Visiting Local Solutions

Today I visited Local Solutions – a local social enterprise set up in 1974 to help vulnerable and excluded people. Local Solution’s work includes, among other things, running helplines to help combat bullying and domestic violence, offering support for carers, offering support for those with mental health problems, working with dyslexic people, running a home insulation and handyman service, helping the disabled into employment and offering homecare, supporting the homeless, offering early years provision, providing care training, providing a shop mobility service and a welfare rights service, and more. As you can see, the work Local Solutions do is wide and varied, and they are an invaluable asset to the community.

Me with some of the Local Solutions workersWe went up to Mount Vernon Green, and to the Liverpool Carers Centre to meet some of the carers taking part in a Tai Chi class. We then visited the site on Scotland Road, to see the work going on there with young homeless people, and also those for people affected by dmoestic violence and bullying.

We went to Liverpool One next, to see the shop mobility service provided by Local Solutions. Finally, we visited Queen’s Dock to see the Merseyport Centre, and the watersport activities which are being opened up there.

In particular, I was thrilled to see the work which Local Solutions are able to do with money from the Government’s Future Jobs Fund. Local Solutions were awarded a slice of the £1billion Government fund, designed to help get 18-24 year olds who have been hit by the recession back into work.

It was fantastic to see Labour investment in action, right here in Liverpool, especially supporting a social enterprise such as Local Solutions which is able to provide such a wide range of services to  the local community.

Fantastic News For The Royal

Thousands of people living in Liverpool Wavertree constituency use the Royal Liverpool Hospital. In fact, for most of us, it would be the first place we’d think of going if we had an accident or needed urgent medical attention.

I joined the Health Secretary, Andy Burnham MP, at the Royal Hospital announcementSo I am absolutely thrilled that, this morning, Labour has announced an incredible plan to completely rebuild and refurbish the Royal hosital. It’s going to cost £450million to do, and the work will be finished by 2015, leaving Liverpool with a brand new hospital and state of the art facilities. Health care in Liverpool will be the best in the North West. This investment will also create a state of the art bioscience hub, providing jobs and world leading research.

This is wonderful news for the people of Liverpool Wavertree and the future of healthcare on Merseyside.

This extra investment in the Royal means we’re spending nearly three quarters of a billion pounds on our local NHS services. Labour’s commitment to Liverpool is second to none. Labour are the party of the NHS – it was a Labour government that founded the NHS in 1948, and it was a Labour government that saved the NHS in 1997 after 18 years of Tory neglect, investing in the fabric of our health service.

I am proud to say that it is now a Labour government that has given the NHS in Liverpool an exciting future.

Signing the Bingo Bond

Last week, I visited Gala Bingo hall on Wavertree Road, to speak to bingo players there and to hear their concerns for the bingo industry.

Me, signing the Bingo BondI was also delighted to sign the Bingo Bond – which calls for the Government to reduce the tax paid by players in bingo halls across the country.

Bingo clubs play an important role within their communities, bringing people together and aiding social inclusion. But despite this, bingo clubs remain subject to a higher rate of taxation than other forms of gambling, including online bingo and high street bookmakers.

Labour is committed to supporting the bingo industry. This was made clear by the Chancellor’s commitment in the Pre-Budget report to reduce the tax paid by bingo halls. But I want to see more done.

Bingo is really fun and it’s a great social activity for millions of people.  I want to see the tax on bingo halls lowered to the same rate as online players and bookmakers – its only fair!

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.