Aug 16

Rail fares to rise as chaos continues

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has delivered yet another slap in the face for local commuters who have been facing weeks of #RailFail.Northern trains tickets

He is now demanding that hard-pressed commuters pay again for falling standards with even higher prices.

Regulated rail fares will rise by 3.2 per cent in January 2019, based on this month’s inflation figures. That will mean that fares have risen by 36 per cent under the Tories – three times the rate of average wage growth.

The government is increasing fares by the Retail Price Index rather than the lower, more accurate measure of inflation, the Consumer Price Index.

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram has called for fares to be frozen on services failing to deliver acceptable services to passengers, including Northern and TransPennine. I agree.

However, Chris Grayling has demanded that staff pay for the chaos by agreeing new contracts that would limit their future pay increases to the CPI measure of inflation. That is a disingenuous distraction designed to shift the focus away from the desperate state of rail services here in the North West.

On Sunday August 12 rail operator Northern cancelled 80 services, including trains on the Liverpool to Manchester Airport line used by families and others travelling to and from summer holidays. It was the third successive week of similar Sunday cancellations.

Passengers into Liverpool will be expected to pay on average £110 more per year for an annual season ticket, £91 for those travelling from Southport and across key routes into Manchester city centre stations passengers can expect a £45 increase.

Liverpool commuters can’t afford the cost of higher fares and falling standards.

A 2019 fares freeze would at least recognise the level of disruption over the past few months and compensate passengers for the delays in planned service upgrades. A fares freeze could also help attract back passengers to the railways who have been put off by recent disruption. I will be pushing the government in this proposal when Parliament resumes in two weeks’ time.

Aug 10

Tory cuts see crime rise as police numbers fall

police logoNew figures show that police numbers are dropping while crime rates are rising across Merseyside.

Hard-pressed police and the communities they serve are being let down by this Tory government and its cuts.

Tory cuts sent police officer numbers nationwide to historic lows. Here in Merseyside, police numbers have fallen by 1,066 in the last eight years to just 3,450. That’s a cut of 24 per cent. At the same time crime is on the up. Violent crimes are up 21 per cent. Burglaries are up 16 per cent. Public order offences are up 41 per cent and possession of weapons up 24 per cent.

I know how hard our police are working to serve the community but are not getting the government support they need.

Our police are at breaking point and these shocking figures reveal the Tories are failing in their duty to protect the public.

It is high time the Prime Minister and Home Secretary faced up to their responsibility and urgently act to put police officers back on our streets.

The Tory record on crime has seen eight years of wretched failure with devastating consequences for our communities.

Aug 08

Lime Street reopens but #railfail misery goes on

Lime Street rail station is open again after the latest stage of its facelift, designed to improve facilities for passengers and make it possible to run more and longer trains.Lime Street

Good news – except that we all know rail services across the North West collapsed in the spring when new timetables were introduced and are still on their knees despite a summer of emergency timetables.

Rail users – and the businesses and communities that rely on people being able to move efficiently around our region – are suffering. I have received a large number of representations from constituents who are affected.

We need a long-term strategy to drive up investment across the North, and we need a plan for immediate action. The government has a duty to work with communities across the North to deliver both.

That is why I joined a cross-party group of over 80 MPs and political leaders in writing to the Chancellor demanding a £100 billion regional road and rail investment programme to ‘reverse decades of underinvestment.’

The programme would centre on increasing capacity and cutting rail journey times, particularly east to west across the North.

It includes new high-speed lines between Manchester and Liverpool, Sheffield and Leeds as well as upgrading existing lines between Leeds and Hull and Sheffield and Hull.

I want the Chancellor to respond positively to the united voice of political leaders in the North and invest for the future, but we need immediate action too.

The high cost of the rail fiasco has been underlined by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership which says that months of cancelled and delayed trains has cost businesses in our area nearly £38 million.

The costs to individuals are also mounting. For instance, two Sundays ago Northern rail failed to run almost every timetabled service between Liverpool and Manchester Airport – at the height of the holiday season.

I will continue to work closely with colleagues from across the North West and North to force the government to take responsibility for the chaos.

Jul 20

Government is failing to back childcare

Botched government plans to introduce 30-hour childcare for working families are letting down children, parents and providers.Childcare campaign

I met with Planet Wavertree chief executive Clare Roberts in Parliament this week at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Childcare and Early Education. It is clear that government promises to properly fund the expansion of childcare for working parents is failing, and putting providers under real pressure.

The government refuses to meet the full costs for small providers who face significant administration and other overheads, which reduces choice for parents.

More problems are on the horizon.

The existing Childcare Voucher scheme is due to close to new entrants on October 4. Thanks to pressure from parents, providers and MPs the government was forced to put off the scheme’s closure by six months.

Over two million families have benefitted from childcare vouchers since their introduction under the last Labour government in 2005.

