Jan 19

Bringing our housing up to standard

According to the latest English Housing Survey, over a 150,000 homes in the North West are in a condition that pose a serious risk to the occupiers’ health.Liverpool houses

This shocking figure has been highlighted by my colleague Karen Buck to support her Private Members Bill that would force landlords to act, and make every home fit for the people living there.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill has won government backing after a long battle from Labour to force action.

It is possible to make a difference.

Hard-pressed councils across the North West have been able to ensure that just 4 per cent of their housing stock falls below standard, while 6 per cent of housing association stock needs improvement, but an astonishing 22 per cent of private rented homes fail to meet even the basic decency threshold.

Currently, and extraordinarily, landlords have no obligation to their tenants to put or keep the property in a condition fit for habitation.

There is an obligation on the landlord to repair the structure of the property, and keep in repair heating, gas, water and electricity installations. However, the duty does not cover things like fire safety, vermin infestations, inadequate heating, or poor ventilation causing condensation and mould growth. There are a whole range of ‘fitness’ issues, which seriously affect the wellbeing and safety of tenants, about which tenants can currently do nothing at all.

The new Bill will give tenants a right to take action in the courts when a landlord fails to let and maintain a property that is fit for human habitation.

It has won the backing of Shelter, Citizen’s Advice, Generation Rent, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the National Housing Federation, the Residential Landlords Association and the Law Society.

However, while government support for this measure is welcome, it has to go further to make the rented hosing sector work for every tenant.

For instance, the government should back Labour’s proposals to legislate to make three year tenancies the norm in the private rented sector.

Jan 15

A night of celebration for Alder Hey

Britain's got talentBritain’s Got Talent: The Big Celebration is coming to Liverpool to raise funds for Alder Hey children’s hospital.

The two shows on Sunday February 11 take place at the Liverpool Empire and feature a host of local and national talent.

Susan Boyle and Paul Potts, as well as Collabro, Tokio Myers and Attraction will be taking to the stage.

The two shows will also mark the return to the stage of MerseyGirls performer Julia Carlile.

The dancer has been treated at Alder Hey for scoliosis since she was very young.

She underwent surgery earlier this year and said: ‘They’ve stood by me and now I want to do what I can for them.’

The shows will be hosted by Myleene Klass – with all proceeds going to Alder Hey Children’s Charity.

Tickets are priced from £21 and are available from Liverpool Empire Theatre Box Office on 0844 871 3017 and can be booked by clicking here.

Jan 11

Time for action on the NHS

At Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament this week, I pressed the Theresa May about fears that cancer patients at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford might face delays and cancellations to their care. She claimed that there were ‘no plans’ to cut cancer care. However, that very term – ‘no plans’ – is too often used by the government to mean that cuts are just around the corner.

My question followed the evidence outlined in a memo by the Churchill Hospital’s head of chemotherapy Dr Andrew Weaver in which he clearly warns NHS managers that the hospital does not have enough specialist nurses trained to administer chemotherapy. Dr Weaver writes ‘as a consequence we are having to delay chemotherapy patients’ starting times to four weeks.’ The memo also suggests that treatment to alleviate cancer symptoms be cut back from six cycles to four:  ‘I know that many of us will find it difficult to accept these changes but the bottom line is that the current situation with limited numbers of staff is unsustainable.’

Clinicians warning NHS managers about staff shortages reflects a genuine concern about patient safety, despite the response from the local NHS Trust’s spokespeople that the memo was merely presenting a range of options for discussion.  Demands for cancer services are increasing, but there are not enough nurses and other staff to meet the need. The charity Cancer Research UK says that the non-surgical NHS workforce dealing with cancer has increased by 4 per cent since 2014, but that cases of cancer have risen by 8 per cent each year. Ministers have simply failed to recruit and train enough staff.

The Tories continue to publicly deny there’s a problem in the NHS, and carry on claiming all is well. But patients, doctors, and nurses, know otherwise.

