Dec 24

Season’s greetings to everyone

Web cardI wanted to extend season’s greetings to all and wish everyone a wonderful Christmas time.

A special thank you again to all the schools and students who entered my competition to design my Christmas card this year, and congratulations to Evelyn Buckley, 9, from St Anne’s (Stanley) School in Old Swan who drew the front cover displayed here.

This is the time of year when families come together, sometimes from across the globe to share time, exchange gifts and catch up with what has been happening over the previous 12 months.

Whatever you are doing over this festive period, I wish you all the best and hope that you have a wonderful time.

For some, this can be a lonely or stressful time and it would be great if we could all take a few moments to knock on a neighbour’s door just to say ‘hello.’

Liverpool City Council’s Careline service offers support, advice and help to individuals and families under stress. You can speak to a Careline advisor 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0151 233 3700.

Dec 22

Holding the government to account on the NHS

NHS-RGB (2)The National Health Service is facing mounting winter pressures, but the government doesn’t want anyone to know the true facts.

NHS England collects weekly figures showing the number of patients attending A&E departments; patients waiting too long to be seen; numbers kept on trolleys up to and over 12 hours; ambulances queued outside hospitals; vehicles diverted to other A&Es; bed capacity; and cancelled operations.

But between December 19 and Friday January 9, 2015 no figures will be published. We won’t be told whether our hospitals are coping or cracking under the strain.

The ‘news blackout’ comes after the latest published figures showed:

  • Record number of patients waiting over four hours to be seen – 35,373 in a single week, 66 per cent increase on the same week last year (21,276);
  • Record number of patients waiting 4-12 hours on trolleys for a ward bed (7,760) – twice as many as the same week last year (3,666);
  • Record number of patients admitted to hospital (79,061) through major A&Es.

Hospitals across the country report increasing pressures, with some introducing emergency measures to cope.

We need to know what is happening in our NHS, so the government can be held to account.

Dec 19

Ministers close their ears to food poverty facts

YouTube Preview ImageIt is truly shocking that we now live in a country where 176,565 children have been forced to use emergency food aid in the last six months.

My film, Breadline Britain, was made two years ago and it is so depressing that food bank use has gone up by over 400 per cent since then.

As I said in the House of Commons this week, it is an absolute disgrace.Luciana during food bank debate

There are the mums who are going without, teachers who say they have children turning up at school hungry because they have nothing to eat at home and councillors who are handing out food from the back of their cars.

The figures we have are just from the Trussell Trust, but we know that there are many more food banks and voluntary organisations that help people in need, whether they be hostels, lunch clubs or the many other people who provide emergency food aid.

People cannot just walk into a food bank because they decide they want a bit of extra food; they have to be referred. I have had constituents reject the offer because they are embarrassed to use a food bank.

Two years on from the House of Commons debate at Christmas 2012, the number of people in our country having to access emergency food aid is approaching 1 million. I am appalled.

The lack of understanding from the government was underlined during this week’s debate when the Commons Speaker had to tell off ministers for chatting through my contribution.

Government ministers talked amongst themselves when I told the Commons about:

  • the man who walked nine miles in the cold, having just come out of hospital after heart surgery, because he had nothing to eat at home;
  • the constituent who had worked all her life but was made redundant in her mid-50s who had applied for hundreds of jobs and did not receive the support she was entitled to;
  • and, again, about Thomas O’Donnell who waited eight months for his personal independence payment and suffered malnutrition as a result.

I paid tribute to the volunteers at Central Liverpool food bank and all the other foodbanks doing such an excellent job in providing people with support, but made the point that we should not need those volunteers. We should not need the hundreds of food banks. We should not have 1 million people having to access emergency food aid in 2014 Britain, the sixth richest nation in the world.

Dec 16

Getting serious about the ballooning deficit

Labour is serious about dealing with the deficit that has ballooned under the Tory led government in a fair and balanced way so that we can restore health to our economy.

People are struggling with the cost of living crisis and not feeling the economic recovery.

The Tory led government would have you believe that the economy was fixed but it has failed every test and broken every promise it has made on the economy.

The next Labour government will build the strong economic foundation we need by getting the deficit down and balancing the books in a fairer way.

Wages are stagnating, too many people are stuck in low-paid jobs and the tax revenues we need to get the deficit down aren’t coming in. This cost of living crisis is why the Tories have had to admit that his key promise – to balance the nation’s books by next year – lies in tatters.

Unlike Labour, the Tories don’t understand the fundamental link between the living standards of everyday working people and Britain’s ability to deal with the deficit.

Chancellor George Osborne has now borrowed a staggering £207 billion more than he planned and the economy is set to slow down next year, after forecasts for wages have been revised down again.

The Tories’ economic plan simply isn’t working. Yet they continue to slash public services to a level not seen since the 1930s. They are ideologically committed to an approach which will result in a permanent cost of living crisis of low skills and low quality jobs, which won’t raise the tax revenues needed to tackle the deficit.

