Wednesday, 31 October 2012

I am supporting the Breast Cancer Campaign ...

I am supporting the Breast Cancer Campaign, aiming to raise awareness into the matter of breast cancer screening. The Breast Cancer Action Month is reaching a close and I also want to let you know about a recent survey conducted by ICM for Breast Cancer Campaign on breast cancer awareness and screening related issues:

Independent Breast Screening Review

Breast Cancer Campaign supported the establishment of the Independent Breast Screening Review, which was commissioned in October 2011 by the Department of Health and Cancer Research UK to assess the available evidence of the benefits and harms of the breast screening programme. The results of the review have been published in the Lancet today and an abstract of this is available here: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)61611-0/abstract

Monday, 29 October 2012

Ash Tree's - The local impact of Ash disease?

The government is presiding over another shambles - #ashambles

I have written to Hyndburn and Rossendale borough council's for an update on the impact the disease in Hyndburn and Rossendale and what information they had received from DEFRA officials.


I'm backing the Electrical Safety Council's private rented sector proposals

I am backing the Electrical Safety Council's campaign for better regulations to protect tenants from bad landlords in the private rented sector.

I was horrified to read about the young mother electrocuted t death in her bath in front of her young children. The Thirza Whittle case from 2009 is an example - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1198470/Young-mother-electrocuted-live-tap-ran-bath-familys-new-home.html.

More recently I brought BBC Breakfast news film crew up to report on a shocking house in Bold Street where electrical wires at a low level were loose and bound by tape only and a property on Clement Street where the electrical fascias where broken and wires accessible.

Houses for rent in Hyndburn are guaranteed to be safe and tenants must e made aware of the dangers for themselves and their children.

I support the Electrical Safety Council's calls and want to see;

Friday, 26 October 2012

Woodnook Regeneration

Following the broken promises of a Conservative Council who for 8 years promised up to £35m for Woodnook but did nothing, the new Labour Council has stepped in despite being left no money for regeneration and are now on the verge of delivering a £10m public-private redevelopment. Place First, backed by a pension investment company are taking on the project.


In this video I talk about the history of regeneration in Woodnook, the abject failures of the previous Conservative administration, the new development, the supplementary action that is being taken and the way forward for the neighbourhood. The video includes an interview with Place First.

Wednesday's memorial mass to former MP, Ken Hargreaves


Wednesday's memorial mass to former MP, Ken Hargreaves at the crypt beneath Westminster Hall was well attended. Wonderfully led by Speaker John Bercow, David Amess MP and Ann Widecombe MP, a packed St Mary's undercroft off Westminster Hall paid tribute to Ken. Also in attendance where Greg Pope MP, myself and councillors Peter Britcliffe and Marlene Haworth and ex Conservative councillor and life long friend Susan Haworth.

The speeches were a wonderful testament to Ken the person. A generous, warm, kind person committed to the ordinary people and to Hyndburn.

His former room mate in Parliament Alistair Birt paid a glowing tribute suggesting "that having visited the constituency, he realised that only Ken Hargreaves could have won the seat for the Conservatives".

Thursday, 25 October 2012

White Ribbon Campaign against violence against women


I am supporting the White Ribbon Campaign against violence against women. The campaign culminates on the 25th November with the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The aim of the campaign is to get men and boys to pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women. Most men are not violent towards women, however all too often people remain silent about the problem, and through ignoring the problem only contribute to its continuation. According to the campaign, 45% of UK women have experienced some kind of domestic violence, abuse or stalking.

Whenever there is progress in the fight against violence against women we should obviously welcome it, but never rest on our laurels. This is still a problem all over the world, and though there is now a huge awareness about domestic violence in the UK, much, much more needs to be done abroad.

Please visit their website at http://www.whiteribboncampaign.co.uk/ to find out more information about how to get involved. At least one school in the constituency has contacted me on this matter with the intention of getting involved – I hope the others will follow suit.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Scrap Metal Dealers Bill 2012 - Minister gives way to my amendment on vehicle badging

Last year I began a campaign to amend the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964. I tabled a private members bill which had widespread support. The government defeated it and brought forward a similar bill, sponsored by Richard Ottaway MP. In September it passed committee stage successfully.


