I hope everyone has had a very happy Xmas and looking forward to the New Year.
This month we saw the Coalition Chancellor, George Osborne, tell the country about his financial plans. It doesn’t bode well for families either in or out of work. There is still reliance on food banks for people who have jobs, too many people have to choose between heating their homes in winter or buying healthy food, there are people working in public service to the benefit of us all in the Heywood and Middleton Communities who have had their pay or pensions frozen for an extended period: teachers, health workers the fire service to name a few. The divide between the richest and the rest is widening and in ways that affect health, well-being and education for the majority. This cannot be right.
I was heartened to hear about Labour’s approach to managing the budget holding all people in mind. Briefly, this would involve,
‘not destroying productive investment; an economic strategy to bring the deficit down, not drive it up; sensible reductions in spending, not slash and burn of our public services; the wealthiest bearing the biggest burden, not everyday people; and fully funded commitments, without additional borrowing, not unfunded tax cuts that put our NHS at risk.’
With this commitment at the heart of financial planning we get back to decent principles with quality of life built into budget decisions.
In line with this I was pleased to be able to support the Firefighters in the recent Parliamentary debate about pensions, I was also happy to support the National Union of Teacher’s ‘Manifesto for Education’ and asked the Secretary of State for Education, what her Department's policy is to reduce excessive teacher workload. I will be posting answers to questions I have raised with the Coalition Government Ministers on my website over the course of each month in Parliament.
It's shocking that the Equal Pay Act was passed over 40 years ago yet women still only earn 81p for every pound a man earns. It was my privilege to be in Parliament last week to support the Equal Pay (Transparency) Bill which puts a responsibility on large employers to publish their pay figures. The bill was supported by Grazia Magazine and it was a real honour to meet four of the Dagenham Women who inspired the film "Made in Dagenham" plus the cast of the musical of the same name, who attended Parliament to lend their support to the bill.
Last week I got the chance to ask the Prime Minister, at question time in Westminster, about Fuel Poverty and Health and what plans he has to keep the vulnerable warm this winter. It is shocking and completely unacceptable that, 4100 households (9.2%) live in fuel poverty in Heywood and Middleton (as quoted by National Energy Action (NEA)-a leading UK fuel poverty charity) Labour’s policy aims to build on their “energy price freeze” and ensure that high energy bills are reduced permanently by improving energy efficiency in homes – particularly those of people on low incomes – so they leak less heat and bills are kept down permanently.
Parliament is currently in recess which means I have been able to spend time working in the constituency. It has been a wonderful opportunity to meet with local groups and to spend time learning about the concerns and the interests of people in Heywood and Middleton.
I have had meetings with local groups interested in the impact of Wind Farms and how these are planned for. Spoken with people who are worried about changes to how local Health Centres are being used, for example, the provision of Retinopathy Screening for Type 2 Diabetes.
I spent a lovely time with a youth group who are a social enterprise set up by RBH who sell tea, coffee, rice and chocolate at special markets across Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. As well as supporting farmers in developing countries the project is teaching the youngsters valuable business skills to help them in their future careers. They are called ‘Not Just a Little Business’ Their enterprise is in the true spirit of the borough’s co-operative traditions - by coming together like this they are helping both themselves and people in the developing world. I would urge everyone to support their venture. Already this group are supplying some local organisations and I have pledged that my constituency office will order supplies from them in the future.
I’ve also had contact with Diane Higgins, Lead Youth worker, who supports provision for young people in Heywood and Middleton. The group is extremely active within Heywood and Middleton and as part of their work they are planning to learn more about the political process and how they can impact on local communities. It’s so good to hear about all of the exciting things that are happening in the constituency.
It was a pleasure to attend the Angel Project Christmas Fair at the Community Cafe in Langley. The project managers, Sue and Emma Scott, are doing great work with residents suffering with depression and health problems as well as those who are elderly, isolated or vulnerable. They have recently successfully raised funds to convert a former launderette into a community hub and I look forward to supporting them with this new venture, which will provide training, classes and support groups.
I've attended many Christmas Concerts and carol services, and enjoyed them all. It's great to see the breadth of musical talent across Heywood & Middleton. Amongst the many are the Rochdale Community Wind Band playing at All Saints & Martyrs Church, Langley, and the talented choir of St Michaels Church, Tonge cum Alkrington, at their Carol Service.
I had the great pleasure of attending ‘Edgar wood and Middleton Townscape Heritage Initiative’ evening at Long street Methodist church. In celebration of Edgar Wood and the movements of art and architecture that he and his friends and contemporaries started. They have had such a beautiful impact on the architecture of Middleton and it was a lovely evening followed by Xmas carols in the Olde Boars Head.
It was great to visit Heywood Food bank and to thank the wonderful volunteers who were busy giving out food parcels to ensure that everyone has food on the table at Christmas. It was particularly pleasing to meet three first time volunteers on the day and to witness the kindness, support and great community spirit which exists in our towns.
And finally, everyone in the constituency office would love to thank the Year 2’s of St. Lukes Church of England Primary School and their teacher, Miss Yates for the wonderful festive window display. It looks fantastic.