Column: Our Climate Emergency

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 11th October: The sizeable protests to push for greater action in tackling climate change have been on the news again recently, not least as blockades take place down in Westminster. They follow a recent international ‘day of action’, that last month saw people around the world take part in mass demonstrations to raise the issue of environmental change. From Munich to Mexico City, New York to New Delhi, and Brisbane to Barnsley, millions of people, young and old, came together to show their willing for action to prevent the devastating consequences of climate change. Outside our town hall people from our community did the same, and I’m delighted to see our local council agrees that urgent action needs to be taken. They have declared a climate emergency, and set in place their strategy to make Barnsley carbon neutral. And we need action at every level. From making small and simple changes in our own lives, to changes made with help from the council, and wholesale transformations by the Government, the climate crisis can only be prevented by treating it as that: a crisis. There’s no time for tinkering around the edges, or ploughing ahead with ill-advised alternatives such as fracking that ignore local community needs. Because the environment isn’t just the green, natural spaces we see around us that desperately need preserving.  It’s the basis of what we eat and drink, our economy and livelihoods, and the ecosystems that keep the natural world around us functioning. Increasing temperatures can lead to droughts and food shortages, for instance. Rising sea levels threaten global coastal communities and may force mass migrations.  Ultimately, our lives and the environment around us are inescapably linked. So I implore everyone to do what they can to make their own lives that bit more environmentally friendly. Whether it’s making that extra effort to recycle, cycling or walking on those short journeys that don’t really need a car, or supporting local businesses that use homegrown produce to cut down on air miles and our carbon footprint. Let’s do our bit in Barnsley, and I’ll keep pushing the Government in Westminster to make the necessary changes across the country. Because at this crisis point, faced with the real prospect of an irredeemably damaged environment that could widen social and economic inequality and hit vulnerable people hardest, the cost of not acting now is simply too high.  

Speaking on climate change

Recently in Parliament I highlighted the role local authorities can play in tackling climate change, and praised Barnsley Council​’s climate emergency declaration and commitment to action.It’s critical we work together at all levels to tackle this threat.

Writing to the EU on Brexit

I and 18 of my Labour colleagues have written to the EU, pressing them to work with the UK Government and agree a compromise Brexit deal.It’s time to get Brexit sorted.We need a deal that allows us to leave on 31st October:

Questioning the Government on probation services

Following my meeting yesterday with the probation service in South Yorkshire, today I raised the issue of failures of the privatised probation system with the Secretary of State.You can watch my comments in Parliament here.

Meeting the probation service

Brierley's Jackie Wileman was killed by four men - one of them was on probation, and two had recently left supervision.Today in Sheffield I met with the South Yorkshire probation service to raise the impact this tragedy has had on Jackie's family, and to press them on what steps are being taken to address the problems this tragic incident highlighted.

Supporting the Raise the Rate campaign

Like so many other of the services people across Barnsley depend on, post-16 education has suffered at the hands of a near decade of austerity under the Tories.I’m supporting the Raise the Rate campaign to increase the core funding rate for 16-18 education.

Pressing the Government on teaching assistants and support staff

In the Government’s recent education funding announcement I pressed the Education Secretary to confirm it would not come at the expense of more teaching assistants and support staff, nearly a third of which have been lost in Barnsley’s schools under the Tories.You can watch my comments in Parliament here.

Signing a letter to the EFL on Bury

As clubs across the country play today, sadly Bury and its fans face an uncertain future.I signed this letter to the 71 EFL clubs calling for Bury to be readmitted next season.Sadly clubs decided against this at their meeting last Thursday, but the fight to save Bury goes on.

Visiting the Barnsley Canister Company exhibition

I dropped in to Experience Barnsley’s exhibition on the Barnsley Canister Company, which started life as a First World War munitions factory and went on to export tins around the world.It was great to see the work being done to preserve another important part of our area's industrial heritage.

Column: Creativity in Schools

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 27th September: When discussing schools and education, much of our focus is rightly on subjects such as English, Maths, and Science, and the success of students in these core areas. But we shouldn’t forget about the more creative subjects, either. Lessons in music, drama, and art, for example, not only provide another area to gain important grades, but can have a wider impact on the students themselves. For many children, these subjects allow them to express themselves and show off their talents and creativity, with a career in a relevant field an option for some. This isn’t restricted to the classroom, either. Some children take part in these activities in after school clubs, where teachers and supervisors often selflessly give up their own time to encourage and nurture the creative talents young people in our community have to offer.   And when recently visiting a school in Cudworth, I heard about a brilliant example of this right here in our town. Birkwood Primary School, like many others in Barnsley, has seen pupils take up instruments, and in this case form a brass band ensemble to follow in the footsteps of the proud local tradition we have in our community. In fact, the collection of young musicians were inspired to start by a performance by the world-renowned Grimethorpe Colliery Band itself in the school hall some years ago. The children have their instruments provided, and receive tuition courtesy of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. The band encourages creativity, develops the musical skills of the pupils, teaches excellent life skills like teamwork and camaraderie, and links this generation to the traditions of the past in continuing our town’s proud legacy of brass bands. And it is funded by the school, who rightly believe it fits with their motto of ‘Inspire, Cherish, Achieve’. It’s an excellent initiative, and indicative of the opportunity I want every young person here in Barnsley to have. So whether it’s an arts club, drama class, or band practices, alongside their studies in other subjects, each pupil should have the chance to participate in creative programmes.  Young people in our community have so much to offer, and have the potential to contribute creatively and culturally not just here in Barnsley, but right across the world. It’s only right we give them the opportunity to do so.