Sunday, 29 September 2013

Lancashire LEP - Correspondence on progress...

Worth publishing is the correspondence I have received from Lancashire's LEP on what they are trying to achieve. The Lancashire LEP does court debate and I for one believe that the Lancashire Labour Party now in charge at County Hall should review progress so far and if any improvements can be made.

I recently visited the enterprise zone at Salmesbury and it is paramount it is a success. It's important the City Deal does not concentrate resources just around Preston an that business is boosted right across the County.


Thursday, 26 September 2013

Dab+ and the future of local radio

I have taken up the issue of the transition from of radio from analogue to digital following the move with television. Many people will have a DAB digital radio but radio is still broadcast unlike TV on analogue through FM, medium wave and long wave frequencies.

The switch date still remains 2015 however there are numerous issues that are a cause for concern. From the poor sales of digital only radios to the number of legacy analogue radios still in use.

A major issue is that of small radio stations who will not find available bandwidth on the DAB only frequencies. In Hyndburn we have or have had four local radio stations with scope for more. 2BR and 107 The Bee, Rossendale Radio ( 1  2 ) and the occasional Accrington Asian Radio Station which broadcasts from Blackburn Road. Local radio is important the bandwidth should not be allowed to be taken up by the large radio providers.

All of which are vulnerable to being left on legacy analogue radio which even if it is not turned off, will still have a dwindling audience as DAB sales increase with the DAB switch over. There is a campaign to introduce DAB+ which will allow for more radio stations on digital radio.


Saturday, 21 September 2013

Agapao.... success!

After private negotiations (of which no one knew) Agapao have agreed to gift the Mary Hindle Centre to Veterans in the Community.

It's my view that Louise and the trustees had their reasons for a chosen transfer.

A condition stipulated by VIC is that it cannot be sold, it must be gifted by VIC should they no longer be able to manage it. I am confident under VIC it will remain for community use.

I spoke with Ronnie from ViC this afternoon. The trustees of ViC had just been informed. He accepted that the campaign had no doubt put significant pressure on Agapao and Louise personally and had forced the issue.

I am delighted that The Save the Mary Hindle Centre campaign and I have achieved what was both morally right and of significant benefit to Haslingden. The return of a publicly funded, community asset back to the people of Haslingden.

Today's decision does not address the activities of Agapao Uganda which Haslingden residents are still involved with.

More info... Haslingden's Mary Hindle centre to be transferred to veterans' group ...
2 days ago ... Now Agapao's chief executive, Louise Chicot, has agreed to let Veterans in ... He
said: “The Save the Mary Hindle Centre campaign and I have ...

Friday, 13 September 2013

74 new and refurbished homes on Within Grove, Huncoat.

Today I visited Within Grove, Huncoat. There has been a total of 74 new and refurbished homes made available for rent in the area. The redevelopment has been done by Contour Homes and the site will be managed by Hyndburn Homes, both organisations are both part of the Symphony Housing Group. The homes are impressive.

I have always supported the development of new, modern and affordable homes in the rented sector in Hyndburn and today's visit confirmed to me that lives can be transformed through this type of good quality housing.

Back in 2003, Labour's one year power we demolished 26 homes on Seascale but during almost a decade of the Conservatives nothing more got done.

After stock transfer I sat on the board as it grappled with the problems on the estate. They were told that the Council would never allow rented homes. Socially rented housing had had a terribly negative impact on the borough.

With the housing market collapsed and renting ruled out here seemed no way forward. I vowed in the board meetings of Hyndburn Homes that a Labour council would allow rented accomodation to be built and so it has come to pass today.

If the Tories would take the time to see Within Grove they would see how Hyndburn's families need these developments.

On the visit, I met a family who had recently moved from a private rented home which they described as damp, cold and not fit for purpose. They had 3 children, one of whom had a disability, and their new home was warm, spacious and had transformed their lives. I met a retired couple whose new bungalow meant their fuel bills had been reduced and they could see their grandchildren in comfort and space.

I'd like to thank all those involved in the project and for showing me around. I will continue to lobby for the resources to match the housing needs of the Borough and I'm proud that since my election and Labour taking control of the council we have seen a commitment to over 150 high quality new tenanted homes being brought into use for the residents of the Borough.

