Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Votes at 16 - Rossendale Council passes motion to support

Double click to enlarge
Delighted Rossendale Council is supporting votes at 16.
My grandmother passed away having sadly suffering senile dementia for a good few years. I had to help her to the polling station and she didn't really understand fully what she was doing.

No one is suggesting she should have lost the right to vote so I don't think the argument that 'adults between the ages of 16 and 18 don't understand politics' is a consistent or strong enough argument on its own. There has to some principle and some consistency.

Most youngsters do understand politics in my experience and I have done a number of Q&A's at 6th forms and the college. The argument that yojgsters don't understand politics was one that was employed to stop women getting the vote a century ago. Receiving the franchise is progress and as a result more young people would engage in politcs that currently do. Votes at 16 is therefore not a case of the here and now but about future.

Monday, 28 July 2014

DECC chaos; Governments shambolic energy efficiency programme hits Hyndburn hard

Hyndburn Council launched an energy efficiency scheme on the back of government grants last November. Within weeks the government scrapped the incentive. This month Hyndburn Council launched a second scheme based on new government grants. Last week after just a few weeks of the governments launch of energy efficiency grants, they scrapped the scheme pulling the plug on Hyndburn Councils efforts before they had even begun.

As a result of both schemes being closed Hyndburn has lost out £milions and there is little chance of the Council or residents being able to fund the insulation measures necessary to tackle drafty and damp homes.

I have written to the Secretary of State and received two replies this week on what consultation he has had with companies and councils on the provison of energy efficency measures.

Scheme 1 

Last November I wrote about a national scheme that the local Labour Council was tapping into to tackle solid wall / terraced / hard to treat cavities from cold damp Hyndburn homes. This was a scheme paid for by energy companies to insulate Hyndburn homes of around 50% are expensive to heat terraced, some 17,000.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Extra curricular provision in foreign languages for young children in Hyndburn

I recently wrote to LCC to ask about extra curricular provision in foreign languages for young children, particularly Mandarin and Spanish. I am now writing to all the head teachers in the constituency.

In 20 years time when most of these young children are beginning their working life the world will have moved on significantly. There is no getting away from the fact that the world will appear a smaller placed and than China long with other developing countries will have have far greater commercial and social ties to the rest of the world. China's growing economic dominance is something our children need to prepare themselves for.

Lancashire County Council have forwarded an informative reply acknowledging the importance and highlighting the opportunities that are available to schools in the constituency to support language development.
(Scan to text) Dear Graham I am writing in response to your request for information on extra curricular primary foreign languages support and opportunities in Hyndburn and Haslingden.

There is a strong tradition of primary language learning in the authority with a range of languages being offered in schools from the traditional French to Mandarin, Portuguese and of course Asian heritage languages. We agree that learning foreign languages is an increasingly important skill our children need to acquire in order to not only compete in the jobs market of the future but also to enhance their understanding and tolerance of other cultures and promote community cohesion.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

More Sport for All Consultation

More Sport for All Consultation

Harriet Harman has published the More Sport for All consultation to support everyone, from children through to the elderly, to do more sport and physical activity.

People's love of sport and enjoyment of it make it an important issue for public policy. Sport helps make us healthy, brings communities together, contributes to the economy and brings our country together when we back our sportsmen and women. The consultation document More Sport for All explores how everyone, from children through to the elderly, can be supported to do more sport and physical activity. You can read a full copy of the speech via http://www.harrietharman.org/speech-on-more-sport-for-all-at-the-queen-elizabeth-olympic-park?Init=1394c7ba-9c83-13b4-c5b0-423953e0d9b3

Electoral Commision annouce there are 7.5m people missing off the electoral register

I received this letter from my colleague Chris Ruane which he has asked MP's to circulate more widely. It was my question on the floor of the House of Commons on 18 June 2012 which revealed for the first time that the government accepted a figure them of 6 million unregistered voters.

The Electoral Commissions announcement today is that there are 7.5m people missing off the electoral register. For the 650 constituencies that's an average of 11,538 per constituency. In Hyndburn Borough (excluding Haslingden) this will be an average of circa 9,000.