Whilst the bill is a huge step forward, the government having given way on the controversial part of the bill prohibiting cash payments which the industry and I had lobbied hard for.

There are three flaws in the current bill.
  1. It allows criminals and gangs to work in the industry unchecked by not having personal licences as with alcohol and taxis - both licensed similarly by local authorities.
  2. It does nothing to bring together a national task force to share intelligence and best practise.
  3. It does not allow local authorities to insist that mobile collectors display license information, vehicle badging nor scrap metal yards to display there licence details to customers. 
Having made the case in committee and secured a review on the final point, the minister and the home office have now accepted the importance of my amendment and will bring their own amendment to report stage on the 23 November when the Bill returns to the floor of the house of commons.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Eastgate Retail Park - parking update

After a very long a protracted dispute between the owners of Eastgate retail park and the parking company they employed, the contract between them has now been terminated.
The Deputy leader of the Hyndburn Council, Cllr Clare Pritchard said; 
“The Council has had many complaints about the way the parking restrictions were imposed on Eastgate.

I must stress that this car park is not owned by the Council, however we’ve worked hard along with local MP Graham Jones, on behalf of the people affected to try and get a satisfactory resolution to the problem. It is very disappointing that to date no clear instruction has been given regarding tickets issued between 2/6/12-8/7/12 in regard to outstanding fines and refund to those who have paid.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Michael Gove abandons schools like Norden...

I have visited every secondary school. Recently whilst at Norden I was informed that increasing school rolls at Accrington Academy (60 extra students per year) where a rich philanthropist has backed huge school improvements including a state of the art swimming pool, has had the impact of falling rolls at Norden.

They share the same catchment area and with school funding based on pupil numbers, it is a challenge for Rishton/Great Harwood and Norden school to compete. It's not a level playing field.




Norden is also in need of refurbishment, as are most of Hyndburns secondary schools however the Academy through the generosity of a wealthy benefactor has fantastic facilities.

On both these issues, school rolls and building improvements, you can see from the response I have received from Gove is unnaceptable. The letter contains plenty of fudge but provides no answers to a falling demographic and a 'free for all' admissions policy that traps Norden in three directions with green fields and to the south the Academy.

There are serious questions about such a  'free for all' admissions policy; Acadamies are free to act as Independent schools on admissions.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Investigation sees dramatic rise in complaints about landlords

A new investigation by Shelter today reveals how complaints about landlords have risen dramatically in the past few years. 

The housing and homelessness charity contacted every local authority in England to build a picture of the scale of the problem with rogue landlords and what is being done to tackle it. Shockingly, the total number of complaints made to local authorities has increased by 27% in the last three years, with over 85,000 complaints made in total over the past year alone.

Even more worryingly, 62% of complaints were related to serious and life-threatening hazards such as dangerous gas and electrics and severe damp. In the last year health services had to be involved in 781 cases due to the behaviour or neglect of private landlords.

When asked about rogue landlords in their area, local authorities identified 1,449 private landlords who have given them continued cause for concern in the last year.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:

“Despite the significant increase in complaints, we believe that the number of rogue landlords is still underestimated – some local authorities don’t keep records of complaints and tenants often hold back from complaining out of fear of the consequences or because they don’t believe their voices will be heard, even though such a high proportion of complaints is about life-threatening issues.

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals - Ministerial reply

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Final Boundary Commission submission

Boundary Commission report: North West: Lancashire
Consultation response by Graham Jones, Member of Parliament for Hyndburn

Please find below my submission to the reopened consultation on constituency boundaries in England. As is evident, I have a number of concerns about the way that the Commission's stated desire to protect local ties, local Government boundaries and not dividing urban areas have been used as reasons to protect the integrity of Pendle and Burnley but not Accrington and Hyndburn more widely. I believe that Accrington deserves as much respect as Burnley as a large urban area, and there is little if any reason to preserve Pendle on the Boundary Commission's own terms.

·         AC290 refers to the 3 Boroughs of Pendle, Hyndburn and Burnley, which in the commission's view have an "equally strong, opposition to the various configurations of constituencies proposed for these boroughs". I accept the premise that these three Boroughs (I would also add Rossendale) have clear and unique identities, and local ties should be treated equally. However, the Commission contradict this equality in subsequent parts of the summary by protecting Burnley and Pendle, while carving up Hyndburn.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Votes at 16 - only in Scotland?

