Friday, 31 January 2014

Question Time session at Haslingden High School

This morning I attended a Question Time session at Haslingden High School with Jake Berry MP for Rossendale and Darwen and Cllr Steve Hughes from Rossendale Borough Council. Pupils in Year 11 and the 6th Form asked questions about education, the NHS, the criminal justice system and even Channel 4's Benefit Street programme.

Young people are the future of the constituency and I'm always pleased to attend school sessions and to meet young people. I believe that more should be done to engage with young people and I hope that pupils found the morning informative.

I'd like to thank the school for inviting me this morning and I look forward to going back to the school in the future.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Hacked Off letter (to MPs) and press regulation

Dear Mr Graham Jones MP,  In 2013, by endorsing the Royal Charter on Press Self-Regulation, Parliament took a historic step towards greater press accountability without impairing freedom of expression. In 2014 Hacked Off will work hard to see the Charter put into action. Here are some of the things we are doing.

The fight against metal theft has been a remarkable success

The fight against metal theft has been a remarkable success in the relatively short time since I first introduced my Private Member’s Bill to the Commons, and the Government’s decision eventually to legislate. It is remarkable that according to the Government there has been a 45% reduction in overall metal theft, and a 75% reduction in theft from Network Rail property.

We have also for the first time seen a de-coupling of the rate of metal theft and the price of copper. This is a phenomenal success, and I cannot recall any other piece of legislation being as successful in such a targeted way.


Monday, 27 January 2014

UK Aid in Action - Update on Malaria

As a member of the APPG on Malaria and Tropical Disease, I recently received an update about the significant progress being made to reduce malaria worldwide.

I have also spoken with NHS staff locally at A and E about triage and testing locally for those who have been away to Malaria infected areas and who may turn up at hospital concerned about a cold or shivers.

Malaria is the greatest killer disease in human history, threatening over half of the world's population. The current statistics are harrowing – despite the fact that malaria is preventable and curable, it kills one child every minute, causes one half of all preventable school absences in Africa, and costs African economics an estimated £8 billion a year in lost productivity.

The Tories need to adopt Labour’s plans to save our local pubs

This week I backed local pubs in Haslingden and Hyndburn by voting in Westminster to introduce a new code to support small landlords and give consumers greater choice.

Pubs are vital hubs for communities in Haslingden and Hyndburnand are valued by local people, but due to the Government’s inaction and broken promises, they are closing at an ever-increasing rate. This costs jobs, especially for young people, and hits the local economy by an average of £80,000 each time a pub shuts.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

This week I signed the Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment

Marking Holocaust Memorial Day this week I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, honouring those who died during the Holocaust as well as honouring the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people about what they endured.

Monday 27th January will mark the 69th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.


Saturday, 25 January 2014

TORIES HAVE NO ANSWERS TO THE COST OF LIVING CRISIS BECAUSE THEY PUT THE WRONG PEOPLE FIRST

There are 13 million people living in poverty in Britain and for the first time ever, the majority are in working families. David Cameron says his economic plan is working and people are better off, but this simply isn’t true – and it just shows how out of touch they are. In the past, when the economy grew, most people got better off with it. But that isn’t true anymore. Today people are facing a cost of living crisis. They are working harder, for longer, for less, year after year.

The Government is failing to solve the cost of living crisis for families because they stand up for a privileged few, not for ordinary families.

This week’s employment statistics show that real wages have fallen by over £1,600 since the

General Election yet the Tories have tried to claim that things are getting better. But their highly selective figures do not even include the impact of things like cuts to tax credits and child benefit which have hit working families hard.

Minister backs down in debate over bading of scrasp metal collector vehicles

When the metal theft legislation was passed I forced the government into conceding large council license badges on mobile metal collectors.

They did it by voting down the amendment I put forward by bringing forward a badly worded one of their own.

None the less the debate made it clear that large signs on vehicles are desirable.

The new minister Norman Baker MP since arriving in the job at the Home Office has tried to say that large external signs are not the intention and a little tax disk size license is.

