My Diary Week Ending 14th January 2018
It seems clear for all to see except this Conservative Government that our cherished NHS is in unprecedented crisis. The message from the front line is clear for all to hear. Never before have 60+ Directors of Emergency Care written an open letter expressing their worry about the severity of the situation. Yet the Health Secretary who has overseen this gathering crisis is rewarded with a bigger title in the Prime Minister's bungled reshuffle! You couldn't make it it up!!
When I met with the Regional Director of the Royal College of Nursing he confirmed that staff are continuing to do their level best but the pressures on them are greater than he can remember. And they still don't know if they will ever get a pay rise with the Conservatives in charge!
We all know that being able to walk and enjoy our green open spaces helps keep us healthy so I was pleased to have my annual catch up with the Paul Learoyd, Chief Executive of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. He remains concerned about the risks that Brexit poses to the environment but is encouraged by the things Government is saying.
However it's actions that speak louder than words and when you have Conservative North Lincolnshire Council continuing to grab bits of green, open space to build on that isn't good thing.
One of my New Year's resolutions is to do all I can to stick up for our area's heritage and green spaces - our identity - against the Conservatives desire to trample over it. It was good to walk round Ashby Ville Pond (pictured above) and Kingsway Golf Course (pictured below) - 2 local nature reserves - with Paul and see the potential that these spaces close to population have in delivering that contribution to healthier living so important for our future.
Through their generosity local people keep the Wildlife Trust going.
Another example of local generosity was clear to see when I dropped in to The Forge Project (see picture above) to see dinners being given to people who struggle to provide them for themselves. The sense of community support was heart-warming. One of the ways to tackle homelessness is through the work of the Forge and other agencies.
The police have a role in dealing with anti-social behaviour and it was good to hear from the Chief Inspector of Humberside Police on Community Policing about the increased investment going into this area, something Keith Hunter, Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner reinforced when I met him later in the day. Hopefully we will begin go to soon see the impact of this with more Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and police around and about and crime being dealt with more quickly.
It was a shock to hear about the explosion at the British Steel coke ovens. Fortunately no-one was hurt and down to the united, coordinated action of unions and management there has been no disruption to the business. Well done to everyone involved.
I was appalled that the Conservatives tried to put the most unsuitable Toby Young on to the board of the Office for Students and made the point that his position would be better filled with someone with strong Further Education (FE) experience. With 30% of Higher Education (HE) students coming from FE colleges and a significant number of HE students studying in colleges like our own fantastic North Lindsey College it's outrageous that there is no-one with this experience on the Board. Thankfully the resignation of Mr Young gives the opportunity for the Government to right this wrong. Let's hope they take it!
My Diary Week Ending 14th January 2018 It seems clear for all to see except this Conservative Government that our cherished NHS is in unprecedented crisis. The message from the...
DEFEND FREE SCHOOL MEALS IN UNIVERSAL CREDIT ROLL-OUT
I have joined calls with The Children’s Society for the Government to rethink their plans around free school meals under Universal Credit.
Currently, as Universal Credit is rolled out, all children who live in a household receiving this new benefit will receive a free school meal.
However, under current proposals set out in a consultation by the Department for Education, this will change when an earnings threshold of £7,400 will be introduced and will be for all new Universal Credit claimants come April 2018. This consultation runs until the 11th January 2018.
Yet, according to analysis of the proposals by The Children’s Society, these proposals will mean one million children living in poverty will miss out on the benefits of a free school meal and locally this will mean 3,007 in North Lincolnshire missing out.
This figure is roughly the same as those children currently living in poverty who don’t receive a free school meal; showing that Universal Credit will do nothing to alleviate child poverty rates in the UK.
Labour is calling on the Government to ensure that no child goes hungry during the school day, by ensuring that every child in a family receiving Universal Credit is eligible for Free School Meals.
Labour have always stood up for the benefits of free school meals on a child’s education and health and alleviating persistent child poverty levels in our society.
That is why the current proposals on the future of free school meals under Universal Credit are deeply concerning and show how this Government is out of touch with the importance to seriously address poverty levels across the country.