In exchange for a single question in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, the Government has conceded that 16 and 17 year olds will be able to take part in the poll. This is something that I wholeheartedly welcome, and hope that it puts votes at 16 firmly back on the political-constitutional landscape.

Young people are the future of Scotland and I think it is a good thing that they will have the chance to express their opinions on that country’s future – regardless of my personal opinions on the future of the United Kingdom. I would like to see greater democratic involvement of 16 and 17 year olds in the rest of the UK on a permanent basis.

The arguments in favour of reducing the age of majority to 16 are well known and I believe self-evident. If at 16 you can join the armed forces, leave school, work and pay tax, then I think it seems entirely logical that you are old enough to vote. Voting is not like alcohol nor is it like risky financial investment; it does not damage your physical development or open up the possibility of unrepayable personal debt. It makes perfect sense to me that once you reach the age that the state no longer determines your education (or the fact that you are still in education), that you have the right to express your views on that state through the ballot box.  It is the arguments against it that I think are increasingly dated, and based largely on fear of change and a patronising view  of young people.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Lancashire Tories will cut your local PCSO’s

A survey of PCSO’s has found that seven Labour Councils in Lancashire employ 86 extra PCSO whilst seven Tory run Councils only employ just 31 and Wyre employs 11 of those. Tory Councils are not taking crime as seriously as Labour Councils.

Last year Tories at County Hall voted to reduce police numbers further by voting against an increase in police proportion of council tax of £2.44 a year on a Band A property (or just 4.5pence per week) that would have seen the equivalent of 51 PCSO’s sacked.

The Tories are letting Lancashire down, supporting 20% police cuts nationally, Tory Council’s who are not taking crime seriously (Table 1) and Tory Councillors who voted to reduce PCSO numbers in Lancashire even further (2) .

In Hyndburn the Tory PCSO cuts would have scraped the neighbourhood policing team in Baxenden. I would urge residents to protect our local PCSO's and write to your Tory councillors and to Tim Ashton (Tory candidate for Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner next month) making sure they understand the value of neighbourhood policing and the important of police numbers on the beat.

Clive Grunshaw is Labour's Police and Crime Commissioner candidate

Editors Notes

(2) http://menmedia.co.uk/accringtonobserver/news/s/1486421_anger-over-decision-to-increase-police-precept-by-25-per-cent

(1) Table 1

Partnership
Total


Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
20

Blackpool Borough Council
17

Burnley Borough Council
8

Chorley Borough Council
27

Hyndburn
6

Pendle Council
6

Preston City Council
5

Ribble Valley Borough Council
2

Rossendale Borough Council
3

South Ribble Borough Council
4

West Lancs District Council
8

Wyre Borough Council
11

Morecambe Borough Council
0

Fylde Borough Council
0


117


86


31

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Regional Growth Fund: A wasted opportunity?

Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis was short on sympathy recently for the Government's economic plight making the case that it was much of there own making. He said;
"It’s easy to cut costs, any halfwit can do that, but they’ve not stimulated the economy, or jobs, or growth. They have let themselves down by jumping on the PR band- wagon. Everything is about spin. There is too much of that and not enough substance.”
As unemployment remains high particularly in the regions, borrowing going up, not down and an economy stuck in a double dip recession made in Downing Street what of flagship schemes like the Regional Growth Fund that the government banked on getting the economy moving.

The RGF appears to be the latest failure in the ever-increasing list of failed attempts to support industry. Evidence suggests it has cost the taxpayer up to £200,000 for some of the jobs it created.

For a Government that claims to want fiscal restraint, that seems like a waste of public money. The Public Accounts Committee recently reported  that the RGF “set a far too low threshold for value for money”, without any means of judging its own success, and with almost no coordination with other bodies aimed at rebalancing the economy.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The depths of deprivation and inhumanity - Child prostitution in India


As part of the Britain's push for exports in new markets I went out to meet UKTI officials in India to see how our local companies can take advantage of British export staff in India. It was very useful and the next step is to support businesses seeking export growth.

However there is a dark side to India. In Hydrabad the delegation of MP's were taken to child prostitution refuge. It was the depths of inhumanity.

