Nov 27

Our future economic prospects at risk

Thank you to everyone who helped force two major concessions from Chancellor George Osborne during this week’s Spending Review.Luciana full face

First, he was made to recognise that his planned tax credit cuts that would have cost millions of working families an average of £1,300 a year from next April, had to be dropped.

Second, a concerted campaign led by Labour and backed by people from across the country ensured that he couldn’t proceed with massive cuts to our police that would have threatened the security of every citizen in the country.

Of course, we have to test the Chancellor’s claims to the full during debates in Parliament in the coming days.

We already know that he plans to roll tax credit cuts into the new Universal Credit before the end of this Parliament in 2020 – delaying, not ending the pain for many working families on low incomes.

We also know that in the days leading up to the Spending Review, Home Office plans to reform how national police funding is dispersed to local services fell apart. We will have to watch carefully to make sure that Merseyside does not lose out when new funding rules are agreed.

Claims that mental health will get a much-needed £600 million cash boost have to be weighed against the fact that it has lost the same amount in the recent past and we haven’t yet seen a timetable for the new money becoming available.

In short, this is a smoke and mirrors Spending Review which still leaves many people worse off and fails to address the big challenges facing our country.

Average earnings are forecast to be down next year and every year until 2020 while real disposable income has been revised down this year.

This is the slowest recovery in living memory. Productivity has been revised down next year and the year after; and the year after that. The gap between UK productivity and the rest of the G7 countries is now the widest since 1991.

The Spending Review is putting our future economic prospects at risk and storing up problems for the future. The Spending Review will cut essential day-to-day services in the present, and risk serious harm to the economy in the future.

Tory cuts mean:

  • Department for Transport spending will be cut by 37 per cent;
  • The Department for Communities and Local Government faces a 29 per cent cut;
  • The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills budget is being cut by 17 per cent;
  • The Department of Energy and Climate Change budget is being cut by 16 per cent;
  • His announcement on policing doesn’t make up for the fact that there are 17,000 fewer officers since 2010.

Indeed, we have an increasingly unbalanced economy, based more than ever on insecure jobs in the service sector and an over-reliance on the finance sector.

Labour would balance the current budget and deliver a government that invests in partnership with workers, businesses and entrepreneurs to support innovation, create wealth and drive growth.

Nov 27

Would you like me to visit on Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday – December 5 – is now the biggest annual celebration of small businesses in the UK – and Labour helped make it happen. It is non-party political. Labour started the campaign but it has attracted support from all parties.Small-Business-Saturday-UK-2015-Blue-250

Small Business Saturday enables us to put centre stage the great work that small businesses do.

I’ve backed it from the start, publicising it widely, getting others involved and visiting small businesses across Liverpool Wavertree on the day. The response has been fantastic.

I’ll be celebrating Small Business Saturday again this year on December 5, working with the Merseyside branch of the Federation of Small Businesses and again visiting businesses across the constituency.

I want to ask you for suggestions about which businesses I should visit on the day, whether it is your own business or one that you use and think is fantastic. Please let me know the local shops, services and firms which offer a great service. You can ring my office on 0151 228 1628 or email me by clicking here.

In 2014, Small Business Saturday built on the huge success of 2013.

Across the country, there was a 20 per cent increase in footfall for small independent businesses compared to the previous year.

The campaign raised the profile of small businesses and independent retailers, with 64 per cent of UK consumers aware of Small Business Saturday (a 33 per cent increase on the previous year).

It was also a major success on social media, with 3.5 million views of the Small Business Saturday facebook page and the #1 trending spot on twitter all day.

Small Business Saturday is about banging the drum for entrepreneurs and small businesses in all sectors and I want to hear from you about the small businesses that are making a difference in our community.

So, please get in touch with your suggestions. You can ring my office on 0151 228 1628 or email me by clicking here.

Nov 23

Labour’s economic alternative – long-term health of the economy

Labour MP PhotocallOn Wednesday, Chancellor George Osborne will deliver the Tory government’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement, setting out its spending plans and economic strategy for the rest of the parliament.

We will finally discover if the Chancellor is going to u-turn on cuts to tax credits and what he will do to police budgets.

Thanks to my Labour colleagues in the House of Lords, the government has already been forced to rethink over cuts to tax credits, but we want to see a full reversal of these cuts.