These changes will affect many local families, especially the poorest in our society, and it is important the Government rethinks their approach. Ministers must hear the views of local people on this matter and how we should be alleviating poverty, not entrenching it.
The Department for Education’s consultation runs until 11th January 2018. It can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/…/eligibility-for-free-school-meals-and-…
DEFEND FREE SCHOOL MEALS IN UNIVERSAL CREDIT ROLL-OUT I have joined calls with The Children’s Society for the Government to rethink their plans around free school meals under Universal Credit....
Happy New Year
Hopefully everyone will have had a good festive season and be looking forward to what 2018 will bring us.
I don't think we would have guessed right about the happenings in the year just gone so I'm not going to speculate about the year to come!
Thank you to everyone who looked out for others over the festive period. It makes a real difference. Our fantastic faith organisations do so much to make life better for others - whether it be supporting the work of the FoodBank, the Forge, The Lighthouse or in a myriad of other ways.
At its best I think Christmas is a time for family and friends. that's certainly how I spent time playing with my new 5 week old grandchild and her 2 year old brother whilst looking after my 89 and 91 year old parents.
Meanwhile it was good to see Scunthorpe United winning at home in an exciting victory over Southend as well as listening to their excellent win at Blackpool as I drove my parents home. This was then topped off with a very good away point at Blackburn and all 3 points at home to Bury.
So we enter 2018 with much to be optimistic about!!! It's time for setting stalls out with resolutions for the New Year. A turning of the page and determination to make an impact. So good luck to everyone with keeping your resolve!! That's what I hope to do too. Resolving to battle for local people to protect and celebrate the green open spaces that characterise our proud garden towns against an unthinking North Lincolnshire Council. And also stand up for our heritage whether it's in our villages, Kirton, Bottesford or Scunthorpe.
Too often we seem to be at the back of the queue for investment but at the front of the queue when it's time to trample on our heritage. Whether it's Scunthorpe Market, Central Park, Kirton's bus services, Bottesford's roads and pavementds or something else local people treasure that isn't valued by a Council that's deaf to local people's views I will stand up and be counted in championing what people care about.
Happy New Year!!
Happy New Year Hopefully everyone will have had a good festive season and be looking forward to what 2018 will bring us. I don't think we would have guessed right...
My Diary Week Ending 17th December 2017
Christmas is a time of good cheer. And good cheering is exactly what we all did as we won a Commons vote to make the Government come back to MPs with their final Brexit deal before finally agreeing it. This is very important in making the Government listen to citizens and businesses who are clear that they want the new relationship with the EU27 to be a positive one in our mutual interest.
I asked the PM how we will control immigration in the future when migrants from the EU will be able to 'move freely' across the Northern Irish border into the UK. She had no answer, so I am none the wiser!
And I was able to raise again with the Education Secretary the continued under funding of 16-19, an issue I returned to in my keynote address as Chair of the All Party Skills and Employment Group to a conference of college leaders held by Policy Connect.
There were more Christmas card competition prizes to present at Westcliffe and Grange Primary. Delighted to learn that Westcliffe had the second best numeracy results in North Lincolnshire and good to see the huge Ofsted OUTSTANDING plaque outside Grange Primary. More evidence that our schools are doing a really good job locally was popping along to Oasis Academy: Parkwood to present them with a national Silver Award for their fantastic work on reading. More reading was happening when I joined UNISON to visit the Disney Ward Scunthorpe General Hospital to sing songs and give out free books to the children as part of their Christmas cheer. All great stuff!
I also dropped into North Lindsey College to present the winners of their Black History competition with their awards. So much to celebrate locally. At the celebrations for Bangladesh Victory Day the youngsters did their community proud with brilliant performances of songs.
I was privileged to join family and friends to celebrate the life of former Scunthorpe Mayor the redoubtable Brenda Kirk who recently passed away. Brenda encapsulated all those great Labour values of family and service; she will be greatly missed. I last saw her dressed colourfully and immaculately in her care home full of kindness, energy and life.
I was pleased to see the attractive refurbishment of Bridgewater Park Residential Home and chat to residents about how things are going. Our care homes are so important in giving people the support they need later in life.
