Showing The Chancellor Around Liverpool

Yesterday I welcomed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alastair Darling MP, to Liverpool. Alastair announced that Liverpool is part of the Government’s plans for high speed rail, and that the next Labour government would invest in high speed track not only from London to Birmingham, but then up both the east and west coast – and importantly, through the North West.

Me and the ChancellorThis means that we could soon be seeing high speed trains at Lime Street, which are capable of travelling at 250mph. This is fantastic news for Liverpool, and I was thrilled that Alastair decided to come to celebrate this announcement.

Of course, the Tories have failed to back the scheme. Remember last year, when David Cameron’s favorite think tank Policy Exchange said everyone from Liverpool really should move to London? It seems as if they haven’t changed, and that they only really care about what happens in the South East.

Only a Labour government has made the commitment to Liverpool which would see high speed rail a reality in our city – making it easier for people to travel, do business, bringing jobs and prosperity. I want to fight to make this a reality.

Visiting Prescot Road Market

This week, Ken McCaulay, chairman of the Liverpool Meat & Fish Traders Association, showed me around the Prescot Road market. He was kind enough to introduce me to wholesale butchers, fishmongers and some of the almost 200 staff who work there.
 
Visiting Prescot Road marketThe traders have been fighting for a decent working environment for over twenty years. They have been working closely with Jane Kennedy, who recently persuaded the North West Development Agency’s Liverpool arm, Liverpool Vision, to undertake a feasibility study for the creation of a new food processing hub at the nearby Wholesale Fruit Veg & Flower market.
 
There is an obvious need for better conditions and a more modern space to allow the traders to better display their wares to their customers. The market was very busy indeed with dozens of restaurateurs and small shopkeepers looking for the best cuts of meat and fish supplies. I am convinced there is scope for growth which could create scores more jobs and provide opportunities for people to set up in business for themselves.
 
I was very disappointed to hear from Mr McCaulay that the current owners of the lease who operate the market are actually turning away potential new business from the market.  I will fight to reverse these decisions and ensure that the NWDA, through Liverpool Vision, delivers on its promised feasibility study.

A Game of Bingo at Flaxman Court

Yesterday I took some time out to visit Flaxman Court, just off Edge Lane, where I met with some of the residents during their weekly Thursday morning get together. It was great talking to the men and women who live in the block and listening to their hopes for the future. All of the residents were incredibly friendly and with my my dabber at the ready I joined their bingo game, which raises funds for resident day trips. I also met with Keith Leonard : Flaxman Court’s fantastic warden.

Helping the elderly is a major priority for the Labour Party. Since 1997, we are spending around £13billion more on pensioners, every year, than under the Tories – the average income of a pensioner is 25% higher now in real terms than it was in 1997. We have made sure the elderly are able to live through their retirements safely and with dignity. The Labour government has introduced the Winter Fuel Allowance, meaning all over 60s are given £250 and all over 80s are given £400 to allow them to keep their heating on through the winter. Labour has trebled cold weather payments to the elderly, to make sure the most vulnerable are protected during the winter months.

And we have even given all pensioners free off-peak bus passes, meaning they can travel around the city completely free of charge.

I want to fight to make sure Liverpool’s pensioners do not suffer the brunt of Tory cuts. We have fought hard for a better deal for the over 60s since 1997. We’re not going to give all of that up easily.

Showing Ian Austin Around Liverpool

Me talking to the LMH management about their work in Old SwanLast week I welcomed Ian Austin MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, to Liverpool to show him the results of the millions of pounds being ploughed into social housing in Liverpool by the Labour government.

I took him to Cunningham Avenue, in Old Swan, to meet Mrs Josephine Richardson and to see the improvements made to her house with the use of Labour government cash. Mrs Richardson’s house is managed by Liverpool Mutual Homes (LMH), and has recently been externally cladded and fitted with a new kitchen and bathroom.

We then went for a tour of the flats at The Green, near the Rocket fly over in Old Swan, where LMH have done even more work improving the flats for residents. Thanks to government investment, LMH are now spending over £1million every week on housing improvements across Liverpool. This has already resulted in 2,700 bathroom improvements, 2,700 kitchen improvements, 4,800 central heating systems, 7,000 new double glazed windows and over 11,000 new doors.

The Labour government’s commitment to high quality social housing in Liverpool couldn’t be clearer. Over £1million is being spent on home improvements every single week across the city by LMH, and right here in Old Swan we can see the improvements taking place.

I am determined to make sure Wavertree continues to get a great deal from the Labour government, and I am campaigning hard to make sure the investment in housing in this part of Liverpool continues.

Visiting Bradbury Fields

Today I visited the offices of Bradbury Fields services for the blind and partially sighted. I heard about the work they are doing there under the UK Vision Strategy, in which Bradbury Fields have teamed up with Action for Blind People and the Royal National Institute of Blind People to call for a higher priority for eye care services.

Liverpool’s ageing population means that there are going to be growing numbers of people with sight problems. The extra demand will fall not only on the local services which provide care, but on the rehabilitation services offered by the local authority. Health and social care agencies will need to work together to meet this increased demand.

Far too many people in Liverpool do not have regular eye tests. Half of all sight loss is preventable. More needs to be done to increase the proportion of the population having a regular eye test. This could save the sight of literally thousands of people in Liverpool.

