Thursday 20 December 2012

Rock the House 2013

I am calling on local musicians and small venues in Makerfield to enter Rock the House 2013, Parliament’s biggest competition which celebrates up-and-coming British artists and the live music venues that support them.

Applications opened on November 30th 2012, and will close on March 1st 2013.

The competition is open to all music lovers who fall into the following categories: solo artist, band, under 19 solo artist, under 19 band, and best small live music venue.

Rock the House is a great opportunity for aspiring artists of any age looking to find a way into the industry. I am excited to listen to the tracks that local musicians can come up with, and hope to receive as many submissions as possible.

Mike Weatherley MP, founder of Rock the House said, “This competition is the perfect opportunity for talented artists to promote their music, and win some life-changing prizes in the process - from guitars and amps, to slots at gigs and festivals. It will also put MPs in touch with musicians and small venues in their constituencies. We’ve discovered some great talent in the past, and can’t wait to see who we find this year!”

Brian May, Queen guitarist said, “It is a great honour to back Rock the House. The UK is a hotbed of musical talent from all genres, and if the British music industry is going to grow and thrive then musicians need to be able to make a living from selling their product."

“This competition gives all musicians, from all backgrounds the chance to get out there and make live music – one of the things Brits do best.”

I will nominate my favourite from each category, after which a judging panel made of international music industry experts will chose the finalists. The finalists will compete in a live battle of the bands, and the winner of each category will then perform live on the balcony of the House of Commons on the evening of the 26th of June 2013.

Rock the House was founded by Mike Weatherley MP to raise awareness of intellectual property theft and live music issues in Parliament.  In 2011, the competition was part of a campaign which successfully persuaded the Government that venues with a capacity of 200 people will no longer need a license for live music.

The launch party on Monday 26th November saw the first ever amplified gig in the State Speaker’s Room with British rock band the Young Guns, Rob Damiani from Don Brocoand Bernie Marsden from Whitesnake attending the launch.

Monday 17 December 2012

Flood Relief for homes in Platt Bridge

Learning about the scheme design with UU engineers
I visited the site of a £700,000 investment in flood relief to see how work is progressing on a sewer scheme in Platt Bridge on a cold and wet Friday morning (14th Dec).

I was given a tour of the construction work by United Utilities engineers at the Liverpool Road site.
The water company is laying a huge new sewer through the open land at Amberswood to store more water during heavy rain and take the pressure off the main sewer in Liverpool Road.

A section of the new sewer piping
(1.5m in diameter)
 which will store excess rainwater during heavy rainfall

United Utilities project coordinator Gareth Jones told me that this scheme is about bringing peace of mind to local families who have had to put up with the misery of sewer flooding. he confirmed that work is progressing well and that this was a good example of how United Utilities were investing the money from customers' water bills to improve services in local communities.  

Work began at the beginning of November and I visited during phase II of the works which is the biggest part of the construction process with the laying of approx 60m of 1.5m diameter sewer pipes to store rainwater following prolonged rainfall.

The tour demonstrated the size of the works that United Utilities are undertaking and because this particular scheme is gravity fed, then there is no need for complex electrical or engineering solutions, which means that once complete ongoing maintenance is kept to a minimum providing value for money.

The Makerfield constituency has suffered the misery of flooding too often in the past decade so I warmly welcome schemes of this type which will take the blight of homes in this area.

Tory Britain shame on Housing and Rough Sleeping

The latest figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that rough sleeping in the North West has risen by a shocking 49% and the Tories have an equally poor record on statutory homelessness which is up by almost a third since they came to power in 2010.

These failures are a consequence of their disastrous economic policies - in its bid to cut the deficit too far and too fast, the government slashed the budget for building new affordable homes by 60%. They have also cut local council budgets by 28% nationally, putting real strain on many rough sleeping support programmes across the country.

It is an absolute tragedy that in the weeks before Christmas so many people will be sleeping rough. But it is no accident; they are paying the price for David Cameron’s failed economic and housing policies.

House building is down, homelessness is up, we have a mortgage market where people can’t get mortgages and rents are unaffordable for too many in the private rented sector.

And the most heartbreaking consequences of the Government’s failure on housing is the rise in homelessness and rough sleeping.

What we need is a One Nation approach to the economy and housing, including genuinely bringing forward infrastructure investment, a temporary VAT cut and a plan to fund a real increase in social homes and a jobs guarantee for young people. The government might then be better placed to tackle the biggest housing crisis in a generation and be able to help all those sleeping rough out in the cold this Christmas.

Friday 14 December 2012

Spirit of Christmas alive and well in Ashton in Makerfield

Nobody in Ashton in Makerfield should have to go without food this Christmas thanks to the incredible generosity of local church goers in the town.

A Food bank scheme launched in September is gearing up for the festive period, providing food and drink to hard-up families who would otherwise have to go hungry.

