I enjoyed visiting Hoyland Common Primary School. I spoke to two Year 5 classes about my role and what it’s like in Parliament. The students asked me interesting questions on topics such as my first day in Parliament and what it's like to be an MP. I’m proud of being the MP for Barnsley East, and it was a pleasure to speak to the students about what it’s like to be their MP. As a former teacher, it was great to get back in the classroom at this brilliant Barnsley school.
I visited the Dorothy Hyman Sports Centre in Cudworth.I was given a tour of the Sports Centre, and had the opportunity to see their new all-weather pitch.Sports Centres such as this are so important for local communities, and it was great to see the range of different leisure activities the Centre offers in Cudworth. I look forward to visiting the Centre again in future.
It was great to attend the Barnsley Museums and Heritage Trust’s recent fundraising dinner at the Elsecar Heritage Centre. Given the cuts this Government has forced onto local authorities, it’s important that local museums and heritage centres still have the resources they need to provide unique experiences for local people. It was a pleasure to attend this dinner and support efforts to raise funds for our brilliant local museums in Barnsley.
The following appeared in my column for the Barnsley Chronicle on March 16th: I know that readers of my column will agree with me that nobody should be forced to continue struggling when they’ve fallen on hard-times through no fault of their own. The same applies to children, and those who grow up in poverty across the UK and closer to home here in Barnsley. Because some of the most desperate children in our community rely on help, such as a free hot meal at school where they may otherwise not be able to afford one. A substantial, warm meal at lunchtime is essential to so many children to be able to succeed at school, and give them the best chance of getting on in life for those who are most in need. That’s why it’s concerning that I recently made the Government reveal that since 2011, the percentage of Barnsley students eligible for free school meals achieving the expected grades at key stage 2 in English and Maths has substantially decreased. But it’s even more worrying to see the Government’s new plans on free school meals for children with parents on Universal Credit (UC) passed in Parliament this week. Where, as it currently stands, a child with a parent on UC can receive an absolutely vital free school meal, the Government will now enforce an earning threshold to reduce eligibility. Now, children of anybody earning over £7,400 – not including their UC payment – will be excluded from receiving a meal. This decision to restrict eligibility could mean over 100,000 children in Yorkshire and the Humber who need it most will now go without their meal at school. This includes around 3,300 children in Barnsley, including some of the most desperate in our community. A child’s right to a good meal and the best start in life shouldn’t be in question. Nor should a dad have to go without a winter coat, or a mum her dinner, so they can afford good, warm meals for their child. And it was extremely disappointing to see this risked by the Government in Parliament this week.
It was a pleasure to welcome former Labour Cabinet Minister John Denham to Barnsley last week. Since leaving Parliament John has developed the English Labour Network, which seeks to promote a progressive English patriotism and the importance of the Labour Party winning in England. It was great to hear from John on this issue, and more specifically about the influence and importance of towns like ours to future elections, where we may hold the key to the next Labour Government. We had a good discussion with lots of ideas put forward. You can read more about the English Labour Network here.
It was great to meet my constituent Daniel in Parliament this week. Daniel was presenting his research into the development of advanced high strength steel for automotive suspension systems. His presentation was part of the STEM for Britain event which brings together researchers and politicians, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to hear about Daniels’s work – fascinating stuff!
It was great to attend the Central Area Council Celebration and Awards Evening tonight. This is an evening to recognise and celebrate the achievements of people in Central, Dodworth, Kingstone, Stairfoot and Worsborough wards. It was a pleasure to speak at the event and present awards to exceptional young people from our area.
I recently met with Councillor Chris Lamb and Dan Jarvis to discuss the work Chris is doing to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking. Modern slavery and human trafficking are a blight on our society – it is estimated that there are currently between 13,000 and 16,000 people in slavery in the UK. It’s a disgrace that such practices persist in 2018. I was pleased to speak to Chris about the work he’s doing to tackle these issues, and I look forward to supporting his work on this in future.
On Wednesday 7th I spoke in Parliament in a debate on local museums and arts/heritage centres. I paid tribute to the Maurice Dobson Centre and the fantastic volunteers who make our local museums what they are. But it’s concerning that cuts to local authority budgets are being passed on to public museums, with 39% of these across the country seeing their funding decrease in the last year. This is bound to have an impact on the experience and services they can provide, and 85% of museums funded by local authorities have reduced their opening hours since last year. It’s so important museums like the Elsecar Heritage Centre and Maurice Dobson have the adequate resources that allow them to continue serving as vital community assets that provide unique experiences to local people.
Civil servants do crucial front-line and back-office work that helps keep our country moving. Yes despite an apparent end to the public sector pay freeze, no progress has been made for civil service workers who are still waiting for a vital pay rise. I’m supporting a pay rise for the fantastic workers in our civil service, which is well deserved and long overdue.