Sep 15

Time to end the pay cap for all public sector workers

The House of Commons unanimously backed Labour’s call this week to scrap the pay cap for public sector workers, after the Tory government told its MPs to stay away.Scrap the cap

It’s very unusual for the government not to vote down an Opposition motion.

This week, the Tories have ducked a vote twice, first on the public sector pay cap and secondly on the Tories’ increase in student tuition fees.

Labour had the backing of all the Opposition parties in calling for the pay cap to be scrapped – including the Democratic Unionist Party which has done a deal with the Tories over Brexit.

The House of Commons also unanimously approved Labour’s motion to revoke the government’s latest tuition fee hike, which will cost students up to £1,000 each over the course of their degrees.

If the Tories do not now reverse the student fee rise they will be defying the will of Parliament in blatant disregard for our democracy.

In truth, the government avoided the votes because it knew it would lose.

The government may attempt to ignore the clear will of the House of Commons, but Labour is determined to stand up for democracy, pay justice in the public sector and our students.

Aug 23

Beating the international slave trade

Today, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, we remember the struggles of millions of slaves who, through everyday resistance over decades, brought about the abolition of slavery and showed the power of collective action.

On this day in 1791 an uprising of enslaved Africans on the island of Saint Domingue (modern Haiti) began. It was a crucial event in the fight to end the European transatlantic slave trade. The date has been designated by UNESCO as Slavery Remembrance Day, a reminder that enslaved Africans were the main agents of their own liberation.Slavery

In Liverpool, the International Slavery Museum is marking the day with a series of events that celebrates its own opening exactly 10 years ago, the bicentenary year of the abolition of the British slave trade.

Its exhibition Ink and blood brings together the stories of those affected by the abolition of slavery and later, freedom. It is an opportunity to see abolition up close through ink (paper) and blood (people).

There are still over 45 million people locked in modern slavery, including in child slavery and through people trafficking by which international criminals gain over $150 billion a year.

Slavery has not gone away and we need to address its root causes. Labour is committed to leading the international co-operation needed to tackle labour exploitation and deregulation and combat human trafficking.

Aug 21

Standing up for our NHS

Labour NHS summer 2017It was a Labour government which founded the National Health Service, our proudest achievement, and only Labour can be trusted to ensure universal healthcare will continue to be provided for all on the basis of need, free at the point of use.

Seven years of Tory neglect and underinvestment have left our National Health Service in a desperate state, with the mental health crisis deepening, ever more children’s operations being cancelled, lengthening waits to see a health professional, fewer people applying to become nurses and the looming threat of Brexit to our NHS workforce.

Now, over the summer and without proper parliamentary scrutiny, the Tories want to sell-off NHS Professionals, the body that saves the taxpayer around £70 million a year by organising last-minute or replacement staffing for NHS trusts in England, and ensuring hospitals don’t have to rely on expensive private agencies.

The deal is being pushed through behind closed doors with very little clarity for Parliament, taxpayers, NHS patients, or the staff employed at NHS Professionals about what the sale will mean for the future of the organisation.

It is typical of a Tory government that doesn’t really support our NHS.

For instance, since Theresa May became Prime Minister in July 2016 there have been 9,625 cancelled children’s operations. That’s an average of 963 cancelled children’s operations every month of her premiership – and figures uncovered by Labour indicate that cancellations are up by a third since 2014.

Figures I uncovered through Freedom of Information requests show that ambulance staff helped 30,000 more people experiencing a mental health crisis in 2016-17 compared with 2014-15, a strong indication that too many people are not able to access help through their GP or community services. You can read more here.

The government is dismantling the early intervention and prevention services that prevent people reaching a crisis and having to call an ambulance. Officially we’ve lost 6,600 mental health nurses and doctors since 2010. But many other posts remain unfilled too.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt must ring-fence mental health budgets so that funding reaches the frontline. Too much money pledged for mental health is not reaching the sector. In the absence of ring-fenced budgets, funding is being diverted to prop up other areas of the NHS.

By underfunding and overstretching the NHS, the Tories have pushed health services to the brink. It’s why Labour pledged appropriate levels of funding for the NHS in our manifesto and guaranteed the main four-hour A&E target would finally be met again consistently.

Prime Minister Theresa May must give the NHS the support and resources it urgently needs.