I made my annual visit to Scunthorpe's Royal Mail Sorting Office (pictured left). Our posties do a great job in all weathers and this is their busiest time of year. They keep an eye on us as well as deliver the post and that is something that can't be measured easily.
Community pharmacists deliver direct to the home for people who need it and their deliverers also keep an eye on people. I learnt more about this when I visited the Unity Pharmacy (pictured right) attached to Cambridge Avenue Medical Practice to hear how Government cuts are making it harder for pharmacies to give us the service they want to and we want to have. It was worrying hearing about the shortages in medical supplies now being experienced but reassuring that we have such committed professionals making sure we continue to get the medicines we need.
I was pleased to meet up with ex John Leggott College student Richard Henderson who is now the Chief Executive of East Midland Ambulance Service (EMAS) the emergency ambulance service. He was able to update on what EMAS is doing to improve its performance. I continue to get complaints about the hospital transport service provided by Thames with most people saying it was much better when it was provided by EMAS!
Finally I went across to ABLE British Ports (ABP) in Hull to learn about how its business is developing. Having seen a significant decline in coal imports it has repositioned its business and as grown its container business by 27% in the last year which has to be good news.
My Diary Week Ending 17th December 2017 Christmas is a time of good cheer. And good cheering is exactly what we all did as we won a Commons vote to...
My Diary Week Ending 10th October 2017.
It was fantastic to have the Chief Executive of the Careers and Enterprise Company in Frederick Gough School to see the outstanding work that is being done there on Careers Information, Advice and Guidance. It is a real beacon of good practice. It isn't rocket science to get Careers Education right but you do need a head teacher who is committed to it and you do need the school to create the capacity by having someone in a role that makes things happen. This is what I have been saying to the Careers and Enterprise Company so it was good to see them valuing what is going on.
It was also good to see ex-Fred Gough students who are now apprentices at British Steel enjoying a return to school.
With social mobility going backwards on this Government's watch we need more work like this going along across the country and it needs to be properly funded. I asked the Education Minister if the resignation of the Government's Social Mobility Board en masse meant that it was the Government that should be resigning due to their abject failure in this area. Abject failure was the name of the game in their negotiations with the EU on our future relationship. Thankfully, despite the antics of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) tail wagging the Conservative dog, at least got into the second phase of negotiations. But so far the Government has failed in every respect; now accepting a massive divorce bill and a likely 'regulatory alignment' across the UK with the EU.
Meanwhile we are spending billions of pounds on these absurd negotiation whilst the NHS is not going to see any of the £350 million a week promised by the Brexiteers. With other local MPs I had a long meeting with Scunthorpe General Hospital's new Chief Executive and it was crystal clear that if we had our share of that promised cash things would be looking much brighter. That said, although things remain very challenging, it does look as if there are some movements in the right direction. Which is more than can be said for Thames Ambulance Service who I continue to receive worrying reports of failure about.
There have been a lot of Christmassy things going on. I felt like Santa dropping off Christmas prizes at Oasis Academy Henderson Avenue, Priory Lane Community School, Bottesford Infant School and Bottesford Junior Schools wth flutters of snow outside it was all very festive.
I joined Scunthorpe Hospital Radio (pictured left) who were rattling their tins in the town centre and recorded a Christmas message. They do such fantastic work.
The magnificent Festival Of Christmas Trees held at Old Brumby United Church was really worth seeing (see pictures right). A huge sum is raised for Lindsey Lodge Hospicech year by the Rotary Club of Scunthorpe. This year was extra special with the World Premiere - no less - of a new carol commissioned by Scunthorpe Rotary 'Looking for a Stable'. The superb voices of Scunthorpe and District Choral Society did everyone proud with their rendition.
Finally today is the deadline for British Steel pensioners making their choice about their future pension option. Hopefully, in the end, most people will have got the information they required to make a decision they feel comfortable with. But it has been a very anxious time for many. The high-low pensioners have an extension to the 22 December to make their choice because of the changes the Government intends to make to the way the Pension Protection Fund deals with such cases. If there is anyone who has significant worries about any of this please get them to contact me so that I can do what I can to assist.
My Diary Week Ending 10th October 2017. It was fantastic to have the Chief Executive of the Careers and Enterprise Company in Frederick Gough School to see the outstanding work...