Back in October 2011 those on the Council Tax list but who were unregistered where added to the electoral register iincrassing the register by approximately 2,500.

Correction - This week I have also discovered that in Hyndburn Borough it is estimated through data matching is some 9,000 unregistered voters that some 9,000 voters on the current register, who are currently registered but who cannot be (ID) matched with other national data sets (DWP etc..) will need to re-register under the new individual voter registration system that begins in ernest after the General Election. That figure following further data matching has now been revised to 5121. 

Summer childcare costs rising under cameron - more pressure for struggling parent

Under David Cameron childcare costs are soaring and the availability of childcare is plummeting, causing a summer of misery for many parents trying to balance work and family life in the holidays.

But while families facing a cost-of-living crisis come under more and more pressure, this Government has no plan to support families struggling with their childcare before the next election.

New analysis by the Labour Party shows that, under David Cameron, the cost of childcare during the summer holidays has spiralled upwards by 16 per cent – four times faster than wages. This means that parents will have to fork out an additional £100 per child for their summer childcare, compared to 2010.

I know my own childcare will cost around £1260 over the six weeks holiday.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Reply from LCC - Provision of trains for the Todmorden Curve


I have received a reply on the provison of a train for the Todmorden Curve and it appears that there will now be further delays beyond December.

I know a a diesel carriage has been uding the new track, presumedly testing it however LCC advise that the track won't be commissioined until November.

There is still the outstanding issue of a diesel train which is going to be cascaded down from the newly electrified Manchester to Liverpool line however there are now delays and slippage in the planned completion date. Importantly I want to know whether these carriages will require refurbishment or should they be refurbisehd before being 'handed down'.

Incredibly Northern Rail have neglected to train enough staff including drivers. A company hoping to extend their current franchise which is up for tender in 2015. The lack of drivers will almost certainly delay the new service until the spring of next year.

I am also concerned about pricing and ticketing in general. Given LCC will be the sponsor of the service it is crucial it is not used a revenue raising project but that the various fares encourage mobility.

I have written to LCC to meet with staff to dicuss theses and oither issues including the East Lancs line which also runs through the constituency.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Fwd: Ofcom advice: Don't get stung by mobile phone bills when abroad this summer

Ofcom advice:

Don't get stung by a high mobile phone bill this summer

Summer holidays are just around the corner for many, and with mobile internet access and Wi-Fi it's never been easier to stay in touch with what's going on at home and upload photos to share with friends.  Also, new roaming charges (effective from 1 July) will make it cheaper to use your mobile phone when travelling abroad in the European Union.
 
However, coming back from holiday to a huge mobile phone bill can be a nasty surprise. Using your phone overseas can cost considerably more than it does at home, particularly if you want to surf the web a lot or check or send a number of emails.  

What you can do to avoid a bill shock:
  • If you want to use your phone lots check what packages your provider offers, considering buying an international SIM card or buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM when you reach your destination;
  • Turn off data roaming. You can run up a big bill without actively using your phone as smartphones and tablet computers automatically seek out mobile connections and use them to update apps. It's easy to turn it off and we have video guides to show you how.
  • If you are travelling outside of the EU, you may want to switching off your voicemail as you may be charged every time a message is left while you are abroad.
  • If you want to use the internet abroad use local Wi-Fi hot spots rather than your phone's mobile internet connection. Some phone apps seek out hot spots and alert you to them automatically.
  • If you are going to use your phone's internet connection instead of Wi-Fi avoid data heavy activities such as watching videos or downloading music.  Also, when checking emails avoid opening large attachments. 
What are the rules?
  • All mobile operators have to apply a cut-off limit once you have used €50 (excluding VAT) – around £40 – of data per month, wherever you travel in the world unless you choose to opt out.
  • You may be prompted to opt out by your provider if, for example, you purchase a large data roaming bundle which would take you over the €50 limit. If you're not sure whether you have been asked to opt out, make sure you check with your provider.
  • If you don't opt out of the limit, the provider must send you an alert when you reach 80% and then 100% of the agreed data roaming limit. Operators must stop charging for data at the 100% point, unless you agree to continue to use data.
Our advice guide provides top tips for using a mobile abroad including advice on how to keep phones safe and what to do if your phone is lost or stolen. 
 
