Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Why does David Cameron hate the Working Time Directive?

David Cameron has been talking a lot recently about his aim of ‘re-negotiating’ the UK’s relationship with Europe, and ‘repatriating’ regulations that originate with the EU.

The Working Time Directive is a set of work related regulations at the top of many Conservatives’ lists to overturn.

But stepping away from the EU jargon on the issue, this legislation contains a lot of very basic protections at work that people in the UK now take totally for granted – holidays, lunchbreaks, days off and more.

The TUC have made this image that highlights a few of the things we could stand to lose if the UK were to ‘repatriate’ working time.

http://stopemploymentwrongs.org/

Monday, 28 January 2013

Great Harwood Health Centre - Moving forward.

Having campaigned for two years for Great Harwood Health Centre I am delighted that construction vehicles are now on site.
Great Harwood Labour Councillor Kerry Molyneux said that she "was very excited when I stepped outside the door, to take the children to school this morning, to find a digger and a wagon on the ground of the new health centre. It would appear that they are making a start on clearing the area. I am so proud of the work everyone involved has done to be able to achieve what was felt to be impossible, by bringing the new health centre into fruition."
www.harwoodfirst.com

Tackling cannabis farms - SSE reply

Friday, 25 January 2013

My speech on the Private Rented Sector Wednesday

This Wednesday I spoke in the Opposition Day debate on the Private Rented Sector, it was an incredibly useful debate which really hit home some of the pressures that people who rent their homes face on a daily basis.

In the concluding speech, Don Foster, the Government Minister responding to the debate stated : “The hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) talked about the need to review the housing health and safety rating system, and we would be interested to hear from him on that. If he would like to come and talk to me afterwards, I will discuss double glazing with him as well.”

I shall be writing to Mr Foster with a view to arranging a meeting.

Here is the speech from last night:

Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. It is a little disappointing that Conservative Ministers and the Secretary of State have now left this crucial debate.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Woodnook on TV again

BBC TV's The One Show will be broadcasting a feature on Woodnook on Tuesday.

Labour have begun the regeneration of Woodnook after over a decade of abandonment by the Tories. The pioneering scheme done with far less resources than previous Tory Councils had at their disposal is attracting national attention.

BBBTV News filmed a feature two weeks ago. The national media's attention on Hyndburn's housing saw BBCTV News come to Bold Street, Accrington to report on the poor quality of private rented sector and the problem of rogue landlords highlighted by Labour leader Ed Miliband last week.

Labours plans for Woodnook will be supported by a national register of landlords under a Labour Government and a clampdown on unsecured short tenancies and dubious letting agent practices. All measures that will improve areas like Woodnook.

Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Clare Pritchard (pictured with presenter Tony Livesey), recorded an article on 16th January for BBC1's The One show regarding HBC's innovative work on regenerating 200 empty properties in the Woodnook area of Accrington.

The programme will be transmitted at 7.00pm on Tuesday 22nd January.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Eastgate tragedy: Improving road safety statistics

Yesterday morning in Transport Questions I raised the tragic case of Mrs Carol Hinett, a constituent who’s 29 year old daughter Jackie and 18 month old grandson Jayden were both tragically killed when an 89 year old driver had a heart attack at the wheel of his car and mounted the pavement.

The law currently states that drivers over 70 have to renew their licence every three years, and must inform the DVLA about any health issues that may affect their driving.

Data on accidents is collected by deciles, split into every 10 years from 17 to 90. However data for the deciles 70years and 80 years are combined into a 20 year category instead of 10. In my opinion there is a big difference between being 70 and being 89 and it hinders any driver-accident assessment combining the age –accident data into a 20 year grouping.

In Transport Questions I asked whether the Government would consider at least creating a new classification bracket for accident statistics collection separating those 70 years to 79 years an those aged 80 years to 89 years. Policies relating to driver risk must always be based on the accurate evidence.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

@Shelter, 16/01/2013 11:03

Shelter (@Shelter)
16/01/2013 11:03
We have news on housing cost worries causing stress, depression and sleepless nights. Contact sophie_robinson@shelter.org.uk #journalist Sent from my iPhone

Restricted covenant on the Mary Hindle Centre?

