Earlier this month, the Prime Minister had the temerity to claim ‘austerity is over’. So after the Chancellor’s Budget this afternoon, let’s have a look at the facts. After nearly a decade of cuts, our NHS and social care system are straining, local councils have had budgets slashed, we’ve lost over 20,000 police officers from our streets as crime rises, whilst our schools and other public services are under unprecedented pressure. Economic growth has stagnated, over 4 million children across the country are living in poverty, and since 2010 the number of people sleeping on our streets has more than doubled. And the impacts are all too apparent in Barnsley. Too many people are stuck in insecure, short term employment with no guarantee of an income, unable to plan past next week’s rota. Teachers, nurses and police officers are being forced to make do with strained resources, asked to do more with less. And the Government continues to push ahead with the roll-out of their flawed Universal Credit policy that has already had such a devastating impact for so many people in Barnsley. I could go on. But instead of taking the opportunity to address these issues, the Chancellor offered sticking plasters for the “little extras” we need. False promises over an end to the Government’s obsession with austerity just won’t cut it for people here, and today the Chancellor failed to recognise the full extent of the hardship this devastating policy has inflicted on our community We need to urgently invest in our public services and build an economy that works for everyone here in Barnsley and across the UK.
The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 26th October: Next week in Parliament, the Government will unveil its Budget for the coming year.When Philip Hammond stands up in front of MPs and announces his spending plans, it’s likely to be the same old story from this Tory Government: cuts to our schools, cuts to our NHS, and cuts to the pay of our public sector workers.Theresa May recently claimed that ‘austerity is over’.Tell that to the carer in Grimethorpe, working unsociable hours for low pay with no support from this Government.Tell it to the police officer in Cudworth who’s been asked to work longer hours for less as her pay has been frozen and thousands of her colleagues across our region have lost their jobs.And tell it to the woman in Hoyland who’s forced to walk miles to a job interview as the disastrous Universal Credit programme leaves him struggling to make ends meet, unable to even afford a bus fare.The sad reality for my constituents and thousands more across the country is that this Tory Government’s austerity agenda is not over.Instead, it’s hurting more than ever, as our schools struggle under the weight of cuts; our NHS and social care sector groans under years of underfunding; and crime rises, with our police struggling after losing 21,000 officers since 2010.I’m proud that last year I was elected on a Labour manifesto which promised to truly end austerity.Not empty words, but a real promise of change, with properly funded public services, the end of the public sector pay cap, and an end to devastating cuts to funding.What my constituents need here in Barnsley is not yet more empty words and broken promises from this Tory Government.We need real action now.That’s why I’m urging the Government to follow the Labour Party’s lead, to properly invest in our public services, and to use next week’s Budget to properly end austerity once and for all.
A number of hospital trusts across South Yorkshire are operating at a deficit.I challenged the Government on how it’s about time they cancelled this debt to ensure that money goes to the front line. You can watch my comments here.
I'm supporting important Labour amendments to the Government's Civil Liability Bill today. Under the pretence of cracking down on fraudulent whiplash claims, this Government is slashing compensation payouts for genuinely injured people, and reducing access to justice for those injured not only on our roads but in the workplace too, by making it harder to access legal help and representation. In return, the Government are claiming extra money in pockets of big insurance companies as a result of this Bill will cut insurance premiums for everyone else. It's a laughable claim. The insurance industry has already saved over £11bn since 2012 - and insurance premiums are higher than ever. The Government should just come clean about what the Civil Liabilities Bill really is: a capitulation in the interests of profits for their friends in the insurance industry. You can read more about some of the changes being made here.
It was a privilege to join the Gujarat Association of Barnsley and Indian Welfare Association of Barnsley to turn on the Diwali lights in the town centre celebrating the beginning of the festival.There was lots of dancing and of course the traditional coconut breaking ceremony.
I wore red to support Show Racism the Red Card on Wear Red Day 2018.
I had a productive meeting with the Chair and CEO of Barnsley Hospital.We touched on a range of healthcare issues, and discussed how we can continue to support our hard working NHS staff here in Barnsley.
It was a pleasure to visit Cudworth Churchfield Primary School recently.Thank you to assistant head Mrs Bailey for a tour of the school.Great to hear the school are taking part in my Christmas card competition - I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again soon.
I marked Anti-Slavery Day 2018 recently. 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, and over recent months, I’ve been working with Cllr Chris Lamb and Northern College on tackling these issues. The College have put together a ten week, residential ‘Free Thinking Programme’. This is designed to provide support to survivors of modern slavery in returning to society, from building confidence, to English to Maths to IT skills, to education on the world of work. I recently had a productive meeting with officials from the Department for Education and tutors from Northern College on access to education for survivors of modern slavery, and later this month, I’ll be hosting a roundtable event in Westminster to help spread the word of the fantastic Northern College course and push for further action to tackle the appalling practice of modern slavery.
It was great to see Principal Chris Webb in Parliament as part of the 'Love Our Colleges' campaign for fair funding, and hear about the issues facing the fantastic Barnsley College.