Whilst I was there, I was given a small insight into what its like to have a sight problem, when I was guided around the premises wearing a blindfold.

Talking to local blind and partially sighted people has given me a greater understanding of the day to day challenges they face and where the gaps in services lie. Only by working together can we ensure that more support is available to allow people with sight problems to live independently.

The St Hugh’s WOW factor

This week I visited the innovative WOW room at St Hugh’s Primary School. The WOW room, short for ‘world of wonder’ is a space, which brings learning to life by transporting pupils to outer space, a rain forest, an ocean, or a desert.

The WOW room works by using LED lighting, surround sound, and giant scale wall projection to create immersive learning enviroments related to whatever the children are studying.

The system is designed so teachers and pupils can create their own virtual environments and is used right across the curriculum, from science to history, geography and English.

Unlocking the talent and potential of each and every young person is at the heart of Labour’s vision for education and the WOW! room is an example of the fresh approach to learning, that has been possible, thanks to the historic investment in education, provided by successive Labour governments.

Since 1997, Labour has transformed education; young people are achieving some of the best ever results and we have more than doubled investment in education from £30 billion in 1997 to £73.3 billion in 2008/09.

Visit to Newsham Pre School

I was delighted to visit local nursery, Newsham Pre School. The Boaler Street day nursery is a voluntary community Pre School, funded by the Local Education Authority – providing early years education.

The nursery recently received a good report from Ofsted after many improvements over the last few years. I met staff and children at the school and was impressed with the undivided attention given to the children.

My visit to Newsham came just after the recent announcement that Labour will extend its commitment to providing free nursery places to children from the age of two, to ensure they are well prepared when they begin school. Up to £1billion will be invested; this is another example of the type of investment Labour is offering, as opposed to the savage cuts that would come from a Conservative government.

Labour has undertaken the biggest expansion in early years education since 1945; investing £25 billion since 1997. We cannot afford to put this at risk. I wholeheartedly support continued investment in Pre School education throughout Liverpool, which I believe is absolutely essential to give children the best possible start in life.

Full support for Alder Hey plan

I was pleased to visit Alder Hey and hear about the exciting plans for its future. Alder Hey is the largest paediatric hospital in Europe, serving over 7 million young people every year and providing world-class treatment to over 250,000 patients.

However, some of the hospital’s current buildings need to be modernised. The A&E is separated from operating suites by an uphill corridor, which means children needing urgent surgery have to be pushed along a busy public corridor, usually with distressed parents running behind. By 2015 the current buildings will be unable to handle growing needs – which is why the Alder Hey Children’s Health Park has been proposed.

Labour’s commitment to the NHS means that this project will be the first Children’s Health Park anywhere in Europe, and will become a flagship for the NHS on the world stage. The full cost of the project will be £288m, and the aim is to complete the new hospital in time for the hospital’s centenary celebrations in October 2014.

This investment is vital to ensure that Alder Hey continues to provide excellent treatment to so many young people.

As Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Wavertree, I will:

  • Offer my full support to the Alder Hey Children’s Health Park Plan;
  • Promote the scheme to senior government ministers to ensure the project remains on track;
  • Generate public support in the Constituency for what is an iconic proposal;
  • Encourage other Merseyside MPs and parliamentary candidates to support continuing improvement and investment in Alder Hey.

Outreach projects play a vital role in our community

As your Labour candidate for Wavertree it has been of utmost importance to me to find out more about the local community projects that make our community such a strong one.  As part of this commitment I paid a visit to the Al-Ghazali Centre in Earle Street.

The Al-Ghazali Arab Cultural and Education Youth Club works to ensure Arab young people do not remain excluded and marginalised in Liverpool, increasing their self-confidence and self-esteem, allowing them to reach their full potential, whilst not losing their cultural identity.

This is a predominantly volunteer run project operating on a budget of just £200,000 a year and its commitment to detached youth workers and the youth community is invaluable.  With over 20 staff it provides a number of essential services such as ESOL (English for speakers of other languages), youth groups, karate groups, and specific support for young women. 

Around 770 people use the centre every week and I have pledged my support to help further the development of this important organisation.  I recognise the vital role that third sector organisations such as the Al-Ghazali Centre play  in our community and how crucial it is that they are supported.

My pledge to voters on student fees

Today I signed a pledge to voters that if elected, I will vote against any increase in university tuition fees in the next parliament. Students from the University of Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores University and Liverpool Hope University joined me to discuss their concerns about tuition fees and to witness me sign the pledge.

The NUS pledge which I signed reads: 

“I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament, and to put pressure on the Government to introduce a fairer alternative to variable top-up fees.”

I believe that access to university should be about a student’s ability, not their ability to pay.

As a known campaigner against the introduction of top-up fees in 2004, I want to see a funding mechanism for higher education which ensures that students aren’t put off applying to university because of expensive up front costs.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that a resounding 88% of the public believe the current review of university fees should not even consider raising the cost. I would support a funding system that enables university graduates to give back after they complete their courses, according to how much they earn.

This is an issue that affects not only students thinking about applying to university, but their parents and grandparents too. I want the people of Wavertree to know that I am determined to ensure that every young person has a fair chance to go to university.