Thursday, 18 September 2014

MISERY OF THE COALITION’S BEDROOM TAX CONTINUES DESPITE VOTE IN PARLIAMENT

I've spoken to many people in Hyndburn who have told me that they are struggling to cope with the hated bedroom tax, introduced by the Tories and Liberal Democrats in Westminster. In the North West alone over 75,411 people have been affected – by far the highest of any region in the country.

 

This is a policy that unfairly hits hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people, such as those with disabilities or who are carers, and it threatens to cost more than it saves which is why the next Labour government will abolish it.

 

The Liberal Democrats have repeatedly backed the Tories to keep the Bedroom Tax in place and have refused to join previous Labour attempts to scrap the policy. Yet recently the Liberal Democrats joined me and other Labour MPs by voting against their own policy in Parliament.

 

Unfortunately this vote will not abolish the bedroom tax, as Labour will do if elected next year, but it is a step in the right direction and a glimmer of hope for many.  

 

The Labour Party has been clear and consistent in its opposition to the Bedroom Tax. It is an unfair and unworkable policy that causes misery to hundreds of thousands of people by forcing them out of their homes, most of whom have nowhere else to move to.

 

I'm glad the Liberal Democrats voted with us today but sadly it's come too late for the thousands of people who've been forced into debt as a result of the Bedroom Tax and thousands more who have been forced to rely on food banks to survive.  The truth is you can't trust a word that Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats say.

 

The only sure way to get the Bedroom Tax repealed will be to elect a Labour government next year.  

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

MPs backing Rossendale dementia friendly community

I am delighted to give my full support to Dementia Friendly Rossendale – this is a great initiative which will raise awareness of the issue and support those who are suffering. I recently attended an information session at Rossendale Youth Zone and I would encourage others to engage and support the ‘dementia friendly’ campaign.


Over a 1,000 people in Hyndburn suffer from dementia. For a liong time I was the carer of grandmother who I saw at first hand suffer from the illness.

Dementia Friendly News Release

Two local MPs have given their support to a new community support initiative which aims to enhance the lives of people living with dementia in Rossendale.

Jake Berry MP (Rossendale and Darwen) and Graham Jones MP (Hyndburn) are supporting ‘Dementia Friendly Rossendale’ – an initiative set up to address the issues surrounding living with and caring for residents with dementia.

This community and volunteer driven programme is supported by NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Lancashire County Council Public Health, the main focus of ‘Dementia Friendly Rossendale’ is to raise awareness of this devastating illness.

Both MPs recently attended a Dementia Friends information session at Rossendale Youth Zone where they along with a group of young people and staff from the zone had the chance to learn more about the impact of the condition.

The sessions are coordinated by Alzheimer’s Society and delivered by “Champion” volunteers. Each event allows people to learn a bit more about what it is like to live with dementia and then asks them to turn their new found understanding into action. For example this could be helping someone to find the right bus to spreading the word about dementia on social media.

The young people at the Youth Zone recorded a short video of the MPs giving their individual message of support for ‘Dementia Friendly Rossendale’ – to be aired at a series of community roadshow events throughout the valley in the coming weeks.

The roadshow events will provide the community with an opportunity to learn more about how to identify, help and support residents that are affected.

People with dementia and their carers often have to deal with a negative attitude and stigma towards the condition from those they encounter on a day-to-day basis.

This only serves to further increase the difficulties which these individuals living with dementia face in their local community. Many people do not understand or know enough about dementia.

Community volunteer, Brian Topping is leading the initiative as Chair of the ‘Dementia Friendly Rossendale’ project: “We are very thankful to Jake Berry and Graham Jones for their support and time as well as everyone involved with Rossendale Youth Zone for allowing us to visit their fantastic facility.

“We launched the initiative back in July and are making great progress towards our aims. We have brought together representatives from all aspects of the local community to create a steering group which recently met for the first time. The local knowledge and experience of the group will guide and govern our work as we move forward with the initiative.