Please share this information and our advice guide with your constituents via blog, press release and twitter to ensure they know how to avoid a bill shock this summer.
 
Helen Barker
Manager, Government & Parliamentary Business
020 7981 3960
Twitter: @ofcomparliament

:: Ofcom
 Riverside House
  2a Southwark Bridge Road
  London SE1 9HA 
  020 7981 3000
 
www.ofcom.org.uk

Licensing of Scrap Metal Dealers a success in Hyndburn

I led the campiagn with the ENA in Parliament to licence scrap metal dealers. That legistaion was taken forward by the government and became law in October 2013. From the 1st October 2013 all scrap metal dealers (site operators and collectors) must have a licence to operate.

According to British Transport Police and BT metal theft is down by almost 60%. The government failed to implement changes to tackle international metal theft with organised crime remaining the major criminal activity in the theft of metal.

Locally Hyndburn's Labour Council has successfully launched the scheme across the Borough with some early success.

To date 19 scrap metal dealers licences have been issued. Five licence applications have been refused on the grounds that the applicant was not considered suitable to hold a licence. Following joint operations with the Police two collectors have been successfully prosecuted for operating as unlicensed dealers in the Borough.

According to theCouncil's record there may be circa 20 potential dealers in the Borough that could be operating without a licence. In conjunction with the Police they are investigating these further to determine the exact nature of their business activities and assess whether they will need to apply for a licence.

It is certainly ther case that the number of dubious vehicles, often identified with theft from private property driving around Hyndburn and Haslingden has been significently reduced.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

BACK ON TRACK CAMPAIGN - Latest reply from the DfT

Below is the latest reply fomr the DfT in the campaign to secure a diesel engined train for the newly complete track between Accringotn/Burnley and Manchester Victoria.

The minster for state was sacked (Stephen Hammond) and I have taken the opportunity straight away  to speak ti the new rail minister Clare Perry to make the point once again; 18 miles between Manchester (and well paid jobs) and Accrington, one new train line completed after 7 years campaigning this May, still no train.She has promised to look into with expdiency. Hyndburn isn't holding it's breath!

I am also approaching teh issue of fare structure with County who as the letter says in the last parapgraph, will be effectively be the franchise/TOC (with Northern providing the service) for the first three years.






Friday, 18 July 2014

Visit to Pneumatrol reported in the BVAA Valve User Magazine


I will continue fighting to prevent GP closures and job losses in my constituency...

I recently stood up in the House of Commons to discuss the cuts Hyndburn are currently facing on the NHS, including cuts to the walk-in centre which over 36,000 people have used, and cuts to the NHS GP practice in Accrington Victoria as well as the £1.1m proposed reduction in funding for PMS GP contracts in East Lancashire.

With the Government's increasing focus on hospitals, particularly Sir Bruce Keogh's focus on the A and E at Royal Blackburn Hospital, I find it difficult to comprehend how the Secretary for State for Health (Jeremy Hunt) can talk of increased NHS spending when so many NHS services in Hyndburn face cuts and his logic that it's only hospitals that matter.

The proposed cuts to the Walk in Centre, the proposed cuts to NHS GP practice at Accrington Victoria and the cuts now proposed to PMS GP contracts which Hyndburn GPs have put at £1.1m and will lead to a reduction in GP hours. Combine those, and the increasing demand, it is no wonder A and E departments are facing such strain.

This is leading to a poorer patient service with some people having to wait over a week for an appointment. This is a reduction in services and it is clear the Government are neither tackling this problem.

Mr Hunt's has previously criticised walk in centres when I raised the issue of the closure of Accrington's walk in centre on the floor of the house but there is no doubt that his case this week, that simply increasing nurses at hospitals including Royal Blackburn will solve the problem at the hospital and particularly at A and E.

Cuts to GP services only add to the problems at A and E, ap[oint I made to Mr Hunt on the floor of the House of Commons this week. Any review must not simply focus on nurse numbers but patient pathways.