This led to misinformation coming out of the LGA which I challenged too. Both Hyndburn and Blackburn sought legal advice on the badly worded clause in the Act - wasting resources.

In the end the minister backed down accepting if councils choose so, the Act is permissible allowing large exterior council licence plates. VICTORY.

See letter below.

Meeting of concerned Labour MPs with the minister on Shale Gas in Lancashire

LCC explain cuts to school milk ...

LABOUR’S BASIC SKILLS TEST WILL HELP THE LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED GET BACK INTO WORK

Local people tell me how concerned they are about unemployment, particularly long-term unemployment, and how it affects our social security system.

One of the main reasons why so many of the long-term unemployed find it hard to get a job is their lack of basic skills in maths, English and IT.

Labour this week announced plans that would require jobseekers to have an assessment of their basic maths, English and IT skills, with proper training for those who don’t have the skills they need for a job - training they will be required to take up alongside their jobsearch or lose their benefits.

Labour’s Basic Skills Test will assess all new claimants for JobSeekers Allowance, giving the long-term unemployed a better chance of finding a job and helping our area earn its way out of the cost of living crisis.
The Basic Skills Test will work alongside Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get more people in Haslingden and Hyndburn into work, and into better paid and more secure jobs.

We’ll only tackle the rising cost of social security and earn our way out of the cost of living crisis by ensuring the system is fair and sustainable for everyone in Haslingden and Hyndburn.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Decent homes to rent in Hyndburn - What is being done?

Doreen Louise Walker
I sorry 2 trouble u I just wonder those houses what they building on Blackburn Rd r they 2 let with Hyndburn Homes

Today Graham Jones

Hi Doreen,

1) I believe Great Places Housing Group<http://www.greatplaces.org.uk/> are involved in the rentals. There has been a show home there on site ( I had a look myself a while back) where they may have more info and provide an opportunity to have a look at what is on offer.

My article for Politics Home on FOBT's

Nick Clegg & LibDems voted to support FOBT's in Parliament
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals have been described as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ and they are the latest problematic consumer issue to land in the governments ‘broken markets’ in tray.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

My article on FOBTs for Central Lobby News

Central Lobby News (@CLobbyNews)
Graham Jones MP: A civil society should protect the vulnerable from FOBTs: Labour MP Graham Jones writes ahead... bit.ly/LBsAoe

Backing local pubs in Parliament

Backing local pubs in Parliament

Today I joined Labour colleagues in Parliament in backing local pubs across Britain by voting to introduce a new code to support small landlords and give consumers greater choice.

An estimated 26 pubs are closing each week in Britain and the large chains of pub companies (PubCos) have been accused of giving landlords a raw deal, with many paying over the odds for their alcoholic products.

Labour today dragged ministers to the House of Commons in an Opposition Day debate to demand that the Government introduces legislation in this year's Queen's Speech to support local pubs.

Legislation is required to introduce a statutory code protecting small landlords and ensuring they are no longer exploited in their relationship with pub companies.

As campaigners have demanded, the code must include a free-of-tie option, open market rent reviews and an independent pubs adjudicator. This would give every landlord the choice to go free-of-tie, allowing licencees to operate in a more competitive market.

A statutory code is being supported by a broad coalition including the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), the Federation of Small Businesses and trade unions.

Pubs are vital hubs for communities in Haslingden and Hyndburn and are valued strongly by local people, but due to the Tory-led government's inaction and broken promises on backing small landlords, they are closing at an ever-increasing rate.

This costs jobs, especially for young people, and hits the local economy by an average of £80,000 each time a pub shuts.

We need to back our local pubs. That's why, a year after ministers promised action on this issue which still hasn't materialised, I voted again for a statutory code to be put in place, including a non-tied option for publicans.

It's time for the Tories to take real action to support small landlords otherwise our area risks losing more pubs, and more jobs.


Sent from my iPhone

The December 2013 edition of Aviva’s Family Finances report makes sober reading.

