Friday, 29 April 2011

Cameron breaks promise on SureStart centre's

Tories and Lib Dems yesterday voted against the Labour’s attempts to protect children centres from central Government cuts. Sure Start services across the country are being taken away from communities who rely on them. In Parliament yesterday the Labour party called on the Government to think again.

A year ago, David Cameron said he would protect and improve Sure Start Children’s Centres[ii], yet despite this promise to voters, the budget for children’s centres has not been protected. The Early Intervention Grant (EIG) through which these services are provided has been cut, in real terms, by about a quarter.
[ii] “I want not just to repeat our commitment to keep Sure Start. But to set out how we will improve Sure Start.”
David Cameron, Supporting Parents speech, 11 january 2010,
“We are strongly committed to Sure Start Children’s Centres”
David Cameron, National Childbirth Trust message (pre-election),

Sure Start children centres, widely recognised as groundbreaking and highly effective, provide a crucial service for communities. Yet, at a time when families are already being hardest hit by this Tory-led Government, the loss of these services will make life event more difficult.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Letting down the next generation in Hyndburn - £9,000 per year tuition fee's the norm

£9000 tuition fees turn out to be the rule not the exception

David Cameron’s promise that £9,000 tuition fees would only be charged ‘in exceptional circumstances’ has been broken.

Following Tuesday’s deadline for universities to declare their fees, it is clear that the Government’s prediction that the average fee would be £7500 was a naive assumption.

In fact, the majority of universities will be charging £9000 as of next year. This represents a trebling of fees from one year to the next. The Government’s inaccurate estimate could result in a funding shortfall of up to half a billion pounds in 2014-15, according to independent research.

To fill this gap the Government has admitted it would either have to further reduce university places or make further cuts to university teaching budgets. The former could mean a reduction of 36,000 places.

Graham Jones MP said

“This Tory-led Government is making it harder and harder for the next generation to get on.

The Prime Minister promised that £9,000 tuition fees would only be charged ‘in exceptional circumstances’. It is now clear that a majority of universities are trebling their fees and £9,000 fees are the rule and not the exception. This government is simply kicking away the ladders from our young people.”

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party said

“This unfair and shambolic tuition fee policy is now unravelling. It will cost students more, it will cost the taxpayer more and it may cost thousands of people their place at university”


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Why voting Labour in Hyndburn at the local elections is important

I have been out and about on many doorsteps campaigning in the local elections listening to what people have to say. The intricacies and even the main substance of council business is very seldom reported and so people vote on what they do know.

The unpopularity of the council leader is common - as are events nationally. People's personal experiences such as cuts to the voluntary organisation they work for or changes at their place of employment.

There are answers I could give which are relevant. The answer I do give to the question "Why vote Labour?" is because of the colossal waste of money that the council leader has overseen.

We all accept that during the Labour government years places like Hyndburn were showered with government grants of one sort or another to help build the infrastructure and to develop a policy for growth, improved skills and training.

I can recall approximately the council receiving the following;
Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) £7m (1999-2006)
Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF) £5m (1999-2007)
Housing Market Renewal (HMR) £50m (2004-2011)
DEFRA £2m (various)
Capital funding £9m (2006-2010)
The Worklessness Fund £4m (2008-2011)
Council House sales £6m (1999-2011)
Sale of council houses to Contour £32m (2006)
Extra bank borrowing £16m (1999-2005)
European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) £2m (1999-2010)
Sale of land and buildings £3m+ approx. (2002-2010)
Planning delivery grant £2m approx. (2000-2010?)
Fairshare Lottery £1m (2004-2010)

... and those listed are the big ticket items I can recall.

There have been others such as Children's Fund, the banking of other money in high interest accounts over before handing it over (Lancs County Council, Police, Fire Authority, Government grants), a practice that has gone on for years which could have raised as much as another £7million for the council.

Not forgetting that the government formula grant has risen at twice the rate of inflation for many years adding an extra £1m or two into the council's coffers over the period. Council tax (set by the Conservatives) has risen at twice the rate of inflation in many of those years adding at least another £1million to council coffers.

Channel 4: Robbing Hyndburn to pay leafy Hertfordshire? The unfairness of the New Homes Bonus

Below is the written piece accompanying Channel 4's news item last week (4 April 2011) on the New Homes Bonus.

The key points which will see Hyndburn lose out in one of the most unfair Tory scheme's brought are this,
1. In short - the south needs housing, the north does not, so the north (and more deprived) will pay into the scheme and the south (the wealthy areas) will take most out of that pot.