With more administrative work being forced onto GPs, as well as their hours being reduced, and the number of available GPs declining, the only way for people to seek medical attention is through A and E services which is putting an unmanageable strain on A and E, particularly on Hyndburn.

It is important for me to see everyone in my constituency, and across the country, have reliable and effective healthcare. I will continue fighting to prevent GP closures and job losses in my constituency and join the shadow Secretary of State in saying that we should not only look at hospitals, but at the broader picture.

The reality is the Secreatry of State who bnrought in this latest top down re-organisaiton of the NHS has had his political career subsequenlty terminated. Ths Tories can't be trusted with the NHSas they don't deep down like it and in order to score cheap political points have reduced themselves led by cheerleader Mr Hunt to repeating the words "Mid Staffordshire" in self recognition of abject failure everywhere else in healthcare .

Letter regarding the Arndale Centre car park



MPs remember Srebrenica genocide during book signing in Parliament

Contact details
http://srebrenica.org.uk
https://www.facebook.com/rememberingsrebrenica
https://twitter.com/SrebrenicaUK

Hundreds of parliamentarians last week signed the Remembering Srebrenica Book of Pledges, providing their personal comments in commemoration of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.

The book signing took place in the House of Commons and different locations across the UK during Remembering Srebrenica Memorial Week (6-13 July), and saw politicians from across the political spectrum pay tribute to the more than 8,000 victims, as well as honour those left behind and still dealing with the aftereffects of the genocide.

The commemorative book signing was one of many events to take place during the Memorial Week, which saw four survivors of the genocide meet with senior politicians – including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg – and faith leaders. They also shared their experiences at three national events, and attended several of the 650 acts of remembrance held nationwide.

The UK leads the way in commemorating the genocide, following an EU resolution in 2009 designating the 11 July as Srebrenica Memorial day across the European Union. The charity Remembering Srebrenica organises events to raise awareness of the genocide – the worst atrocity on European soil since the Second World War – and highlights the impact that hatred and intolerance can have on society.

- Ends -

Background Notes:
Remembering Srebrenica is the UK charity that organises national and local events to mark Srebrenica Memorial Day. It is part-funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), and supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Its core activities in the UK involve: organising national and local events to mark Srebrenica Memorial Day; organising Lessons from Srebrenica education visits; and public awareness campaigning with the aim of rejecting hatred, and building a stronger, safer British society.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Government cuts to the ECO is bad news for Hyndburn's terraced housing


As you may be aware, the government recently cut the ECO funding in an attempt to assauge hard pressed family budgets facing rising energy bills, but without asking anything of the energy companies themselves.

ECO placed legal obligations on the larger energy suppliers to deliver energy efficiency measures to domestic energy users, however the government's short sighted cuts to this part of household energy bill have made it difficult to fund solid wall insulation (hard to treat cavities) which are common in Hyndburn's terraced stock. As a result of this poorly insulated original housing construction, many people are left facing facing cold homes and even higher energy bills.

Hyndburn's Labour Council had just begun rolling out an insulation programme for terraced properties known as 'Warm Homes Hyndburn'. In short the government have made the funding eligilibity so restricted that this scheme has all but ended before it even started.

ECO funding was also key for jobs within Hyndburn, being home to quite a few insulation businesses. These cuts have made it nearly impossible for many of these companies across the UK to continue to operate as they did, resulting in the recent closure of one of the oldest companies in the Cavity Wall Insulation industry and the loss of 600 jobs.

This threat of job losses is becoming a reality within Hyndburn too, with one Cavity Wall Insulation company facing redundancies and possible closure of their installation business with subsequent job losses and a long lasting impact on the local economy.

This policy disguises itself as saving the consumer money, but instead it has an immediate impact on people living in poorer areas like Hyndburn, who will now no longer be able to afford cavity wall insulation, which will not only impede the energy companies' ability to reach future carbon saving obligations, but also increases the energy bill for many households within Hyndburn. When coupled with the nature of the housing stock in Hyndburn, this is a huge step backwards. Good for large energy efficent new build properties in leafy areas, bad for industrial areas with an ageing housing stock.