“However, it’s the engagement we want to create with the community which will provide the real value. We will have a number of aims but primarily we want to raise awareness of dementia and inspire people to support those living with the condition and their carers”

Dr Tom Mackenzie, Clinical Lead for the Rossendale Locality at NHS East Lancashire CCG, said: “The work in Rossendale led by Brian Topping and supported by the CCG is really exciting. I have no doubt that it will help to raise awareness of the condition and help create a Dementia Friendly Community. Bringing together a steering group which provides a broad representation of the local community is very important. A whole community togetherness is essential to ensure people living with dementia can live well.

He added: “The most common signs of early stages of dementia are memory loss and the loss of practical abilities, which can lead to withdrawal from work and social activities. If you think these problems are affecting your daily life or the life of someone you know then you should let your GP know or encourage them to talk to theirs.’’

More details of the community roadshow events will be available soon.

For further information please contact the media team at NHS Midlands and Lancashire CSU on 01772 214213.



Monday, 15 September 2014

Voicing concern for uninsulated Hyndburn Homes

Last Thursday, I voiced the concerns of many residents to the Secretary of State, concerning his decision to scrap the vital 'Home Improvement Fund' in Hyndburn. Scrapping the scheme will leave many homes with inefficient heating, and unmanageable bills.

The Home Improvement Fund targeted housing that was poorly insulated, and that was in dire need of restoration. According to the last comprehensive housing stock survey, the number of houses in Haslingden and Hyndburn built before 1919 is 78%, compared to the national average of 45%, meaning that the Home Improvement Funds could have had a disproportionately positive effect in Hyndburn.

Hyndburn constituency has tremendous problems with homes that need insulating and renewable energy and my question for the Secretary of State is how is he going to ensure that funding reaches constituents in Haslingdern and Hyndburn?

The Government scrapped the home improvement fund in order to finance a modest reduction in energy bills – many would argue letting the energy companies off the hook for their inflation-busting price hikes. This does not directly address the core problems of dilapidated housing, nor does it end the struggles of local people with spiraling energy bills. In fact bills have risen by £120 pounds and the £50 removed from home inmsulation measures is short sighted.

By simply capping energy bills, the government cannot secure permanent price reductions, resolving none of the key issues faced by these home owners.

Ttehe Secretary of State's reposnse that; "This Government has a very good record on energy efficiency...we made some changes to the ECO, and that was in order to take £50 off peoples bills" isnt' good enough.

Many people in Haslingdern and Hyndburn are living with spiral energy bills and poorly insulated houses who have rising bills. A comprehensive application of the Homes Improvement Fund, if applied to Haslingdern and Hyndburn, would pay for itself through long-term efficient insulation and cut much more than £50 off of people’s bills. Once again this Government has shown itself utterly unwilling to deal with the long-term problems in the UK economy and housing stock, instead focusing on short-term gimmicks which fail to resolve the long term issue of rising energy bills and poor home insulation particulalry in places like Haslingdern and Hyndburn which has such a poor housing stock.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Why a unitary local authority for East Lancashire is worth investigating..

There are many common sense and practical reasons why people in East Lancashire, particularly MP's are beginning to ask the question: 'Is it in the best interests of Lancashire and East Lancashire that the county is dissolved into separate unitary authorities?'.

Two stand out straight away. Band D council tax in 2014/15 in Blackburn is £1,486.46 whilst in two tier Hyndburn it is £1,557.87.;

Local Council
Council Tax Band D 2014/2015
2 Councils or 1 Council covering an area
Bolton * (not EL)
£1,486.50
unitary council
Blackburn
£1,486.46
unitary council
Hyndburn
£1,557.87
two tier County Council and District
Burnley
£1594.85
two tier County Council and District
Pendle
£1,567.73
two tier County Council and District
Rossendale
£1,580.75
two tier County Council and District

The second reason is localism. More services provided locally, more locally accountable.



- 72% of services/decisions by Lancashire County Council in Preston
- 15% of services/decisions by Hyndburn Council
- 13% of services provided by Police/Fire

 - It is clear that services and decisions could be brought closer to the public.
- That the duplication across two councils is both costly and bureaucratic.
- That the duplication of services at a time when services are being slashed across borough's is very costly.

I believe along with fellow East Lancashire MP's, leaders and councils that it is time to ask the question what is best for the public?