The December 2013 edition of Aviva’s Family Finances report makes sober reading. Particularly worth noting is the fact that the gap between the highest and lowest earning families grew by 14% in the last three years, and at the same time less and less families have any savings to fall back.

Particularly hard hit have been divorced, separated or widowed parents who have seen their monthly incomes fall by 14% over the three year period to £1,189.


East Lancs Hospice Run - a great success


I visited the first ever East Lancs Hospice 10k run in Great Harwood last weekend. The event saw over 300 runners from across the North West take part and raise money for East Lancs Hospice. There was also a 1k fun run for children and families.

The event was organised by the Hospice, Nick and Louise from Gaskell Motorbodies Great Harwood, Clayton-Le-Moors Harriers and local Rotarians provided the marshalling. The runners took in the old railway line between Great Harwood and Rishton and returned along the canal. It was fantastic to see so many people taking part in a community event and keeping fit on a sunny winter's morning.

The next race in the borough will be the Ron Hill Accy 10k on the 30th March in Accrington. Visit www.hyndburnbc.gov.uk for more info and follow @ronhillaccy10k for the latest news on the race.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

FW: FOBTs take main stage in Parliament as debate heats up



News

Opposition debate sparks fresh FOBT controversy

January 2014 became a landmark month for the Stop the FOBTs Campaign, as Labour supporters chose to debate the subject of FOBTs and licensing for the party's first opposition debate of the New Year.

In a heated exchange, Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport Clive Efford put forward the Labour Party's concerns, inviting comment and debate from a number of concerned MPs from all political parties.


Saturday, 18 January 2014

Behind Cold Doors - Report from The Children's Society

THE GOVERNMENT MUST HELP STRUGGLING FAMILIES WITH THEIR ENERGY BILLS

I am supporting The Children’s Society’s call that no child should have to grow up in the cold home. More than three million families are likely to cut back on food so they can pay their energy bills this winter, The Children’s Society reveals this week in its report, Behind Cold Doors: The chilling reality for children in poverty.

And more than half of the five million families that are likely to turn their heating down because of the cost are worried that their children will become ill as a result, the nationwide survey, jointly produced with the Daily Mirror, shows.

Friday, 17 January 2014

WE NEED A BANKING SYTEM THAT HELPS SMALL BUSINESSES INSTEAD OF HINDERING THEM

People in Haslingden and Hyndburn are facing the worst cost of living crisis in a generation.

Prices are soaring, wages are falling, working people are £1,600 per year worse off and small businesses are struggling to access the finance they need to grow. Yet David Cameron continues to demonstrate how out of touch he is with the struggles millions are facing and is determined to operate our economy as business as usual.

I’m delighted that Labour has made firm plans to help people struggling with the rising cost of living, such as our pledge to freeze energy bills until 2017. But as important as this pledge is, it only helps to deal with the consequences of our current economic state, and not the symptoms.

The Tory-led Government has failed to make the long-term changes needed to build a new economy that works for everyone and not just a few at the top.

The Tories won’t build a new economy that can tackle the cost of living crisis. They are determined to cling on to the old economy in a global race to the bottom. They think low wages, low skills and insecure work is the way to take Britain forward in the hope that some of the wealth will trickle down from the top.

If we’re serious about dealing with the cost of living crisis and winning the race to the top with countries like China and India, then we need to build a new economy that works for everyone, and that means dealing with one of Britain’s broken markets: our banking system that works for banks but not for businesses and families.

Britain’s banking system is dominated by just four banks that control 85 per cent of small business lending. This lack of competition is a root cause of poor service, a breakdown of trust and a massive drop of £56bn in lending to business since May 2010.

Part of the reason we rely too much on low paid, insecure work is that the small firms that could create the good, high paying jobs of the future can’t get the finance they need to grow both themselves and our economy.

We need to support small and medium sized enterprises like the ones I have visited recently, Isothane and North West Logistics so they can grow our economy for the future and that means promoting a wider range of banks that have to compete harder with each other for customers.