Aug 16

A pragmatic approach to pensions

Tory government plans will take £10,000 from 7.6 million people’s state pensions as it asks millions of people to work longer to pay for failing economic policies.WASPI2

The Tories want to bring forward their plans to increase the state pension age more quickly to the age of 68.

Labour wants to take a measured approach to retirement, leaving the state pension age at 66 while the evidence emerging around life expectancy is carefully reviewed and analysed. In that way we can plan together how to protect those doing the most demanding physical jobs from having to work until they drop while properly protecting the nation’s finances.

The government says it will implement the Cridland Review recommendations on increasing the state pension age despite new evidence on life expectancy and healthy life expectancy which shows a significant departure from expected trends.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, a leading expert, says that a century-long rise in life expectancy was ‘pretty close to having ground to a halt’ since 2010, pointing to this government’s failing austerity programme as a critical factor in this change.

Public Health England’s latest figures show the average Healthy Life Expectancy of men at 63 and of women at 64 years of age. The report also shows wide regional discrepancies and a clear North-South divide reflecting the government’s failure to rebalance the economy, tackle labour market inequalities and to ensure the social security system not only always makes work pay, but that it is fit for purpose in an increasingly flexible labour market.

You can see my response to the premature deaths of people in the North on Channel Four News here.

Bringing forward further increases to the state pension age will mean that many people experience ill health long before they have the chance to retire.

Poor communication of a later state pension age has already led to the terrible mismanagement of the state pension for women born in the 1950s – the WASPI women – which has left hundreds of thousands of women vulnerable with a longer wait for their state pension. It is an issue I raised during the General Election campaign and one we can’t allow to be repeated for other groups of people.

That’s why Labour wants to take a pragmatic approach, based on the best available evidence, and will leave the state pension age at 66 while plans are developed to ensure that everyone has the best chance to enjoy a secure and healthy retirement.

Aug 03

Tories deny transport investment to boost economy

The Tories are switching off the proposed Crossrail for the Northern Powerhouse project which was designed to link the people and businesses of the North and secure a sustainable future of economic growth and prosperity.

Liverpool is being overlooked for 20-miles more of investment that would bring High Speed rail to the city and open up new capacity to move more freight to and from our port.

Now the government says it is denying the North the electrification of rail lines running West-East that would better link up people and businesses from Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle.

Over the past decade public spending on transport in London has been more than double that in the North – the North would have received £59 billion more in investment over the last decade if it had received the same per person for transport as in London.

Whether it is rail, road or our buses, Tory cuts, lack of investment and centralised control are costing us dear. We need local control of our buses, and long-term investment to better connect our cities, people and businesses across the North.

I’m backing a new petition calling on the government to reverse its U-turn and make the investment we in Liverpool and people across the North need to secure our economic prosperity. You can sign it by clicking here.

And I welcome the call by Labour Metro Mayors in Liverpool and Manchester to convene an urgent transport summit in the North bringing together business leaders and politicians from right across the north on August 23.

The lack of investment means that Liverpool and other Northern cities will not enjoy the environmental benefits of wider electrification. For instance,

Network Rail estimates that electrification and the running of electric vehicles can help to reduce CO2 emissions by an average of 20 to 30 percent compared to their diesel counterparts and the maintenance costs for electric trains are 33 per cent lower than for diesel.

Network Rail also estimates that electric fuel savings are between 19 and 26 pence per vehicle mile.

Before the General Election, the Tories promoted rail electrification as a vital contribution to rebalancing the UK economy, but now they have pulled the plug.

Labour is committed to a £10 billion investment in a Crossrail for the North – a series of major rail improvements that would begin to reverse decades of underinvestment in Northern transport infrastructure and help deliver 850,000 new jobs by 2050

The Tories claim that diesel bi-mode trains will deliver the same benefits as electrification, despite saying for years that that failure to electrify the network costs more in the long run, causes more pollution, worsens air quality, lessens capacity and makes services slower and less reliable.

Labour will deliver the promised electrification, we will address the imbalance in transport infrastructure spending, committing to enhancing and expanding the rail network in order to drive economic growth and rebalance our economy.

Jul 28

Tackle the root causes of poverty to give every child the best start

Holiday hunger logoMore than 17,000 children across Liverpool receive free school meals. There are real concerns that now the school holidays are here, some children who get lunch through term time could be going hungry.