At a time when shared services are vital to save money, it is the opportunity to have the advantages of a single entity or council. Where leisure services can be tied with adult social care. Where planning can be tied in with highways, housing with public health and welfare meeting the needs of children. Where there aren't two of everything. Two estates, two chief executives two sets of councillors. The opportunity to share and work more closely with police and crucially health providers and the huge NHS estate.

It is wrong that Hyndburn Council raises extra hypothecated revenue from empty homes in areas that need that investment only for County Council to consume that taxation across the County, spending it onot on regeneration for which it is not responsible, but other services. The same goes for the New Homes Bonus.

I believe such a question may have several answers. Several geographical permutations and may stretch from co-operation to incorporation. It's time to have have that open ended debate and I know my colleagues will be holding a press conference on the matter later this month. It's time to to discuss the matter further.

Lord Heseltine, in his ground-breaking report “No Stone Unturned” strongly recommended that all “two-tier English local authorities outside London should pursue a path towards unitary status.


Lord Heseltine said that the “multi-tiered nature of the English local government system makes it even more difficult to exploit economic opportunities fully. The duplication and inefficiencies, blurred lines of accountability and competing local leadership constrain local government from functioning effectively”. “Businesses” he said, “prefer to deal with one local authority”

Outside London and Metropolitan areas, successive governments have approved incremental changes towards unitary local government. There are now 55 unitary authorities in the shire areas of England, accounting for a population of 12,110,632, 36% of the total population of these areas.

In the North West, Cheshire became wholly unitary in 2009 (diving into two authorities). In Lancashire, intense debate about the future of local government in the 1990’s, including intra-party differences of view, led in 1998 to Ministerial decisions to create two unitary authorities – Blackpool, and Blackburn with Darwen – whilst the remainder of the 1974 County of Lancashire stayed two-tier.


This has to be about the rest of Lancashire to. The interests of Central and West Lancashire are different from, and to some extent in competition with those of East Lancashire. It makes little sense for some of the key decisions on the economic future of the sub-region to be made in Preston, when they could be better made within the sub-region itself. There are two Chambers of Commerce, East and West Lancashire and the LEP is divided into three sub structures (East, South and North) recognising the different challenges in each area.

Chorley are now considering at unitary options and there is talk elsewhere of a different model for Lancashire. One that refects the 21st century.

East Lancashire is a single economic area, with many common characteristics (including a much higher than average manufacturing sector [1]), and geographical and historical boundaries which quite naturally separate it from population centres in Greater Manchester to the south, West Yorkshire to the east, and Central and West Lancashire to the west. The M65 motorway binds the sub-region. Business itself recognises the unity of the area, with the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce. The sub-region is a clear travel-to-work/shop/college area.

Crucially it is vital that East Lancashire is able to punch its weight with Government departments. Is able to work with big businesses to promote the interests of sub region and provide confidence to investors. linking transport decisions with education (skills and training) and planning decisions so business has the confidence to invest.

Budgetary pressures on the shire districts in East Lancashire are now so intense that their ability to sustain key staffs and services for some key functions is now under severe strain. Hyndburn has already begun to share services. Regeneration with Blackburn, Planning, Building Control and waste collection with Rossendale. Services are past breaking point yet more savings must be found.

There are six East Lancashire Councils and the County Council. Each duplicating each other. There has to be place for the neighbourhood, the parish, the small town council and that relationship needs to forged better but there needs to responsibility and toed up government on the real big issues that shape our lives and that will shape our futures.

The idea that we can ignore the question, carry on business as usual whilst East Lancashire struggles in the head winds of globalisation is too easy and too comfortable an answer.

It's time we looked at how to make efficiencies, unify decisons and make those decisions more locally. 

Politics goes pink for breast cancer awareness

Visiting Accrington student Megan McCann & myself supporting 'Wear it Pink'
I am joining the fight against breast cancer by wearing pink by taking part in Breast Cancer Campaign’s flagship fundraiser, wear it pink day.

The theme of wear it pink this year is to ‘look good, do good’ in support of breast cancer research. On Friday 24 October people across the country will come together to find fun and stylish ways to wear pink in the office, at home or at school. Donations raised by this year’s fashion inspired event will go to Breast Cancer Campaign to fund lifesaving breast cancer research.

