I questioned the Secretary of State this morning on the inequality in national lottery funding. So many local organisations, projects and community groups depend on national lottery funding in Barnsley East, yet since 1995 the £13m granted to Barnsley East is dwarfed by funding awarded elsewhere. Prime Minister Theresa May’s seat of Maidenhead has received £63.9 in grants, Chancellor Philip Hammond’s wealthy Runnymede and Weybridge patch in Surrey has been awarded over twice as much with £27m, and the West Suffolk constituency of Tory Culture Secretary Matt Hancock had received over £22m. It’s just not good enough for Tory ministers to hide from this issue when they are overseeing a system that is clearly unfair to people in Barnsley - it’s time that towns like ours got our fair share. You can watch the video of my question here.
I dropped in to meet with Arthritis Research UK in Parliament this week to hear about their work and the experiences of people living with arthritis. Around 10 million people in the UK are affected by arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, and the difficulties caused are estimated to cost around 30.6m working days a year. It’s so important we work towards a greater awareness of the difficulties caused by these conditions, and do our best to support those suffering both at work and in life.
I spoke this week on the further cuts announced to council budgets. Local authorities continue to see budgets slashed but demand for services continues. From 2015 to 2020 alone, Barnsley local authority will see a 29.8% reduction in its settlement funding, on top of drastic cuts already made in previous years. It’s unfair and unrealistic to expect local authorities to continue providing the same level of local services with ever decreasing resources, and time the Government took responsibility for the situation. You can watch my full comments here.
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.