Food poverty research from Church Urban Fund

Dear Mr Jones, I thought I might forward to you some research we have done at Church Urban Fund about food banks and food poverty more generally. It provides an accessible but informative guide to what is happening in local communities. The report is called Hungry for More: how churches can address the root causes of food poverty.

Our research suggests that four out of five churches are currently supporting food banks in one way or another. The report also explores ways in which churches can do more to work alongside others to find long-term solutions to the causes of food poverty, for example by tackling high levels of personal debt. 

We would be happy to come and talk about the report or indeed any other aspect of the work we are doing at CUF to offer pathways out of poverty for those with whom we work. 

Best wishes,

Paul Hackwood

Paul Hackwood
EXECUTIVE CHAIR 

T  01530223265


Church Urban Fund
Church House
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ  

A company limited by guarantee. Registered in Cardiff No: 2138994. Registered charity number: 297483





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Labour's proposal for a Mansion Tax

The Shadow Frontbench have proposed introducing a mansion tax on houses worth over £2 million and to use the money raised to reintroduce a 10p starting rate of tax.[1]

There was an Opposition Day debate on this issue on 12th March 2013, in which the Labour's Frontbench’s motion (‘that this House believes that a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million, to fund a tax cut for millions of people on middle and low incomes, should be part of a fair tax system; and calls on the Government to bring forward proposals for such a tax at the earliest opportunity’)[2] was defeated by 304 votes to 241.[3]

A Government motion, stating that ‘the part of the Coalition led by the Deputy Prime Minister also advocates a mansion tax on properties worth more than £2 million, as set out in his Party’s manifesto, and the part of the Coalition led by the Prime Minister does not advocate a mansion tax’ was approved by 301 votes to 246.[4]

The Labour's Frontbench then sought to introduce a mansion tax through the Finance Act 2013 which has now received Royal Assent. At Committee Stage of the Finance Act 2013 in April the Shadow Frontbench tabled an amendment that called for the Government to ‘review the possibility of bringing forward a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million and publish a report, within six months of the passing of this Act, on how the revenue could be used to fund a tax cut for millions of people on middle and low incomes as part of a fair tax system’.[5]

Thursday, 12 September 2013

FAILURE TO ACT ON ENERGY BILLS SHOWS US JUST WHOSE SIDE DAVID CAMERON IS ON

As the days shorten I’m getting more and more letters from constituents worried about soaring energy bills as warnings come of more price rises this winter.

David Cameron is out of touch on this and needs to act now to help struggling families.

His failure to reform Britain’s broken energy market is leaving hard pressed bill payers massively out of pocket.

Since 2010, the average household’s energy bill has increased by over £300 a year.

At the same time, Britain’s big six energy companies have had a £3.3 billion uplift in profits.

In a debate on energy bills and company profits this week, Labour promised to break up the dominance of the energy giants to protect the public from being ripped off, including putting all over 75s on the cheapest tariff and creating a tough new energy watchdog with the power to force energy companies to pass on savings to consumers.

People have had enough of vested interests from energy companies to Rupert Murdoch calling the tune at the expense of the rest of us.

Only Labour will call them to account. From the Tories it is just more of the same.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Only Labour will deliver the real reform our politics so badly needs

This week I spoke out against David Cameron’s lobbying Bill – or, as many people are calling it, the ‘Gagging Bill’, as it could stop charities and campaigners speaking out on issues that matter to all of us.

David Cameron promised to fix our broken politics, but this Bill makes things worse not better. It says all you need to know about who the Government stands up for.

Only David Cameron could introduce a lobbying Bill that wouldn’t stop arch-lobbyist Lynton Crosby, who also happens to be one Cameron’s closest advisors, setting the Government's tobacco policy, but could stop an organisation like Cancer Research UK or the British Medical Association from campaigning about it.

If you want to speak out against the Bill and for a better cleaner politics click here and sign Labour’s petition: http://action.labour.org.uk/page/m/6e8af1e1/52fe97f6/6e43d18b/298ff44/2319773683/VEsH/

David Cameron is out of touch, failing to turn things around for Britain’s hard working families

In an important debate on Britain’s cost of living crisis last week, Labour MPs attacked David Cameron for being out of touch, and failing to turn things around for Britain’s hard working families.

