Sunday, 29 December 2013

Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder alive and well in Hyndburn

Why the Hyndburn Labour Party should take credit for the innovative Woodnook regeneration scheme attracting national attention...

I missed the BBC programme 'Empty Homes' broadcast last month which had a piece on Hyndburn Labour Party's innovative Woodnook regeneration scheme (which the Council were instructed to undertake) and which has attracted much attention from TV companies and the trade press.

You can rewatch the video here on Vimeo.

However the BBC's coverage if you watch it trots out the same old mis-information. That previous government housing scheme had failed referring presumedly to Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder. 

I feel obliged to write to the BBC to ask them to justify such assertions particularly considering the scheme today is almost identical to the scheme the Labour Party put forward in 2007 using Housing Market Renewal funding and yet it today's scheme is deemed by the BBC (and everyone else) a success.

I personally campaigned since 2005 with the then and current Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Regeneration Clare Pritchard for regeneration to be undertaken in the neglected neighbourhood. During the Conservative years spending focused on Blackburn Road and despite a decade of broken promises, little resource or effort went to Woodnook - the real basis for the BBC's poor reporting.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Rossendale BC to get tough on rogue landlords in Haslingden.

Graham Jones MP & Rossendale Council Labour leader Alyson Barnes in Haslingden
Following very agreeable meetings I have I had with Alyson Barnes, the leader of Rossendale BC who shares my view, and after campaigning nationally against rogue landlords, I'm pleased that , the Leader is looking to take action against rogue landlords in Haslingden thanks to Rossendale BC's successful grant application to fund staff.

Alyson and I have had many conversations about about Haslingden and in spite of the huge government cuts to Rossendale Council's budget ,I am grateful that the Labour Council is starting to make some progress on this issue.

Operation CARL (Co-ordination Against Rogue Landlords) is an exciting and innovative approach that will tackle this problem of rogue landlords and provide a blueprint for others to follow.
The main focus for the scheme will be co-ordinated action across a number of agencies (DWP, Trading Standards, HMRC etc) to target rogue landlords operating in Rossendale and will include prosecution where evidence exists of criminal activity.
This scheme will provide the council with the resources to be in a position to empower more tenants to come forward and help take action to stop the on-going, underlying abuse being perpetrated by rogue landlords. 

Poor quality housing in the private rented sector is something which must be eradicated if we want prosperous towns in East Lancashire. I'm pleased that the local authority are taking steps to improve the living conditions of working people who deserve a good home.

Hyndburn Council short changed by the Government again.

On Monday - take note of the date - the 23rd of December (when wasn't Parliament) the Department for Local Government and Communities sent out letters on top ups to grant funds that prevent the seven councils facing cuts deeper than the 8.8% cuts (the maximum cut) announced by Government.

The Government backed down and awarded extra grants to the top seven authorities facing cuts above 8.8% and agreed for 2013/14 and 14/15 only, these authorities would receive the difference in grant funds. In Hyndburn's case this was around £1.25million in both years (Efficiency Support Grant)

However the chancellor following agreed to pay an extra 25% provided Council's worked more in partnership with each other and produced further savings (Efficiency Support Grant Reward Element). 

Pennine Lancashire EU Assisted Area Status: East Lancashire working together

Over the last two months East Lancashire leaders and MPs have been working together to make the case for the 2014 - 2020 Assisted Area Status with the EU. The Government have have accepted the the first stage of consultation on the wards which will qualify.  The number of wards included in East Lancashire is far greater than the last period 2007-2013 - an additional 17 wards over the last period.

Essentially the assisted areas status has been focused on prime industrial areas along the M65 and where there are significantly large employers.

I and my colleagues Councillor Bernard Dawson and County Councillor for Huncoat Clare Pritchard pressed for the inclusion of Huncoat, originally omitted on the first map and now importantly, included. 

Volunteering at Hyndburn's Community Solutions Foodbank; sending out christmas food parcels and presents

Foodbank currently wrapping up presents for children. About to deliver food parcels.

Volunteering Foodbank. Awesome community response with around 40 volunteers helping out across rooms.

Christmas at Salvation Army Hostel - meeting vulnerable young people

Visiting vulnerable young people for their xmas buffet at the Salvation Army refuge in Hyndburn with

Friday, 20 December 2013

My visit to A & E at Royal Blackburn

This morning I visited Royal Blackburn hospital to discuss how the A and E service are coping and to show his support for the hard working staff there.

