Oct 06

Tory tax credit disarray costs working families £1,300 a year on average

Tax Credit logoThe Tories are in tax credits disarray but still refuse to reverse changes that threaten to take thousands of pounds from the pockets of low wage earners.

The government’s tax credit cuts will hurt working families with children across the entire country.

In the run up to Christmas, over 3 million families will receive news that they are facing an average loss of over £1,000 a year.

The tax credit changes will produce an average £1,300 cut in the annual income of around 3.2 million families, effecting 5.2 million children, if they come into effect as planned in April 2016.

It is a cynical policy by the Tory government that hit many working people hard. Labour voted against the cuts in Parliament but we were defeated when over 200 Tory MPs voted in favour.

The fight is not yet lost. It is clear that many Tories are now running scared of a voter backlash when people working hard to earn just enough to get by become aware that they are losing out.

Labour’s new Stop the Tax Credit Cut campaign will put more pressure on the government to rethink plans which punish the working poor.

The government have tried to hide the truth about this change but we are exposing it for what it is.

If you get tax credits, you can check the impact of the changes on you income by using public sector Unison’s easy-to-use calculator here.

You can sign our petition by clicking here.


Oct 02

Party conference backs mental health

I had the honour of addressing the Labour Party conference as the first ever Shadow Minister for Mental Health. I’ve been asked to widely circulate the speech I gave to underline that Labour is providing the political leadership at the highest level to make our mental health services world class. It is reprinted below, alongside a montage of photographs from the visits, meetings and events that I undertook during the week. You can also watch my speech and that of Shadow Secretary of State for Health Heidi Alexander by clicking here.

Conference collageWe rely on the NHS, we campaign for the NHS, we are the party of the NHS.

All of us will fight to our dying breath to defend the NHS, and the simple Labour values which underpin it.

I would like to thank Nottingham South CLP in particular for their motion which raised mental health and the impact of Government cuts on mental health services.

Mental health has come out of the shadows in recent years. Many people, including Jo Brand, Stephen Fry, Alistair Campbell and some of our parliamentary colleagues, have had the courage to speak out about their own mental health.

Slowly the taboo is being broken.

But ask anyone with a mental illness, and they’ll tell you that they still face stigma, discrimination and prejudice.

One in four of us will have a mental illness at some point in our lives. Yet tens of thousands receive the wrong treatment or do not get any, help, at all. Isn’t it shameful that those hit hardest are children and young people?

Conference, it is a national scandal that the biggest killer of men aged 15-49 in our country is suicide.

Yet David Cameron and his ministers, despite their fine words about ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health, are presiding over a service, in crisis. People with mental illness are waiting months and months just to get an appointment, or are having to travel hundreds of miles for a bed. Instead of getting the decent, local, NHS care they need and deserve.

Care, like that which is provided by the amazing team at Mill View Hospital here in Brighton, which I had the privilege of visiting this morning.

The Labour Party is putting mental health centre stage.

I stand before you today as the first ever Shadow Minister for Mental Health.

This role that Jeremy has created is not just confined to the NHS.

We know that mental health is a cross-cutting issue.  It needs a cross-cutting response in our communities, in our schools and our workplaces.

For the young girl with an eating disorder.

For the pensioner suffering from loneliness.

For the veteran affected from post-traumatic stress.

I’m keen to work with patients, health professionals, campaigners, councillors, and trade unionists to do two things.

One – to hold this Tory Government to account for their broken promises on mental health.

And two, to develop a world-class mental health programme to be implemented by the next Labour Government.

Let’s join together in this fight.


Sep 26

Oppose Tory attempts to undermine our BBC

BBC logo listThank you to all those who have copied me in to their submissions to the BBC Charter renewal consultation, which runs to October 8 2015.

The BBC is the cornerstone of the UK’s creative industries and one of our greatest cultural institutions. I support its impartiality and believe in a BBC that provides something for everybody. I also believe the licence fee should be maintained.

I previously ran a campaign to save BBC Radio Merseyside when the station was at risk.

Changes are needed to the way the BBC is governed and, like all large organisations, it benefits from regularly considering its shape, size and functions. I want the BBC to continue to contribute to our cultural life while delivering value for money.

I am concerned that the current government intends to go to war with the BBC. For instance, the government has already confirmed that the BBC will take on the cost of free TV licences for over-75s, potentially leading to cuts in jobs, services and quality.

These changes were agreed without consultation while the advisory panel appointed by the government for the duration of the charter review process is made up of a number of people with direct financial interests in the BBC’s commercial competitors.

During the last Parliament, as Chair of the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the Culture Secretary John Whittingdale called for the BBC to reduce provision in areas where the market could offer those services and he has spoken more recently of the need for the BBC to make it easier for commercial competitors to win audience share.

I am concerned he believes the BBC should not be producing popular entertainment like ‘Strictly’ but should only provide what the market would fail to deliver. This would lead to a system where some of the most popular BBC services were at risk.

It is important that the BBC and government pays close attention to the points raised by members of the public participating in the present consultation.

