country earlier this year, we put enormous pressure on the Government over its plans for our NHS.

Sadly, they rammed it through. But Labour wants to keep together the coalition of people who fought for our NHS when it mattered most.

Today I’ve released the first edition of Labour’s NHS Check Report - Cameron’s Health Lottery.

Recently over a thousand people have come together and used the NHS Check website, YourNHS.com to share their experience of the NHS frontline. We used the information shared to survey all parts of the health service and today’s results show the NHS restricting access to 125 different treatments since this Government came to power. Ministers are leaving patients with the agonising choice of paying for private treatment or going without.

Each month we will expose the gap between Ministers’ rhetoric and what’s really happening in our NHS.

You can take a look at the first NHS Check report in full here, and share your NHS experiences at YourNHS.com

Andy Burnham

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Lancashire County Council's rural broadband subsidy - A recap

There seems some media interest in Lancashire County Council's rural broadband subsidy. I thought I'd provide a recap on that debate.

Generation rent being pushed into poor housing

There has been a lot in the media recently about so-called ‘generation rent’ – and the increasing market-domination of the private rented sector. A study by the Joseph Rowntree foundation found that by 2020 the number of home owners under 30 will fall from 2.4m to 1.3m – which amounts to a drop of 46%. The report also predicts that 400,000 young people will be “excluded completely”; unable to afford either to rent or buy.

Guide Dogs’ campaign against dog attacks

Last Wednesday I went to support the issue of guide dogs being attacked by other dogs.

Theer is a short film at the event, which told the stories of three guide dog owners whose dogs had been attacked. The film is available online at the following link: http://youtu.be/ZeIPsv4NAg8

Guide Dogs’ latest research has revealed that on average, eight guide dogs are attacked every month. The majority of these attacks have occurred when the guide dog was in harness and working.

Keep Renting Safe Campaign

I am supporting the Keep Renting Safe Campaign, which has been started by the National Private Tenants Organisation – a group representing the interests of those living in the private rented housing sector.

The campaign calls for compulsory inspections of the electrical installations and appliances supplied to tenants by landlords in all privately rented homes – not just HMOs.

The Electrical Safety Council has found that of all the people receiving an electric shock , private tenants are disproportionately affected: with 16% of the UK population living in private rented properties , they account for 20% of UK adults receiving an electric shock.

In 2008 a young mother living in Cornwall was electrocuted and died in a bath due to a faulty heater and lack of earthing in the property. The deputy Coroner said "There is no requirement for periodic inspections of electricity in homes and that to me seems inexplicable. I'm bound to wonder how many other properties are today in a similar state as this one was."

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Parliamentary Lancashire Day - 27th November

Eric Ollerenshaw MP organised last years inaugural Parliamentary Lancashire Day, bringing some local small producers, County Council, Visit Lancashire, Lancashire Cricket Club and the Championship Trophy to Westminster to show off what our County has to offer.

This year a second Lancashire Day has been organised for 27th November between 10am and 5pm.

This in support of the 'The Friends of Real Lancashire's' Lancashire Day. A group who are promoting all things good from the old county of Lancashire. http://www.forl.co.uk/lancday.html


As part of the Westminster lancashire Day celebration I am appealing to any producers/businesses in Haslingden or Hyndburn who could come along and exhibit to get in touch with my office. 01254 382283.

An invite has been sent to relevant Ministers, representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and Lancashire County Council.

For reference, last year we had beer and pies from Lancaster and Fleetwood, Cheese and Honey from Garstang, Chocolate from Bury, Biscuits and Cakes from Preston.

Metal Theft debate last night - 'The Export Problem'

Following last nights debate on Metal Theft and Richard Ottaways MP's private members bill backed by the Home Office, I wanted to write about the containerisation for export of stolen metals which seems largely ignored.
Graham Jones in Parliament -
Link to speeches and written questions - Metal Theft
It is right that we tighten the regulations on the scrap metal industry here in the UK. However the flaw in this argument is the evidence of metal being stolen for export.

