Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Fwd: Launch of the United Kingdom Child Minders Association

Launch of the United Kingdom Child Minders Association

Dear Graham Jones, 

You may recall we contacted you at the end of last year to introduce ourselves to you.

We are the United Kingdom Child Minders Association (UKCMA), the association offering support exclusively to childminders.

We promised we would keep you updated with our progress, and we are delighted to inform you we went live with our members' area yesterday.   We hope to be working for and with your constituents in the very near future.

As you are aware the childcare sector is undergoing a lot of changes currently, and the future for many childminders has been quite worrying.  We urge you to get on board with us and start supporting the childminders of the UK.

We will be contacting you in the weeks and months ahead with the feedback provided from our members, about where they would like to see their profession directed.  We urge you to listen to this feedback from both your constituents and their chosen association, to support the 67,000 childminders in the UK.

Thank you and please feel free to contact us with feedback.


Best wishes, the UKCMA team.


This week’s Budget was bad news for anyone who values our NHS

George Osborne clawed back £2.2 billion from the Department of Health – money that’s desperately needed on the NHS front line. But instead of spending the money on frontline care, this cash is going back to the Treasury to be used to fund their millionaires’ tax cut.

The NHS has confirmed that over 800 nursing jobs were lost in the last month alone – taking the total to nearly 5,000 since David Cameron and George Osborne entered Downing Street. The independent care regulator, the Care Quality Commissioner, has warned that one in ten hospitals is understaffed. Cameron and Osborne can’t justify continuing to neglect our NHS and the people that work to make it possible.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

In memory of Lucy Meadows and all those who have been 'monstered'

Yesterday I raised a point of order in the Commons regarding the tragic death of my constituent Lucy Meadows. Lucy was by all accounts a dedicated teacher who was passionate about learning and wanted nothing but the best for her pupils.

The press first became interested in Lucy as a result of a newsletter from the school she worked at informing parents of her surgery being made public. Where some saw a charming example of a school trying to deal with an unusual situation in a compassionate way, the Daily Mail and others in the press saw something shameful and unacceptable.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Government’s own budget watchdog, OBR confirms that by 2015 people will be worse off than 2010

A more of the same Budget from a downgraded Chancellor

This week’s Budget confirmed that Government is totally failing on the economy. It was a more of the same budget from a downgraded Chancellor.

Growth is down, borrowing is up and families are paying the price, while millionaires are laughing all the way to the bank.

The jobs crisis has deepened further this week according to new figures, and with prices rising faster than wages it’s no surprise that the Government’s own budget watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, confirmed that by 2015 people will be worse off than they were in 2010.

Ofcom - don't get stung by high mobile bills this Easter

Dear Mr Jones,

Help your constituents to avoid getting a high mobile phone bill whether they are holidaying at home or abroad this Easter with Ofcom's new consumer help guides designed to provide advice on avoiding high bills at home and on holiday as well as tips on how to protect their mobile phone in case it's lost or stolen.

Ofcom has produced a series of new guides to give consumers advice on:
1. Preventing 'bill shock' when using their mobile phone – finding the right tariff to avoid exceeding data or call limits;

2. What to do if their phone is lost or stolen – tips include putting pass codes on the handset and SIM and numbers to call if phone is stolen;

3. How to avoid high bills when abroad – by turning off data roaming and using local wi-fi spots instead of the phone's internet connection;
There are also handy video guides on our web site showing consumers how to turn off data roaming on a range of different handsets if they're not sure how to do it.

We hope you find these useful and share them with your constituents through your web site to help them avoid the shock of an unexpectedly high bill. If you would like hard copies of any of these guides please let me know.

Best wishes

Helen Barker
Manager, Government & Parliamentary Business

Riverside House
2a Southwark Bridge Road
London SE1 9HA
020 7981 3000

Thursday, 21 March 2013

What Has Aid Ever Done For Anyone?... Save the Children

When Save the Children set out to secretly film an anti-aid demo, we didn't realise exactly what we were getting into. Luckily they made the case for aid better than we ever could. Aid saves lives - and we can't forget it.

