Saturday, 30 April 2016

The ft comes up with another powerful and interesting critique of Leave.Eu campaign.

The ft comes up with another powerful and interesting critique of Leave.Eu campaign. 

Is fracking about to begin in Hyndburn because the government has been selling licences is the question I am being asked?

A recent Facebook post raised the issue of fracking and suggesting wrongly that licences for fracking had been granted in Hyndburn suggesting that fracking would now begin forewith. You can read my Facebook reply at the foot of this post.

My view is simple; if fracking is not safe then it should be banned. If it is safe then we have to ask questions about whether we want to take it out of the ground anyway?

Climate change and fossil fuel usage are big issues. However there are major issues in the fracking debate that are rarely raised. Questions that ought to be asked.

Relying on nuclear as a non-carbon energy source has its own problem (cost, safety, disposal) and reinforces an inefficient national grid. Relying on gas from other sources also has connected problems (Russia/Putin, dirty gas, effectiveness in reducing fossil fuel consumption in Hyndburn/Lancashire).

Action on Armed Violence

War is cruel and so to are munitions that continue to mutilate and kill long after war has ended. Action on Armed Violence provide statistics that we should all be concerned about. It does not mean the answer is non-intervention but it does highlight the consequences that should forefront of consideration when the news media have moved on.

To subscribe go to Action on Armed Violence

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Will a closure of Accrington Victoria walk in centre for a new GP hub be beneficial for patients?

East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group are proposing to change your access to GP services. In short they are proposing to close Accrington Victoria Walk in Centre (known also as  the HAC or Health Access Centre) and replace it with an alternative hub service; and for access to that service to be though your GP and a new GP telephone hub.

UPDATE: It has now received the thumbs down from the two local patient groups. Patient Voice and the Patient Participation Group who have similar concerns as I do.

The CCG's explanation is on their website and I have copied and pasted it all at the foot along with with their email, their website, their postal address (at the bottom) and importantly their online questionnaire for you to register your views.
(Please also take my two question survey which is bit fairer and more balanced. Please distribute the link on social media.) 
Question: Do you think the closure of Accrington Victoria Walk in Centre, to be replaced by a GPs telephone hub service (with some face to face by appointment) will provide you with a better patient service? Answer here

Fwd: Every Last Child campaign - Save the Children

Dear Graham, I'm getting in touch about Save the Children's new global campaign – Every Last Child. The campaign was launched yesterday across the world and was covered by the Mail OnlineITV Good Morning Britain.

Accrington Town Centre

I regularly get asked about Accrington Town Centre. This is a summary of my view.

Town centre shopping habits have changed over the decades and many retailers just can’t make money anymore from the high street. The internet, out of town shopping centres and stores and supermarkets have all changed shopping habits. Ironically BM bargains have opened up a bigger store, hence why the smaller one is shutting. M&S after years of decline are focusing on new one stop shop, out of town supermarket shopping offer.

Sadly previous councils have made the huge mistake of expanding Hyndburns basic retail offer. They failed to have any vision at all. I have sat in many a meeting disappointed at the poor decisions taken.

The previous Tory council had huge amounts of funding from central government but shut down the Broadway cinema for more shops, knocked down the brilliant concrete market and built more shops, turned down or turned away up market town centre residential developments and relocated the bus station. They spent £600,000 on a failed website that shut down after just 4 months and sent a £300,000 on a loo very few people used.

The Labour plan is to reverse that thinking however deep Tory cuts to Council funding have resulted in a reliance on private sector or grant funding. The view is to attract more leisure, more office space and more residential and rather than focus on unattractive new developments, refurbish our wonderful old buildings. One simple measure has been to put the Accrington Pals fascia over the ugly 1960's building that sprawls Broadway.

The grounds of St James have been made far more attractive and a Heritage Lottery £3m programme, out to consultation to refurbish Blackburn Road is underway. The new rail link has been added and we are having to pick up the pieces left by the Tories of relocating the bus station.

My LT article - Accrington Town Centre

I regularly get asked about Accrington Town Centre. People quite rightly feel it has gone downhill. They have a point but it’s a problem long in the making. 

Where did it all go wrong? It certainly didn't happen this morning or last week. The Council cannot be blamed entirely for lack of profits at Marks and Spencers, B and M bargains and the Yorkshire Bank, retailers that were there until recently.

Monday, 25 April 2016

My piece for 'The Bash' magazine.

It has been a winter of dramatic weather with seven storms battering various parts of Britain over the last few months. I thought we would get more snow with the such weather in the village but apparently it is more warmer air flows that have found their passage over these green and pleasant lands.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Arndale Car Park cashing in with new car parking fines

Constituents have been here before. Retailers targeting motorists with fines. 

Three years ago I fought a long and hard campaign with the National Motorists Action Group against what I and residents thought were very unfair practices by the owners of Eastgate Retail Park. We won.  

Now it is the Arndale owners. The Council had a covenant on the Arndale car park that for the first 25 years of the lease (which was granted in 1988) the Arndale owners:

- Can’t charge for parking up to 3 hours

- Will use best endeavours not to charge for parking over 3 hours (and before introducing charging will try other methods to ensure usage of the par park for short stay parking).