Nationally, the Tory government admits that it has not made an assessment of the children’s school holiday needs, let alone made any plans to make sure there is provision available locally. However, over a million school-age children have free school meals, which won’t be available during the summer holidays.

Real wages have been falling since 2010 as inflation rises, which will leave more children at risk of going hungry. Child poverty is at a seven year high, leaving working families worse off.

Increasing numbers of children are growing up in poverty and their families may not have the money they need to make sure the children receive all the nourishment they need over the summer holidays.

Figures from the Children’s Society show that in Liverpool Wavertree, around 3,300 children are living in families experiencing problem debts.

It is unacceptable that the government has not made the effort to assess the need and instead has left it up to local communities and charities to step in.

The Tory government has so far refused to measure the scale of the problem facing children across the country, let alone come up with the strategy and action needed to put matters right.

In fact, the Children’s Commissioner recently tried to pull together official figures on the life experiences of vulnerable children, but found government understanding to be sadly severely lacking.

The figures that do exist show hundreds of thousands of children and young people living vulnerable lives, but as the commissioner points out, even these shocking figures are likely to be just the ‘tip of the iceberg.’ The figures uncovered include:

  • 800,000 children aged 5 to 17 experience mental health problems
  • Almost 700,000 children are living in families that have vulnerabilities, including over 15,000 children living with an adult receiving alcohol treatment and nearly 12,000 living with an adult in drug treatment
  • 580,000 children are so vulnerable that the state has to step in and provide direct care, intervention or support
  • 160,000 children are temporarily or permanently excluded from school
  • 119,000 children are homeless or living in insecure or unstable housing
  • 170,000 children are estimated to provide unpaid caring for a family member.

In government, Labour will measure the problem and tackle the root causes of vulnerability, such as housing, crime, and poverty. For instance, Labour will introduce a Real Living Wage of £10 an hour to ensure that every family is able to make ends meet.

Labour will also put the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into law and ensure every child gets the best possible start in life.

Jul 21

Tackle the mental health crisis to save lives

CQC mental healthThe government’s failure to live up to its promises is starkly exposed by its inability to tackle the crisis in mental health.

Despite repeated claims by the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt and successive Tory Prime Ministers that mental health is a priority that would achieve parity with physical health and that billions of pounds of new money were being sent to the frontline, the health regulator the Care Quality Commission has this week exposed the reality on the ground.

Too many people can’t get the help they need at all. Now the CQC has shone a light on long waits to get treatment and the lengthy stays on hospital wards that are too restrictive for those that do manage to access a bed.

In short, too many patients are being failed and services neglected. The Tories have failed to deliver the leadership, the funding and the staff needed to turn mental health around.

The CQC found examples of ‘outdated and sometimes institutionalised care’ taking place in hospitals that are often a long way from home, leaving people isolated from support networks of friends and families.

It also found serious shortages of:

  • mental health nurses, whose numbers have fallen by 12 per cent since 2010;
  • Psychiatric beds – down by 4 per cent since 2014.

Staff are rightly praised for providing compassionate care, but this against a background of rising demand, with detentions under the Mental Health Act up 26 per cent since 2012.

In fact, ‘high demand, workforce shortages, unsuitable buildings and poor clinical information systems’ pose serious challenges to any kinds of improvement in mental health services

This is a terrible record chalked up by a failing government.

Labour’s manifesto at the last General Election recognised the scale of the problem – ‘mental ill-health is the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age’ – and set out how a Labour government would keep its promises.

A Labour government would ring-fence mental health budgets to ensure that funding reaches the frontline and bring treatment closer to home by ending out-of-area placements.

Most importantly of all, a Labour government would invest in prevention and early intervention, tackling problems early to stop them becoming crises later.

Under Labour, the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people would rise and all children in every secondary school would have access to a counselling service.

Tory failings have a high human cost. We must never forget that suicide is the leading cause of death among young people between 20-34 in the UK, and the single most common cause of death in men under 45.

Tackling the crisis in mental health and making a genuine commitment, backed up by a properly-resourced plan, to achieve parity with physical health saves lives.

It is that important. And Jeremy Hunt and his government is letting use down.

