I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone in the Heywood & Middleton constituency the very best for the coming year.
I know that the recent festive season has been a tough time for some and whilst I applaud the great work being done by the volunteers at our food banks we need to address the underlying issues that are driving the need for this service. I will continue to hold the Government to account over the roll out of Universal Credit and continue to put pressure on them to fix the clear problems which are emerging during this process. Whilst the principle of simplifying welfare payments is welcomed, it should not mean that families are left destitute whilst unwieldy bureaucratic procedures are worked through.
We also need to carry on working to bring high quality jobs to our area and to make the “Northern Powerhouse” a reality and not just a slogan. I will continue to work with Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester Mayor, to bring investment to the Borough and to ensure that our transport links are improved. I will also continue to support Andy in his work to eradicate the growing scandal of homelessness, a serious problem which no visitor to Manchester can have failed to have noticed.
There are many issues which need to be dealt with in order to resolve our homelessness problem including better mental health provision and a radical reform of housing policy. It’s not a problem which can be resolved overnight but I believe that Andy is taking the necessary steps and I agree with him that this Government’s target of 2027 to eradicate homelessness is much too far away.
I will continue to support those 1950s born women who are fighting for justice regarding the age at which they can draw their state pensions. Whilst there seems to be cross party agreement that these women have been very badly treated, there seems to be a marked reluctance on this Government’s part to take any action which might resolve the situation.
Another campaign I have supported in 2017 and will continue to do so in 2018 is the scandal of Leasehold properties which has affected so many residents. I am pleased that the Government have said that they will now stop new homes being sold as Leasehold properties but there are many other problems which also need to be addressed, such as how to help those who have bought new homes in good faith and now find themselves with doubling ground rents and excessive service and administrative charges. This fight goes on.
I will continue to put pressure on the Government to finally bring tougher sentences for those causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving into law. Although the Government have consulted on this and produced a response which was welcomed by the families affected, they have still to bring this much needed reform into law.
Brexit will, of course, continue to dominate politics in 2018 and I will continue to respect the result of the referendum. My focus will be on securing the best possible terms on which we leave the European Union, recognising that no-one voted to leave the EU in order to make themselves poorer. Whilst 60% of my constituents voted to leave, I will continue to work to get the best deal for everyone.
Of course, all this would be easier and more achievable if we had a Labour Government but at the moment we continue to act in Opposition. It is our job to hold this Government to account and to ensure that we get the best possible deal that we can for all our constituents. If 2018 is anything like 2017 then it will be a year full of surprises but please be assured that whatever this year throws at us I will be working hard to ensure that your voices are heard.
As ever, my team and I are available to help you at my constituency office in Heywood so please do get in touch if you need advice or assistance. I will shortly be resuming my regular program of surgeries and also adding a couple of new venues to ensure that no matter where you live in the constituency, there will be a surgery nearby.
Wishing you, your friends and families all the best for 2018,