For those that have seen the film 'Slumdog Millionaire' the poverty in India is sickening. In the refuge there where children as young as three who had been rescued from prostitution. Their lives as sex slaves would have meant meeting between 30-60 papaedophiles per day for as little as 15p per a visit. These children are seized from poor rural areas and trafficked across India. Their parents will never know where and the children to young to know where their home is. There are 1.2m child prostitutes. Nearly all have terribly diseases and those infected with AIDS at a young age frequently die in their teens as their bodies are too damaged. 
 
The delegation met Dr Sunitha Krishnan (sunithakrishnan.blogspot.com), the diminutive campaigner who had been attacked 14 times including pierced ear drum, smashed joints and who had a member of staff murdered on duty. She is a real hero. 
 
I know this has left all those who witnessed the refuge deeply disturbed and asking the questions 'How can humanity let this happen to these young helpless children snatched by child traffickers?' and 'Why does no-one care enough about children so young, their bodies and their minds be so vilely abused?'. It was simply disgusting and it was no comfort (though it made you proud to be British) that British aid was being used to keep illiterate girls in poor regions of India in School with a small bursary. It made you think long and hard about those who criticise UKAID to India.

Sunitha Krishnan Wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunitha_Krishnan
The Child prostitution refuge - http://www.prajwalaindia.com/

Below is 
  • short video is about our visit, 
  • an updated article on the successful refuge's activities and an 
  • article by Lord Harries of Pentregarth who was part of the delegation.

SUCCESSFUL TARGETING OF INTER-STATE TRAFFICKERS - by Sunitha Krishnan

In a carefully planned series of operation in East Godavari and Mumbai based on missing complaints, Anti Human Trafficking Unit of Hyderabad in collaboration with Prajwala was able to apprehend 4 kingpin traffickers who were supplying girls from coastal Andhra Pradesh to Karnataka, TamilNadu and Maharashtra. 11 victims from both Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal were rescued.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

When Hyndburn PCT turned my 'Beez' card proposal down and how Blackburn took it up

The 'Beez Card' in Blackburn allows all Blackburn and Darwen residents access to free leisure services. Partly paid by both Blackburn Council and Blackburn PCT.

Today, I received a letter asking why Hyndburn does not have such a wonderful scheme? The answer to which is ironic.

It was in fact myself who suggested free leisure right across Hyndburn paid for by the NHS/PCT but it wasn't taken seriously by the Chief Executive of Hyndburn and Ribble Valley PCT on cost grounds.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Private Landlords - regulation and why a licensing fee is required

Landlord Licensing has been brought in to part of Hyndburn's to regulate the private sector after years of  self regulation through landlord accreditation scheme failed to improve standards. Not surprising to the vast majority of people I speak to.

Local landlords appear now to have two grievances with the scheme. Good landlords are being included and why do they have to pay a £700 fee for a 5 year licence.

I would make these points;

1) The provision in the Private Rented Sector is terrible and the voluntary Landlord Accreditation Scheme failed to galvanise the industry (in Hyndburn) into doing anything about it.

Withdrawel of the 6B school bus threatens childrens safety and education

Last week, County Councillor Ciaran Wells, Hyndburn Council Leader Miles Parkinson and I met with worried parents concerned about the withdrawal of the 6B school bus to St Wilfred's by Lancashire United/Transdev.

At that meeting Transdev agreed to review the service and have taken the decison to continue it whilst a financial solution is found for the loss making service. I have written to the County Council today to press the points made by parents.
The business manager of Lancashire United/Transdev following the meeting has stated;
" I am not prepared to see parents and children suffer. You may be aware that I have decided to reinstate the bus from Accrington via Great Harwood and Rishton. [However the] funding is only for two months so the issue may not go away but Lancashire United will do its best.

Ours was a perfectly legitimate commercial decision which we are entitled to make. It remains my view that this is a matter for either or both of the two LEAs, although I actually think this is an LCC issue. However as neither authority appears to want to take any ownership [of the loss making route], it seems to be left to us."
The problem is the withdrawel of some faith bases bus subsidies for schools that are not the nearest school.
The reality for Hyndburn students is that St Christopher's was heavily oversubscribed and for many parents the first ‘real’ choice of school CoE school, the nearest school was St Wilfreds in Blackburn.