Friday 26 November 2010

'Use it, don't lose it,' as cuts package could hit local Library

A review of council spending on the borough’s libraries has ignited a campaign to save Ashton Library from the threat of closure.

Wigan Council have confirmed that, in line with government spending cuts, the library service will need to cut £1.1million from its budget over the next 3 years.

Council bosses accept that the review will ‘necessitate significant changes in the shape and scale of the service’.

I joined Labour’s Ashton and Bryn Ward councillors Nigel Ash and Ann Rampling to urge local people to use the central Ashton facility.

I know that money is tight and that the council are grappling with a cuts package not of its own making but as a major town in the borough, with the third busiest library, Ashton Library is well placed to meet the needs of users and the wider community.

The consultation commences on Monday, 29th November and runs through to 31st March 2011.

Update. Sign the online petition organised by Ashton Ward Councillor, Nigel Ash here.

Thursday 25 November 2010

The campaign to retain the Monaco Ballroom

The decision to remove council subsidy from the famous concert hall has a result of a council wide plan to reduce spending in light of the coalition governments public spending cuts has united campaigners across the political spectrum.

The Monaco is much more than just a concert hall. It holds special memories for so many people - local Hindley Councillor, Jim Talbot met his wife at the Monaco

I know from my postbag that the Monaco holds a special place in the hearts of local people. I have also received emails from across the North West such is the value that people attach to this iconic venue.

It would be a tragedy to see the Monaco close its doors and I want to work with campaigners to keep the venue open.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Relocation of my constituency office

I wanted to take this opportunity to advise you that with effect from Wednesday, 24th November 2010 the constituency office currently based at Gerrard Winstanley House will be relocating to:

Yvonne Fovargue MP
Elizabeth House
The Pier
Pottery Rd
Wigan WN3 4EX

Visitors to my current office at Gerrard Winstanley House will notice immediately, that it is an ageing building and with that comes a number of difficulties, not least, problems with access for disabled constituents.

I have sought with Lisa Nandy MP to obtain a town centre location and in Elizabeth House, we have been able to secure a modern, fully accessible office with good transport links and just a short walk from the town centre.

I hope to make the relocation as seamless as possible, but we will need to be closed on Monday, 22nd and Tuesday, 23rd to allow for the removal of equipment from Gerrard Winstanley House and set up of the new office.

As you know, I pride myself on offering constituents a fully staffed constituency office which they can call into for help and assistance and Elizabeth House will assist in delivering a first class service to constituents.

Monday 15 November 2010

Child Benefit cut set to hit mums’ pension entitlements

Last month I raised the issue of state pension entitlement for women who will lose Child benefit under cuts announced by the Chancellor at the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham.

Described by the Conservative Leader of the House, Sir George Young MP as a ‘legitimate point’ (Hansard: Thurs, 14th Oct Col 498), I unearthed a potential disastrous consequence, of the Chancellor’s announcement, for the state pension entitlements of mums who stay at home to raise their children.

New rules implemented in the current tax year 2010/11 will mean that parents are able to build up qualifying years through new weekly credits for the basic State Pension and additional State Pension.

If you are a parent (or carer), you will get a credit for each week in which you:

• are getting Child Benefit for children aged under 12
• are an approved foster carer
• are caring for at least 20 hours a week for people who are getting Attendance Allowance, the middle-rate or highest-rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, or Constant Attendance Allowance, or the need for care has been certified
• There will be no limit to the credits awarded to parents and carers after April 2010, as long as you meet the qualifying rules.

If you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010, complete tax years of Home Responsibilities Protection that have already built up before 2010 have been converted into qualifying years up to a maximum of 22 years. These qualifying years will also count towards bereavement benefits.

The Chancellor, in withdrawing Child benefit cash from higher rate tax earner households will hit mums across Makerfield who stay at home as it would appear, based on the new rules, that they will lose entitlement to credits towards their state pension as a result.

At present mums with children under 12 years of age can build up credits towards their state pension by virtue of the fact that they receive Child benefit. The change announced at the Tory conference would stop credits being awarded to those mums.

As was reported at the time, this is an ill thought out change to the benefit system announced in a rush without due consideration to the ‘knock on’ effects to parents who will now face a double whammy of losing their child benefit and seeing their state pension entitlement eroded.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Families in Makerfield up to £9 a week worse off because of Housing Allowance cuts

Today I have warned of the impact of changes to housing allowance on people living in Makerfield.

The Conservative led coalition government want to change the way Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is calculated. The change they propose means 700,000 people in Britain are set to lose out according to official DWP figures, with losses in every local authority in Britain from October 2011. As a result of this measure 4,780 LHA recipients in the borough will lose out.