The Mary Hindle Centre, currently up for sale having fallen into the hands of the questionable charity Agapao International may have a restricted covenant. The original agreement is being sought - both from the HCA/BIS and the solicitors acting for CAR - that would shed light on any restrictions on sale.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The launch of the Electrical Safety Register

I was recently written to by the Electrical Safety Council and the Electrical Contractors Association regarding the launch of the Electrical Safety Register.

The register, which is available at www.electricalsafetyregister.com lists over 36,000 contractors, to help homeowners find a safe electrician in their area. All of the companies on the Electrical Safety Register have been fully assessed to rigorous technical standards, and the ESC and ECA claim this makes it the definitive searchable database for competent electricians.


Monday, 14 January 2013

Ed Miliband pledges crackdown on rogue landlords cashing in on housing shortage

Ed Miliband has pledged to crackdown on rogue landlords cashing in on the housing shortage during his first major speech of 2013.

During the speech to the Fabian Society, he said it is wrong to have a nation divided between those who own homes and those who do not.

He also admitted that the last Labour government did not do enough for ordinary people.

New Labour was 'too timid in enforcing rights and responsibilities, especially at the top, and it was too sanguine about the consequences of the rampant free markets'.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

LETTER: Hyndburns housing crises - the shocking reality for many families

To Graham Jones MP, I would be grateful if you could read my story and look at the pictures I will attach as I feel I am not receiving the correct information from sources near to home.

I currently live in a terraced house in Accrington and it came to winter last year and I started to notice the windows leaked in, quite a large amount even after having the windows open for most of the day, for the past year I have repeatedly asked my landlord to repair without success and have also tried to seal them myself but hasn’t made any difference, the reason this has become a big problem for me is that I have 4 young children of which 1 of them my daughter child who is 7 suffers from severe asthma and has a very high allergy to house dust mites, over the past 6 months child has got dramatically worse constant wheezing, sore throats, chest infections, tonsillitis and doesn’t have a very good immune system.

Over the past few months when coming into winter again when the weather started to change I noticed the windows get really bad and in child's bedroom found what I thought was mould or fungi. I had advised my landlord on numerous occasions that they needed replacing so told him that I would be withholding one month’s rent until he carried out the work and his response 4 days later was to issue me with a possession order.


Labour forces government climb-down to save community pubs

Pressure from the Labour Party has forced the Tory-led government to perform a climb-down and introduce legislation to help protect struggling pubs in places like Hyndburn.

The number of pubs closing per week has recently risen from 12 to 18 and more than 200 pubs have been converted to supermarket convenience stores over the past two years alone.

Many factors have an influence, but the unfair and unbalanced relationship between licensees and their landlords, the large branded pub companies or “PubCos” who dominate the market, has undoubtedly played a part in this sad decline.

A broad coalition of groups in the pub trade – including CAMRA, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Independent Pub Confederation, the GMB and UNITE Unions, the Forum of Private Business and Fair Pint have been calling for a statutory code to guide and regulate the relationship between the PubCos and their tenants and licencees.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Tory Government attacks the poorest Councils, rewards Tory Councils

The Local Government Finacial Settlement for next year provides the most offensive political funding settlement that can ever be recalled. Eric Pickles, Secretary of State has stated that the average cut across England and Wales is just 1.2%.

The Local Government Finacial Settlement has been designed so that Labour Councils are hit hard and Tory Councils are do not have to shoulder the burden of Government cuts. That we are not 'all in this together' as George Osborne claims. The deicit is being balanced on the backs of the poor. The poorest people in Lancashire will have are facing grotesquely unfair cuts as seen in the table below.

Conservative Councils are facing cuts amounting to £100ks whilst Labour Councils and East Lancashire in particular is facing cuts in the £millions - a ten fold increase in cut.