The government must face up to these realities and realise how important the ECO scheme was to people and businesses in constituencies like Hyndburn. Unfortunately self interest and the Government's political opportunism won't allow that.

Monday, 14 July 2014

From AT800: New 4G masts operating at 800 MHz may soon be activated and may disrupt TV signals

Dear Mr Jones, I’m writing to update you on the activities at800 is now carrying out in your area to ensure TV viewers, including the elderly and vulnerable, can continue to watch Freeview as new 4G mobile services at 800 MHz are activated.

We are sending postcards to some of your constituents to inform them that new 4G masts operating at 800 MHz may soon be activated, and that there’s a very small possibility these new mobile signals may disrupt Freeview.



Wednesday, 9 July 2014

This week saw the second meeting of the Haslingden Task Force

This week saw the second meeting of the Haslingden Task Force, the group which is working with Rossendale Borough Council, local traders, landlords and community groups in Haslingden to see how best to develop the town and invest and match fund a £100,000 pot which Rossendale BC have set aside for Haslingden.


The meeting was also attended by local traders from Ruby and Daisy, based on Deardengate and representatives from the company who own a number of properties also on Deardengate. A lot of the discussions focused shop frontage and how the heritage of Haslingden buildings can be attractive to both new businesses and customers.

Srebrenica Memorial

As many of you may know this week marks the 19th anniversary since the appalling Srebrenica massacre. Around the UK numerous different people and organisations are taking part in a historic programme of memorials to look back on this horrific event with the view that this must happen ‘Never Again’.

The Srebrenica offensive itself commenced on the 6th July 1995 with Bosnian Serb forces attempting to remove the Muslim Bosnians from their territory in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. The unthinkable terrors of the offensive meant thousands of civilians were forced to flee their homes in an attempt to escape these horrors. Following days of running and false hopes along the way, many of the Bosnians were captured and held by the Bosnian Serb forces before many men and boys were executed. Some estimates put the death toll at over 7000 while many agree the figure could be at least 8000.


Lancashire Growth Deal is anything but a ‘devolution revolution' with nothing for Hyndburn or Rossendale

The Government and the LEP this week announced the Lancashire Growth Deal 2014, which is a 6-year package of ‘new’ investment worth around £370m agreed by the LEP and central Government.

The reason the word ‘new’ should be in inverted commas is that £100m of the money from the ‘Competitive Local Growth Fund’ is described as “Previously Committed Transport Funding”. I obviously welcome spending on transport in Lancashire, but I think my constituents would regard it as 'a bit of a swindle' that the Government are trying to take credit for spending the same funding decision twice, and then use it to bulk up headline figures.

Furthermore, though there are some excellent local projects in towns across the County, there is nothing specifically for either Hyndburn or Rossendale. Though these areas will of course benefit from spending across Lancashire as a whole, it can hardly be regarded as a ‘devolution revolution’ as Nick Clegg called it the Commons today.


Tory Minister for skills, Mathew Hancock is letting down training providers in Hyndburn

I recently blogged on the fact that the Skills Minister has refused to meet with me and the North Lancashire Training Group to discuss the changes that the Government is planning to make to the way apprenticeships are funded.

They are concerned that their sucecss story will be undermined if funding for apprenticeshuips is switched to businesses instead of directly to them for two principle reasons. It will create huge instability and insecurity for training providers unable to plan and importantly invest.NLTG have invested £millions in state of teh art facilities but can only do so in the knowledge that their services will be bought on a scale they are now.

Secondly smaller firms cannot and won't take on apprenticeships because of the safeguards, paperwork, planning and red tape involved in taking responsibility for apprenticeship provision.


Governments cuts to energy savings schemes is having a adverse impact on Hyndburn...

Governments cuts to energy savings schemes is having a adverse impact on Hyndburn Council's energy efficiency schemes (‘Warm Homes Hyndburn’) which I previously wrote about here.

As a result Hyndburn's energy efficiency schemes including insulation for solid wall terraced properties is being scaled back.

A conference of interested parties will tale place on Thursday 17th July 2014 from 8.30am to 10.00am in the QE Room, Scaitcliffe House, Ormerod St, Accrington

If you would like to attend please email to strat@hyndburnbc.gov.uk by Monday 14th July to secure your place.

