Thursday 25 October 2012

Stop cuts to Criminal Injuries Compensation

Pic with David Williams of Usdaw

I have called on the Government to confirm that they will not go ahead with plans to slash compensation for 90% of injured victims of crime.

The Minister for Justice withdrew proposals to drastically cut the budget of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme following criticism from MPs on all sides at a Committee meeting on 10 September.

However, the Government have since stated that they are still “committed to reforming the criminal injuries compensation scheme to put it on a sustainable financial footing” (Government jargon for cutting the budget) and have re-tabled the changes to the Scheme to be put to Parliament by 22 October.  This would mean that, if passed, the cuts would affect any claim made after 5 November.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is the only means by which many victims who are seriously injured by a criminal can gain any compensation to help them through the difficult time and to make up for wages they may have lost.

The Scheme also helps the dependant children of murder and manslaughter victims.

The proposals which the Government are trying to carry would:

Abolish all compensation for almost half of victims deemed to have suffered injuries such as a broken hand, facial scarring, multiple broken ribs, or a dislocated jaw.
Cut compensation awards by up to 60% for more serious injuries such as permanent brain injury, fractured joints, or a punctured lung.
Cut compensation for loss of earnings to the level of Statutory Sick Pay – £85 a week - and impose conditions that would make it ‘practically unattainable’.
Impose the same cuts and conditions on compensation for the loss of a parent’s earnings by the child dependants of murder and manslaughter victims.
Prevent victims of dog attacks from receiving any compensation under the scheme, no matter how seriously they were injured.

The Tory-led Government’s plans to cut financial support for the innocent victims of crime, shows how out of touch this Government is.  It is hard to believe that the Government are still determined to cut the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme after MPs from both sides criticised the cuts and the effect they would have on the injured victims of crime and on the children of murder victims.

I have therefore signed an Early Day Motion calling on the Government to drop these cruel plans immediately and to do more to help the innocent victims of crime.

John Hannett, General Secretary of Usdaw said, “Usdaw members who are unfortunate enough to suffer a criminal attack that leaves them injured rely on Criminal Injuries Compensation.  They often lose wages when they cannot work due to their injuries.  Innocent victims of crime should not have to suffer twice – once in an attack, and also financially."

“It is just not fair to ask injured victims of crime to bear the brunt of austerity.  Usdaw and our members are very grateful for Yvonne’s support in the campaign against these unjust proposals.”

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Power to suspend welcomed

I am delighted that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has today announced that it is consulting on how it proposes to use a new power, which will allow it to suspend consumer credit licences with immediate effect.

Regular readers of my site will know that this is an issue on which I have campaigned for many years.

The industry is currently operating in a manner that can and does penalise vulnerable consumers. Voluntary regulation has failed miserably and the new power to suspend gives the OFT the power to crack down on the irresponsible actions of an industry making huge profits on the back of vulnerable and low income borrowers.

Monday 22 October 2012

Good news in fight to protect greenbelt at Winstanley & Hawkley Hall

Campaigners gathered to welcome news that Wigan Council is set to confirm that there are no exceptional circumstances that can justify the release of Green Belt land for housing at Hawkley Hall and Winstanley.

In July, Government appointed Planning Inspector, Kevin Ward, surprised observers when he suspended his examination of the Wigan Core Strategy because he concluded that insufficient land had been identified (a total of 2,500 homes) for the Borough’s housing needs to 2026.

Mr Ward instructed planners to consider ‘all of the options’ for meeting the shortfall leading to green belt land having to be considered as part of the option appraisal.

Over 2,000 objections to the use of green belt in Wigan were received by the consultation’s closing date. Typical objections to the release of green belt included;

Urban sprawl would result as the townships of Ashton/Bryn  and Hawkley Hall/Winstanley moved closer together
Brownfield and Safeguarded land should be developed as a priority ahead of green belt
Given the quantity of safeguarded land available, no exceptional circumstances could be demonstrated for releasing green belt for housing.

I have consistently led calls for green belt status to be retained and welcome the proposals, in so far, as they relate to land at Hawkley Hall and Winstanley.

This is welcome news and a shot in the arm for residents across Hawkley Hall and Winstanley who have worked very hard during this process to demonstrate that no exceptional circumstances exist to release land from these two areas of greenbelt for housing. This is the first hurdle cleared and we must now redouble our efforts to convince the inspector to confirm this decision.

Ward Councillors have also welcomed the report to be considered by the council on 7th November.

Cllr Lynn Holland representing Worsley Mesnes said, “The Council have been placed in a difficult position by the planning inspector’s decision that all options had to be consulted upon including green belt. This has led to further stress and anxiety for residents, but I hope that going forward the inspector will do the right thing and protect these two areas of green belt.”

Campaigners are also aware of the original proposal contained within the Core Strategy to remove green belt status from land south of Winstanley for commercial development.

The proposal was subject to scrutiny at the public hearings held earlier this year which I attended along with campaigners including the M6 South of Wigan Group before the inspector suspended his examination.