You simply can’t expect to meet the growing demands of an ageing population with tightened resources.

This is not just a winter crisis. It is an all-year-round funding crisis, a year-round staffing crisis, a year-round social care crisis and a year-round health inequality crisis, manufactured in Downing Street by this government.

According to research from the Kings Fund, NHS spending was 6.3 per cent of GDP in 2000. By 2009 it rose to 8.8 per cent under the last Labour government. Under the Tories it has fallen back, despite growing demand. Under the Tories, the NHS is having to deal with the largest ever sustained reduction in NHS spending as a percentage of GDP.

In short, we are going backwards. The time for action is now.

Labour’s Opposition Day debate that followed Prime Minister’s Questions pointed to the solution – an end to costly, unnecessary reorganisations, and sustained long-term funding that matches demand.

Jan 11

Planning to save our live music

UK Music Agent of ChangeI am backing my colleague John Spellar MP’s new Ten Minute Rule Bill, the Planning (Agent of Change) Bill) that aims to protect our music venues and nightlife.

Liverpool is known around the world for its music, nightlife and warm welcome, but live music and entertainment venues are struggling to stay open.

As a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music and a campaigning local MP, this is something I am particularly concerned about.

The government could make a huge change and support this new Bill that would put best practice on a proper legal footing to ensure that new residential developments close to existing venues don’t threaten their survival.

Changes to development rules introduced by the Coalition Government during made it much easier for developers to create residential housing near venues without planning permission or measures to protect residents from noise.

The government then made further changes to the planning regulations that now require developers to seek prior approval about the noise impacts before changing the use of a property from office to residential. This prior approval should allow local authorities to require developers to put in place noise mitigation measures before residents move in. These were welcome changes, but fell far short of what is needed.

One in three grassroots music venues in the UK have closed over the last decade and music venues are struggling to survive. Liverpool hasn’t been immune and while the demise of some of the city’s lost venues have multiple causes, I believe that the government should act to support our heritage and our musical future.

Music makes a huge contribution to the economy. UK Music’s 2017 Wish You Were Here report revealed that that music tourism contributes £4 billion to the economy with over 30 million people attending live events in 2016.

It is, of course, important to achieve the right balance between the needs of entertainment venues and people buying and renting new homes.

John Speller’s Bill would require developers who build residences near established venues to pay for soundproofing and mitigate against other potential problems, making sure new residents are not disturbed, while protecting music venues.

Dec 29

Wishing you all a Happy New Year

luciana-berger-colour-2016-0294Every New Year brings renewed hope – hope that this year we will achieve more for our families and community and that the world will become more peaceful.

This coming year will certainly be full of political and economic challenges – including stagnating living standards, biting cuts to council services and the impact of Brexit.

However, by working together and focussing on the solutions, I am sure that we will come through these difficult times stronger as a constituency and as a city.

Throughout 2018, I will be meeting as many constituents as I can at local events, on the doorstep and through visiting those active in supporting our communities across the constituency.

I am determined to listen to your concerns and to make sure that the work I do locally and in Parliament continues to be informed by what is important to you.

You can get in touch very easily:

Telephone my constituency office on 0151 228 1628;

Email me at: luciana4wavertree@hotmail.co.uk;

Book an appointment at one of my weekly surgeries. Simply ring or email, and we will make an appointment that suits you. Please do contact us for an appointment first, so that we can see everyone who wants to attend as soon as possible.

You can also follow all my activity on twitter, facebook and instagram as well as on my website.

I wish you all a Happy New Year in which all your hopes are realised.

Dec 27

Action needed to boost breastfeeding rates

I’m pleased to support Unicef’s Call to Action to tackle the UK’s low breastfeeding rates.UNICEF

There are many benefits to breastfeeding but there are still barriers – social, cultural, economic, physical and practical – that can make it difficult for women to breastfeed in the UK.