David Cameron says the economy is fixed but for ordinary people things are getting harder, not easier, with prices rising faster than wages.

Wages are down an average of £1,500 a year since David Cameron became Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, prices have risen faster in the UK than any other major economy and under the Tories we have had the slowest recovery for 100 years, with almost one million young people now out of work.

David Cameron is out of touch with the difficulties faced by ordinary families who feel he only stands up for the wealthiest. By making hard working families pay more than their share to bring down the deficit, while cutting taxes for an elite few at the top, he is showing whose side he is really on.

I think most people are crying out for real change. Of course I welcome the recent upturn in growth, as any growth, after three years of stagnation, is good news.

But Britain needs a strong recovery and a plan for a more balanced economy which boosts the living standards of the many not just the few at the top.

Petition on Dangerous Dogs

I will today present a petition to the House of Commons calling for tougher legislation to deal with dangerous dogs. The petition has been signed by many Haslingden and Hyndburn constituents who are tired of hearing stories of attacks, tired of having their own dogs harassed and tired of Government delays when it comes to toughening up the law.

Most owners are of course responsible, but with the number of recorded dog attacks rising, it is right that something is done about those irresponsible dog owners who turn innocent animals into dangerous weapons.

The Government have made some tentative steps in the right general direction, but their proposals are pretty weak overall. For example, I believe they should legislate for Dog Control Notices, which would allow Councils and the police to make sure owners are responsible.

The Government also needs to set out a clear timetable to extend the law to cover dog attacks on private property. This is an important change in the law, because a worryingly high number of attacks by dangerous dogs happen on private property.

Zero Hours Contracts

Zero-hours contracts are on the rise across the country, and Hyndburn is no exception. These contracts mask unemployment figures and gaps in the economy created by David Cameron’s Government, and can be a great burden for many people who are employed on them.

Some have had to sacrifice time with their kids in order to be available whenever their employer requires them to be, even if there is no work. Others are required to work exclusively for one employer with no guarantee that they will get enough hours to pay the bills. I’ve also met people employed on zero-hours contracts even though in practice they work regular hours.

Zero-hours contracts mean insecurity and stress for too many families in Haslingden and Hyndburn . This can’t continue, which is why Labour has set out plans to outlaw the exploitive use of zero-hours contracts.

A Labour Government would ban employers from insisting zero-hours workers be available even when there is no guarantee of any work, stop zero-hours contracts that require workers to work exclusively for one business and end the misuse of zero-hours contracts where employees are in practice working regular hours over a sustained period.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Launch of the Electrical Safety Register listing accredited electricians for residential & commercial properties

I have long supported the ECA and it's campaign for higher standards in the private rented sector. Electrical safety certificates should be mandatory as should Residual Consumer Devices and mains wired smoke detectors.

Good advice for home-owners and tenants can be found at http://www.esc.org.uk/

This latest initiative, the Electrical Safety Register provides a searchable register to help find a registered electrician. It is a joint venture between the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) and Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) that features both domestic and commercial contractors registered under the NICEIC, ELECSA and ECA certification schemes.

http://www.esc.org.uk/public/find-an-electrician/

Over 33,000 contractors are registered with these schemes, covering the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland. All of the contractors have been assessed against rigorous technical standards, offering protection to both householders and commercial customers.



Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Books Are My Bag Campaign - support local bookshops in your constituency, 14 September 2013

Dear Mr Jones, We are writing to ask you to support an exciting new campaign promoting local bookshops, Books Are My Bag, which will launch on Saturday 14th September 2013, sponsored by The Publishers Association and The Booksellers Association, and supported by The Society of Authors.

As we are sure you are aware, many of the UK’s high streets are struggling and in particular bookshops are closing at an alarming rate. Over the last five years independent bookshop numbers have declined from 1535 to 1028. This is a worrying loss as evidence shows that bookshops help sustain the nation’s reading habits in a way which online sales do not. In other words, when bookshops are closed readers are lost. Bookshops are that vital link between new writers and new readers and in maintaining a diverse and robust publishing industry, which contributes £5bn per annum to the UK economy.

