Thursday 31 January 2013

The Truth beneath the Hood

I was delighted to meet with young members of Ashton Youth Action on their recent trip to visit Parliament. They told me about a video they had produced and I wanted to share this with people.

Young people are far too often painted in a negative way, but as this video demonstrates young people make an invaluable contribution to the local community in Ashton.

Monday 28 January 2013

Women set to lose out in Pension Reform

House of Commons Library research released by Labour reveals the true cost of last week’s pensions reforms to over 2,100 women in the Wigan Borough who are set to lose out.

Women born in 1952 and 1953 will not be eligible for the single tier pension since they are due to retire in 2017, before the state pension reforms come into effect. Men born during the same period, however, will qualify.

The news comes after the Government claimed that "we have to be absolutely transparent [about who will lose]” yet they failed to make clear the full consequences of the planned reforms.

The unravelling of this latest Pensions announcement is the second time this government has been caught trying to hide the full impact of its changes for pensioners following the Granny Tax.

Ministers have been caught red-handed hiding the truth on pension reforms. This government’s pension changes have hit hardworking women in our Borough time and again and these reforms are no different. Over 2,100 women will be nearly £2,000 worse off compared to men, but instead of being honest with the women that will lose out this government tried to bury the truth.

Once again Ministers have been caught with their hands in pensioners’ pockets – it’s about time this government had the decency to be honest about who will lose out under their plans.

Women born between April 1952 and July 1953 will retire before 2017 and will not be eligible for the single tier pension. For example, a woman born in October 1952 will retire at age 63 in 2015. This means that she will draw the basic weekly pension of £107.45 (in today’s prices) when she retires.

However, men born in the same period are due to retire in 2017, and so will be eligible for the new single-tier rate.

House of Commons Library research shows that 430,000 women born between April 1952 and July 1953 could lose out in this way. This could mean that women draw a state pension income of around £1,900 a year (£36.55 a week) less than a man of the same age. The exact difference will depend on the number of contributions each woman has made, and whether she receives means-tested benefits or not.

Friday 25 January 2013

Fix It UK Ltd

I joined Lisa Nandy MP today at a ground breaking vocational training scheme operating in Wigan.

Fix It UK Ltd is a Charitable Trust operating from Spring View. Now in its 10th year, it has developed a holistic and practical approach to learning, by offering a specialist training facility in the repair and maintenance of motor vehicles.

During this period, over 1000 young people have been through its doors and have been helped into employment or further training.

We called in at the invitation of the Chair, Cllr Keith Cunliffe to see for ourselves the work being undertaken at the Rosebridge Industrial Estate site; to talk to some of the young people about their progress and also pick up tips on the importance of car maintenance, particularly during the cold winter weather snap!

We were given a tour of the facility by Fix It UK Ltd’s, Ian Tomlinson and Chair, Cllr Keith Cunliffe.

Fix It recognise that all young people have skills and qualities and that not all wish to pursue an academic route. The courses provided are designed to enable students to learn in a safe and secure environment, in small class sizes, thereby providing a high quality learning experience.

Fix-it  works closely with 14-19 year olds to deliver vocational motor vehicle studies. All programmes are designed for students who may have faced difficulties in traditional pathways to work such as;

Have shown a negative behaviour pattern such as poor attainment, attendance and/or behaviour.
Have a flair for vocational or practical subjects.
Are academically gifted but have become de-motivated.
Require positive role models.
Have difficulty mixing or working with others.
Respond to a less formal approach to teaching
Looked after children
Have been identified as having learning needs (including emotional and behavioural difficulties)

Fix It UK Ltd are also celebrating and putting to good use the proceeds of a £84,000 grant from the BBC Children In Need Appeal. At a time of uncertainty for many charities as a result of the economic downturn the grant secures the future of the charity for the next 3 years.

This is fantastic project working with our young people. It is vital that we continue to support the opportunities provided by Fix It Uk Ltd and the grant from Children in Need secures the immediate future and will help yet more youngsters to develop their skills and receive quality vocational training.