Collected at a discreet locations, containerised and taken directly to ports bypassing the scrap metal recycling industry in the UK. The international price of metal is beyond statute and beyond the influence of government. So long as prices are high people will be willing to take the risk and find new ways of profiting from this crime.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Great Harwood health centre - DoH confirm building work may begin in November

I have followed up on previous correspondence on the new proposed Great Harwood health centre. See reply below.

The Department of Health confirms "that the current date for the commencement of building work is November" provided the Strategic Health Authority approved the build work.

That once it is passed, despite the PCT's abolition and funding loss and the transfer of east Lancashire's health centres to a new national quango PropCo (see previous correspondence and my HoC speeches) the commitment to complete will remain.

As acknowledged by the minister where he mentions a period of hiatus, there has been a stop-start time line with the scheme almost collapsing twice previously. As your MP I believe this is a high priority for the north of constituency and I have campaigned for this facility remorselessly.

My comments in the House in Commons on the issue: "I want to mention briefly my concern about Great Harwood health centre, because it has been transferred to PropCo. It was built under the LIFT initiative. On several occasions we have thought that it will happen and then that it will not happen. We are now at a stage where we think it will happen and £10 million has been set aside by the PCT. However, all that money is to subsumed into a Whitehall quango called PropCo, which will decide how it will be spent. I would appreciate a commitment from the Deputy Leader of the House on whether PropCo will carry through the decisions that have been agreed with local people and the PCT. "




Consumer Focus has launched a new online FAQ on smart meters

Consumer Focus has launched a new online FAQ on smart meters. It aims to help your constituents, caseworkers and consumers understand what having a smart meter will mean for them.

Nearly half of consumers (48 per cent) have not heard of smart meters – despite a nationwide roll-out starting in just under two years and around half a million new meters already installed.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Worry over health care reforms & Great Harwood Health Centre

I have campaigned for a new health centre at Great Harwood since becoming MP. Last month I received a reply form both the Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley and the PCT giving a commitment to the progression of the scheme.

Read this previous post.

However I am concerned when the PCT fold next April under the health care reforms that the project is transferred to a national quango, PropCo.

Last month I spoke out about this in the House of Commons;

"I want to mention briefly my concern about Great Harwood health centre, because it has been transferred to PropCo. It was built under the LIFT initiative. On several occasions we have thought that it will happen and then that it will not happen. We are now at a stage where we think it will happen and £10 million has been set aside by the PCT. However, all that money is to subsumed into a Whitehall quango called PropCo, which will decide how it will be spent. I would appreciate a commitment from the Deputy Leader of the House on whether PropCo will carry through the decisions that have been agreed with local people and the PCT."

The wasn't an answer and thats worrying. I will be  writing to Andrew Lansley to confirm that funding for the health centre will be ring fenced and protected for Great Harwood.

Blaming teachers is an 'out of touch' answer.

The Sun reported this week that the Confederation of Small Businesses had claimed that bad teachers were to blame for the fact that so many young people were unemployable.

Improving school education is always important but blaming teachers won't improve an individual’s employability. The CBI has said that too many young jobseekers turn up late for interviews and lack basic manners. My own view is that this is nothing to do with teachers – this starts in the home, with struggling families and with individual responsibility.

Blaming teachers exacerbates the problem. It fails to tackle the root cause instead plays the blame game. Teachers cannot put right the ills of society in a few hours,  5 days a week in classes with 30 or more other pupils. Working parents battered by long hours, lower pay, tougher working conditions, insecurity in the workplace and at home can struggle to give their children the time that more affluent and capable parents can. Searching for an answer in the classroom is only a very small part of underachievement.

Early learning and extended schooling for those struggling are part of the solution. Shadow minister Stephen Twiggs idea that there should be consideration for retaining children in school until they are ready to progress is a more worthwhile suggestion. 