Earlier this year, Liverpool Council launched its Breastfeeding Mayoral Quality Mark and already lots of cafes and businesses across the city have signed up.

Liverpool is seeing an increase in breastfeeding rates, but still lags behind the national average.

A total of 53 percent of new mums breast feed in Liverpool, compared to 74 per cent elsewhere, dropping to 32 per cent at six to eight weeks against 44 percent across the rest of the country.

Breastfeeding mothers are protected by law to breastfeed wherever they like, but the charter is designed to help make people feel more comfortable and confident doing so in public. A full list of the participating companies is here.

Unicef, the United Nations children’s organisation, is pushing for the strong national leadership that can make a difference across the country.

Low breastfeeding rates are a pressing public health issue and initiatives like those taken in Liverpool, if properly supported by national government, can make a real difference.

Dec 22

Congratulations and thank you all

Xmas card front 2017Thank you to everyone who entered my constituency Christmas Card Competition this year. I had over 470 entries from schools across Liverpool Wavertree – a wonderful response.

Thank you to all the staff who helped co-ordinate and encourage such a fabulous range and number of entries. Thank you also to all the children who put so much thought and effort into designing a card that captures the spirit of the season.Xmas card back 2017

With so many entries it has, of course, been really difficult to pick a winner. However, after much deliberation the winning design is from Savannah Hannhart, age 7, from St. Sebastian’s Primary School in Fairfield. Congratulations to Savannah, who has received prize-winning book vouchers today, and to Savannah’s school.

Four fabulous runners-up will also be receiving book vouchers for the wonderful work they have produced. They are: Lois Mei, aged 10, from Rudston Primary; Jack Christian Smith, aged 10, from Heygreen Primary School; Rafael Hauta, aged 9, from St Hugh’s Primary School; and Joel Doody, aged 7, from Phoenix Primary School.

Thank you too to this year’s sponsors who have supported this annual initiative with our constituency schools – the restaurant Maray, Human Recognition Systems, Nutricia and Titanic Hotel.

Over 3,000 cards are hand delivered and posted far and wide to MPs and Peers, councillors, many local businesses, journalists and supporters. Thank you again for everyone who has made this possible.

Dec 21

I am backing the TUC’s #dyingtowork charter

I recommitted this week to the TUC Dying to Work charter that is designed to support and protect employees who become terminally ill.Dying to work parly

The voluntary charter already protects over half a million employees since its launch in April 2016, with companies such as Legal and General, Santander, Co-Op, Carillion, Rolls Royce and the Royal Mail signing up.

They follow a number of public sector bodies including NHS trusts, police authorities and many local authorities, including ours here in Liverpool – whose signing ceremony I joined in December last year.

The Dying to Work campaign was set up following the case of Jacci Woodcook, a 58-year-old sales manager from Derbyshire, who was forced out of her job after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. The campaign is calling for a change in the law to prevent the same thing happening to other working people.

It is shocking to think that if people with terminal illnesses are dismissed or forced out of their jobs that their loved ones will lose the death in service payments that the employee has planned for and earned through a life-time of hard work.

I have signed the TUC Dying to Work charter to protect my employees and I will be encouraging businesses in my constituency to follow suit and sign up.

The Dying to Work campaign wants to see all employers comply with the letter and the spirit of the law, so that people who are terminally ill have a ‘protected period’ where they cannot be dismissed because of their condition.

The growing support for the campaign was demonstrated in a recent Survation poll of over a thousand people which found that 79 per cent of respondents support a ‘protected period’ for terminally ill workers, with only 3 per cent opposing it.

Dec 19

The right time to talk about loneliness

Jo Cox logo campaignChristmas is just around the corner. It is an important opportunity for family and friends to come together and for people to relax.

For many, that means family members from far and wide returning home and sharing their experiences over the last 12 months. For others it may be a difficult time of year. It may be a time for remembering a loved one who has passed away recently or experiencing the loneliness that can come from being alone at this important time of year.

