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I am deeply concerned at reports of mass redundancies for firefighters in Greater Manchester.

The plans, which have been in the news recently, are deeply worrying. We have already lost 400 firefighters across Greater Manchester in the last 6 years due to cuts of £26 million, and in the next 4 years the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority (GMFRA) faces further cuts of £14 million. These cuts are not sustainable.

The GMFRA are receiving criticism for their handling of this situation and I share much of that frustration.

However, we must not lose sight that it is the government policy of austerity, ideological and unnecessary, which is putting Fire and Rescue Authorities here and across the country in these increasingly impossible positions. I have written to Brandon Lewis MP, the government's Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, to raise my urgent concern regarding these cuts and I call on him now to think again.

I have been in touch with local Fire Brigades Union representatives to offer my full support. Our firefighters deserve respect and thanks for the work they do. They save lives and provide an invaluable service to our communities on a daily basis, and they need to be able to focus on that work without the threat of redundancy and with the resources and staffing they need.

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Read more the Fire Brigades Union response to the GMFRA plans here

Firefighters deserve respect, not threats of redundancy

I am deeply concerned at reports of mass redundancies for firefighters in Greater Manchester.

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Our NHS is about to undergo more major changes. Sustainability and Transformation Plans will do little to address the real problems our health services face.

Before entering the Commons I worked for 33 year in the National Health Service and saw and experienced on a daily basis the service it provided to millions across the UK, from GPs to world leading research and development.

The NHS provides universal healthcare free at the point of delivery, night and day, seven days a week, in times when patients are at their most vulnerable and helpless.

It is therefore a tragedy and an outrage that 80% of hospitals are in debt, that faced with an aging population we find waiting times lengthening for cancer treatment, under funding for social care, and mass staff shortages in hospitals. Now is the time to show our commitment to the NHS and to give it the funding it needs to succeed for all patients.

If the government thinks Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) are the answer then they're asking the wrong questions.

The 44 ‘footprints’ that the STPs are implementing and integrating are being proposed as more control and better choice for communities and patient care, but the diagnosis is in the detail, and in reality under this government it means closures and cuts.

STPs have been shrouded in secrecy and drawn up behind closed doors. There has been no public consultation and a staggering lack of evidence to show that it will deliver the reductions and improvements that the government promises. It will be untried, untested and will come an unimaginable cost to patients if it is not the right path to pursue.

STPs outline the five-year plan covering all areas of NHS spending in England which includes the government asking them to deliver an eye watering of £22bn worth of “efficiency savings” by 2020. Failure to do so and meet these financial targets will lead to their constituent parts, the CCGs and Trusts, losing their opportunity to acquire ‘Transformation Fund’ money and risk being taken into ‘special measures’. This spells out to me fewer beds, less treatment and fewer staff and all against the backdrop of achieving improvements across the board of 29 measurements. This expectation is unreasonable and unobtainable.

As with the disastrous 2012 Health and Social Care Act, overseen by the former prime minister and now former MP for Witney, these proposals are embarking on a journey to another calamitous reorganisation of the NHS. It is now a necessity that the government abandons this timetable and scheduling of such a major restructure package. Maybe like the former prime minister now is the time to step down and take stock.

I am calling on the Government and the Secretary of State for Health to go back and reconsider not only the time frame but the proposals in general and to have a full and frank public consultation allowing for transparency and debate at the local and national level.

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Watch my full speech on this issue in parliament here, or you can read it here

The government must rethink latest NHS plans

Our NHS is about to undergo more major changes. Sustainability and Transformation Plans will do little to address the real problems our health services face.

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Unemployment  in Heywood and Middleton is above the national average and has increased in the last 12 months, according to the latest government figures released this week.

This should be a cause for concern for everyone who cares about prosperity and growth in our region. The latest information shows that with an unemployment rate of 3.3% Heywood and Middleton has the 162nd highest unemployment rate out of the 650 UK parliamentary constituencies. The national average rate is 2.4%. The data also shows that there are more claimants in Heywood and Middleton now than there were in the same month last year.

I’m incredibly concerned about these latest numbers, and the increase in the last 12 months is especially worrying.

The new Prime Minister and her government have a long way to go if their vision of a Northern Powerhouse is going to be a reality. For far too long, areas like ours have been forgotten about by government and starved of investment needed to stimulate growth and provide jobs and infrastructure, and I hope the new Greater Manchester Mayor – who will hopefully be Labour's Andy Burnham– will be given the backing to address this issue which is so vital to our future prosperity.

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Unemployment figures should concern us all

Unemployment  in Heywood and Middleton is above the national average and has increased in the last 12 months, according to the latest government figures released this week.

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