Families on modest incomes in Makerfield will be concerned that from next year they could be £9.00 a week worse off because of cuts to the support they get with housing costs.

The government like to paint a picture of the work shy receiving huge state handouts of Housing Benefit but the truth is that these figures contain a large number of in work Housing Benefit recipients, seeking to make a better life for their families.

This is a big drop in income for people struggling to make ends meet with no time for individuals or landlords to adjust.  For those receiving Local Housing Allowance, this will come as a dramatic change imposed at a reckless speed.

The Government just doesn't seem to understand that higher homelessness, like longer dole queues make it harder not easier to deal with the deficit.

Monday 8 November 2010

Why I'm backing shopworkers call for respect

This week I have backed Usdaw, in their call for respect for retail workers, after they released preliminary survey results that show over one million shopworkers were assaulted, threatened or verbally abused in the last twelve months.

The survey shows that in the past 12 months, 6% of shopworkers were subjected to violent attack, 37% were threatened with harm and a massive 70% had suffered verbal abuse.

While reported incidents of assault are slightly down, incidents of threats and abuse have increased since last year.

Also revealed in the survey is that around 50% of incidents of abuse were as a result of selling age-restricted products, like alcohol, cigarettes, aerosols, etc.

Shopworkers deserve respect and they have my full support. We must do more to help them do their job safely.

I would like to see a high profile publicity campaign in support of ‘no id – no sale’ ensuring that young people are aware that it is an offence to attempt to buy alcohol if you are under 18.

That is why I introduced an early Day Motion to parliament to show my support and help make the voices of shopworkers heard.

I am challenging the Government not to declare shops as automatically safe workplaces, as has been suggested by Lord Young. They need health and safety inspections from time to time to ensure that risks are minimised. The Government must continue to support the HSE and local authorities to inspect all workplaces.

The Early Day Motion I introduced reads as follows:

EDM 791 – Freedom from Fear 2010

‘That this House recognises the excellent work done by employers, trade union health & safety reps and inspectors from the HSE and local authorities to make workplaces safer; notes with regret the latest survey of abuse of shopworkers by the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers that shows that in the last year 6% of shopworkers were subjected to violent attack, 37% were threatened with harm and 70% were verbally abused: expresses sympathy with all of the victims of attack or injury in the workplace; is concerned that the survey also showed that 50% of the abuse suffered by shopworkers was related to age-restricted sales and dealing with proof of age; acknowledges that no workplace can automatically be assumed to be safe and that therefore all workplaces need health and safety inspections from time to time to ensure that risks are minimised; calls on the Government to continue to support the HSE and local authorities to inspect all workplaces; to maintain the current record numbers of police and Community Support Officers to continue to protect front-line workers and the public from violence, threats and abuse, and to run high profile publicity campaigns in support of ‘no id – no sale’ and ensuring that young people are aware that it is an offence to attempt to buy alcohol if you are under 18’.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Show Racism the Red Card!

I recently joined ex-professional footballers, representatives from the Professional Footballers Association and members of the Show Racism the Red Card campaign to give my support to the charity’s bid to become The Football Association’s Charity of the Year for 2011.

Show Racism the Red Card is an anti-racist charity, established in January 1996 with the aim of harnessing the potential of professional footballers as anti-racist role models and combatting racism through anti-racist education. The campaign involves hundreds of top footballers and managers and carries its work out throughout the UK delivering anti-racism workshops, football fun fitness sessions and hosting educational events at football clubs.

I threw my support behind Show Racism the Red Card’s bid to become FA Charity of the Year. I can think of no other charity that has worked so hard and so effectively to condemn racism within football. I wish them all the best of luck with their bid!

This sign-up event follows on from the Early Day Motion raised in parliament and signed by me which received significant support.

For more information about the work of Show Racism the Red Card click here.

I am pictured with ex-Fulham and West Ham striker, Leroy Rosenior, former professional footballer and manager, Dave Bassett and former West Ham striker and Deputy Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers Association, Bobby Barnes.

EDM 607 reads as follows:

‘That this House recognises the excellent work of the anti-racist charity Show Racism the Red Card which was established in 1996 with the aim of harnessing the high-profile status of professional footballers as anti-racist role models to combat racism through education; notes that hundreds of top footballers and managers take part in its activities which have made racism the exception rather than the rule at football matches in contrast with experience abroad; further notes that the campaign employs 12 former professional footballers throughout England, Scotland and Wales to coach young people using football as a way of engaging young people with anti-racist messages; welcomes the possibility that the campaign could be selected as the Football Association Charity of the year for 2011 and has so far won the support for this of Gordon Taylor and the Professional Footballers' Association, as well as former England Manager Graham Taylor; and wishes them the best in their endeavours’.