Local Council tax payers will have to pick up the cost in fewer or poorer services, higher charges or higher Council taxes. There is also an impact on local shops and the local economy.

Headline


Adjusted 2012-13 Budget Adjusted 2013-14 Budget Gov't cut Gov't cut


Political Control
(£ million)
(£ million)
(£ million)
(%)
Burnley LAB 19.872 16.341 3.531 -17.8%
Hyndburn LAB 15.991 13.377 2.614 -16.3%
Pendle CON/LD 18.238 15.684 2.554 -14.0%
Preston LAB 25.131 23.515 1.616 -6.4%
Lancaster LAB/GN 22.221 21.737 0.484 -2.2%
Rossendale LAB 11.001 10.630 0.371 -3.4%
South Ribble CON 13.784 13.488 0.296 -2.1%
Wyre CON 15.607 15.349 0.258 -1.7%
West Lancashire CON 15.089 14.900 0.188 -1.2%
Fylde CON 10.975 10.848 0.128 -1.2%
Ribble Valley CON 6.599 6.516 0.083 -1.3%
Chorley LAB 14.489 14.698 -0.208 1.4%

This years cuts are ontop of the cuts imposed last year. Below is the heat map of the cuts that the government have imposed from 2011-12 where Tory Councils were once again given minimal cuts.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/dec/14/local-council-cuts-data#_


Council Leader, Cllr Miles Parkinson spoke today in response to the recent settlement announcement:

Cllr Parkinson said; “The headline figure is a reduction in Council Spending power of 8.8%, the toughest in the country.

The figure could have been much worse at over 17% except for strong lobbying by local MP Graham Jones for additional funding of £2.1m not to be withdrawn. The Government finally agreed to continue this extra funding but reduced it by over £900,000. This extra funding will only last 2 years and after that the impact of Government reductions will exceed 17%. This is on the back of previous reductions over the last 2 years of over 20%.

The actual reduction in Government support is significantly higher than the headline figure of 8.8% as this figure includes amounts raised in local taxation. Initial calculations indicate that the Government has reduced funding to the Council by more than 13%, though we are still working on the detail to confirm this figure.

The overall Local Government Grant Settlement this year shows that local government is continuing to face the brunt of reductions in spending by Government and that deprived councils particularly in the North are suffering the most under the Government’s reforms of local government finance.

The Council however remains strongly committed to ensuring services and jobs are protected wherever possible and that in these times of economic hardship for the people of Hyndburn, there should be no additional burden from increases in local taxation. Therefore despite the significant reduction in funding from the Government there will be no rise in the Council Tax in 2013/14 and we will still deliver quality, value for money services for our residents.

Hyndburn Council has a strong track record over many years of delivering good quality services efficiently and we will continue to find ways to do more for less.”

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

"Lets all step down the rung one!" Labour poster

Dozens of people are applying for every available job. People desperate work. Are these people shirkers or scroungers?

I am supporting Shelter’s Rotten Homes Campaign

I am supporting Shelter’s Rotten Homes Campaign, as part of their ongoing campaign to stamp out rogue landlords. This time they are focussing on mayors and city authorities to take action to protect people who live in the private rented sector.

As they point out on their website, which I am happy to echo here on my blog:

“Too many landlords are getting away with renting out properties that are in appalling states of disrepair. People are stuck in run-down, damp, dilapidated and downright dangerous conditions.

So we’re calling on Mayors and local politicians to stamp out rogue landlords and make sure that no one has to live in a rotten home.”

Liverpool and Bristol are both cities which have elected Mayors, and this campaign is an attempt to put rogue landlords and their rotten properties on the cities’ policy agenda. 2000 supporters petitioned the new Mayor, and as a result, the new Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has launched a 10-point plan committing himself and the city to tackling rogue landlords.

The Mayor has pledged himself to 1) Create a Rogue Landlords Hit Squad; 2) Adopt a ‘Liverpool Standard’ for privately rented homes in the City; 3) Re-launch the Landlord Accreditation Scheme; and 4) set up a confidential free phone line where people can shop a bad landlord.