Labour’s campaign to protect the police budget from drastic cuts has been gaining momentum. You can sign the local petition here.

George Osborne’s economic progress so far has been lamentable. He is failing to secure the long term future of our economy. His record does not stand up to scrutiny.

He has failed on multiple measures:

  • He has not closed the deficit, as he said he would; borrowing is £200bn higher than planned in 2010;
  • Only this week we heard national debt has increased to 80.5% of GDP, and the deficit for October is the worst it has been in six years;
  • The UK’s productivity gap is widening;
  • Businesses can’t access the finance they need to invest and create the stable, secure and high-skilled jobs of the future.

An approach where we work in partnership with workers, businesses and entrepreneurs to stimulate growth. We need to provide the opportunity for advances in technology, skills and organisational change that will drive up productivity, create new innovative products and new markets.

This is our real economic alternative – the long-term health of the economy.

Nov 19

Building up support for Small Business Saturday

Luciana Berger MP joins the Small Business Saturday Bus Tour in LIverpool

Luciana Berger MP joins the Small Business Saturday Bus Tour in LIverpool

I was delighted to join shadow small business secretary Bill Esterson on the Small Business Saturday tour bus during its recent visit to Liverpool to raise support in the run up to the main event on Saturday December 5.

Small and independent businesses make a vital contribution to our community, add to the character of our High Streets and are a source of local jobs.

That’s why I am once again getting behind our local shops and firms as part of this year’s Small Business Saturday.

In 2013, Labour helped bring the idea to the UK and a movement was born. I’ve been pleased to work with Liverpool City Council and councillors to show our support every year since.Small-Business-Saturday-UK-2015-Blue-250

Small Business Saturday is a grass-roots campaign that encourages people to shop locally and support small and independent businesses in the local community.

Last year’s event was the largest celebration of small business the country had seen, with over £500m of extra trade on the day. That is an important boost to our local small businesses and highlights their vital role in our local communities. You can see who I visited last year by clicking here.

I’ll be celebrating Small Business Saturday again on December 5 this year, visiting local small firms across the constituency and working with the Federation of Small Businesses.

I would encourage all small business to take advantage of the day and the huge amount of national publicity that will be surrounding it. If you are a small business, you can out how Small Business Saturday can help promote your work by clicking here.

Please let me know if you have a suggestion for a small business I should visit on the day, by clicking here.

Nov 16

Celebrating democracy with Parliament Week 2015

Parliament Week (November 16-22) is designed to get more people involved in the democratic process. The national programme of events and activities connects people with parliamentary democracy across the UK.Parliament Week logo

It is a great time to remind ourselves that the ballot box is open for every person registered to vote – no matter who they are.

Voting is the cornerstone of democracy. It makes sure that it is the people who have the ultimate power in society. That is why I want to make sure that as many people as possible are registered to vote now

It doesn’t matter who you know or what your background is. If you are registered to vote, your ballot paper gives you a voice that is as loud as anyone’s in the land.

For Parliament Week 2014 I supported the huge ‘Thuderclap for Democracy’ that saw tens of thousands take to social media to promote the week. I also took part in a debate alongside DJs and musicians about young people having the power to make the change they want through music.

This year, I am encouraging young people to make sure that they are registered to vote.

The rules have changed.

From now on, every individual is responsible for making sure that they are registered to vote, rather than rely on a ‘head of household’ or university to register everyone.

It is easy to register.

Remember – 16-year-olds can register to vote now and can actually vote from their 18th birthday.

There are two main ways to register:

Liverpool City Council’s electoral registration office can be contacted on: 0151 233 3028.

Please do all you can to help as many people as possible to register and ensure that everyone who has a right to vote will have their voice heard.

Parliament Week is co-ordinated by the House of Commons with support from the House of Lords. Find out more by clicking here.

Nov 14

Tax credit plans must be reversed

Tax Credit logoLabour has forced the Tory government to put on hold its plans to impose an average £1,300 a year work penalty on families receiving tax credits.

But Prime Minister David Cameron has refused to explain what the government intends to do, raising the possibility that new cuts are just around the corner.

We need Chancellor George Osborne to face up to the fact that his plans have lost all credibility and support and must be dropped.