Every year in the UK over 50,000 women and around 350 men are diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly, 12,000 women and 80 men die from this disease each year. This is why we need to support Breast Cancer Campaign’s fundraising efforts to support world-class breast cancer research that saves and improves lives, giving people quicker diagnoses and more effective treatments. I hope you’ll all join me by wearing it pink on Friday 24 October and showing your support for breast cancer research.

Wear it pink on Friday 24 October to support Breast Cancer Campaign’s lifesaving research. For more information or to register for wear it pink and receive your fundraising pack visit www.wearitpink.org.
· Breast Cancer Campaign funds innovative breast cancer research, bringing together the brightest minds to share knowledge to produce better, quicker results to overcome and outlive breast cancer.

· As of June 2014, Breast Cancer Campaign funds 90 research grants throughout the UK and Ireland, worth over £13 million.

· Breast Cancer Campaign has launched the campaign ‘#spreadtheword to stop the spread’, to highlight that breast cancer is not a done deal. Visit breastcancercampaign/spreadtheword

· Breast Cancer Campaign’s action plan Help us find the cures sets out 66 key actions Breast Cancer Campaign will take to address the gaps in breast cancer research to overcome and outlive breast cancer by 2050. breastcancercampaign.org/breast-cancer-research/help-us-find-the-cures

· The Breast Cancer Campaign Tissue Bank, the UK’s first ever national breast cancer tissue bank, is a unique collaboration with four leading research institutions to create a vital resource of breast cancer tissue for researchers across the UK and Ireland. Visit breastcancertissuebank.org

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and accounts for nearly one in three of all cancers in women. In the UK, around 50,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year - that’s 138 a day. Visit breastcancercampaign.org or follow us at twitter.com/bccampaign

Friday, 12 September 2014

Read On. Get On.


Dear Graham

Reading is the key to a child’s future: it unlocks their potential and opens up a world filled with possibilities.
And yet, almost a quarter of children in the UK today are leaving primary school without reaching the expected level in reading and it is the poorest who are doing the worst. Over the next decade almost 1.5 million children will start secondary school already behind.

Today we’re launching Read On. Get On.  – a new campaign being driven by a coalition of charities, language and literacy experts, teachers, and businesses to get every child reading well  at age 11, by 2025.

Every child deserves a good education. Being able to read well is the foundation upon which that depends. 


Booktrust partners with new campaign to ensure all children are reading well by age 11

From: Events [mailto:Events@booktrust.org.uk]
To: JONES, Graham
Subject: Booktrust partners with new campaign to ensure all children are reading well by age 11

Dear Mr Jones

I hope you are very well. Thank you so much again for attending Booktrust’s parliamentary reception in July.

Booktrust has now come together with Save the Children and others to launch today ‘Read On. Get On.’ – a national mission to ensure all children are reading well by the age of 11 (a description of the campaign is here and the full campaign report is here).

One of the four key aims of ‘Read On. Get On.’ is to get mothers and fathers reading more to their children, ideally ten a minutes a day. This is at the core of Booktrust’s work targeted at young children and their parents who may not have easy access to books and reading.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Cancer Survival Rate in East Lancashire requires stricter Monitoring

With East Lancashire's Cancer Survival Rate deemed 'Poorer' than the National Average in a new report published by the APPG on Cancer which highlights the importance of early diagnosis in ensuring an increase in one year survival rates.

East Lancashire's One Year Cancer Survival Rate of "67%", suggests a higher emphasis needs to be placed on early diagnosis. One Year Survival rate statistics monitor Clinical Commissioning Groups' (CCG's) progress in promoting early diagnosis. Late diagnosis makes for poor survival rates, and highlighting each CCG's one year survival figures will encourage the local NHS to pursue initiatives to further promote earlier diagnosis.

By promoting the importance of One Year Survival statistics within the NHS, local areas will be better informed to review specific care methods required to ensure early diagnosis; be that better screening, improving public awareness, or increasing GP Training.

Clinical Commissioning Groups have highlighted that the UK is struggling to keep up with other European counties in its cancer survival rates, matching this would save as many as 10,000 lives a year. I have written to the CCG regarding their plans to promote early diagnosis in East Lancashire, and their use of the vital One Year Survival statistics.

Cancer survival rates in the UK have improved significantly and it is important that the NHS continues to improve for the people of East Lancashire.