For more info visit... http://www.whathasaiddoneforanyoneapa...
Directed by Paul Weiland.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Youth in Action info for Graham Jones MP

I have been lobbying hard in and around Parliament to increase youth volunteering in Hyndburn. It has been a struggle with much of what is on offer in the private sector, affordable to those with the ability to pay. Young people often enthused by the thought of such an experience. Those that would most benefit are those children from poorer backgrounds yet they are being left out. Particularly young people from Hyndburn.

I have been working with the British Council to begin an awareness campaign of volunteering exchange programmes with organisations in Hyndburn who are working with young people. As it stands now, Hyndburn's young people are missing out and it is important to find out why this is so.

Sent: 20 March 2013 16:37
To: Swanson, Nick
Subject: FW: YiA info for Graham Jones MP


My colleague Gordon has been looking into opportunities that might be available locally for youth volunteering through the European Youth in Action programme. The bad news is that there is no Youth in Action (YiA) or Training and Co-operation Plan (TCP) activity either within the town of Accrington, nor the constituency of Hyndburn. However, since 2007, 154 projects have been granted across the North West, comprising a total of €1,523,721 of YiA funding to young people and youth workers. I've attached a case study of one volunteering scheme. The Training and Co-operation Plan (TCP) is a strand of YiA that support training of youth workers, and is a springboard to enabling them to apply to the core YiA programme.

Budget reaction from the Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign

Budget reaction from the Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign

Dear Graham,

Following the Chancellor's Budget statement today, I wanted to share the reaction from the Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign. Supporters of the campaign have been mobilising ahead of today's Budget statement to show strong support for the UK's historic commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid and encourage the government to tackle tax dodging in the forthcoming Finance Bill.

The Enough Food for Everyone IF response to the Budget 2013:

"The Government's historic decision to keep its promises to the world's poorest is something of which we can all be proud, particularly during these tough times.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Local Authorities should be free to set licensing fee's.

Yesterday in Communities and Local Government questions I raised the issue of local authority licensing fees for certain categories of businesses in town centres. Currently, fees for applications to carry on business as a betting shop are currently capped at £2000, and the annual fee is capped at £1000.

To a betting shop operated by a giant gambling company, the fees are negligible anyway, and can be recouped incredibly rapidly from operating profits.

I think local authorities should be given the power to set fees that reflect their local area’s needs. In deprived areas, where betting shops can have a disproportionate social cost, local authorities ought to be given complete control over the licensing system.

Thankfully, Eric Pickles’ response was positive and receptive, and I will be writing to him to make sure that my suggestion is at least looked at in Whitehall.

Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): The Government talk about localism, but they still set the caps for the licensing fee's of various shops in town centres, including bookmakers and sex shops. Will they consider abolishing those caps and allowing local people and local authorities to set the levels?

Mr Pickles: That is an interesting and brave request, and I will consider it.

Monday, 18 March 2013

From top bankers, to millionaires, the Tories stand up for the wrong people

Ed Miliband has today laid the battlelines for a “living standards general election”.

With the Tories: more of the same - trickle-down from the top, squeezing the middle and a race to the bottom.

With One Nation Labour: a recovery made by the many, not just a few at the top.

A fair tax system is a central part of building a successful, One Nation, economy. That is why we want to introduce a mansion tax on properties worth over £2m, and use the money raised to reintroduce a 10p rate of tax.

That would back low and middle earners and put right the mistake Gordon Brown made by scrapping it, putting Labour where it should always have been, on the side of working people.

The problem today: squeezed living standards and a flatlining economy

Families are working harder, for longer, for less. And at the same time, prices go up and up.

The talents of millions of our young people are going to waste and small businesses that will drive our economy on are being held back by the banks, and a government that isn’t on their side.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Lancashire County Council - Horsemeat scandal takes another turn..