Cllr Clive Morgan representing Winstanley Ward said, “We will seek to defend any attack into the local green belt. Given the availability of commercial sites across the borough this does not warrant releasing further land from green belt, nor the resulting increase in traffic congestion and impact on the quality of life of residents.”

Friday 19 October 2012

Northern Feathers supporting employment opportunities

Kerry Claxton, Dean Cartwright & Pam Lythgoe
I visited Northern Feathers in Ashton in Makerfield to see for myself the partnership between the company and Wigan Council’s Supported Employment Service.

Northern Feathers manufacture duvets and pillows for the Snuggledown brand. Acquired by the John Cotton Group in 2000 considerable capital investment has enabled further innovation and development of bedding products.

Wigan Supported Employment Service is a professional employment and training provider, securing paid employment opportunities for people who have a disability. The aim of the service is to create a truly diverse workforce which reflects the local community and offers equality of opportunity to all. They are an Ofsted rated “outstanding" grade 1 service, and their service users include people who have a number of barriers into employment such as having a learning disability, mental health issue, an acquired brain injury or a physical or sensory impairment.

Sharing a joke with Dean Cartwright
Working with Northern Feather the service has placed 5 people in paid employment and I was able to meet with and talk to employees about their experiences and the opportunities that secure employment provides.

Kerry Claxton, Employer Engagement Officer for Wigan Supported Employment Service said, “Northern Feathers have been in partnership with Supported Employment Service for the past six years, they have at the moment five paid employees, whom are all valued members of the workforce. They all have targets to achieve daily to ensure production is met."

“Pam Lythgoe the factory manager has been very supportive of our service and we need more companies within the borough to follow Northern Feathers and employ people with disabilities.”

Firms like Northern Feather make a valuable contribution to jobs and the local economy and I applaud their support for a diverse workforce. It was great to meet and talk to staff and learn that they have support and training opportunities and that their contribution is valued by the company.

Local Businesses interested in more information about supported employment can contact Kerry on 01942 828439

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Boundary Commission releases revised proposals

The Boundary Commission for England  has today released its revised proposals which will reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600.

I am pleased that the Commission has listened to the very many people who have strongly objected to the initial proposals as they related to the Borough of Wigan.

Under the revised proposals the parliamentary constituencies of Leigh, Makerfield and Wigan will remain on the same boundaries as used for the 2010 General Election.

There is to be a further round of consultation. However, given the announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister that the Liberal Democrats will vote against the implementation of the review it seems to me to be a waste of tax payers money to continue progressing this matter at a time of savage cuts to public services.

Monday 15 October 2012

Major Sports Coaching open for business in Ashton

Major Sports Coaching (MSC) was established back in 2007 working as a small business in the Wigan area teaching 105 children per week with a team of 2 coaches. Over the past 5 years the company has grown to a work force of around 35 coaches teaching a wide variety of sports from tennis to handball, and dance from ballet to Zumba. They are currently teaching over 5000 children per week across 30+ schools in the Wigan, Warrington, St Helens and Salford area.

I joined Ashton Councillor, Nigel Ash in welcoming MSC to their new base in Ashton today.

MSC boast an apprenticeship scheme for 10 young up and coming coaches to be a part of a great opportunity for young coaches to gain good qualifications and learn the hands on side of the industry at the same time.

Their vision for the future with the help of their new specialist sports shop is to support elite athletes, young athletes striving to be the best they can be and people who are just looking to improve themselves in their chosen sport. They are looking to give the sports players and dancers in the local community the best possible equipment and training to help them achieve their personal goals from competing in local teams/competitions to competing on the bigger stage at national and international level.

The company welcomes everybody to pop into their shop based at 74 Gerard Street and get some advice on any of their equipment and services from their team of coaches.

It is always important to me to support local businesses, and MSC are doing such fantastic work in the community that I wanted to drop in to say a personal thank you and congratulations on their ongoing success. In an uncertain economic climate, we need to celebrate our successful local companies and I hope that MSC will continue to grow and provide great opportunities for our young people.

Cllr Nigel Ash said, “I am very pleased that this prestigious company has chosen Ashton town centre to locate its business, especially in these difficult times. Major Sports Coaching will be an asset to the town and their coming here will send a clear signal to other businesses that Ashton is a good place to be situated. I hope to see other businesses follow suit to help the regeneration of the town centre.”

Thursday 11 October 2012

Labour launches Police Crime Commissioner Election Campaign in Wigan

Pic with Tony Lloyd MP, Lord Smith &Kate Green MP
Tony Lloyd MP, Labour candidate for Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner  today launched his Wigan campaign. Tony was in Wigan to meet local people and tell them about the new role, his campaign and to hear their views about, the Police, crime and the wider justice system.

Tony said, “Crime effects us all. We all want to be secure in our homes and our families to live in safe communities, secure in the knowledge that our home and streets are safe at night.

“The Tory/Lib-Dem government is targeting our communities in Greater Manchester, cutting nearly 3,000 Police jobs, the largest cuts in the country. Senior police officers warn that the Government is cutting the policing budget too far, too fast, taking risks with public safety."