The cumulative actions of the Tory-led Government have meant that across the country the NHS is struggling to deal with the A and E crisis. This situation is predicted to become worse over the coming winter months with more ambulances queuing up outside A and E units and more people waiting longer before being seen.

Visit to the newly completed Great Harwood Health Centre on Water Street, Great Harwood

I visited the newly completed Great Harwood Health Centre on Water Street, Great Harwood today.

As soon as I got elected to Parliament I made the new health centre in Great Harwood one of my top priorities. There was a time when it looked like it wasn’t going to get built, so to visit the facility today and to see the difference it is making for patient is really fantastic.

I know that a lot of Great Harwood residents, the Community Action Group and the Council were all part of the campaign to make sure this happened and I’d like to thank them for their efforts in securing the centre. I’d also like to thank NHS property services for showing me around today.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Stop the FOBTs takes its fight to Parliament

Campaign takes to College Green to urge MPs to vote no to "status quo"

The Stop the FOBTs Campaign team joined Tom Watson MP and other Members of Parliament earlier this month on the House of Commons Green to raise awareness of roulette machines in betting shops and to call for a reduction in the maximum stake from £100 to £2. The event was attended by journalists from national newspapers, and supporters included councillors, activists and problem gamblers.

Latest correspondence from Dept Health on the Accrington Victoria walk in centre

I continue to campaign locally and in Parliament to save the walk in centre at Accrington Victoria. Last Friday I met with Patients Voice to discuss their concerns over the proposed closure.

My speech on food banks

Below is the speech I had prepared ahead of the debate in the House of Commons yesterday on the subject of food banks which I had wanted and expected to deliver. Unfortunately due to the number of people who wished to speak in the debate, and the delays caused by the distruption to the opening frontbench speech I was unable to take part in the debate due to time pressure. 

Mr Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of the motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. At present I have four food banks in my constituency: RAFT, Maundy Relief, Tesco Fairshare and Community Solutions. I have visited or volunteered at them all and I will be volunteering at Community Solutions over Christmas. 

Peel Holdings v Hyndburn Council

Peel Holdings v Hyndburn Council

Peel Holdings have pursued their interests relentlessly in the courts to change Whitebirk Retail Park from selling white goods to one where famous high street names selling high street goods are permitted to locate.

Hyndburn Council has defended the interests of Accrington town centre in the courts defending current Council planning policies in the courts.

The development of the Trafford Centre according to Council sources saw an 11% fall off in trade in Accrington Town Centre which is the largest employer in the Borough.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Government changes to digital radio policy to reflect local concerns.

Thanks for the email – I was monitoring yesterday's speech with interest!

I think it's fair to say we're pleased with the outcome – in particular that there was no "in principle" decision for switch-over and "emphatically no FM switch off". This allows time for the consumer demand to dictate how and when and even if a digital move will take place and it safeguards the long term future of FM.

I'm in no doubt that the movement of position in favour of the smaller commercial sector is down to the huge support we have received from our constituency MPs, so thank you to you and Graham for your support in this matter.

Wishing you both a peaceful Christmas and an exciting New Year

Best regards

Simon Brierley
Managing Director

New Gingerbread research: Paying the price: Single parents in the age of austerity

Dear Mr Jones, Please find attached the executive summary from Gingerbread’s new report, Paying the Price: Single parents in the age of austerity, which has been published today. The report is the first from a three-year project tracking single parents’ experiences of living in the current difficult economic climate, and key findings include:

Friday, 13 December 2013

Keeping up the campaign to tackle poor conditions in the private rented sector

@GrahamJones_MP: Keeping up the campaign to tackle poor conditions in the private rented sector. Reply from minister. Are the government finally buckling on the issue?

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Wanted: 15 young people aged between 16 and 24yrs old Prince's Trust Team Programme, starting on Monday 13th January 2014

Graham, I am delighted to inform you that Hyndburn Fire Station (Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service) in association with Accrington and Rossendale College will be delivering another Prince's Trust Team Programme, starting on Monday 13th January 2014.

Between now and then we are looking to recruit a new team of 15 young people aged between 16 and 24yrs old.

The success of the first team was largely due to the support that you, as partner agencies provided us, by referring the young people that took part in the first Hyndburn Fire Station, Prince's Trust team.

It is for this reason that I am now hoping you can provide us with the same support as you have done previously.

I have attached a number of information documents and also a referral form. If you have any young people that you can refer to the programme this can be done by emailing the form back or by posting it to the station address below.