It is not just Labour that is saying that the Tory tax-credit cut shambles must end. The Tory led House of Commons Work and Pensions select committee has now called for a pause in the plans to allow a fundamental review.

Labour has said we will support George Osborne if he reverses his tax credit cuts fairly and in full.

We have provided him with a plan so he meets his own self-imposed deficit reduction plans by targeting a lower surplus and reversing his tax giveaways to a wealthy few.

Across the country this weekend, Labour will be out campaigning for an end to the tax credits cuts shambles, so that families are able to plan for the future without fear that their hard work will be rewarded by cuts under the Tories.

George Osborne must simply stop playing cynical political games with tax credits and just admit he was wrong to cut £1,300 a year from over 3 million working families.

He must reverse his work penalty.

Please sign Labour’s petition by clicking here.


Nov 09

Trade Union Bill is bad news for Britain

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

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

If you could introduce any piece of law, what would it be? What issues would you address, if you were minister for a day?

Talking to people throughout Liverpool Wavertree, I know that all kinds of things matter to local people. Decent local schools. An efficient and fair health service. Care for the elderly. Opportunities for young people. Safe, stable neighbourhoods, free from litter and dangerous dogs. Help for local businesses. Safe transport. Affordable homes for young people starting out.

Well, Tory ministers have made it known what their priority is, and it’s Britain’s trade unions, and the laws that govern them. Really? Thirty or forty years ago, trade unions were top of the agenda. Most workers belonged to one. They had a seat at the top table. Union leaders were household names.

Today, the landscape has changed. The number of working days lost to industrial action is historically low. The challenge for the trade unions is that there are about 30 million people in the UK workforce, but only six million belong to trade unions. Whatever the problems of the UK economy, they are not caused by unions.

So why does the government want to introduce a new Trade Union Bill? Ministers say it is a modest change, designed to ensure that big public strikes are backed by a legitimate mandate.

The truth is somewhat different.  This is a law designed to stop unions from their legitimate activities to defend their members. For example, the Bill says that unions will require a 50 per cent turnout in a ballot for strike action, and 80 per cent in favour of a strike. This isn’t North Korea. In a democracy, you just don’t see those kinds of turnouts. For example, the Tories’ candidate for London Mayor was selected by a vote of 10,000 voters in a potential electorate of millions of Londoners. Let’s be clear: his Bill is designed to ban strikes in key industries.

Where there are strikes, the union will have to give 14 days’ notice before taking action. Employers will be legally entitled to ‘bus in’ non-union workers to take over strikers’ jobs, crossing picket lines and trampling on union members’ rights. Pickets will have to be announced 14 days in advance.

The system of ‘check off’ whereby a union member’s subscriptions are deducted from their pay will be banned, causing more bureaucracy for union branches to collect their subs.  This may lead to less money coming in to union funds.

It adds up to an unnecessary and unfair assault on the right to join a union, the right to organise and the right, in extreme circumstances, to go on strike. These things form part of our liberties in a free nation. They are the first to go in a dictatorship.

The Tories hate trade unionism because it represents different values to theirs. Unions offer help to the weak, and protection from the powerful. Take just one aspect of their work: safety reps. Safety reps prevent all manner of accidents and injuries in the workplace. They stop some injuries which would mean workers being off work. And they prevent stress which can lead to mental illnesses. So unions actually help employers by keeping the workforce in good mental and physical health.

They are based on the idea of solidarity and collective action. Unions have been around for hundreds of years, and make our society stronger and more civilised. Now is no time to undermine them and remove their legitimate role in our society.

I will be voting against the Bill when it comes back to Parliament, because it’s unnecessary, unfair and fundamentally unBritish. At a time when there are so many pressing issues for the government, ministers need to think again.

Oct 26

No change needed on Sunday trading laws

Luciana Berger MP with Usdaw General Secretary John Hannett

Luciana Berger MP with Usdaw General Secretary John Hannett

Extended Sunday trading in large stores will lead to even more retail staff being pressured to work longer hours, which is why over 90 per cent of shopworkers oppose any extension to Sunday trading hours.

The government wants to change the Sunday Trading Act to make it easier for shops to open whenever they like and reduce the chances of shopworkers having a decent family life.

The Sunday Trading Act is a great British compromise, which has worked well for over 20 years and gives everyone a little bit of what they want.