If it does, then I believe that the government will recognise that the BBC delivers high-quality services and programmes for everyone in the country that must be adequately funded to continue as a major source of information, education and entertainment. It is particularly important in the role it plays for emerging musical talent in this country.

I will strongly oppose any attempts by the government to undermine or diminish the BBC.

If you would like to take part in the government’s consultation before it closes on October 8, then please click here.

Sep 25

With Love from Liverpool

John Bishop and Janice Long host With Love From Liverpool

John Bishop and Janice Long host With Love From Liverpool

Thank you to everyone who responded so quickly and generously to With Love from Liverpool’s fundraising concert for the British Red Cross to help tackle the continuing refugee crisis.

Mayor Joe Anderson, Liverpool City Council, The Echo arena, musicians, comedians and the public rose to support the fundraiser on Saturday September 19. If you were unable to make the concert you can still donate by texting FUND to 70600 to give £3. All profits will go to the British Red Cross.

It is a big boost for the British Red Cross, who are carrying out crucial work to assist refugees with food, water and medical aid while ensuring that families stay together throughout long and gruelling journeys.

More needs to be done to tackle the huge humanitarian crisis in Europe, Syria and the wider region.

Labour has set up a taskforce under Yvette Copper to pull together a strong and coordinated approach, working with local government, the voluntary sector, community organisations, trade unions, faith groups and other political parties.

The crisis is getting worse. More people are now displaced from homes in Syria than anywhere else in world. It is the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War with over 350,000 arriving in Europe this year, including people fleeing conflict and persecution in Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan as well as Syria.

The British government is providing welcome aid to the region and has responded to public pressure by agreeing to take 4,000 refugees a year directly from the Syrian camps – yet the majority of the public knows that much more needs to be done.

The Welsh Assembly Government has said it would help 1,600 refugees, the Scottish Government has said that it would help 1,000 refugees, and over 50 councils – with Liverpool at the forefront – from across England have stepped forward to help.

Citizens UK has now set up an excellent website to pull together the latest practical and campaign information, including really useful information on how people can get involved. You can find out more by clicking here.

Labour’s taskforce will work with different organisations and groups to increase what Britain is doing to respond to the crisis

We will also look at what more needs to be done in Europe and internationally, including working with our MEPs on building a more effective EU response. We are determined to sustain public involvement and support for action.

Sep 25

Come clean on school meals

Schools have, at their own cost, installed new kitchens to deliver a scheme to provide free meals to all children aged 5-7. Now, the government is suggesting that it will scrap it.School meals

The Tories never liked this scheme but schools have gone to a huge amount of trouble and effort to deliver it. This will be a slap in the face for them and for the hard-pressed families it supports, if it is taken away.

This proposal also underlines how little the government is protecting the education budget which is vital for the future success of our children and our country.

This comes at a time when the government is cutting tax credits for working families. This decision will see over three million families lose an average of £1,000 a year and directly increase levels of poverty in Britain.

There is a very real risk that scrapping free school meals combined with tax credit cuts could see millions of children going hungry as a result of this decision.

The Tories should come clean about their plans instead of allowing media leaks to set the agenda for children’s health and education.

Sep 18

Labour puts mental health centre stage

Luciana Berger joins campaigners to deliver a 71,000-strong petition calling on government to stop mental health cuts

Luciana Berger joins campaigners to deliver a 71,000-strong petition calling on government to stop mental health cuts

Labour has put mental health centre stage, recognising the important role it plays in all our lives.

This newly created role of shadow Minister for Mental Health is an opportunity to achieve the cross-departmental working on mental health that is vitally needed. The overwhelmingly positive response to the creation of the position highlights the strength of feeling across the country on this issue.

Stephen O'Brien and Mersey Care Chief Executive Joe Rafferty join Luciana Berger at Clock View, Liverpool's new generation mental health hospital

Stephen O’Brien and Mersey Care Chief Executive Joe Rafferty join Luciana Berger at Clock View, Liverpool’s new generation mental health hospital

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to make this new role work for everyone affected by mental health.

This role plays to my own passionately-held beliefs that mental health must be given top priority, and that cuts to services harm vulnerable people. Over the past two years I have been campaigning for improved services and have worked hard to hold the government to account over their broken promises.

Reaching this decision was not easy. I cannot honestly say I agree with everything the new Leader of the Labour Party has said over the years. I had a full and frank discussion with Jeremy Corbyn about a number of topics before I accepted the position. I felt he was willing to listen and engage. I respect those colleagues who have decided to work from the backbenches for a Labour victory in 2020.

In the coming months, I will be focussing on campaigning in Parliament and across the country to raise the issue of mental health as well as continuing to work as hard as I always have for my constituents in Liverpool Wavertree.

I want to hold ministers to account and to develop Labour’s mental health policies, particularly to help prevent mental health difficulties developing in the first place, across the Department of Health, but also in work and pensions, education, defence and other relevant departments. I want the Prime Minister to understand the scale of the crisis and the need for urgent action.

We need fresh thinking on how to tackle the challenge of mental health in our society. We must achieve a cultural shift so that we end stigma and prejudice.


