Question in the House on ethnic inequalities

Theresa May has announced her “race disparity audit” to tackle what she called “burning injustices” that people face in society. Finally released this week, the data contained is not new, nor does it come with any solutions.

That said, the evidence is clear that inequality needs addressing in Britain. People from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are being held back in the workplace, suffer shocking racial bias in our criminal justice system, and still face widespread discrimination in our society. White British pupils on free school meals are less likely to reach the expected standard at Key Stage 2 than any other ethnic group.

We do need action, and I asked the Minister in the House yesterday to explain what this new initiative will actually do to improve the lives of people in Colne Valley.

Her answer unfortunately, seems to be to a totally unrelated question. Avoidance or incompetence, you tell me!

Problems with free childcare policy

Free childcare for working parents – what’s not to like? The Tory announcement to provide 30 hours free childcare to 3-4 year old children seems like a positive step.

Unfortunately there are many issues with the way the Government are implementing this policy, which is leading to confusion and frustration among parents and childcare providers within Colne Valley.

Today in a debate in Westminster Hall I raised these and other issues facing early years education in our area.

Compared to many other countries, our early years education is underfunded, it pays staff significantly less, and is focussed on getting people back-to-work rather than providing the best quality education for our children. To be effective, it requires proper investment and thoughtful implementation.

Interview with BBC Sunday Politics

I gave an interview to BBC Sunday Politics today about the terrible impact PFI has had on our local hospital and Labour’s idea to bring PFI deals back “in house”.

All political parties have made errors in the past regarding PFI, no-one is denying that. However we all now need to accept the reality of the current situation and act to change things in a positive way.

Labour’s approach would not increase debt levels. The money is already owed by the tax-payer, but bringing it back under Government control would reduce interest payments, while allowing more flexibility in situations like we find ourselves in with HRI and CRH (Calderdale Royal Hospital).

The interview will be broadcast this Sunday on BBC 1.

World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day: a day to show your support for better mental health, to look around and see if someone you know needs support, and to ensure you’re looking after your own well-being.

We all know mental health is a large and growing problem in the UK and around the world. The evidence has been clear for many years now, yet it is very important to spread the message that it’s good to talk and that support is out there.

However, our NHS is suffering from an ideological funding crisis, which means that the services we need are frequently not available when we need them. Together with other MPs, I have written to Theresa May to urge her to follow through on her warm words and ring-fence mental health spending. This is an issue that regardless of party politics needs addressing as a matter of urgency.

If you or anyone you know is in need of help then please do speak out, and the Mind website is a great resource

Question in the House about HRI

Today in the House of Commons in a question about NHS staffing levels I asked the Minister of State for Health about the proposed loss of 500 hard-working professionals from HRI and the impact that will have on patient safety.

I also challenged him to explain why the Secretary of State was unable to visit our community before making his decision on the downgrading of our hospital.

His reply did not address any of my points, and merely stated that the decision had been referred to Jeremy Hunt. I will continue the fight!

Golcar library garden opening

Delighted to visit Golcar library at the weekend and officially open their new garden.

The Library has been a great community hub at Town End for many decades. It’s lovely to see it not only survive the cuts to library services in recent years, but continue to grow and provide new services – in no small part due to the amazing volunteers who give their time over to retain this important part of Golcar’s village centre.

As you’ll know if you’ve been to a library in recent years: they provide a lot more than just books for lending. Offering computer access and guidance, help to start a business, ancestry sessions, coffee mornings and Lego club – our local libraries have something for everyone.

Golcar library also helps to alleviate social isolation among older members of our community, and of course provides wonderful opportunities for children to expand their horizons and learn to love reading.

Their Facebook page is here, give it a like and make sure to pop into the library  the next time you pass. Continued community support is invaluable.…/

HRI Campaign Snubbed by Health Secretary

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP “unable at present” to visit HRI and refuses to meet campaigners in Westminster.

The Health Secretary has responded to a letter, sent by Colne Valley’s MP Thelma Walker inviting him to visit the HRI to meet staff and campaigners prior to making a decision about the potential downgrading of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

Thelma Walker invited Mr Hunt to visit the HRI after the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee of Kirklees and Calderdale Councils voted to refer the decision about the downgrading to the Health Secretary. You can read that letter in full here – Letter – Jeremy Hunt invitation to visit HRI.

Thelma has now received a response from the Department of Health. This email said that Mr Hunt was currently touring hospitals across the country but could not guarantee when or indeed if, he would visit. The letter went on to say that “due to his already hectic diary commitments” he would not be able to meet with constituents in Westminster.

Speaking after receiving the emailed letter, Thelma Walker said “I am disappointed that the Health Secretary does not appear to care about the people of the Colne and Holme Valleys or Huddersfield.

The plans were referred to him, because the JHSC decided it was an inappropriate decision made by the Trust and CCG’s to downgrade our hospital. Mr Hunt will be unable to make a full and proper assessment of why Huddersfield Royal Infirmary is a vital lifeline for our communities. Nor will he be able to understand the unique geography of the area.”

Thelma added, “This is a blatant disregard for local communities needs and wishes. It shows he is not concerned about the safety of our families, and once again we see a Minister in this Government who refuses to leave their desk in Westminster to actually engage with local people.

This isn’t the last Mr Hunt will hear from me or my constituents, and I will do everything in my power to try and secure a meeting with Mr Hunt and local people.”

Honley CE School opening

Honley CE (VC) Junior, Infant & Nursery School invited me to attend their official opening this week, following the recent amalgamation. A new beginning for the school, I wish them every success as they continue.

I was really impressed with the school: the warm welcoming feel, together with a focus on music and creative arts are just what we want for our children and community.

Special thanks to Jonah who was a great ambassador and was proud to show off his school.

Affordable housing

In Theresa May’s keynote speech to Tory conference yesterday, she said that not enough attention has been paid to affordable housing. She’s correct, and I raised this issue in the House last month.

However the Prime Minister’s proposal to build a miniscule 5,000 affordable houses per year is not the answer. Councils will still be unable to borrow money to build houses, and the 1.2 million households on waiting lists will still be in unsuitable homes.

Since 2010 homelessness has risen by over 50%, housebuilding is at it’s lowest since the 1920s, and rents are rising faster than incomes.

The Tories must act to solve this problem, and not just rely on platitudes to avoid real action.

WASPI Petition

As you know, the WASPI campaign is something I support; I was only made aware that my pension age had changed when I read it in a newspaper!

The campaign supports equalisation of the pension age, but not the way these changes were introduced. Many retirement plans have been shattered with devastating consequences.

Several constituents have asked me to publicise this petition, which aims to make fair transitional state pension arrangements for 1950’s women, and I am more than happy to do so.

Please will you sign the petition, and share this post so that more people are aware of the situation. The Government must act to make this right.