Lancashire County Council has been caught up in the horse meat scandal. Horsemeat has also been found in cottage pies supplied to 47 schools in Lancashire. These have been withdrawn.

Tory run LCC have previously refused to name the schools involved or the supplier but were exposed by the Daily Mail.
"It is understood the supplier involved, Oak Farm Foods in Ireland, has been supplying the ready meals for at least the past six months. There are also suggestions that the pies and other products made by Oak Farm have been supplied to schools and other outlets across the UK and Ireland."
It appears it may have come via Catering giant Compass Group and Whitbread, one of Britain's largest hotel chains, have found horse DNA in products sold as beef, it has emerged.

Things took a twist yesterday.The Irish government have released their report into the horsemeat scandal with some useful details around the Lancashire schools issue.

Oak Farm Foods is the UK division of Dawn Fresh Foods, the Fethard, Co Tipperary-based convenience food company. The report says that QK Meats – who supplied the mince to Dawn Fresh Foods to make the cottage pies – first tested positive for horse in June 2012 but did not tell anyone. They also continued to use the same Polish suppliers.

This is the link to the report: 
Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has slated the "inexcusable" delay by QK Meats in Naas in notifying his department of its discovery of horse DNA in imported meat until weeks after the Europe-wide crisis broke.

Speaking in the Dail on the release of an official report into the horse-meat scandal, Mr Coveney criticised QK Meats, which is part of the Queally family's food empire, for "knowingly withholding information about problems in the supply chain".
Yet Lancashire County Council have nothing to say about the matter. From a dithering Tory-led government to a dithering Tory local government.
Labour's shadow minister Mary Creagh

QK meats, Ireland had positive test for horse on 27th June 2012 yet continued to buy Polish beef for 400 EUR a tonne cheaper than Irish beef. They (who supplied horse to birds eye and Lancashire Schools) failed to test other products and inform Irish govt of positive DNA tests for horse. Inexcusable. They supplied horse meat in cottage pies supplied to 47 UK schools recalled 8th March. Hope Lancashire children get justice from all this.
There must now be a clear case for Lancashire County Council to consider legal action against QK Meats and Dawn Fresh yet it I fear it be a long wait before we see a puff of grey smoke out of incompetent and secretive enclave in the inner sanctum of County Hall.

Age UK free advice line

Dear Graham Jones,

Through your engagement with your constituents you and your staff will already be aware that many older people experience a complex interaction between living on a relatively low fixed income, declining health and mobility, and risk of social isolation. Their need for holistic information and advice (I&A) from services with experience and knowledge of their specific issues is essential as it allows them to access entitlements and services to maintain a decent quality of life and to continue to live independently.

Timely interventions can prevent increased pressure on health and social care services. This is especially important when people in later life and the services they rely on are experiencing unprecedented change and challenges. Unfortunately, many older people struggle to find the support they need as they navigate a complex system, often against a background of cuts to provision or changes in eligibility.

At a local level the Age UK network is the largest provider of high-quality I&A to older people and is here to help. Last year we reached some 7 million people with our resources and services. Our latest campaign report Who can I turn to? explains why I&A services tailored to the specific needs of older people are essential and why now is the time to prioritise, not cut back on, these essential services.

Our Free and really useful information and advice catalogue provides an overview of our information guides and factsheets specifically designed to provide advice and answer questions on issues affecting the over-50s around key life issues. The free booklets are packed with accurate and up-to-date information to help people get to grips with the challenges that later life can throw at them.

I do hope our report and catalogue of our free information guides are useful for you and your staff as we continue to work together to improve later life for all of us. Additional guides can be ordered via our free Advice line on 0800 169 6565. Please do not hesitate to contact my colleague Jen Pufky, on or 0203 033 1495, with any further questions.