The government’s new Tax-Free Childcare scheme will leave some families worse off, depending on a family’s individual circumstances. In March, the House of Commons Treasury Committee published a report which stated that while childcare vouchers could provide income tax and National Insurance relief worth up to £2,860 per parent, Tax-Free Childcare only provides £2 for every £8, up to a limit of £500 every three months. That’s £2,000 per year. The report also identified that with a take-up rate 90 per cent lower than initially expected, Tax-Free Childcare was clearly under-performing.

The six month extension was also a recognition of some of the problems with Tax-Free Childcare that have left many parents without access to essential financial support.

As I heard from providers this week, the childcare system is complex and chronically underfunded. The cost of childcare has risen by between 32 per cent and 47 per cent across England since 2010, while wages have only risen by around 16 per cent.

The government should abandon plans to phase out childcare vouchers for working parents from October.

I strongly support investment in childcare and believe there should be an extension of properly funded 30 hours of free childcare to all two, three and four year olds to give every child the best start in life.

Jul 20

Time to fight fatigue in the NHS

Fatigue logoI’m backing the campaign to #FightFatigue. It is no secret that our NHS is currently underfunded and under great strain, but what often goes unnoticed is the effect of that strain on NHS workers.

Tory spending cuts have led to staff having to work longer hours and increasingly sporadic shift patterns – both contribute to a fatigued NHS workforce.

The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland new campaign to raise awareness of the issue found that out of more than 2,150 anaesthetists, nearly three quarters reported that fatigue had a negative effect on their physical health or psychological wellbeing.

More than four in five (84 per cent) of anaesthetists felt too tired to drive home safely after a night shift and over half (57 per cent) said they had experienced an accident or near miss.

The fight against NHS fatigue should be a concern for us all.

That is why I am supporting the #FightFatigue campaign launched by The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine.

The professional organisations have  created resources for trainees and practitioners, including a ‘traffic light’ system to evaluate existing rest facilities, and outline ways for hospital management, doctors and other staff to work together on the issue.

It is in the best interests of patients that our NHS staff are able to work safely, and to do that there should be a minimum provision of free rest facilities within hospitals for ‘power naps’ when the demands of patient care allow, and for rest before staff travel home.

Jul 13

Breaking the glass ceiling

The AllBright Academy is offering 20 FREE places to women across Liverpool Wavertree for its freshly launched programmes to help all women gain the skills, confidence and network to help achieve career ambitions.Academy

The AllBright Academy is designed to support working women, whatever stage of their career journey they’re at to build resilience, manage the work-life balance and how to own a room. It is completely free to join.

Over 50 inspiring women have agreed to share their expertise, from business leaders to athletes, including design entrepreneur Cath Kidston MBE, Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Farrah Storr, GB Olympic gold medallist Crista Cullen and Propercorn founder Cassandra Stavrou.

There are two specialist streams led by academy co-founders, Debbie Wosskow OBE and Anna Jones: one for female founders, and the other on smashing the glass ceiling, whatever industry you’re in.

Debbie’s course gets into the nitty gritty of running a business, from taxes and sales to building and promoting a brand, while Anna’s equips women with the skills to ask for what they want at work, with modules on communication styles and how to negotiate to get what you want.

Both programmes start on September 10 and run online for 10 weeks. All the content is accessed online, wherever you are. You’ll just need to put aside three to four hours each week to complete the course.

Applications are open till the end of July, but it is worth applying as soon as you can by clicking here.

You will be asked for some information on your background and why you’d like to join, then enter the code Luciana20 when prompted to be considered for one of the 20 places for the constituency.

Jul 11

Raise awareness to save lives

I am backing Group B Strep Awareness Month to help cut life-threatening infection in newborn babies.Strep B pic

Every pregnant woman should be informed about group B Strep, which is a normal bacterium carried by around one in five adults, usually with no symptoms or side-effects.

However, Group B Strep, also known as Strep B or GBS, can cause infections when the bacteria are transmitted to the baby around labour.

These infections can be very serious and can cause conditions such as sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis. If left untreated, a GBS infection can kill a newborn baby within hours.

On average, two babies each day in the UK develop a GBS infection and each week, one baby dies from a GBS infection and another is left with a life limiting disability.

The charity Group B Strep Support is offering free copies of its new information leaflet on the disease to all NHS maternity units. It wants all pregnant women to be offered a copy so that they are aware of when a baby is at increased risk of GBS infection, and how to reduce that risk.

A test is available between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy to see if a woman is carrying GBS, but it is usually only offered to women who carried GBS in a previous pregnancy.

Thankfully, most group B Strep infections in newborn babies can be prevented, and early treatment can and does save lives.

However, one in every five pregnant women hasn’t heard of Group B Strep and we need initiatives like Group B Strep Awareness Month to get the risks more widely understood.