We must not escape the very small minority who you cannot ‘put an arm around’; who are all already known to social services or the youth justice system. For these pupils they need to given an opportunity in a learning environment away from the chaotic problems that they are forced to live with day in day out.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Children held in detention by Israel rising

Today, DCI issued the Detention Bulletin for May. Some points to note are:
  • 234 children in detention – up 6 percent.
  • 39 young children in detention – up 18 percent.
  • 73 percent increase in children in detention since December.
  • US State Department releases annual human rights report – Palestinian child detention features.
  • Palestinian child detention again raised in UK parliament.
  • DCI issues Urgent Appeal to stop the forcible transfer of children.

Monday, 11 June 2012

From trains to drains - Metal theft crime wave now costing over £1 million every week

Metal theft has risen in prominence due to escalating thefts and the sheer immorality or audacity of callous and calculating thieves. The question the public are asking is why it is taking the government so long to act to combat this costly menace.

In March the Government scuppered my Metal Theft (Prevention) Bill in the last session of Parliament. Since then some progress has been made on banning cashless payments, increasing sentencing, taking into consideration aggravating factors and more co-ordinated police initiatives on the back of Operation Tornado in the North East.

Whilst Operation Tornado is being rolled out nationally to much aclaim, it is a voluntary localised scheme that requires a lot of tax payer input which will need to be constant. What it isn't is a national taskforce that could combine intelligence, share best practice, provide a focus for industries affected or assist industries that could design out some of the problems.

The Governments partial approach shows little sign in reducing the incidence of metal theft. Metal thieves have graduated and are experienced in stealing what are easy pickings from Britain's widespread metal estate.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Donated £150 books to Mount Carmel

I recently went to visit Mount Carmel High School. A comprehensive secondary school focusing on technology and design.

The catchment area is one of the most deprived in Britain. The staff and head were brilliant and the school has a bright future which such energy and enthusiasm.

The art department was a basket of creativity. The artwork was far superior to students in my day and I went to a school at the opposite end of the comprehensive demographic. I was amazed at the effort and skill.

Having spent 20 years in pre-print and design I decided to spend £150 on some new inspirational design books by David Carson and Neville Brody.

Carson and Brody have set the design template for every other designer in print or, film or television for the last 20 years. I know they find the books inspirational.

Making an effort for our young people is one of the best things I can do as MP.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Rural GP's outperforming urban GP's in east Lancashire

In response to several enquiries in Hyndburn about GP's, the PCT and soon to be Clinical Commissioning Group have published online GP scorecards for East Lancashire rating each GP practice.
You can see from the PCT's data that GP's in the rural areas offer a much better service than those in urban areas. Hyndburn's GP scorecards are particularly disappointing.  
I have spoken with the CCG about this and they assure me everything is being done to improve the GP scorecards for urban east Lancashire. 
Please find below the final headline version of the Practice Development Framework: GP Scorecard for 2010/11. The Scorecard can be viewed as a full document (follow link below) covering all GP practices within NHS East Lancashire. Alternatively, the Scorecard can be viewed by the following localities:

Monday, 4 June 2012

Latest figures show the gap between the rural rich and urban poor in Lancashire carries on widening

Latest figures show the gap between the rural rich and urban poor in Lancashire carries on widening. Whilst the rural rich have seen their incomes in absolute terms rise throughout the recession, and incredibly rise faster in the depths of the recession, incomes in poor urban areas have only stopped falling and are now flatlining.

The gap now between urban poor and rural rich has made rural areas inaccessible to many people poor people in urban areas looking for a better lifestyle.

http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/office_of_the_chief_executive/lancashireprofile/main/grossincome.asp
The unemployment tables - a bit crude at constituency level - show that unemployment in rural areas is very low. So how is rural broadband going to generate jobs in a low unemployment area? Green belt and severe local restrictions on any development, be it housing, employment or infrastructure make job creation in these idyllic rural areas very difficult. 
Who is going to want to or accept, an arctic lorry travelling down narrow country lanes? Which businessman coming home late in the evening from work in urban east Lancashire is going to want to start another business in his garage or bedroom? How many retirees will want to begin over again making money and employing people?
http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/office_of_the_chief_executive/lancashireprofile/unemployment/ofmodel.asp

This follows last weeks GP tables for East Lancashire which I published showing the best GP services were to be found in rural areas and poorest GP services in urban areas, notably my constituency Hyndburn.

http://hhgrahamjones.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/practice-development-framework-gp.html

All this comes on the back of the Radio 4 discussion on the taxpayer and Lancashire council tax payer subsidy of £32million in a austere times to replace broadband with super fast broadband in rural Lancashire. Questions remain as to the economic advantages the latter will make.