That’s why the next Labour Government will bring in a legal threshold to ensure no bank can get too big and that the market remains competitive for the long-term. We will improve the amount of lending to small businesses, improve the service to all customers and create new banks that will work for the communities they serve.

Under a Labour Government, small businesses will have a better chance of getting the support they need to grow, employ more people at decent wages and help Britain earn its way to better living standards for everyone.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Visit to North West Logistics, Altham



Last Friday I visited North West Logistics last week to discuss their plans for expansion and the work that they do in the UK and across Europe.

I'm always amazed at the diversity of employers and companies we have in Hyndburn and it's impressive to see how a firm in the constituency can be operating in Europe and looking to expand.

We discussed a number of things that I will be taking up with Ministers, in particular fuel expenses and how this affects competition with European operators and the issue of foreign hauliers operating in the UK beyond their permitted work.

I look forward to seeing how their expansion develops and supporting them in the borough.

Agapao officially closes

In the summer I actively encouraged a mass application of people to join the controversial  charity Agapao with the sole intention of running the charity better. 

As far as I am aware all the applications were turned down - nearly all from Haslingden people with years of experience in charitable work.

I wrote to the Charity Commission (and lobbied the minister) about this and also the previous list of complaints which had been investigated and to which Agapao were told they must respond to the Charity Commission's requests.

The Charity has since handed back the Mary Hindle Centre and has now dissolved itself...

Hi Graham, Great news about Agapao!

Congratulations on a great effort on your part, combined with the pressure created by the good people of Haslingden and Rossendale.

Kind regards! Peter Sweetmore

The Syrian conflict; shocking photos

I receive much correspondence, and whilst shocking, and after much thought I decided that these photos were worth publishing as an insight into the brutality which ordinary people are suffering and why many have fled through the freezing temperatures to refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

UK AID is providing substantial assistance to the refugee's. 

The situation in Syria is still very complex and our best hope lies with round table peace talks at Geneva 2 conference, hopefully without preconditions allowing the Iranians (Assad’s backers along with Russia) to attend.

Assad’s latest weapon is barrel bombs from helicopters. Barrels packed with explosive material, dropped in civilian areas.

Do not click 'Read More' if the shocking images may be to upsetting.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Accrington to Manchester Airport Direct Line 2018? …

I have long campaigned for a direct rail link between Accrington  to Manchester and this is about to become a reality with the construction of the Todmorden Curve. Work is scheduled to finish this May though the start of the service has been delayed. This service as planned will terminate at Manchester Victoria.

Trains to Manchester Airport run from Manchester Piccadilly but work is soon to begin on a rail connection between Piccadilly and Victoria which when complete in 2018 will have four trains an hour from Victoria to the airport.

I have written to the Minister making the point that this service should merge with the new Accrington to Victoria service making a through service. A through service to the airport will be of economic benefit to Accrington as well as a convenience for holiday passengers.

The minister has been exceedingly positive in his response stating that this timetable adjustment will be considered by his department with Network Rail and Northern TOC in developing timetables around the Manchester area with development with the Northern hub.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Tories promised in 2010 to balance the books by 2015

@GrahamJones_MP: The Tories promised in 2010 to balance the books by 2015 but have failed borrowing a lot more than planned.

View picture:
https://www.postuno.com/pu?741=13558&852=5568909.jpg

Concern over cancer rates in Hyndburn.

Cancer Research UK has released comprehensive data comparing constituencies across England (http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/local-cancer-statistics/). The results for Hyndburn are concerning when compared nationally.

The cancer incident rate in East Lancashire is 427.1 per 100,000, which is notably higher than the English average of 398.1 per 100,000.

Specifically, East Lancashire has higher incidences of lung and prostate cancer. Fortunately these are two of the most preventable forms of cancer. Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight through diet and exercise, cutting back on alcohol, and staying safe in the sun could prevent up to 40% of all cancer cases.

