On Tuesday in a Westminster Hall Debate, I raised the fact that funding from central government for children’s services has been cut by 10.9% according to the latest report by the NAO into Sustainable Funding of Local Government. The Chancellor failed to address this in his Budget or in the recent Spring Statement. By 2022 there will be a £2.2bn short-fall nationwide for children’s services.
This Government should be doing more to protect vulnerable children across the country.
Following the recommendation to remove Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) in the ‘Foster Care in England’ report, I asked the Minister for Children and Families why anyone would want to remove people who act to protect children’s interests in the care process.
This is especially worrying as several organisations such as the Fostering Network, Action for Children, and even the National Children’s Commissioner have criticised the report’s recommendation.
In the Education Committee’s session with Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi on Wednesday, I raised my concerns about the immense pressure that head teachers are under to manage their school’s finances.
This pressure is so intense that in some instances pupil premium funds, which are intended to support disadvantaged children, are being moved away to patch-up budget deficits, according to research from the Sutton Trust.
My reaction to the decision from Leeds Crown Court to grant a full judicial review into the HRI business case:
I am delighted that the judgement from Leeds Crown Court has taken into consideration all of the evidence, and has ruled in favour of the Hands Off HRI campaigners and the thousands of residents, medical professionals and local politicians. We have said time and time again that the business case which Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust put forward was flawed.
This is a victory for common sense. It shows that together as a community, we can achieve great results. This is a really positive step forward. My thanks go to the thousands of people who have campaigned, chipped in money and supported the campaign in any way they could.
We must however, be aware that Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust may appeal this decision, and that the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s report is still to be released. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, has given an inadequate answer to my Written Question on the date that he will release the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s report. He has said only that it will be released in “due course”. He cannot just sit on the report and expect us all to go away quietly without a fight.
I will once again make the offer to Jeremy Hunt to come to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, where I can show him around our fantastic hospital and he can meet the dedicated professional staff who work there.
We need to be ready for the next steps in the fight to save our hospital.
In the debate on Free School Meals and Universal Credit, I highlighted that 6,400 children in Kirlees would lose out on Free School Meals under the Government’s plans.
Having worked as a head teacher, I have seen first-hand the effect that child hunger has had on children in our schools, and it shocks me that they would try and remove support for disadvanytaged students.
I will continue to campaign alongside my Labour colleagues to oppose these changes, and fight for the most vulnerable in our society.
Thelma Walker MP for the Colne Valley has held talks with Kirklees Council and ‘Friends of’ Library groups as a further cut to the library budget is out for consultation.
Representatives from Golcar, Meltham, Honley, Slaithwaite and Holmfirth were all present at the meeting with head of library services, Carol Stump and Kirklees Council Cabinet Member Cllr Graham Turner.
A current consultation is taking place, with the budget looking to be reduced to £2.2m, Thelma and the ‘Friends of’ groups have expressed concern over the way the Kirklees consultation has been written, however, in the meet Cllr Turner said, “they are willing to listen to every idea” and encouraged the groups to share their ideas with the Council. Cllr Turner also clarified that the Council hasn’t got an end goal in mind of where they would like to get to, and will not make that decision until the consultation has ended and a report has been produced.
Speaking after the the meeting Thelma said, “We have had a productive discussion about the future of our library services across the Colne Valley constituency. The Council doesn’t want to make these reductions to the library budget but have had their hands tied by Central Government cuts to local authorities. They have to make the tough choice. Do they reduce care for an elderly person or keep a library open? Even the Prime Minister couldn’t answer which one they should do!”
Thelma added, “I want to praise the work of the volunteers at each of the ‘Friends’ Groups, which are working to keep our libraries open. Without these volunteers, many of these services would have closed or would only be open for a couple of hours a week.”