Jul 14

Tory promises lay in tatters

A year ago, Theresa May promised to make Britain a country that works for everyone. After just one year and a day as Prime Minister that promise lies in tatters.No Mandate logo

On June 8, Theresa May lost 13 seats and lost her parliamentary majority.

With no mandate Theresa May delivered a threadbare Queen’s Speech which left out key Tory election pledges to scrap universal free school meals, expand grammar schools, means test Winter Fuel Payments, hold a vote on the fox hunting ban and make those who need social care pay for it with their homes.

It is good news for the country that these damaging policies are off the agenda for now, but the country needs more that a rudderless government as the storm clouds of a botched Brexit negotiation loom over the horizon.

School class sizes are soaring, NHS waiting lists are up and people’s real wages are now lower than before the economic crash. Tory tax breaks have benefited the already wealthy while everyone else has been left to pick up the bill.

The Tory government has no proper mandate and no legitimacy and its policies do not have the support of the majority of the British people. The Prime Minister has had to ditch their plans following a General Election that saw her majority vanish. The Tories rely on unstable coalition with the DUP while taxpayers are having to pick up the £1.5 billion bill for the privilege.

Just look at the Tory record on our National Health Service – Theresa May claims that the NHS has more staff than ever and ‘record levels of funding.’ But one year on, funding per head is being cut for the first time in history next year and the NHS faces a shortage of 24,000 nurses and 3,500 midwives.

That means that more people are waiting longer for treatment. In fact, there are now a million more people waiting for treatment than when Labour left office in 2010.

The Conservatives have no plan for Britain. Labour is ready to fight the next election, whenever it may be.

Jun 30

Labour is offering the alternative

The Tories have lost their mandate – yet they push ahead with cuts to our NHS, schools and police, and, while paying lip-service to the fantastic work of our public sector workers, refuse them even a cost-of-living pay increase.

I voted for the Labour motion to lift the public sector pay cap. Unfortunately, the grubby deal done between the Tories and the DUP meant that the vote was lost by just 14 votes.

That is why we need to keep up the pressure on this weak Tory government. This weekend, Labour members will be out across Liverpool and the country putting forward our case for a labour alternative.

People working in the public sector have seen their pay stall since the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition government of 2010. They are paying a high price for the Tories’ failure to grow our economy.  And change a path of austerity.

For instance, nurses have experienced a 14 per cent real-terms fall in pay since 2010, while Fire Service pay has slumped by £3,000 at the same time as the number of firefighters has been cut across the country.

Our vote in Parliament this week showed that Labour is determined to get back into government and tackle the public sector pay issue.

But there is so much more to do as well, because the Tories are divided, depend on the DUP for survival and will not provide the political leadership our country needs.

Labour in government would invest in our National Health Service and deliver genuine equality of treatment between mental and physical health.

Labour would invest in an economy that puts working people first by introducing a Real Living Wage of £10 an hour by 2020.

We would tackle the housing crisis by building a million new homes and introduce security for private renters.

Our children’s futures would be protected in a new National Education Service that would reduce class sizes, offer universal free school meals for all primary school pupils and provide quality education for all.

It is clear after just one week of the new Parliament that our country needs Labour’s alternative plan. To find out more, please click here.

Jun 27

Putting local creative talent centre stage

Film the houseLocal film-makers are being offered a great chance to make direct contact with movers and shakers in the film industry.

The Film the House initiative aims to uncover the best of UK creative talent and put it front and centre stage.

There are four categories:

  • Best short film  – under 16
  • Best short film – 16 and over
  • Best original film script – under 16
  • Best original film script – 16 and over

Scripts can be from three to 20 pages long and films from three minutes to 15 minutes long. Entries must be received by July 31 2017.

Local Members of Parliament make recommendations to be judged by the leading figures in the film industry, with prizes that include: mentoring from Lord David Puttnam, advice from screenwriters, a day on a film set and the winners’ films being publicly screened.

The creative industries are one of our country’s success stories. According to the British Film Institute, UK film contributes over £4.6 billion to the economy and supports over 117,000 jobs.

The Film the House competition aims to raise awareness amongst up and coming talent of their creative rights as well as inform parliamentarians about the need for any new legislation to support the fast-moving industry.

If you are interested, you can find all the rules and how to enter by clicking here.

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