Early detection is critical to combating cancer – the earlier a cancer is detected, the higher the chance of successful treatment. Unfortunately, data shows that significantly more patients in East Lancashire (28.1%) are diagnosed through emergency routes as compared to the rest of England (23.7%). Higher number of diagnoses through this route may indicate late diagnosis, which correlates closely with poor survival.


Monday, 6 January 2014

Proceedings begin against six scrap metal dealers operating in Hyndburn

For the last two years in Parliament I have led on the campaign - alongside the @EnergyNetworks Association (www.energynetworks.org) - to successfully change the old and outdated Scrap Metal Dealers Act, 1963 to tackle the growing problem of metal thieves and rogue operators whose thefts have plagued Britain's infrastructure, heritage and importantly who have acted with impunity in local communities.

The new law - The Scrap Metal Traders Act 2013 - came into effect on the 1st October. Since the Act came into being, I have worked with Hyndburn Council and Rossendale Council's and particularly the police to tackle problem mobile collectors.

Following representations I made to the Police in July, the Police conducted an operation under the old legislation (where not one single Scrap Metal Collector was registered with Hyndburn Council) and more recently a joint operation under the new laws with Hyndburn Council has resulted in legal proceedings being taken against six collectors. 

I will continue to both in the constituency and in Parliament to address this problematic issue.

Illegal Metal Collector at the back of Beech Street last summer


 Parliamentary Group on combating Metal Theft meets this week.

 The AGM of the APPG on Combating Metal Theft will take place on Tuesday 7 January at 09.30 in Committee Room 13 in the House of Commons.

I am currently the joint chair. 

We will hear from the new Home Office Minister of State for Crime Prevention, Norman Baker MP, on progress to deliver the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 as well as the Chair of the Safer and Stronger Communities Board of the Local Government Association, Councillor Mehboob Khan, on the implementation of the licensing scheme.
www.energynetworks.org
@EnergyNetworks

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The Fuse Fund is a £4m enterprise programme designed to support new businesses trading less than 3 years


The Fuse Fund is a £4m enterprise programme designed to support new businesses trading less than 3 years.

The Fuse Fund is a competitive capital grant scheme that will help new businesses to finance growth projects creating new jobs and investment across Lancashire.

What for?

  • Capital investment projects
  • Machinery
  • Property improvement
  • Building expansion
  • Infrastructure improvement
 

How Much?

  • Minimum grant funding of £5,000 to a maximum of £50,000
  • Typically, a grant is allocated on a 1:3 ratio, 25% of the total project cost. Therefore a minimum of £5,000 grant is allocated on a total project cost of £20,000.

Am I eligible?

Eligible businesses will comply with the following criteria;
  • Based in the County of Lancashire (including Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool)
  • Plans for growth and the creation of jobs within 12 months of project completion
  • Small and Medium Enterprise’s (SME) trading less than 36 months.
  • Has received less than 200,000 Euros in public support over the past three years (including the grant amount within this application)

What’s the process?

    • If you are interested in applying for the fund, complete the Eligibility Checklist and then the online form in the Apply section.
    • Your application will then be assessed and you will be notified of the outcome
This grant programme is delivered in partnership with Lancashire Business View.
Find out more in our Frequently Asked Questions section or Apply.
If you require  further information Contact Us
Please note that due to matters beyond the control of Regenerate, any payment of RGF is subject to Government Funding

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Shelter can help your constituents on the brink of losing their home Email or Call 0808 800 4444


Dear Mr Jones, Shelter's helpline receives too many calls from people in desperation, and on the brink of losing their home, because bills and notices have been left unopened and problems have piled up. 

We know that one in eleven people fear they won't be able to afford to pay the rent or mortgage at the end of this month. Yet many people in this situation would feel too ashamed to ask for help.

This January we are encouraging those at risk to seek advice from Shelter and avoid problems spiralling out of control.

