Government funding for free TV licences for over-75s is due to end in 2020, and the BBC consultation on whether to start charging a fee ends today. Age UK research has shown that ending the free TV licence could push 50,000 pensioners into relative poverty, and force them to cut back on essentials such as heating and food.This is completely unacceptable, and is just another example of this Government’s cuts falling on the poorest in our society. Meanwhile, the BBC has stated that it would cost £745m to replace the Government funding and continue to provide free licences, but that would represent around a fifth of the BBC budget, and would lead to significant cut backs in BBC services.The BBC is one of our most treasured institutions, and I firmly believe its investment and scope must be maintained. That’s why I’m pressing the Government to protect our pensioners, protect the BBC, and save free TV licences.
I’m delighted to secure a debate in House of Commons on Thursday to discuss the Mineworkers Pension scheme. The current arrangement sees the Government take 50% of any surplus made by the scheme, and since 1994 they have taken £4.4bn without paying a single penny in. Miners toiled for years in dangerous conditions to help keep our lights on and our country running, yet the Government continues to raid their pension pot – they’ll take another £427m over the next three years. I'll be pushing the Government to arrange a fairer scheme that gives more money to retired miners and their families.
I met with the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner to discuss policing across Barnsley East and in particular to raise the rise in crime in Hoyland, Hoyland Common and Elsecar.We discussed the issue of additional resources – in particular I asked for a base for police in Hoyland. I recognise that cuts to police budgets have had a serious impact on our local force, and I understand the focus is on police officers rather than buildings.However, the travel time from the station in Goldthorpe is a concern, which would be helped by a base for police in Hoyland.This isn’t just about response times, but a permanent police presence in our community.
I enjoyed my visit to Greenfield Primary School.It was good to meet headteacher Mr Ralph, answer questions from Year 6, and see the fantastic Thrive centre to help pupils develop.
You can read my New Year Newsletter on some of the work I've been doing recently here.
I met with Cancer Research UK today to mark the 20th World Cancer Day. It was really encouraging to hear latest breakthroughs in the fight against cancer.
First it was by 2018, then in 2018, then by Christmas, now it’s sometime ‘early’ this year.Since 2013 the Tories have slashed legal aid budgets, removing a vital safety net for people to receive representation and advice in the justice system.A review into the devastating effects of these cuts on access to justice was promised, but we’re still waiting as the Government kicks the can further down like so many other promises they’ve made. Watch my question to the Secretary of State for Justice in Parliament here.
With 600 fewer frontline officers and over £67m cut from police budgets since 2010 in South Yorkshire alone, residents here in Barnsley have felt first-hand the impact of this Government’s cuts to policing.But the Government’s new police grant for future budgets will bring yet another real-terms cut to central government funding.What’s more, using a council tax precept to increase funding allows leafy, affluent suburbs to raise so much more to tackle crime than communities like ours that really need it most.Today I voted against this perverse and grossly unfair settlement that once again reveals this Government’s neglect of our community.You can watch my comments here.
Time and time again this Tory Government’s privatisation agenda has proved disastrous for the public purse and services. I brought up Capita’s failings in Parliament recently - you can watch my comments here.I also wrote my column in the Barnsley Chronicle this week on how it’s time the Government acted in the interests of the public, not profit - you can read my column here.
I had a fantastic day visiting Catterick Infantry Training Centre last week as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme. Catterick trains all of the Army’s infantrymen through a 26-week course – it was fascinating to see how junior recruits are put through the rigours and prepared for combat.