Equipping youngsters with practical skills and knowledge is not just an investment for today but provides a pathway into work and the benefits that this brings to individuals and wider society in the future.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Welfare Benefit Uprating Bill

The text of my speech in Parliament this week on this shameful Tory Bill follows below.

'The proposal is to limit the increase in working-age benefits to 1% for the next three years, which is an effective cut. Let us make no mistake: for anyone who relies on benefits for all or part of their income, this will be a “poverty-producing policy”. Those are not my words, but the words of the Child Poverty Action Group. Working families are finding it hard to get by financially after two years of freezes in child benefit and working tax credit, and cuts to child care tax credit, housing benefit and support for new parents. It is no wonder that the CPAG is warning that the number of children living in absolute poverty will rise.

Let us look at what the proposal means for a full-time worker on the minimum wage. In a response to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey), the Treasury confirmed that the working tax credit lost in 2013-14 by people who are working full time on the minimum wage, due to the Government’s freezes and the increase in the earnings taper, will be £475 for a single person with no children and £660 for a couple with one child. Contrary to the assertions made in Parliament, the amount of working tax credit lost by families with one earner on the minimum wage will be greater than their saving of £420 in 2013-14 from the increase in the personal tax allowance.

Many of my constituents work in low-paid retail work. I am grateful to the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers for the survey of its members, who all report how difficult it is to manage with the rising cost of food, fuel and other everyday items. Many report that they have turned off the heating at certain times in the month. Tracey said that although both she and her partner work, after paying for the rent, gas and electric, they often find it so hard to manage that they go without food so that their children can eat.
That situation is confirmed by the Oasis food bank in my constituency, which has recently begun to operate. Although I support its good work and pay tribute to it, I deplore the fact that such organisations are needed in the 21st century. The food bank tells me that many working people come to it as they simply cannot make their money stretch to the end of the month, and we know that more people are turning to payday lenders simply to get money to spend on essentials, not on luxuries any more. It is no wonder those payday lenders are circling the estates.

The people affected have not made a lifestyle choice. They are working people such as the one who came to my surgery who gets up at 5 o’clock to do two cleaning jobs. It is not a lifestyle choice for those who are out of work, either. It is a situation that they find themselves in, like the young man who worked at Comet and lost his job, and is now competing with seven others for every job in my constituency. He was almost in tears at having to claim benefits, and I can relate to that: I claimed benefits myself for a few months in the mid-’80s when I was left with a young daughter, and it has left an indelible mark on me. I know what it feels like to go and sign on—it hurts, it really does.

Those in work who are struggling to make ends meet and those out of work who are desperate to find it are the people who are bearing the brunt of the Government’s failed economic policies, not the high earners and millionaires who are getting a tax cut of £107,000 this April. It is not fair, and it is not right, and I am proud to vote against the Bill and defend the 8,100 people in my constituency who are claiming working tax credits.'

Thursday 3 January 2013

I won't support a Strivers Tax while Millionaires pocket £3 Billion tax cut

George Osborne has claimed to be cracking down on the benefits culture that rewards skivers and shirkers but it is hard-working families in Wigan who are amongst those being hit hardest.

Despite the Chancellor’s bold claim, the truth is that 60% of the people affected by the government’s changes to tax credits and benefits are actually working people. 

And statistics show that one-earner working families could lose out by as much as £534 per year. The people that are losing out here aren’t skivers; they’re strivers. It’s hard-working people, trying to do the right thing, who are paying the price for the Tories’ economic failures. I think working families in Wigan who are feeling the pinch will be angry to see their tax credits and benefits cut by up to £534 a year.

When the Welfare Uprating Bill is published, I will look at it carefully but if the government intends to go ahead with an unfair hit on middle and lower income working families whilst giving millionaires a £3 billion top rate tax cut I will oppose it.

Striving working families shouldn’t have to pay the price for his economic failure. However they try to spin it they can’t hide the truth - they're cutting taxes for millionaires whilst millions are struggling to make ends meet.

We need a proper plan for jobs and a plan to get welfare spending down that’s fair to working people in Wigan.