The recent loneliness summit I hosted in the constituency showed that, while it is an important issue throughout the year and touches people across all age groups. Times like Christmas can be particularly challenging.

Loneliness is a hidden issue that is increasingly being brought into the daylight. It can affect anyone – an elderly person living alone, or a young person who feels invisible.

Loneliness is found in isolated communities that exist in our crowded cities as much as they do in rural areas. It is also found in overcrowded houses of multiple occupation where people who may have little in common are living side by side but rarely talk to each other. It is found in the crowded school playground and on the streets we walk along each day.

Loneliness is sometimes defined as the gap between the relationships you have and the relationships you want. It is certainly linked to deprivation, and people who have experienced it speak of a sense of shame, embarrassment, even stigma that sits alongside the desperate, aching emotional pain.

New evidence points to the impact loneliness has on our physical health as well as our emotional and mental health, and we are beginning to understand how the cost of loneliness to individuals impacts also on our communities, and economy.

In short, loneliness is a major challenge for the 21st century.

That is why, earlier this year, I brought together individuals and organisations that are deeply involved in our communities to get an idea of what the big issues are, what people are doing already and, crucially, what people think we can do together in the future.

I was delighted by the response. Over 30 people, including people affected by loneliness directly and others including local councillors, health workers, social care staff, mental health charities, housing associations, faith bodies, student unions and the police with an interest in making a difference, contributed on the day.

I was particularly delighted that the Shadow Secretary of State for Health Jonathan Ashworth agreed to open the discussions and present new evidence about the cuts to public health budgets across the country that are increasing pressure on the community support and resilience we need to tackle loneliness.

You can read a summary of the lively discussions that took place and our ideas about what we can all do to break down social isolation, celebrate diversity and make our communities and workplaces happier places to live, work and play in the summit report by clicking here

Thank to everyone who came and on the day and for your hard work and willingness to share your experiences and ideas, which are reflected on the pages that follow.

I want, also, to say a particular thank you to the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness who provided the inspiration for the day. Of course, Jo Cox was a colleague of mine who was murdered in Batley and Spen constituency going about her work to support the local community.

Tackling loneliness was one of Jo’s passions. The work of the commission over the past year serves as one small contribution to her memory and which I know will make a difference to how our country contends with this very serious issue.

 

Dec 15

Thank you to our postal workers

Liverpool South Eastern Delivery Office

Liverpool South Eastern Delivery Office

Today, I’ve been visiting our local postal workers to thank them for all their hard work over the last year, delivering mountains of letters and parcels to our homes and businesses.

As you would expect, this is the busiest time of year for our posties, who are out in all kinds of weather making sure that our post and gifts get delivered.

Mossley Hill Delivery Office

Mossley Hill Delivery Office

It is the dedication of our local postal workers in collecting, sorting and delivering post during the busiest period of the year that helps to make Christmas happen.

The Christmas operation to collect, sort and deliver all the mail is a huge operation, as I saw when I had the great privilege to meet postal workers at Mossley Hill and South Eastern delivery offices this morning to say a big thank you.

Communication Workers Union members are understandably pressing Royal Mail, which has paid some £700 million in dividend to its shareholders since privatisation, for improved pay and conditions. It is also clear that without teamwork and co-operation across the whole of Royal Mail, the system couldn’t operate.

The Tories are forcing Royal Mail to compete like any other company in the private sector by cutting jobs to force down wages and costs, but Labour will always back our Royal Mail postal workers.

Labour will bring Royal Mail back into public ownership so that profits are put back into the business again to the benefit of consumers and workers.

Thank you to Royal Mail and all its staff.

The last recommended posting dates for Christmas are:

Wednesday December 20              2nd Class

Thursday December 20                  Signed For 2nd Class

Thursday December 21                  1st Class

Thursday December 21                  Signed For 1st Class

Thursday December 21                  Special Delivery Guaranteed

Friday December 22                       Special Delivery Saturday Guaranteed

 

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