Hyndburn Council intend to continue to work in partnership with Homewise and our delivery partner Dyson Energy Services, to promote the ‘Warm Homes Hyndburn’ scheme.


Monday, 7 July 2014

Last week I attended the Cancer Research UK Showcase...

Last week I attended the Cancer Research UK Showcase which was both an interesting and enlightening experience. Cancer Research UK aims to accelerate their progress so that within 20 years 3 in 4 people will survive cancer, an ambitious target they believe they can achieve. They aim to do this by diagnosing cancer earlier, increasing focus on specific cancers whose survival rates lag behind others, and developing new targeted treatments and engaging patients in their fight against cancer.

Here in Hyndburn we currently have 2,119 cancer cases diagnosed per year, an obviously distressing figure, however Cancer Research UK did provide me with some positives concerning our constituency to keep in mind moving forward. Here in Hyndburn more patients are referred urgently to a specialist than the national average, 96.2% of patients see a specialist within 2 weeks of diagnosed. The referral time for treatment is also above the national average here in Hyndburn with 85.9% of patients receiving treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral.


Sunday, 6 July 2014

East Lancashire Concert Band Needs You!

The East Lancashire Concert Band has been in existence since 1842 and more recently they have played in and helped organise the Armed Forces Day concert in 2011 and 2012, followed by Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Titanic Centenary events in 1912.

As part of the WW1 Centenary commemoration the band discovered a “Pals March” written for piano in 1914. This piece has been arranged for full band by the groups lead trumpeter Nick Holme, recorded, and broadcast on Radio Lancashire in February 2013. The Hyndburn Group still liked the idea of a new commission however, so they searched for a suitable composer and discovered our own historic links with the Accrington Pals.

Dr. Peter Meechan has now completed their Arts Council funded commission “Letters for Home”. The première will be performed at the Accrington Town Hall Concert in September. This will be recorded by Radio Lancashire and broadcast at Christmas.

They asked me to pass on this message:

East Lancashire Concert Band Needs You!

We need musicians.

If there is anything you can do or suggest that might boost our numbers we would be most grateful. We are a community band and ALL musicians with some ability are welcome.

We would like to produce a decent Souvenir Programme for the Centenary Concert.

Because of the significance of this event, we aspire to a more professional looking end product. We have already invested a lot of effort in
design and artwork but hope to avoid a massive photo-copying job by enlisting a quality printer to help us.

CONTACTS:
www.eastlancsconcertband.org
Ian McGuinness
01204 303971 ian@aspen-uk.co.uk

Friday, 4 July 2014

UK Government sat on their hands instead of chasing F35 sales


Despite the fact that the Belgian Government has expressed interest in potentially purchasing between 33 and 55 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to replace their aging F-16 fleet, the Government has publicly stated that they have no plans to meet with any Belgian counterparts. I believe this is wrong and bad for Lancashire – the UK’s defence manufacturing heartland.

The statement came in response to a Parliamentary Question to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. This laid back attitude to defence export risks us missing out on thousands of jobs across Lancashire, millions in investment and turnover, as well as the high-tech skills and training which accompany this kind of manufacturing.

The Government should be knocking on the door of every responsible Belgian official, doing everything they possibly can to secure a contract and the procurement of F-35s for the Belgian air force.

As BAE Systems stated earlier this year when they released the 150th aircraft set, if they are able to continue to supply aircraft at the rate they have done for the past 10 years, this will sustain their 1000+ workforce, as well as the thousands of jobs across the 500 British-based companies which form the supply chain – many of which are based in Lancashire.

However, things are not always rosy and in the past there has been the risk of job cuts if demand falls.

Government inaction risks a repeat of what happened in India this year, when the Indian Government decided to purchase 126 Rafale jets from French company Dassault Aviation instead of the technically superior F-35 from the UK. I believe that had the Government pushed harder for F-35, and any competent , we could have secured new jobs and millions in turnover for Lancashire.

The Government needs to get a grip, get on a plane to Brussels and make the case for the F-35 and the manufacturing quality coming out of Lancashire.