Yours sincerely,
Michelle Mitchell
Charity Director General Age UK

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Fwd: Helping constituency businesses to tackle late payment

Dear Mr Jones,

It is widely acknowledged that many small businesses are experiencing cash flow difficulties at present. In part this is due to difficulties in accessing finance due to the amounts of security required by banks to lend. In part, it is due to low demand for services. In this context, the £37bn currently tied up in late payment has a tangible impact on the viability of those businesses.

For ten years the Forum of Private Business has run a Hall of Shame<> on our website, encouraging our members to let us know when customers are treating them unfairly. In the last year alone we have exposed 150% increases in payment times from Sainsbury's, a 75% increase from Unilever and an unfair, scaled interest charge on supply chain finance by Monsoon. Worryingly, this behaviour appears to be on the increase.

On March 16th a new EU Directive will encourage compensation to be applied to late invoices, something the Forum of Private Business has campaigned on for a long time. However, it will not be automatic and by applying the interest charge many businesses fear they will lose custom in the future. It is equally likely that customers will seek to adapt contractual payment terms to take account of this Directive. Businesses must be vigilant to prevent this from happening.

The Government and the opposition are already working alongside the Forum of Private Business to encourage more businesses to sign up to the Prompt Payment Code. However, it is clear the private sector itself can do more. The Forum of Private Business has a track history of taking positive actions to improve the business environment, rather than sitting on the sidelines.

On that basis and for the first time we are going to open up the Hall of Shame<> to non-members.

If you have constituency businesses that contact you about unfair payment terms, we encourage you to pass our details to them. We will investigate the claims and if correct we will name and shame those larger customers on our website.

Reputational damage to larger businesses should not be underestimated and only by exposing bad and unethical practices can we help to tackle the scourge of late payment. We hope you will encourage any businesses experiencing problems with late payment to get in contact.

For more information please email<> or encourage affected businesses to visit our Hall of Shame at Yours sincerely,
Alexander Jackman
Head of Policy
Forum of Private Business

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Tory propaganda on the rates costs taxpayers £72,000

Recently I wrote about Lancashire County Council's decision to waste taxpayer's money printing a 12 page colour propaganda paper called 'Vision'. I submitted several FOI requests to LCC and received the following answers:

a) how many copies have been printed; 504,000

b) the total cost of the printing; £36,750

c) the total cost of delivery; £35,143.59

d) how many properties it has been delivered to; 503,237

e) Which company or companies printed them. D Print

There we have it then, at a time of extreme pressures on the public purse and on local authorities spending power, Tory Lancashire thought it would spend over £70,000 printing and delivering propaganda papers to 503,237 properties.

As I stated in the previous posting on this blog, this publication has no public benefit whatsoever, it is simply the Conservative political leadership at LCC writing its own reviews, putting a positive spin on its time in office, and glossing over the mistakes. All of this is being done at the expense of the taxpayers of Lancashire.

It striking that the Tories don't believe they can win without this waste.

I have submitted a further FOI request into LCC to find out precisely

1) where these leaflets were delivered in Lancashire. According to LCC's own website, in 2010 the population living under the County Council was nearly 1.5 million, however only 503,237 properties received the publication.

It would be interesting if these leaflets were disproportionately delivered in marginal areas. In fact it would controversial. I would expect that all households will be treated equally.

I look forward to getting the response from LCC.

Monday, 11 March 2013

The Mummy Tax

Last Friday was International Women’s Day, and I think it is worth spending a few moments to think about the situation women in Britain have found themselves in since this Government came to power.

Elected claiming that he would lead the most family-friendly Government ever, but the reality has been a different story. The latest example of which is the mummy tax. From April this year, the Government will restrict Statutory Maternity Pay to a 1% annual increase, meaning that by 2015, this will amount of an effective real terms cut of £180 to working women. New mothers should not be the people who pay the price of George Osborne’s economic failure.

The previous Labour Government did much to deliver real improvements to women’s lives. Labour absolutely transformed the provision of maternity leave and pay, by increasing the leave from 18 weeks to one year and by doubling maternity pay. Labour also brought in the biggest ever package of support for new parents, through Child Tax Credits, and introducing the right to request flexible working.