“The Police and Crime Commissioner is an important new role but many people don't know that we're going to be voting for someone to run our Police in November. I've worked hard throughout my years in Parliament to represent the people of Greater Manchester. I know that the best way for me to represent the views of local people is to listen to their experiences and what matters to them. That's why I'm here in Wigan today to talk to people about the new role and their priorities.”

When it comes to policing, David Cameron and this Tory-led Government don’t get it. The people who brought us the millionaire tax cut while raiding pensioners’ pockets are just as out of touch when it comes to the police.

Tony Lloyd won’t stand by and let Tories and Liberal Democrats become cheerleaders for police cuts across Wigan and Leigh. He will stand up to protect this community and fight crime.

Tony Lloyd’s Campaign pledges;

• To stand up for communities against the Tories’ 20 per cent cuts to policing and the loss of nearly 3,000 police and civilian posts in Greater Manchester (and 16,000 police officers nationally).
• build the community partnerships which make neighbourhood policing work and keep police on the beat not hand policing over to private companies.
• ensure that the anti-social neighbour and the local yob know the police will stop them from terrorising our communities. Victims will get a response within 24 hours.
• make sure victims of crime are at the centre of events from early investigation, kept in touch with progress and treated with the dignity they should expect.
• tackle domestic and sexual violence and exploitation of children as a top priority.
• build partnerships with community groups and the local councils and across the criminal justice system to tackle and prevent crime.

Monday 8 October 2012

Million Meal Food Drive

The Million Meal Appeal where shoppers can donate food to help local people in crisis is being organised by charity FareShare and Sainsbury's stores across the country, including the Worthington Way store at Goose Green. As part of the appeal over the weekend of Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th October, I visited the store (Saturday) to support staff and encourage donations.

Donations will be collected as shoppers leave the store. FareShare will then deliver the donated food to over 700 charities and community projects across the UK to help families in need. Sainsbury’s will match the level of food donations collected over the weekend.

The Million Meal Appeal comes as the economic crisis deepens and the rising costs of living hits households in Wigan hard. Food prices rose by more than four per cent over the last year and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimate that around 5.8 million people in the UK struggle to afford everyday essentials like food.

The Million Meal Appeal will help local families struggling with rising living costs and cuts to tax credits. It is a sad fact that the number of food banks is rising despite the fact that we are the 7th richest country in the world. I am supporting the Million Meal Appeal and I hope that shoppers dig deep to help those families who are struggling at this time.

Last year the Million Meal Appeal collected food for 1.2 million meals for disadvantaged people with Sainsbury's customers buying an additional item of food for FareShare, which the charity then distributed to hostels, day centres, breakfast clubs and local projects.

Friday 5 October 2012


I pledged my support at Labour Party Conference for an initiative launched by charity Whizz-Kidz, to gather young disabled peoples’ hopes for the legacy of the Paralympics.

The findings from the ‘Generation Inspired?’ consultation will help ensure that those charged with delivering the Paralympic legacy are fully informed about what young disabled people want – and expect – following the Games.

I met 22 year old wheelchair-user and Whizz-Kidz Ambassador, Chris Tickle who told me that attending the Conference was a great opportunity to discuss the legacy of the Games with MPs – and it was brilliant to get support for Generation Inspired.

The Paralympics showed the potential for changing attitudes to disability across the whole of society. Now we need everyone to play their part in improving accessibility and changing attitudes so that young disabled people like me can fulfil their potential.

The full link to Whizz-Kidz’s Generation Inspired survey can be found here.

More than just a Cinema

With Nicola Wood and Norman Brown
I visited the Empire Cinema in Wigan to see for myself the role cinema plays in bringing employment and enjoyment to local people.

Cinema is a major contributor to our economy, directly employing some 17,500 people across the country. Here in Wigan, General Manager Nicola Wood took me on a special behind-the-scenes tour. I was able to see first-hand how a modern cinema operates, and to hear how cinemas help contribute to a vibrant local economy.
Cinemas across the country are currently in the midst of wholesale conversion to digital projection technology after decades of relying on celluloid. Almost three-quarters of UK screens already show films in this new format. When the digitisation process is complete in the UK, the need annually to use around 109,000 miles of film – enough to circle the Earth four-and-a-half times – will disappear.

I really enjoyed the visit and was pleased to see how Empire is investing in the latest technologies like digital and 3D cinema and the innovative role that it plays in the local community through its many promotions aimed at bringing the enjoyment of cinema to all sections of the community.

Nicola Wood said, “Here at Empire Wigan we are committed to providing affordable cinema to all. We have a number of money saving initiatives in place that really do cater for everyone.  Local families looking for a family-friendly cinema trip can take advantage of Empire Juniors, showing some of the greatest classic family films and recent releases every Saturday and Sunday morning."

"All our schemes support Empire Wigan’s position of being the best value cinema in the area and demonstrate our commitment to offering our customers access to the latest new releases at economical prices.”

Thursday 4 October 2012

Sink or Swim

You can view my online Progress article on the Social Market Foundation Report 'Sink or Swim' here.