It's greed in my view. It's big car park that has been free for 28 years.
Today I received a letter from a constituent yesterday received a parking fine from UKPC for £100 (reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days) for exceeding the new parking limit on Accrington Arndale Centre. 
"I understand that the centre wishes to ensure genuine shoppers are encouraged and able to park and visit the centre but this system is appalling and has resulted in a genuine customer incurring a large fine. This will only ensure that I do not visit the town centre in future. I am sure that a fairer system could be implemented? Maybe shops could verify parking for customers?"
I have written to the owners of the Arndale to justify their decision to employ a car parking management company.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

East Lancashire Power Loom Riots 1826 - 190th anniversary next Tuesday

This week is the 190th anniversary of the East Lancashire loom riots that led eventually to changes in factory conditions for working people which began by starving workers marching from Enfield to Grange Mill at the bottom of Manchester Road in Accrington where the first power looms were destroyed.

The power-loom riots of 1826 took place in Lancashire, England, in protest against the economic hardship suffered by traditional handloom weavers caused by the widespread introduction of the much more efficient power loom [4] set against a cost of living crisis following the Napoleonic Wars. Rioting broke out on 24 April and continued for three days, widely supported by the local population, who were sympathetic to the weavers' plight.

Sykes’s Mill at Higher Grange Lane
Courtesy of the Lancashire County Library Service - Accrington Library.
After a period of prosperity in the 1810s the textile industry suffered a serious slump in 1825.

After a period of relative prosperity in the early 1820’s, the winter of 1825-26 was to produce nothing but hardship for the cotton workers of East Lancashire. Some of the banks had not the silver or gold to back up the paper notes they had issued. These were recalled; loans were also revoked causing many bankruptcies. The earlier affluence had increased the number of handloom weavers so much so that it was possible for the manufacturers to reduce the wages of those employed at weaving. The handloom weaver at the end of the cotton manufacturing chain, and unorganised was easy prey to the manufacturers. In the good years, 1802-1806, the handloom weavers were earning up to 23s a week [5] ,by 1826 this had been reduced to less than 8s per week [6].

Friday, 22 April 2016

Family and Childcare Trust: the state of childcare

Dear Mr Jones, childcare is a central part of family life, critical to the economy, and a key issue for voters.

With local elections fast approaching, the Family and Childcare Trust have prepared a short childcare fact sheet covering the state of childcare, as well as profiles for each Westminster parliamentary constituency.

The Family and Childcare Trust works to make the UK a family friendly society where all parents and children have the resources they need to thrive. We work with parents, business, and government, undertaking research, policy advocacy, campaigning, and providing information, in order to support families across the UK.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Forced acadamisation and the impact on local education authority nurseries - my speech in the Commons

I oppose forced acadamisation but in the three minutes allocated I wanted to raise the consequences of this on local council nurseries. I visited Fairfield nursery with local Spring Hill Labour councillor Diane Fielding. LEA nurseries provide the highest quality of trained staff and accommodate children with special needs. 

Both of us deeply concerned about the impact government changes are having on local education authority grant maintained nurseries. Firstly chaotic changes to free nursery provision led to many parents and children of 2 year olds being excluded. 

Secondly cuts to local councils have led to withdrawal of other services from the nursery have impacted on both parents and the viability of nursery. Nurseries are as you would expect, a multi-agency provision. The co-located Children’s Centre which cost £250,000 to build upstairs is being closed. 

Thirdly the government is pushing a forced acadamisation, a privatisation of all schools - except these nurseries - which councils will subsequently have to support but have little or no resource to do so. Lancashire’s nurseries have an uncertain and unstable future. A point I made strenuously to the government in the House of Commons."
The full speech I wanted to give on forced acadamisation and the impact on local education authority nurseries - my speech in the Commons. You can read the shorter version I made in House of Comons (in Hansard) here. The allocated speaking time was reduced 3 minute.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

My LT column - Referenda and dysfunctional government

Holidays, holidays, holidays. We're all going on plenty of summer holidays!! That's MPs of course. Off in part in April, May, June, July, August, September and off in October!! But wait… Whilst cynics and those that stare with bitterness see this issue through the bottom of an empty beer glass the rest of us, the shrewd, probably recognise that there's something more to the story. There is. It's serious and it's worrying.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Cuts to supported to Housing in Haslingden and Hyndburn an attack on the disabled.

I have been extremely concerned about the cuts in housing benefit to particular groups. Young people under the age of 21 and to elderly and disabled who live in supportive housing. The elderly and severely disabled.

Lancashire based Progress Housing Group have written to me recently to highlight the problems of capping supported housing rents and the impact that will have on vulnerable people in Haslingden and Hyndburn. The rent caps will leave people with a shortfall in money to pay their local housing association. These changes come along with significant cuts to other services for those with mental health care and learning disabilities. The Government's decision to restrict supported housing rents is typical of Conservative thinking: ill judged, poorly consulted budgetary policies. 

Friday, 1 April 2016

e-petition - Please sign to save Lancashire's historic library & museum services - update

Update: “I will be taking a petition to Parliament soon and raising the matter of drastic government cuts to Lancashire which is resulting in half our libraries and many of our museums closing. This loss will never be recovered. We are denying our children and grand children our history and heritage, denying them places where they can read, study, watch, touch and understand.

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

Dear Graham,

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. It is our annual opportunity to raise awareness of bowel cancer - the UK’s second biggest cancer killer.

This Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, to mark the 10 year anniversary of the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, we will be encouraging everyone of screening age (60+) to take the screening test when they receive it in the post.