Perhaps one of the most visible and widely appreciated changes made under the previous Labour Government were the opening of around 3,500 Sure Start Centres, the creation of over 1,000,000 new childcare places, and free nursery provision for ever three and four year old whose parents wanted it.

The mummy tax risks turning back the clock on one of the most important things to come out of the last decade of Labour Government. 1.2million women will be affected by this cut, at a time when Cameron and Osborne are giving a £100,000-a-month tax cut to the richest people in our society. That’s why Labour have launched the “Mums not Millionaires” petition, which can be found here.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Swap fags for swag on No Smoking Day - Wednesday 13 March

The No Smoking Day campaign is now in its 30th year. It helped more than 760,000 people quit smoking last year and inspired another 1.5 million to seek out information to help them quit in future.

No Smoking Day 2013 will be on Wednesday 13 March (this Wednesday!). This year's theme is 'swap fags for swag' so we'll be highlighting the financial benefits of quitting. The average 20-a-day smoker could save £7 a day, £49 a week, £210 a month and £2,555 a year if they quit.

Like everyone else supporting National No Smoking Day, I would like to encourage thousands of smokers in the area to ‘swap fags for swag’ by quitting on No Smoking Day on Wednesday 13 March.

As part of the campaign I am supporting  the annual health campaign, run by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which shows how smokers could treat themselves to all sorts of ‘swag’ if they quit for a day, saving £7, a week (£49), a month (£210) and a year (£2,555).

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Haslingden charity Agapao International exposed in Private Eye

Double click image to enlarge

Following my intervention in the House of Commons on the affairs of questionable charity Agapao International, Private Eye got in touch.

Following information provided to us and given to Private Eye, and Private Eye's own further investigations and conversations with residents, this damning article has appeared in the magazine.

The evidence presented paints a picture of dubious charity both at home and abroad and highlights the flaws in UK Charity law. An issue I raised on the floor on the Commons to which the minister was at best ambivalent about. The position of the Government was to fall back on the belief that existing arrangements are being adequate. I think there are serious questions to be answered here.

That Charity's can operate in such a way, that there are no safeguarding checks especially when working with children and that assets - paid for out of the public purse - can be transferred via sale and salaries to those running the charity, is clearly not something that the existing arrangements are able to deal with.

I have in the past raised the issue of the mysterious Board of Trustees (who should be a fireguard against such activities). Some of them appeared not to know that they had been listed as trustees on the Charity Commission's records, and some appeared to be Louise Chicot's friends including the involvement of her daughter.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Bedroom Tax - a vicious policy aimed at the poor and disabled.

A BBC Radio Lancashire - live broadcast - Monday 25th from Hyndburn Resource Centre, Cannon Street. Those affected encouraged to come along.

My office has been receiving an increasing amount of correspondence about the Government’s under-occupancy penalty, more commonly known as the 'bedroom tax'.

A week on Monday BBC Radio Lancashire will be at the Hyndburn Voluntary Centre speaking to those worried about the 'Bedroom Tax' (see attached leaflet). A member of my staff will also be there alongside money advice and benefits help.

There are a lot of people out there who are rightly worried about how they will be affected by it, and as result 1,400 household in East Lancashire have already sought urgent advice. A total of 875 households in Hyndburn will be affected.

Unfortunately these 1,400 are just the tip of the iceberg. According to research by the National Housing Federation based on official DWP figures, there will be around 14,631 households across Lancashire who are hit by this bedroom tax. The tax will take £7.5m per annum out of Lancashire.

I do not think the Government understands the unncessaruy pain that this will cause.New items are frequently carrying the heartbreaking stories of disabled, armed service personal, carers, parents forced out of their own home because they happen to have a spare bedroom. Two thirds of those affected are disabled.
  1. Athlete Kriss Akabusi: Foster parents need spare rooms video
  2.  ITV News reporter Sejal Karia met Lisa and Brett affected by the new 'bedroom tax'.
  3. Lisa and Brett thank the public for support
  4. ITV Granada: LMH: Bedroom Tax case study
They have passed a law which says that those with a spare bedroom on housing beenefit must move into smaller properties, and thus free up housing stock - or face a financial penalty - a bedroom tax based oin the number of spare bedrooms.