Unless we tackle the deficit in a tough but balanced way we face a simple choice between spending more money on debt interest payments or more money on vital public services like our NHS.

Without fundamentally reshaping our economy, we will only ever be able to compensate people for unfairness and inequality. That is not a sustainable future and it doesn’t match our ambition for changing our country. That is why our agenda for creating social justice is about big reform, not big spending.

Labour’s economic plan will be one of

·         balancing the current budget, not destroying productive investment; bringing the deficit down, not driving it up;

·         the wealthiest bearing the biggest burden, not everyday people;

·         sensible reductions in spending, not slashing our public services;

·         fully funded spending commitments without additional borrowing, not unfunded tax cuts that put our NHS at risk.

Our approach will balance the books through an economy based on high wages and high skills, common sense spending reductions and fair choices on tax.

Our vision is of a country that works for everyday people with public services we can rely on.

We’ll achieve this by earning our way out of the cost of living crisis and creating a Britain built on strong economic foundations.

 

Dec 15

Congratulations to Christmas card design prize-winner

Luciana Berger with prize-winner Evelyn Buckley.

Luciana Berger with prize-winner Evelyn Buckley.

I had a wonderful response from primary schools across the constituency to my Design a Christmas Card competition and was delighted to present the top prize to a school assembly at St Anne’s (Stanley) School in Old Swan.

Evelyn Buckley, 9, from St Anne’s won with her Santa flying across a moonlit Liverpool skyline urging on his reindeers. She is sharing a thank-you book token with classmates.

I was overjoyed by the quality of the entries from primary and infant schools across the constituency.

Evelyn’s design will be seen by over 1,500 Liverpool and parliamentary contacts, including Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.

Congratulations to them all – and a huge thank you to all the students who took part.

I am really grateful to them and their schools for taking the time to enter. Our schools are clearly overflowing with artistic talent and wonderful imagination.

I am visiting every school to thank all the runners-up and to present them with their prizes too.

All five prize winners will be receiving book vouchers for their class as a big thank you.

The competition was supported by a range of Liverpool businesses: Abensons Solicitors, Wild Thang Merchandise Experts, International Coaching Academy, Titanic Hotel, Allegro and Sentric Music.

Dec 12

Pledge to help small businesses throughout the year

Small Business Saturday 2014 collageThank you to everyone who supported Small Business Saturday. It proved a big success with a fantastic focus on the great contribution our local traders make to the local community and economy.

I visited businesses across Liverpool Wavertree, met people dedicated to quality customer service and spotted some wonderful offers in the run up to Christmas.

Last year’s Small Business Saturday generated around £500 million for the small, local shops and businesses that at the heart of the national economy. I expect that this year’s event will have done even better.

I visited a number of businesses across the constituency over the course ofn the day.

I spent time at Jimmy’s in Kensington who offer a great deal on roast chicken and witnessed the last blow dry of the day at Amanda’s Dog Salon in Old Swan. It proved really busy at the Cutting Corners salon on Lawrence Road in Picton, while I stopped off for a very welcome drink at the Calisa Coffee Shop in Childwall.

There are some great shops along Wavertree High Street, where I was joined by local Labour Councillor Helen Castles. We popped in to Occasions Florists, where the displays were beautiful, and were tempted by the lovely offerings at the award-winning Terry Tang Cakes. Along the High Street at Picton Cycles we met enthusiastic staff who were all keen cyclists themselves, while the Walton Flooring Centre was busy selling carpet and flooring.

The Square Bistro in Allerton Road is family run and offers a great Christmas panini lunch deal, while the Interesting Eating Co serves up delicious pancakes and milkshakes. It would be hard to beat Voglio for unique gift ideas.

In fact, across Liverpool Wavertree small businesses are proving the life-blood of the community. We need to support them all year round.

Labour in government will do just that.

We will:

  • Cut business rates for 1.5 million small business properties;
  • Freeze energy bills saving the typical small business £5,000;
  • Fix finance for business with a network of regional banks;
  • Boost skills so that business and young people are equipped with the knowledge and training they need to succeed;
  • Be tough on late payers and ensure government sets the best example.

I look forward to Small Business Saturday going from strength to strength and I look forward to marking it again next year.

Dec 08

Latest Safe Haven launches at Old Swan Fire Station

old swan.jpg-largeI was pleased to support the launch of the latest Liverpool Safe Haven, based at the Old Swan Fire Station on Queens Drive.

A safe haven is a place where anyone feeling vulnerable or at risk can go to if they feel under threat of harm.

The idea stems back to 2008, when 16-year-old Jimmy Mizen lost his life in a London street attack.

His family believed that local places should offer safe havens to shelter when someone is feeling threatened.