You can read more about it here.

I hope this success can be replicated across our cities.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Baxenden digital TV signal loss



The wind farm on Oswaldtwistle Moor has due to the weak signal from Winter Hill transmitter, knocked out the digital TV signal to huge parts of Baxenden.

Energiekontor, the owners of the wind farm signed a liability agreement with the former Conservative council limiting their payout to a total no more than £10,000 and that the remedial realignment of any affected aerials can be to the Haslingden transmitter which broadcasts far fewer channels.

Hyndburn's Labour Concil who inherited this problem have sought legal advice. Energiekontor have decided that they are prepared to pay out more than the £10,000 they had legally agreed. The improved offer however has met with criticism as it requires a contribution from residents.

The problem isn't just the contribution but the added complexity of expensive personal equipment; multiple Freview TVs, Freeview HD and HD recorders, cost of equipment that is effectively redundant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdxn6dVoEYU&feature=youtu.be

Saturday, 5 January 2013

FOBT: Described by the Daily Mail as the 'Crack Cocaine of Gambling'

The Guardian today reported on figures released by the Fairer Gambling Campaign on the amount of money gambled on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals broken down by constituency (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2013/jan/04/5bn-gambled-britian-poorest-high-street) (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jan/04/fixed-odds-betting-terminals-poorest-communities).

The data the Fairer Gambling Campaign have released on Hyndburn is. (Note to editors - full tables available).

Hyndburn - North West Euro Region - E14000758 Labour
Graham Jones (Labour)
Number of Bookies (Hyndburn) - 13
Number of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (Hyndburn) - 47
Gross Gambling Yield (Hyndburn) - £1,538,146
Total Gambled (Hyndburn) - £49,299,553


Struggling with your mortgage? Shelter can help

Dear Mr Jones,

Shelter finds a 60% rise in people struggling to pay their rent or mortgage in the last twelve months. As a result, almost a million people turned to a payday loan to help pay for their housing. These results reveal the spiral of debt that people are falling into in order to keep a roof over their head.

Please take these four actions to help people to find professional advice:
  1. Post a link to our online advice on your website: www.shelter.org.uk/advice
  2. Encourage your caseworkers to bookmark our online advice pages, so they can refer to them when dealing with housing-related casework: www.shelter.org.uk/advice
  3. Let your constituents know how to get help from Shelter via our online advice and free telephone helpline number: www.shelter.org.uk/advice 0808 800 4444
  4. Tweet our online advice details or retweet us. You can find us here: @Shelter
For many the New Year will bring further challenges, we are urging anyone worried about paying their rent or mortgage to make seeking early housing advice their New Year’s resolution.

Warmest wishes for the New Year,

Ellie Robinson
Public Affairs Officer
Shelter, 88 Old St, London, EC1V 9HU | 0344 515 2052 | 07709786731
www.shelter.org.uk/parliament

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Cannabis Farms - Catching the super energy consumer

Last month following the figures for the number of cannabis farms closed down by the police I wrote to the big six to ask what they were doing to assist the police in this matter. Here is the reply from ScottishPower.

Facing a water pipe emergency? - advice from United Utilities

United Utilities are letting residents know about their Winter Wise campaign to help people prepare for bad winter weather and give them advice on what to do if their water pipes freeze or burst.

May people don’t realise that the supply pipes under their garden and in their homes belong to them, rather than us. So, in that case, when there’s a problem we can sometimes only give them advice.

They’ve been holding road shows across Lancashire handing out advice packs and goodies to encourage people to lag their pipes, find out where their stop tap is and get the number of a good reliable plumber.

They have an advice sheet which is on their website; Winter Wise webpage at www.unitedutilities.com/winterwise.

FutureYou - helping young people

I was recently contacted by FutureYou, a online support network that aims to help thousands of young people – the so-called NEETS – break out of unemployment. I want to do my bit at spreading awareness of this organisation.