2. Deprived areas receive largest government formula grants so these local council's will suffer the greatest reductions to fund the New Homes Bonus scheme (see previous posts)

3. The incentive is to build executive homes as that results in a higher bonus. The more expensive the property, the greater the bonus. The south will build executive houses and of course this will be funded by cutting basis services in the north.

4. Poor areas with more Band A properties will receive less per property whilst leafy areas with more Band H properties will receive more because the government have unfairly nationalised the rates (as opposed to the rate per authority). The same house in the North may be a Band B, but that same house in the south will be a Band H. Band B payments lower than Band H payments.

5. County Council's are having to cut services to pay for the scheme but have no planning control.

6. Long term empty homes which are demolished count as minus one. As does two and three into ones punishing regeneration schemes primarily in the North. Houses may be left boarded up. All long term empties start life as short term empties and therefore every demolition counts minus 1.
The claim
“New Homes Bonus is a key part of our ambition, set out in the Local Growth White Paper, to create a fairer and more balanced economy through encouraging growth.”Grant Shapps, 4 April 2011

Cathy Newman checks it out

Ministers think they’re laying the foundations for a housebuilding boom. And not before time. There are fewer new homes being completed than at any time since before the war, so there’s a massive housing shortage. The Government’s answer is a so-called “new homes bonus”, which gives councils extra cash for each new house built. The Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, says this will create a “fairer and more balanced economy”. The trouble is, we’ve unearthed new figures which cast doubt on that. They appear to show the Government is robbing Peterlee to pay Poole. The FactCheck team has been crunching the numbers.

The background

In 2007 Gordon Brown promised to tackle Britain’s housing shortage by building 240,000 new homes a year. But last year saw the lowest number of house completions since 1923 – just 103,000.

Exclusive: Channel 4 News has seen figures showing councils have pulled plans for 100,000 new homes following new Government policy

Exclusive: Channel 4 News has seen figures showing councils have pulled plans for 100,000 new homes since the coalition government told them in July to ignore previous government homebuilding targets.


Monday, 18 April 2011

The unfairness of the government's New Homes Bonus unravelling by the day

Residents in Hyndburn are losing out under the Tory-led government’s new housing policy, the New Homes Bonus.

The Bonus is supposed to incentivise councils to grant planning permission for new housing developments by matching council tax for new homes over a six year period.

According to the House of Commons Library, the New Homes Bonus is going to cost tax payers at least £1.2bn a year by 2016 but deliver as few as just 14,000 extra homes a year. Before the budget, Labour called on the government to tax bankers’ bonuses and to spend £1.2bn on delivering 25,000 affordable homes.

Experts are already lining up to say that it won’t work and the Tory party leaders in local government have gone public with their criticisms. In addition to being expensive and ineffective, research now shows that Hyndburn is getting a raw deal from this new Tory policy.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Why the Government will never understand Social Mobility

This week I wrote for Total Politics on how social mobility cannot be solved by simply throwing money at the poor. You can see my full article on the Total Politics website.

Nick Clegg might talk the talk, but improving social mobility requires a change in the structure of our society, not just a few pound notes, says Graham Jones MP

Lately the deputy prime minister has been extolling the necessity to increase social mobility. Commendable for pinpointing not just a social injustice but an economic handicap.

Under Labour the rich got richer and the poor got richer. Trickle-up is a concept engrained in working people. They understand that money rises to the top and whilst laudable the aims of enriching the lives of the lowest income strata, the consequences appear to a widening gap between rich and poor.

Government’s huge 20 per cent cut to police funding is hurting frontline policing

Although crime has fallen, people in our area always tell me it’s still too high. I agree with them, because any victim of crime is one too many. That’s why I want to continue to see crime fall, as it did by 43 per cent under the last Government.

And that’s why I am so angry about the Government’s huge 20 per cent cut to police funding. They are cutting too far too fast and it is hurting frontline policing.

Labour recruited nearly 17,000 more police officers in addition to 16,000 new PCSOs, and the chance of being a victim of crime was at a thirty-year low. Yet now the Government has cut over 12,500 police officers across the country. Here in Lancashire our police force has lost 550 police officers and a further 250 police staff.

My priority as your Member of Parliament is to push for further cuts in crime. I want the Government to be getting more frontline officers on the streets, strengthening neighbourhood policing and taking a zero-tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour. Yet Ministers seem more interested in cutting police numbers than in cutting crime.

Cameron slams 'pointless reorganisations' of the NHS at the Royal College of Nursing Congress

Cameron slams 'pointless reorganisations' of the NHS at the Royal College of Nursing Congress April 2009: 1min

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Just why the New Homes Bonus is unfair

In two tier areas where a District Council operates with a County Council, 20% of the new homes bonus payment goes to the County Council with 80% going to the planning authority which is the local District Council.