Jul 06

New compensation deal promised

Northern logoNorthern Rail is still failing passengers, weeks after an emergency timetable was introduced to deal with the near collapse of the system following the disastrous introduction of a planned new timetable.

Passengers continue to face overcrowding and late trains, but have at last been made aware of a specific compensation package brokered by Transport for the North.

Northern failed to hit punctuality targets for two years and has not run the expected number of trains on time in any month since June 2016. It also cancelled far many trains, missing its targets in all but one month since August 2017.

The Tory government, and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in particular, should be taking full responsibility for the misery because he was warned in advance. After a constituent raised concerns with me before the timetable changes came into effect, I asked what steps had been taken to ensure the planned new timetable would work.

Mr Grayling handed the question on to his rail minister Jo Johnson to answer. Mr Johnson would only say that it was the responsibility of the train operating company to get it right.

Now Mr Johnson has been dragged to a meeting of Transport for the North, which brings together 19 local transport authorities from across the region, to agree a compensation package that will be funded by the rail industry.

Mr Johnson has written to me to explain that ‘eligible passengers will receive a cash payment equivalent to up to one month’s travel.’ This will be in addition to standard compensation for delays and cancellations.

However, details of who will get what are still being worked out and only passengers with weekly, monthly or annual season tickets on ‘the worst affected routes who experienced severe disruption before and after the May timetable change’ will get the full amount.

Mr Grayling cannot be allowed to duck his responsibility to all the passengers hit by the rail chaos, including parents late to pick up children from schools and nurseries, staff threatened with losing their jobs and businesses unable to fully function due to staff shortages.

I am pressing for the details of the compensation scheme to be published in full as soon as possible, and for a longer-term strategy to improve rail services that must involve failing train companies facing the loss of franchises to operate.

Jul 05

70 years of saving lives – thank you NHS

Today, I will be attending a service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate a truly extraordinary anniversary that proudly sets Britain ahead of every other country in the world – the founding of a National Health Service, paid for from general taxation, universally available to all free at the point of need.NHS group

Our National Health Service was founded at Park Hospital in Manchester on this day 70 years ago by the then Labour Secretary of State for Health Aneurin Bevan.

We have all benefited from the vision and determination of the post-war Labour government that fought off a determined rear-guard action by vested interests to establish a truly world beating institution.

Thank you to everyone who has worked for, campaigned for and promoted our NHS. We know that we need to recommit to the founding principles of our NHS again today.

Particular congratulations to the Zero Suicide Alliance who are regional winners of the NHS70 Excellence in Mental Health Care Award.

Today, suicide takes the lives of too many people, but it can be prevented. Since its launch last November with backing of our own Mersey Care, the alliance has supported nearly 5,000 people to complete online training to save someone’s life.

Labour’s commitment to the NHS, then and now, is underlined today in series of interviews from the Aneurin Bevan Society. Its chair, Labour MP Nick Thomas-Symonds, has interviewed all past and current living Labour leaders. The full set of interviews are available by clicking here.

As former Labour leader Margaret Beckett points out in her interview: ‘When we left office, the NHS had the best ratings from everyone it ever had, and it’s already going very badly away from that. I am in no doubt that if we continue to elect Tory governments, the health service will be destroyed.’

The NHS has done so much over the last 70 years, but we know that there are challenges ahead – to achieve full equality of mental and physical health, to fully integrate health and social care and to create the sustainable funding framework that ensures its future.

Critically, we must also invest in prevention, early intervention and public health to do everything possible to stop people getting ill in the first place.

Over the next 70 years, our National Health Service has to do exactly what it says on the label – be national, support good health and not just pick up the pieces of ill health, and offer the services we all need.

Our NHS, 70 years young.

Please join me in sending the NHS best wishes on its 70th birthday by clicking here.


Jun 30

Let’s show our appreciation

Armed Forces Day is a great opportunity for us all to show our appreciation for our Armed Forces personnel and Reserves who work so hard to keep us safe.Armed forces day

Today is a chance to celebrate the work of our service personnel, veterans, cadets and service families. Armed Forces Day was introduced by the last Labour government in 2006 and has now become an annual event.

The national celebration, which moves every year, took place in Liverpool last year and is being held this year in Llandudno, North Wales. There are local events across the country. You can find out what is happening in Liverpool by clicking here.

I’m concerned that our Armed Forces are short staffed and under-appreciated.

Urgent issues around pay, housing and conditions have been left to worsen, despite many pressing hard for them to be addressed.

I hope that the government uses Armed Forces day to offer some real solutions and show how valued our armed forces personnel and veterans are with more than warm words.

People who are at the heart of our nation’s defences need a long overdue pay rise, real action to drive up recruitment and to see the 6 per cent vacancy gap closed.

You can show your appreciation and find out more about Armed Forces Day by clicking here.

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