Many thanks, in anticipation,

Chris West

Prince's Trust
Team Leader
Hyndburn Fire Station
Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service

01254 356987

MPs pay. Ed Miliband's letter to the Prime Minister

Ed Miliband has sent the below letter to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister calling for cross-party talks to resolve this issue before the General Election. Below is also what Ed Miliband said at PMQs on this issue as well as the line issued before the publication.

11 December 2013
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
Dear David

Today at Prime Minister's Questions you agreed with me that a pay rise for MPs many times above inflation in the midst of a cost of living crisis would be wrong. You indicated that the Deputy Prime Minister shared that view. You also said the door was open to discuss this issue.

The public expect us to resolve this now and not wait until 2015. It only undermines confidence and trust in our political system if the uncertainty about MPs' pay is allowed to continue.

Therefore I believe the three party leaders should meet Sir Ian Kennedy tomorrow to make clear our view that we cannot go ahead with the current proposition.

I look forward to hearing from you.

I am copying this letter to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Yours sincerely

Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP


Spokesperson for Ed Miliband:

If the package of proposals being set out by Ipsa is as reported it cannot go ahead when people are going through the biggest cost-of-living crisis for a generation.

We cannot have an outcome for MPs which does not command public confidence.

Therefore we are asking the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats for a cross-party approach which recognises the current economic circumstances where workers in the public and private sectors are going through such difficult times.


Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister agree that, given the crisis in living standards that ordinary families are facing, Members of Parliament should not be awarded a pay rise many times above inflation in 2015?

Edward Miliband: I am glad that the Prime Minister agrees with me about this issue. Does he also agree that we should not let it hang around as an issue until after the general election, and hang over trust in politics? May I urge him to work with me, on a cross-party basis, to find a way of making IPSA think again, and to stop this package happening?

Edward Miliband: I agree with the Prime Minister, but I hope he agrees with me that waiting and seeing will not work and that we do have to get together to deal with this. The reason this is not the right time for this pay rise is that most people are going through the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation, and I want to turn to that cost of living crisis. Last Thursday, the Chancellor claimed living standards were rising. That just is not the case, is it?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Accrington Victoria Walk In Centre: Latest letter from CCG

Latest DCMS response to the survival of local radio

Digital Radio may offer a clearer future, literally. However the spectrum is small and many local radio stations will be forced to remain on FM.

In Hyndburn we have 2BR, 107 the Bee, Accrington Asian radio (which broadcasts 1 month every year) and Rossendale Radio which is in the process of re-establishing itself.

Remaining on FM is seen as being disadvantageous. Partly quality, partly because some radios are DAB only, partly because people will see FM as a poorer source with poorer choice as the high profile stations broadcast from DAB.

I have had a five cornered response on this issue. From DCMS, my office, pro and anti DAB campaigners and our own local radio stations which I have blogged about previously.

This is the latest response from the DCMS on the issue.

Monday, 9 December 2013

A and E in East Lancashire unsatisfactory according to patients.

The latest Friends and Family Test feedback (October) for East Lancashire Hospitals Trust show that for accident and emergency out of 142 hospitals, it ranked a lowly 132nd.

Anyone with any experience could tell you that there is a significant problem. I have previously written about my efforts to resolve with the Lancashire Ambulance Trust the chaos of ambulance's parked up awaiting bed space at A and E last winter. Some progress has been made.

I have sat in A and E with my young daughter and experienced how hard the staff in triage work but how over overwhelmed they are. I went to have a simple blood test for a cold having been to a malaria infected country. An important test given death comes quickly. Tropical diseases seem to be a non-priority so overstretched at A&E the staff are.

More recently we have seen the colossal numbers, some 36,000 using the GP walk in centre at Accrington. Should it close an estimated 11,000 will go to A and E instead at Royal Blackburn.

Add to that the cuts the government promised wouldn't happen. The costly NHS reorganisation. This month we have learned the scale of the redistributive cuts taking money from the NHS in deprived areas and giving it to the wealthy areas. This week the Mark Brearley, chief executive of East Lancashire’s troubled hospital trust has quit following a barrage of criticism from campaigners and NHS inspectors.

It's no wonder the public have no faith in the service. It's not the staff but government cuts, issues with the management and the scale of deprivation in East Lancashire.

Massive NHS cuts in East Lancashire to fund the NHS in other areas

The government has decided that deprivation figures should be replaced by average age (the older the average to more money) in calculating NHS funding in the future. See letter below.