According to research commissioned by the Booksellers Association (Source: Censuswide, June 2013) 88% of British book buyers are concerned that there are fewer bookshops on the high streets than 5 years ago. 92% of book buyers think action needs to be taken to support high streets, and 77% of book buyers think bookshops make high streets more appealing.

Britain and the tragedy of the Syrian Civil War

I have received a large amount of correspondence on the issue of British involvement in the Syrian Civil War, and I thought it would be sensible to put some thoughts down for constituents.

The complexity of the situation in Syria is well known – there are no outcomes to the civil war that are predictable or offer a stable future. A brutal dictator sponsored by a terrorist organisation Hezbollah, rogue states and armed by Russia or a disparate Free Syrian Army which incluldes Islamic extremists possibly including Al Qai'da elements and also standing accused of brutal war crimes.

Last week the House of Commons rejected the Government’s rush to military strikes. The Prime Minister failed to convince the Opposition and members of his own party that he had a clear and cognitive plan. The motion on the Order Paper failed to give due consideration to evidence, international law and was the start of a rash move towards action based on what appeared a preceeding agreement between Cameron and Obama that military strikes should happen that weekend.

The Syrian Civil War may well be 'won' by Assad and his sponsors. Will the west and the middle east region be better off having destroyed a palace or two and having Hezbollah at Assads side?

Labour’s motion did not call for military options to be taken off the table, it simply required a higher level of evidence and for international legal processes to be followed, more diplomacy. It is difficult to understand why there was an apparent rush to get a vote on this matter before the UN weapons inspectors had even reported which Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations stated should only have taken a few days more?

It was clear for older parliamnetarians that Iraq casts a long shadow over this discussion, and I think one lesson that certainly has to be learnt is that due process, legitimacy and international law should be taken as fundamental parts of intervention, not an inconvenience.

Government Ministers who tastelessly said that Labour was providing ‘succour’ to the Assad regime were reacting as if Labour’s call for more time and due process had scuppered the Government’s plans to finally solve the Syria crisis. Firing of missiles at empty palaces, factories or empty army bases would not solve the Civil War in Syria, and it would not end the killing by conventional weapons.

At this moment in time I cannot see the suggested military solutions reported in teh press as working and teh Prime Minister failed to clarify precisely what military action he was seeking permission for. Therein lies another criticism, failure of the government to be clearer about what we are trying to achieve, how they think it will be achieved and the acid test, make things better. MP's were no wiser at the end of teh debate nad we effectiovely had 'policy via gossip'.

There is an argument to say that we ought to respond to the use of chemical weapons through a strike simply as a ‘marker’ to prove we will not tolerate their use. I have sympathy with the motivation behind this viewpoint, as the taboo on the use of chemical weapons is an important one (though not one that has been policed unwaveringly in the past – even in Syria according to the JIC report). Striking a country to ‘punish’ them however, is not legal under international law. Moreover, the Syrian people want to see their brothers and sisters stop being killed, not just being killed by conventional weapons instead of chemical ones and this view has become more prevalant in the last few days.

The Commons vote may have left the UK against any form of military action, the threat of the possibility of military action taken off the table losing both a strong negotiating position.

This is all unsatisfactory. Cameron should have backed Labour's more moderate amendment, particularly after agreeing to the points within it and having been told by his own Whips Office he would lose his own vote. The PM's arrogance has left Britain would be in a far weaker position and undermined our relationships with our allies.

The Prime Minister has been rightly criticised for not making the case for action clearly enough, and for recalling Parliament in order to act rashly. A failure to submit a joint motion with Labour in the first place and assuming everyone agreed with Dave. For disengaging from his own backbenchers and for being 'out of touch'. Failing to put his ego to one side and accepting Labour's amendment as things slipped away druting the debate.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Help Operation Christmas Child Shoebox

Please consider helping Operation Christmas Child(OCC) deliver shoebox's this year to children across teh globe who maynot receive anything this festive year.

Over the past 22 years, through OCC, Samaritan’s Purse has delivered 94 million shoeboxes to needy children in over 100 countries and is looking to lift this total to 100 million and beyond this Christmas.