Retailers can trade, customers can shop, staff can work; whilst Sunday remains a special day, different to other days, and shopworkers can spend some time with their family.

Extending Sunday trading does not mean customers will have more money to spend, it would not create jobs and is likely to lead to the closure of smaller stores.

It is no way to boost the local economy or help town centres. It would be detrimental to shopworkers and their families, as well as wider society

I am pleased to be supporting the campaign from shopworkers’ union Usdaw to make the government produce the responses to the recent consultation it carried out.

A poll conducted in February this year found that a large majority of the public support the existing Sunday trading rules.

Indeed, before the General Election the Conservative Party claimed that it had no plans to change the current rules on Sunday trading stating that the current rules provided ‘a reasonable balance.’

I am against any change to the law as it stands.

Oct 24

Labour Housing Group Policy Day

Labour Housing Group logoHousing is central to people’s lives. We desperately need readily available, decent, secure homes to rent and buy at affordable prices. The Tories simply can’t deliver.

Labour housing enthusiasts from across the country are coming together in Liverpool today at the invitation of the Labour Housing Group to share their experiences and help develop policies that can turn our aspirations into reality during the next Labour government.

As Shadow Mental Health Minister I know that decent housing can transform people’s lives.

Housing – just like mental health – cuts across traditional government departments and must find its way into each. It cannot be treated as a silo policy concern.

For instance:

  • Compared with the general population, people with mental health conditions are one and a half times more likely to live in rented housing;
  • People with mental health problems are far less likely to be homeowners and far more likely to live in unstable environments;
  • People with mental health conditions are twice as likely as those without mental health conditions to be unhappy with their housing;
  • Housing problems are often given as a reason for a person being admitted, or readmitted, to hospital.

The NHS Confederation, which represents the organisations that work inside health, argues:

  • support with housing can improve the health of individuals and help reduce overall demand for health and social care services;
  • ensuring people with mental health problems have a suitable and settled place to live can aid recovery from mental health problems;
  • By working in partnership, mental health providers, housing associations and councils can deliver better outcomes for service users.

Decent housing choices would lift the cost burden from the NHS and offer people with mental health problems the stable accommodation needed to support recovery.

We need to get Health and Wellbeing Boards – which should join up the commissioning of services at a local level – properly supported, properly functioning and properly delivering.

Housing needs to be fully represented on the boards and the boards need to focus on housing conditions and support in all the work they do.

Liverpool City Council has a good record of working with partners in the local NHS, housing associations and the private sector, but its achievements are in spite of government and not because of it.

In developing our policies we must take on board every positive housing innovation that Labour councils across the country are already implementing.

Our policy must learn from what is working and built up from the solid foundations laid by Labour in local government.

Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey has pointed out that with modest public investment we could be building 100 000 new council and housing association homes each year by 2020 across the country.

In doing so, we would be reducing the housing benefit bill, with a profit in the long-run for the taxpayer too.

Good luck to everyone taking part in today’s discussions.

Oct 23

Police face drastic cuts

Merseyside Police are facing drastic cuts that threaten dramatic reductions in the service the public needs and expects.Police horses

They are being forced to consider cutting Police Community Support Officers, disbanding the mounted section and ending the basic command unit structure which has served Merseyside well for 40 years.

Every police team within Merseyside is facing cuts, including the teams of officers and staff who investigate sex offences, hate crimes and the Matrix teams who combat serious and organised crime.

I am backing Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy and the Merseyside Police Federation who have come together to launch a petition to end the cuts.

Merseyside Police has already lost 1,600 staff, including over 900 police officers, since 2010. If the planned cuts go ahead, it could lose will lose all PCSOs, the entire mounted section and 1,000 more police officers and staff.

The Tory government requires Merseyside Police to make £48 million of cuts by the end of the financial year 2018/2019. This comes on top of the £77 million already cut since 2010. The cuts are likely to get worse when the government announces its Comprehensive Spending Review on November 25.

In fact, even if all PCSO posts were cut during 2016, the mounted section disbanded and the basic command structure dissolved, Merseyside Police would still have to cut a further £28 million by 2018/19.

Cuts on that scale will inevitably have serious repercussions for the people of Merseyside. That is why we have to act now.

Please sign the petition here.

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