This essentially switches funding from deprived areas with greater need to affluent areas like Bournemouth, Hertfordshire and Surrey where people are wealthy enough to live to a ripe old age.

- David Cameron promised no more top down reorganisation but implemented the biggest top down reorganisation the NHS has seen privatising services.

- He promised no cuts but the £3billion reorganisation and deep cuts to Social Services have meant the NHS is once again in crises under a Tory led government.

- His promise of no NHS cuts is a betrayal to NHS workers and constituents.

These latest redistributive cuts will see £millions taken out of East Lancashire and will have a dramatic impact on the level and quality of health services particularly following the Keogh Report. Cuts such as the closure of the Accrington Walk in Centre.

It's a cliche but so true - you can't trust the Tories on the NHS. Cameron has broken so many promises that adorned Tory billboards at the last election.

Dan Jarvis on Labour's commitment to WW1 commemorations

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Letter to Lancashire MPs over NHS changes in Lancashire that will see £miillions cut

Letter to Jeremy Hunt in response to the huge new cuts to the NHS in Lancashire

The Government is currently consulting on one aspect of the funding formula for local NHS provision, a change which I believe would be in the short and long term detriment to people in East Lancashire.

Jeremy Hunt wants to make a change which would result in a redistribution of money away from poorer areas with lower life expectancies (such as Hyndburn) towards (generally wealthier, southern) areas with higher life expectancies. The Government’s thinking is that older people need more NHS money, which taken at face value makes sense. However, in practice that means taking money away from people who have lower life expectancies, rewarding healthier people with better health provision.

Ignoring health inequality and favouring age will put further strain on the budget of the NHS in East Lancashire, the result of which would be less in the way of services.

When is a cut not a cut? When it is a redistribution from poorer areas of health need to areas where people live longer.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals have been called 'the crack cocaine of gambling'. Cameron should defend vulnerable people, not the gambling industry.

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals have been called 'the crack cocaine of gambling'. Cameron should defend vulnerable people, not the gambling industry.

Last week in Parliament, there was a vote in Committee regarding whether the Commons had considered the draft Categories of Gaming Machine (Amendment) Regulations 2014. This is something that usually takes place on the nod, in the committee rooms of Parliament, and normally doesn't make the news.

These regulations relate to gaming machines of all kinds, from pub fruit machines to penny slots – however these supposedly carefully designed regulations had one glaring omission, they had absolutely no mention whatsoever of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs); an issue on which Parliament and the Government gets much correspondence on. I have personally never been contacted by anyone asking for the prize of a pub fruit machine to be doubled – however I have been contacted innumerable times by people wanting FOBTs capped or removed altogether.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

ECO and Solid wall insulation - An overview

I recently asked the library to look into the ECO. With both Blackburn and Hyndburn engaging in large scale schemes it is important to understand how the scheme is or isn't working.

ECO performance

The House of Commons library briefing, The Green Deal and The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) has the latest statistics included on ECO progress including costs, supply chains and measures installed. The figures are from the 9th in the series (November 2013)of Green Deal and ECO monthly statistics which are published by DECC. The next set of Monthly and quarterly statistics will be published on 19 December 2013.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Cameron's Special Offer. Energy Bills up by £70.

Transport Minister has no answer on the time of the opening of direct rail line to Manchester

I have asked the government as to the progress of the direct rail link from Accrington to Manchester.

The track work is due to be completed by May 2014, on time however there is potentially a problem with the rolling stock which may delay the opening of the line. Some suggestons are that this delay will be for a further 6 months to November 2014. 

My Accrington Pals Speech - Minister drops a kind note...

Last week Thursday the House of Commons debated a motion on the First World War. In the debate I spoke at length about the Accrington Pals, and the centenary commemorations which are taking place across the constituency in the next few years.

A reply from the East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group Accrington on the Victoria Health Access Centre

Below is a letter I recently received from the East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group – the body ultimately responsible for the decision as to whether the hugely popular and hugely valued Accrington Victoria Health Access Centre stays open, and in what form.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Graham Jones MP visits Isothane.

Isothane press release.

Earlier this month Graham Jones, MP for Haslingden and Hyndburn, visited Isothane to witness first hand the innovative work being done in tackling the huge problem of insulating Hard to Treat Cavities throughout the UK.

Graham was shown how Technitherm® makes the insulation of Hard to Treat cavities a simple task, and was given the details of the Local and National Projects now being developed by Isothane, and the subsequent benefits to householders and the local and national economy.