This will cause tremendous upheaval and stress exemplified by the case of Lisa and Brett. It is based on the fallacy that the properties to move people into exist at all. Steve Fell of Ribble Valley Homes has publicly stated that there simply aren’t enough 1 and 2 bed homes to relocate people into. The picture is similar across the country. So people will have to remain and see their help cut. Around 440,000 disabled people nationally.

In Hyndburn the housing market already suffers from a supply of homes that do not meet the needs of the households who want to live here. That is one reason why we have amongst the highest number of empty homes in England – the property supply does not meet the demand type.

Other vulnerable people, people who have shared custody of their children, the families of service personnel and severely disabled people will be punished for something that is simply out of their control. There is the particular case of a disabled mother whose two sons are serving in Afghanistan. There bnedrooms are classed as 'spare'.

For nealry all of those affected there won’t be a house for them to move into.

This is a policy that is intended to fail.

It is simply another way that the Government in attempting to put the weight of the cuts on the backs of those least able to deal with them.

It is also doubtful there will be any savings.

If families are made homeless, or pushed into expensive private rented accommodation, the cost to the taxpayer will be higher, and the effect on under-occupancy will be minimal.

Green Vale home in Rossendale predicts that there will be an increase in rent arrears, and Rossendale Borough Council predicts that there will be an increase in people approaching the council due to homelessness. These are expensive developments that ultimately will be paid for by the taxpayer.

We need tough and fair benefit reform that works, but what we have is a Government that is set to spend £13bn more on welfare because of its utter economic failure.

The Government will tell you that they are making ‘tough choices’, in reality they are making the wrong choices.

The real way to get the benefit bill down is to get people back to work.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Propaganda on the rates - LCC Tories produce 12 page newpaper in run up to elections

I am surprised that Conservative run Lancashire County Council has decided to use taxpayer's money to print a 12 page fill colour newspaper to be delivered just before the local elections to promote their policies.

I have requested freedom of information as to the costs including quantities and delivery.

This sort of self promotion is simply propaganda. The timing is awful, just weeks from postal votes landing and having not produced a newspaper for a good while it smacks of hypocrisy and a little desperation.

A blatant example of what Eric Pickles – a Conservative bedfellow of Conservative Lancashire County Council – referred to as "self-aggrandizement, self-publicity, going on their particular message. It's not public service, it's propaganda."

The latest edition of 'Vision' features a headline boast about the job market in Lancashire. If these propaganda papers can be justified at all, then they should be at most, an outline of policies that that the Council is doing, not an unconditional self-assessment designed to win political votes.

The Government has signalled that it wanted to pass a law that would prevent Local Authorities from spending taxpayer's money on propaganda, and they have made it quite clear that it is not an appropriate way to spend tax payers money. The Tory-led governments view is clearly at odds with local Conservatives.

I believe they have their place done informatively and offsetting costs with income from job advertisements. Not as a substitute, surrogate or addition to Tory election leaflets.

Weeks put and with banner headline on jobs, it just stinks.

The FOI requests LCC to provide information as to;

1) How many they have printed;
2) How much the printing cost;
3) How much the delivery cost;
4) How many locations it was delivered to; and
5) Which company printed it – I want to know if it was printed in Lancashire.

I will publish these numbers on here once I receive them from County Hall.

When did Jet Fighters last fly low over Hyndburn?

Not withstanding the merits for or against a wind turbine application at Lower Westall Lot Farm I wrote to the MOD who had objected.

This turbine is significantly smaller than the 12 turbines on Oswaldtwistle Moor and would be located in their shadow.