Merseyside police said that when the first 35 safe havens opened across North Liverpool in 2011 they helped significantly reduce violent crime in nearby areas.

The scheme has been extended across the city with six more Fire Stations becoming places of refuge.

Each Safe Haven has a highly prominent, illuminated sign, visible from a distance with enhanced security to ensures anyone seeking refuge will be safe once inside.

People who feel frightened on the street, fear domestic violence or any other threat can take shelter and seek the help of police or other professionals and support groups.

The Community Fire Station Safe Haven is at 628 Queens Drive, Old Swan, Liverpool L13 5UD.

Dec 06

Out and about to support Small Business Saturday

Scenes from Small Business Saturday 2013

Scenes from Small Business Saturday 2013

I am visiting shops and companies across Liverpool Wavertree today – Small Business Saturday – to thank them for the vital contribution they make to our communities and the local economy.

Last year, thanks to so many people deciding to ‘shop small and spend local’, we turned Small Business Saturday into a national grass-roots campaign to support our local businesses.

It was the largest celebration of small business the country has seen.

Nearly half of consumers who knew about the day made purchases because of it and almost £500 million of extra trade went to small firms.

It also helped local small business link together, championed their vital role in local communities and created a buzz about entrepreneurship and people starting out.

I had a great time last year and met so many of the local traders and shop staff who help to make Liverpool such a vibrant place to live and do business.

This year, I will be joined by local Labour councillors as we visit shops and businesses in Allerton Road, Wavertree High Street, Lawrence Road, the Fiveways in Childwall and Prescot Road in Old Swan and Kensington.

Please support your local shops today. I hope to see you.

Dec 05

Saying a big thank you to postal workers

Mail 1Many people work longer, harder hours at Christmas, and postal workers are amongst the hardest-working people at this time of year.

It was a great privilege to meet postal workers at Mossley Hill and South Eastern delivery offices to say a big thank you for their efforts and to wish them all the best over the busy festive period.

Mail 2What I saw once gain underscores my admiration for the skill and sheer hard work in sorting and delivering so many letters, cards and parcels to our homes six days a week.

As you can imagine, the workload leaps at this time of year and I am full of admiration for the organisation involved. I visited in the wake of Black Friday and Cyber Monday which had resulted in thousands of packages being sent out this week.

Royal Mail staff bring joy to families across our community and deserve to be remembered at this busy time of year.

Staff told me that there are a few helpful steps that we could all take to help: post early, use a postcode and special delivery for valuable parcels and packages.

The last recommended posting dates for Christmas are:

Second Class           Thursday December 18

First Class                 Saturday December 20

Special Delivery      Tuesday December 23

Dec 04

George Osborne’s plan: more of the same

luciana cropped despatch-box This week Chancellor George Osborne gave his Autumn Statement to Parliament. After four and a half years in power, this government had more than enough opportunities to fulfil its promises to get the economy moving.

Listening to the Chancellor, you would think everything in the garden is rosy. Tory after Tory boasted about a growing economy, more jobs and more businesses. But the reality is very different. Our economy is not working for all people. Indeed three in four people say they are no better off today, after four and a half years of this government’s failing economic plan.

The plain fact is that many families in Liverpool are feeling squeezed. Wages are not keeping up with prices. People are working harder, longer hours than ever, but not taking home much extra cash. For many workers, jobs are precarious, or based on zero-hours contracts with no guaranteed income each week. Many people, especially young people, are still without work. The Tory economic miracle is no more than a mirage for most people in Liverpool Wavertree.

The Autumn Statement provided little hope. The Coalition has stuck to its guns, regardless of the damage caused and the obvious failures. Ministers do not appreciate the lives most people lead, which are often a struggle to survive.

For example, the Northern Housing Consortium has produced figures showing that there has been nearly a 20 per cent increase in people claiming housing benefit in Liverpool Wavertree, while in work, in order to keep a roof over their heads. The plight of people like this, struggling to keep their heads above water, did not get a mention in the Chancellor’s statement.

The Chancellor promised that living standards would rise across the country. Instead, most working people are on average £1,600 a year worse off, while the richest people have seen cuts to their taxes.

The Tory long-term plan isn’t working. They have missed their own targets. The economy remains weak, with cuts to local councils, local services, and the NHS. In many places public services are starting to crumble, and the Chancellor’s plan will make it worse.

In response to the Autumn Statement, Labour put forward a positive alternative.

Yes, we need to balance the books and keep spending under control. But this can be done fairly, and without punishing the poorest people in our communities.

For example, we will introduce a mansion tax on homes worth over £2 million. We will put a levy on tobacco companies. We will raise an extra £2.5 billion a year to deliver 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more doctors. We will build more homes that people can afford. We will abolish the bedroom tax. Above all, a Labour government will set the country on a different course, where those with the broadest shoulders bear the heaviest burden, and we leave no one behind.

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