Some of the urban constituencies in Lancashire have had to face some for the deepest cuts in central government funding despite being some of the most deprived with serious social and economic issues.
Great Harwood lost its household recycling centre, one of four such centres closed as part of Lancashire County Council cost cutting. The many thousands who objected to this now are seeing those savings pumped into a £32million rural broadband scheme. It is easy to see why people in parts of Lancashire doubt the rationale of the scheme. 
During the Radio 4 debate Rory Stewart MP (Con) from Cumbria said that in his opinion rural people in Lancashire are poor too and struggle to access decent health care services in Lancashire. Evidentially this is wholly incorrect.

The debate has caused a storm with people from as far as Norfolk and Somerset upset at my comments suggesting poor people live in urban areas in Lancashire and rich people live in rural areas arguing that this is not the case where they live. People in East Lancashire have commented that the comments I made were correct and that it is difficult to see what £32million is adding in terms of employment, healthcare etc...

Clearly Norfolk and Somerset are the inverse to Lancashire in terms of need between urban and rural and extending the debate to those areas is beyond anything I said and unfair.


Saturday, 2 June 2012

Two thirds of charities forced to cut frontline services

Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, responding to New Philanthropy Capital’s report ‘When the Going Gets Tough’, said:

“The effects of the Tory-led Government policies towards the community and voluntary sector have been exposed by this report from New Philanthropy Capital.

“It is clear that the gap between the Government’s ‘Big Society’ rhetoric and the harsh reality of their policies is widening. Time and time again we see new evidence that the Government’s policies are hitting the sector hard and resulting in instability and uncertainty.

“Today’s report reveals that over two thirds of charities are being forced to cut frontline services at a time when many of these services are seeing increased demand. On top of this, almost three quarters of charities are having to make staff redundant, adding to the already soaring number of people out of work under this Government.

“Community and voluntary organisations are showing brilliant and remarkable innovation in the face of cuts that go too far, too fast from the Tory-led Government but the evidence suggests that this will not be enough to prevent serious long term damage to the sector as a result of the Government’s actions.

“The Queen’s Speech was an opportunity to take real action that would benefit voluntary and community organisations but the Government has failed to act.

“The shambles that is the ‘charity tax’ and the failure to support the sector in this year’s Budget has proved they are not serious about working with the sector.”

Friday, 1 June 2012

Lancashire's £32m Rural Broadband Project

UPDATE: Top 20 wealthiest wards In Lancashire (all rural) / Top 20 most deprived (all urban) with tables showing those rural wards increased their income during the recession whilst the the poorest saw their income fall.

http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/office_of_the_chief_executive/lancashireprofile/main/grossincome_2010.asp

It would seem odd individuals are letting their imagination run away from themselves. Magazines too seem to be writing articles about SFRB and attribute my Lancashire quotes to their area which is misleading. 

Ironically, I am all  in favour of rural broadband but let’s see the private sector deliver it where it can be delivered through TIFs and other private finance leverging.

- Labour introduced free childcare for disadvantaged two year olds and we support its extension

Sharon Hodgson MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children and Families, responding to announcements on childcare, said:

“Labour introduced free childcare for disadvantaged two year olds and we support its extension - we set out concrete plans to do this at the last election. “But instead of just announcing more pilots, the Government should develop a comprehensive plan for childcare.

“While children’s centres are closing or having their budgets squeezed, ministers must be clear about how they are going to ensure that there is enough well qualified staff and accommodation in order to provide good quality care for an extra 260,000 children.

“There are real concerns for families, as nurseries begin charging top-up fees, children’s centres funding is slashed, and family tax credits are being cut.”