I have never seen jet fighters fly over Hyndburn from Warton and I cannot see how this nearby turbine would impact on flight paths. They would in the case they did, being flying dangerously close to the Energiekontor windfarm.

Seems a huge over reaction by the MOD.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Labour launches fairer taxes

In six weeks, on the same day that millions of working families have their tax credits cut, 13,000 millionaires will receive a giveaway worth on average £100,000.

I’m joining Ed Balls and Ed Miliband this week in launching Labour’s new campaign to highlight the unfair choices David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg have made.

Earlier this week we found out that the Government have even failed on their own test – keeping Britain’s AAA credit rating. But struggling families and businesses don’t need a credit rating agency to tell them this Government’s economic plan isn’t working. The longer our economy stagnates, the more long-term damage will be done, the harder it will be to get the deficit down and the worse off people will be.

When our economy is flat-lining thanks to this Government’s failure, it cannot be right to give millionaires a tax cut while making working families pay more.

Ed Miliband is putting Labour where it should always have been, on the side of working people and families – with an economic recovery built by the many, not just a few at the top. The millionaire’s tax cut is not only unfair, it’s the sort of ‘trickle down’ economics that simply doesn’t work.

A One Nation Labour government would cancel David Cameron’s millionaires’ tax cut, and make the tax system fairer by introducing a mansion tax mansions and reintroducing a 10p tax rate to help working families.

Labour’s One Nation Budget would: cancel the tax cut for millionaires and the raid on tax credits for working families; bring back a lower 10p starting rate of tax to give 25 million people on middle and low incomes a tax cut, paid for by a mansion tax on houses over £2 million; and kick-start our flatling economy by bringing forward infrastructure investment, building thousands of affordable homes and boosting lending to small businesses.


George Osborne was summoned to Parliament this week to account for himself following Britain's credit rating downgrade. Losing the AAA was all the more humiliating as keeping it safe was the Tories’ main test for success or failure on the economy.

Struggling families, pensioners and businesses in this constituency didn't need a credit ratings agency to tell them that Government’s economic plan isn’t working.

Prices are rising faster than wages, nearly one million young people are out of work and our flat-lining economy means the deficit is going up not down. The Government is borrowing a staggering £212 billion more than planned- more than Labour's balanced plan would have required.

We desperately need a change of course and an economic plan that works.

We simply can't afford another two years of no growth, no jobs and living standards which for most of us are going through the floor.

The Bedroom Tax - Why Labour MP's oppose a pernicous policy

Joint article on the bedroom tax
March 2013

By Liam Byrne, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Margaret Curran, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, and Owen Smith Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, for Politics Home

The Bedroom Tax is in chaos. Yet Ministers bury their heads in the sand.

Imagine a government so incompetent that it designed a tax that hit soldiers but not prisoners; or a Department so useless it punished foster parents for the crime of giving a home to a child in need. Imagine ministers so out of touch they had to be told by others their plans hurt tens of thousands of pensioners - because they didn't know.

Welcome to today's Department for Work and Pensions. From the crack team that gave us a Work Programme that is officially worse than doing nothing, we now have a Bedroom Tax that we suspect may cost more than it saves.

Campaign for Peel Park to become a nature reserve goes on

As MP for Hyndburn and also a local resident living close to the area known locally as ‘The Coppice’ I would like to offer my support to the Friends of Arden Hall, Peel Park and The Coppice and their bid to improve the bio-diversity of the area.

The Coppice is a valuable asset to our area and enhancing the bio-diversity of such a large piece of countryside and also improving access so that people can appreciate this bio-diversity will further enhance our asset.

I have a personal interest in the site having been one of the original members of the Friends of group when they were formed with the help of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust back in early 2004 and since then have seen many improvements made. I do believe the area is slowly transforming into the vision set out in the masterplan developed for the area through public consultation. I myself attending several meetings with designers and other interested parties as the masterplan developed.

I look forward to hearing the outcome of this application and would be proud to one day have Lancashire’s Largest Nature Reserve in my constituency.