We would very much appreciate your help in getting this message out there. You can take these four actions to help people in your constituency to find professional advice:
  1. Post a link to our online advice on your website - www.shelter.org.uk/get_advice
  2. Encourage your case workers to bookmark our online advice pages - www.shelter.org.uk/get_advice  so they can refer to them when dealing with housing-related case work
  3. Let your constituents know how to get help from Shelter via our online advice and free telephone helpline number -  www.shelter.org.uk/get_advice  0808 800 4444
  4. Tweet our online advice details, or retweet us. You can find us at @Shelter
You may also wish to share the 'Shelter Stories' blog, which offers a first-person, friendly, and accessible introduction to advice.

For lots of people, the New Year period brings further challenges and worries.  That's why 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,

Martha Mackenzie
Public Affairs Officer
 
For the latest Shelter views visit our Policy Blog: blog.shelter.org.uk




Shelter helps millions of people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness – and we campaign to prevent it in the first place.We're here so no one has to fight bad housing or homelessness on their own.

We need your help. To join our campaign, make a donation, or get expert housing advice, visit shelter.org.uk

Registered address:
88 Old Street
London
EC1V 9HU
Company number 1038133
Registered in England and Wales (263710) and in Scotland (SC002327).

Friday, 3 January 2014

Tackling the issue of poor landlords in Parliament continues ...

I continue to make the case in Parliament that standards in the private rented sector should guarantee to tenants similar standards as to tenants in the social rented sector (Housing Associations).

I have received two items of correspondence on this matter last month (full letter at bottom of article). The second is the most interesting. The first is to confirm that both Councils in the constituency, Hyndburn Council and Rossendale Council (Haslingden area) are to receive a small grant sum to help tackle further the issue of poor landlords. Particularly the £79,000 directly to Rossendale Council to tackle specifically poor landlords in Haslingden.Whilst this will make a small difference, it will resolve the fundamental issues of endemic poor standards.

The second I have received is a response from the minister (full letter at bottom of article) on this second more crucial point. Poor standards. His reply is interesting I have added my comments (in red) in the passage of his reply.

In short the minister in his letter says; " (The Government) has been made clear that there are no plans to amend the current legislative framework or introduce new regulations in this area." I would ask the question what value can come out of wide ranging review - which it clearly is - where the options will be limited before any assessment has been made.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

It is simply no longer credible for David Cameron to claim the NHS budget is not being cut but protected ...

I received this correspondence over the festive period once again drawing people's attention to the scale of cuts being imposed on the NHS in Lancashire.

This will in my view and the view of medical practitioners I have spoken to filter through to fewer services, such as longer waiting times for routine operations, higher thresholds to qualify for surgery or medical assistance, closure  of ancillary and support services such as the GP walk in centre in Accrington or consolidation on fewer sites.

These are big cuts that I have blogged about before. The CCG estimates £50m in total in East Lancashire.

It is simply no longer credible for David Cameron to claim the NHS budget is not being cut but protected for this ignores three key points.
- The huge shift in funding from deprived areas to wealthy areas
- The cost of his £3billion NHS re-organisation that he promised he wouldn't do
- Cuts in councils Elderly Social Care budgets which have to be absorbed directly and indirectly by the NHS

Researchers at the House of Commons library estimate that the Government’s new NHS regional funding formula will divert £943.6 - £726.1 million from England’s poorest areas in the north to its richest areas in the south in the April NHS regional funding allocations.

The Government claims that shifting funds is necessary because older people disproportionately use healthcare, so funding should be weighted to areas where they make up a larger part of the population. The Government’s justification, however, fails to note that south has more pensioners is due to regional inequalities in life expectancy, as southerners live on average around nine years longer than northerners.

Instead of addressing this stark inequality, the Government has instead chosen to further exacerbate it by redistributing funds from the neediest to the richest. I anticipate the impacts of this will be devastating for both health services and outcomes. While districts like Hyndburn in the north should be receiving greater funding, we will instead be paying for an increase in spending in the south. This is both unjust and morally wrong.