This table matches political control at each County Council in 2005, an average year which reflects historic trends, with the amount paid from the New Homes Bonus scheme per head of population in each County.

Three of the four Labour authorities make up 3 of the 5 top positions and Nottinghamshire is 9th out of 27. Cumbria and Warwickshire, both with deprivation problems and which have strong Labour support make up the other 2 positions in the top 5.

By contrast Conservative areas received twice or three times as much on average. Furthermore the fact that District Council's in those areas collect the other 80% at the same rate highlights the unfairness of the scheme. A scheme that is funded by taking money away from Council's to give it back to those areas which build the most homes.

The unfairness means that County Council services in those areas where County Council's have to contribute to the 'NHB pot', are drawing down the least - Lancashire gets 39p per head whilst leafy Cambridgeshire receives £1.27. Services in these areas are under the greatest pressure and are the areas of greatest multiple deprivation.

Clearly the NHB is taking money from the North than the South to fund the scheme through the Barnett formula and secondly handing more of the funding out to the South.

This is an unfair scheme that will have serious funding implications to deprived communities.

County Party in Control 
NHB per
head of Pop.
Cumbria No Overall Control
Lancashire Labour
Derbyshire Labour
Warwickshire No Overall Control
Staffordshire Labour
Surrey Conservative
North Yorkshire Conservative
Dorset Conservative
Nottinghamshire Labour
Hertfordshire Conservative
Essex Conservative
East Sussex Conservative
West Sussex Conservative
Oxfordshire Conservative
Worcestershire Conservative
Hampshire Conservative
Suffolk Conservative
Leicestershire Conservative
Devon LibDem
Buckinghamshire Conservative
Norfolk Conservative
Northamptonshire Conservative
Kent Conservative
Gloucestershire Conservative
Somerset LibDem
Lincolnshire Conservative
Cambridgeshire Conservative

Housing Market Renewal - Audit Commission praises Pathfinder programme

Report released by the Audit Commission shows that Government’s decision to abolish Housing Market Renewal programme is ill advised.

Report Summary:
The report by the Audit Commission found that the Housing Market Renewal programme (HMR) introduced under the Labour Government has made a substantial contribution to improving housing and economic circumstances in some of the country’s most deprived areas.

Supporting Shelters' Evict Rogue Landlords' campaign

A host of British actors and comedians have teamed up with Shelter to help spread the word about our campaign. Sean Lock, Mike Fielding, Oliver Chris and Sally Bretton star in a short 5min commercial/film about the danger posed by rogue landlords.

Despite the amusing script and characters, the horrifying conditions shown in the film are the sad reality for thousands of people in this country. Please help spread awareness of our campaign by signing our petition and sharing this page with your friends.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Shadow Minister Caroline Flint visits Woodnook, Accrington to see impact of Government of cuts

Graham Jones MP out
campaigning in
Haslingden & Hyndburn
with Shadow Secretary
of State Caroline Flint
Hyndburn Borough has been hit unfairly hard by the governments austerity cuts and the decision not to spend the remaining Housing Market Renewal money in Woodnook has left the area looking like as one resident said 'a ghetto'.

Caroline Flint, Labour's Shadow Local Government minister came to Woodnook to take a look at the the problems in the area and stayed even longer to canvass residents on the doorstep and find out what they thought.

Swinging government cuts have seen the scrapping of the Worklessness fund, the Housing regeneration grants axed, the scarping of the Future Jobs Fund, EMA and tripling of Student Fee's at the local University in Preston. The Council has been hardest hit with the biggest cuts in the country.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

New Homes Bonus - East Lancashire abandoned by uncaring Conservative government

Yesterday's the Government announced funding for the New Homes Bonus scheme and it is clear the Conservatives have abandoned East Lancashire. All 5 deprived authorities feature in the 27 authorities (from 350) receiving the lowest grant.

I told Eric Pickles on the floor of the Commons that the £63,000 Hyndburn has been awarded is ‘pathetic’. Hyndburn has received the 11th lowest payout out of 350 Councils. (see table at the bottom).

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Votes at 16 will inspire young people

Those of you that have followed my work in Parliament since I was elected will know that I have been a strong supporter of lowering the voting age to 16. I have given my full backing to the Votes at 16 campaign and you can learn more about the campaign on their new website here.

The Votes at 16 campaign says that there are over 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds in the UK denied the vote. They are a campaign made up of young people, organisations and network of politicians across the UK.