Healthy Living Festival Accrington

Last Friday I attended a Disability Awareness Day organised in part by two of my old Labour colleagues, Jean Battle and Dorothy Westell in Oswaldtwistle. Numerous organisations exhibited.

This Friday they are again involved in organising with the Patients Participation Group the Healthy Living Festival at Accrington Town Hall. Details of which can found above on the groups flyer for the event.

Disability Awareness Day at the Community Church with Jean and Peter, Oswaldtwistle. Fantastic advice from voluntary 3rd sector groups. 

The potential to use council housing self-financing to raise £7 billion to build 60,000 new homes

Dear Mr Jones

Given your interest in housing policy, you will be aware that a debate will be held in the Commons on Tuesday on the financing of new housing supply. As the body representing Arms-Length Management Organisations which manage almost half of all council housing in England, the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) is calling for the removal of the cap imposed on local authority’s ability to borrowing for much needed new housing.

The NFA, in association with the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Local Government Association, the Association of Retained Council Housing and the Councils with ALMOs Group, have prepared a report which demonstrates the potential to use council housing self-financing to raise £7 billion to build 60,000 new homes.

The report, a summary of which can be found in the attached short briefing, argues that there is now a significant opportunity to help meet the shortage of affordable homes, create jobs, increase revenue for the Treasury and add 0.6% to Britain’s GDP.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Rossendale's new bus station? Council takes a big step forward

Outlined below is the amendment that was supported by all members of Rossendale Borough Council at last nights council meeting. I am delighted that all members of the council were able to support this.

That members welcome the promised investment of £3.5m in relation to the new bus station in Rawtenstall, and agree in principle to the use of council land to enable the building of a new facility.

As a council, Rossendale appear are keen to ensure that local residents, local businesses, bus users and our local transport providers are involved in this process. I am also glad they committed to work closely with the county council and the boroughs preferred development partner, to identify the best option to meet local need, and to get value for money for our residents from this £3.5m investment.

It is important the Rossedale Council have also committed to ensuring that these options will be fully explored, and a proper consultation held, within the timescales outlined in the report so will not result in any delay.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

With Paralympian Hannah Cockroft MBE backing disabled kids’ charity

I met Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft MBE and pledged my support for a manifesto launched by charity Whizz-Kidz, at the House of Commons yesterday.

The ‘Generation Inspired?’ manifesto is based on a late 2012 survey the charity conducted of its young Ambassadors and their parents - asking them about their hopes for a Paralympic legacy, and their ideas to improve opportunities for young disabled people. A copy of the report and a petition to affect its recommendations were also taken to No.10 Downing Street.

Supporting the charity was double gold medallist Hannah Cockroft MBE, who received her first sports wheelchair from Whizz-Kidz in 2007, as well as two of the charity’s young Ambassadors – both of whom aspire to compete in the Games in the future.

Now is the time for an East Lancashire Authority

There has been some discussion recently regarding the idea of reorganising of East Lancashire local authorities. Pendle, Burnley, Rossendale, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley and Blackburn.

Driven by frustration at the two tier system where remote Lancashire County Council has almost 80% of your Council Tax (including the Fire Service) and cuts to local district councils that go so deep they are no longer able to provide services efficiently. Many across East Lancashire feel having six executives in each department, six managers in all senior posts is wasteful duplicitous. Many senior representatives also bemoan the remoteness of county hall in Preston. A Lancashire County Council that does not understand East Lancashire and its relationship with Manchester.

Hyndburn and Burnley Borough Councils are in the top 8 local authorities in terms of how much they are being hit by budget cuts. East Lancashire being hit the hardest across the UK. Finances are going to get much tighter before they get better.

Friday, 1 March 2013

ENW's new training academy & Disability Awareness Day at the Community Church Oswaldtwistle

Disability Awareness Day at the Community Church, Oswaldtwistle. Fantastic advice from voluntary 3rd sector groups. 

At with apprentices as brand new training academy begins construction.