Sep 17

Recruiting now for tomorrow’s leaders

Uprising logo 2UpRising is looking for passionate young people aged 19-25 to join its Core Young People’s Leadership Programme.

It is an intensive course designed to give young people the skills, knowledge and networking abilities to become the next generation of leaders.

With politics playing such a huge roll in the lives of young people these days and too many feeling they have no representation UpRising offers a great chance to get involved.

The organisation is offering a new generation of future leaders the chance to learn the networking, political and business skills to take social action and make change happen locally and nationally.

The leadership programme is a nine-month, cost-free course for 19-25 year olds that includes skills sessions with some of the UK’s most senior business and political leaders. Young people joining the course are matched with a coach and a mentor who supports them throughout the programme.

If you want to make a difference through social action and become one of tomorrow’s leaders, click here to find out more and apply or email: hello@uprising.org.uk


Sep 13

With Love From Liverpool

Britisah Red CrossLiverpool is once again proving itself the City of Kindness with a fundraising concert for the British Red Cross to help tackle the refugee crisis.

Steve Rotheram MP,  John Bishop and Luciana-Berger

Steve Rotheram MP, John Bishop and Luciana-Berger

Liverpool City Council has led the way in responding to the plight of the Syrian refugees by offering space and support to families traumatised by the conflict.

Now Liverpool and Mayor Joe Anderson have thrown their support behind an event including comedian John Bishop and a range of big name entertainers to take over the Echo Arena for a night of fundraising on Saturday September 19.

All profits will go to the British Red Cross.

The musical line-up already includes The Farm, OMD, John Power, Mic Lowry, The Christians and members of CAST, Space, The Icicle Works and Sense of Sound with more artists to be added before the big night.

John Bishop will be hosting the concert alongside legendary BBC Radio 2 broadcaster, Janice Long.

The With Love From Liverpool concert will prove a huge boost to the British Red Cross, who are carrying out crucial work to assist refugees with food, water and medical aid while ensuring that families stay together throughout long and gruelling journeys.

Tickets are on sale now at £25 each from the Echo Box Office which can be reached on 0844 8000 400 or click here.

Sep 13

Fully opposing the Trade Union Bill

Luciana Berger with USDAW union members at Tesco in Old Swan, Liverpool

Luciana Berger with USDAW union members at Tesco in Old Swan, Liverpool

The Tories’ Trade Union Bill is the most significant, sustained and partisan attack on trade union members in a generation.

This the latest in a long line of attempts by the government to stifle reasonable democratic scrutiny, organisation, protest and challenge.

The Bill does nothing to tackle the pressing national challenge our public services, businesses and industries are facing. Instead it tries to drive a false wedge between government, industry, employees and the public by restricting rights – and at worst criminalising – working people, from midwives to factory workers who challenge low-pay or health and safety concerns

The government says that it wants to increase transparency and legitimacy, yet every measure in the Bill is designed to frustrate democratic decision making by trade union members, at the same time as providing for a wide expansion of powers of Ministers and government.

The Trade Union Bill is potentially legally unsound, open to challenge and may be unenforceable in parts. Some parts may be in contravention of European and international standards and in conflict with the devolution settlements in Scotland, Wales, and even in local government in England.

When considered alongside the government’s wider agenda, this Bill amounts to a curbing of democratic rights, a suppression of civil liberties, and an attempt to silence the voice of ordinary working people. Put simply, this is another Gagging Bill.

I fully oppose the Trade Union Bill l and will be doing everything I can to hold the government to account for it.

It is deeply regrettable that the government has scheduled the debate for the second reading of the Bill to take place on a day when they know many Labour MPs may struggle to attend because of the TUC conference on the same day. I am deeply disappointed that the debate also coincides with the Jewish High Holy Day, Rosh Hashanah, which means that I will not be able to attend. However I will continue to make my total opposition to the Bill known through all other channels available to me.

Should the Bill progress to third reading and report stage I will be attending all future debates and votes on it to make my views clear.

Sep 11

Liverpool Wavertree to gain from creative industries

Littlewoods-building-750x385I’m thrilled about new plans for Liverpool and the constituency that would create a film and TV studio in and around the iconic Littlewoods building.

The Littlewoods Studios Liverpool would be a 4.5 hectare hub consisting of film and television studios, and a new home for the Liverpool Theatre School.

There would also be space for Liverpool’s booming creative and digital community which is beginning to over spill the buzzing Baltic triangle.

The new creative campus will create up to an estimated 900 full time jobs when at capacity, based at both the Littlewoods Building and on the neighbouring site of Liverpool Innovation Park on Edge Lane.

Liverpool is already a hugely popular backdrop for TV and film makers, but a recent Film Office report found that, the city missed out on a potential £20 million filming revenue due to capacity issues.

If Liverpool can offer additional facilities it stands to gain enormously from an expected boom in blockbuster films being produced in the UK as well as capturing more of the TV, advertising and music video markets.

Liverpool City Council will debate the plans next week and, if approved, work is expected to start on the £25 million project immediately, with major onsite works starting as soon as January 2016.

It will prove a real boom to the constituency and place it, and the city, even more firmly on the creative and digital map.

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