The church going community's donations has exceeded expectations and I joined Andrew Bullen (Oasis Community Food Bank Co-ordinator) today to publicise the food bank’s presence in the town.  

The non-perishable items, which vary from cereal, coffee, tea to tinned fruit/soups and pasta sauces, will be distributed from the Food bank’s stall (provided free by Wigan Council) located on Ashton Market to anyone in dire need of help.

Supported by local churches of various denominations has allowed the food bank to operate every Friday morning. Together with the food donations from the recent Harvest Festivals, Andrew Bullen expects donations to cover the festive period.

The Food bank is open to residents who live in the Ashton, North Ashton, Garswood, Bryn and Golborne areas of the Borough.

Recipients are referred to the food bank by partner organisations that have identified them as being in crisis such as;

• Job Centre Plus
• Wigan Independent Advisory Centre (WIAC)
• Wigan & Leigh Citizens Advice Bureau
• Ashton Clinic
• Police
• Local GPs

It is not intended that recipients will become permanently dependent upon the scheme; each entitled to a maximum of three parcels while their present emergency situation is addressed.

It's a sad reflection on the state of our economy that food banks are needed in 21st century Britain and for many people this Christmas will be a difficult time.

I was delighted to meet with volunteers to hear more about their important work helping families in need.  Christmas is a time for families to come together and celebrate, but the reality is that many people are suffering as the poor economic outlook continues to bite.

Andrew Bullen, Oasis Food Bank Co-ordinator said, “We are extremely grateful to Yvonne for the support she gave to us in getting the Food bank off the ground and for the further help, advice and donations she has given that have played a part in our success."

“And of course without the wonderful weekly donations that continue to be provided by the local church members, none of this would have been possible.”

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Chance to be Chancellor

I am supporting ‘Chance to be Chancellor’ and am calling on all young people across Wigan to take part.

Organised by educational charity Citizenship Foundation in partnership with Aviva, Chance to be Chancellor is a part of 'Paying for It', an educational programme that provides a free range of resources to develop economic awareness amongst young people.

Chance to be Chancellor is open to all 14-18 year olds and the initiative challenges participants to grapple with issues that face the Chancellor ahead of the official Budget in mid-March 2013. Students are required to learn about, and share their opinions on, a selection of possible policies detailed on the Chance to be Chancellor website.
Students can also enter a national competition by creating a short video (max 90 seconds) arguing their choices with a chance to win an iPad. All entries will be collated to produce the ‘Youth Budget’, a report launched in anticipation of the official budget to give the voters of the future a platform for their views on important economic issues.

Chance to be Chancellor is a fantastic way of bringing the current economic challenges into schools in Wigan. It’s also a great opportunity for students to have their say on what they think should be included in Budget 2013.
I encourage as many students as possible to get involved and submit their ideas on how to tackle the current economic challenges; a particularly difficult challenge in the current climate.  I wish all entrants the best of luck.

Chance to be Chancellor 2013 runs until Friday 15 February 2013.

Monday 10 December 2012

The Christmas spirit marks the inaugural Makerfield Veterans’ Luncheon

Pic with me from l-r: Mr John Hurst, The Mayor - Cllr Myra Whiteside,
Cllr Clive Morgan,  Mr Lawrence Powers & Mr Mel Lee

On Saturday, 8th December I hosted my inaugural Christmas Veterans’ Luncheon at St Matthews Parish Hall, Highfield  and was joined by over 170 veterans from across the Makerfield Constituency.

I was also delighted to welcome special guests to the luncheon including the Mayor of Wigan, Cllr Myra Whiteside and her consort, Mr John Hurst as well as Sir Ian McCartney and Lady Ann McCartney.

Councillors from across the political spectrum representing wards in Makerfield were also present.

Cllr Clive Morgan,  a former Welsh Guard and veteran of the 1982 Falklands War, was the MC for the day. The Vicar of St Matthews Parish, Revd Bob Pearson was on hand to open the event with prayers followed by the Exhortation led by Mr Mel Lee (Royal British Legion) and Mr Lawrence Powers (Burma Star Assoc).

Tucking into award winning pies kindly provided by event sponsor Pooles Pies guests were also entertained by the music of Mr Tony Bostock, including a medley of wartime anthems and music hall favourites for everyone to sing along to.

At the event, and on behalf of the whole community across the Makerfield constituency, I wanted to recognise and celebrate the outstanding contribution made by the men and women present both at home and abroad. It was also fitting that as we approach Christmas, we celebrate the role that veterans continue to play in community life.

Neil Court-Johnston, Chief Executive of Pooles Pies said, “Pooles is delighted to be able to support the Christmas Veterans’ Luncheon with our award winning pies. We are proud to support the men and women who have served their country and our community.  We extend best wishes for the festive season and a peaceful and prosperous New Year."