Column: Celebrating Women in Barnsley

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 13th March: A week ago today marked the annual celebration of International Women’s Day. I may be a little late to the party, but I didn’t want to miss my chance to pay tribute to the many brilliant women in Barnsley. One of the Labour Party’s themes of this International Women’s Day was ‘phenomenal women’, and I think it an accurate and appropriate way to describe many of these. Because here in Barnsley we have phenomenal women in abundance. They are in our hospitals, care homes, schools, and charities. They are our doctors, police officers, teachers, carers, volunteers, mums and sisters. They are our local heroes, like Dorothy Hyman – recently, and finally, recognised in the appropriate way by the BBC for her world-conquering and truly phenomenal sporting exploits on the track. Barnsley is blessed with many phenomenal women, and it’s an honour of mine to represent them down in Westminster. But it would be remiss of me to do so without addressing the burdens specifically placed on them by the actions of this Government.   Since 2010, men and women alike have been hit hard by the Government’s near-decade of austerity policies. But changes to direct taxes, benefits and tax credits have had a disproportionate impact on women. In fact, 86% of this Government’s cuts have landed on their shoulders. And across Barnsley, those effects are clear. Women are stuck in poverty, trapped in low-paid, insecure and short-term work, many unable to save money or progress in the workplace, others forced to rely on foodbanks. Many community groups and charities who provide vital services to women are now struggling to do so because of devastating cuts to local authorities. Last weekend I ran a half-marathon to help raise money for Barnsley Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Services, a vital organisation that helps vulnerable people. Because whilst celebrating the work and successes of the very many phenomenal women in Barnsley is one thing, under this Government it’s sadly no longer enough. So like donning my running shoes and raising money for a local charity that helps many women across our town, I’ll keep doing everything I can to help Barnsley’s phenomenal woman overcome the difficulties they face because of this Government.  

My resignation from the Labour front bench

It is with deep regret I tonight resigned from Labour’s front bench, because I believe we should respect the result of the 2016 vote to leave the European Union:

Why I voted against Theresa May's deal

Tonight I voted against Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Here’s why.The Prime Minister failed to sufficiently improve the deal, and what remained was little better than that last brought to Parliament and met with a record defeat.I’m still extremely concerned that the deal does not go far enough in protecting the workplace, consumer and environmental standards that people in Barnsley depend on.The Government has consistently refused to provide a sufficient mechanism to ensure workers’ rights in the UK are maintained and keep pace with the EU once we leave.Guarantees from this Government that they’ll protect workers just won’t cut it – we all know that you cannot trust the Tories with workers’ rights.The Prime Minister also continues to rule out any form of permanent customs union that will support jobs and vital supply chains for local businesses.I respect the decision of people in Barnsley and the UK, and I won’t frustrate or block our exit from the EU.But nor will I risk the livelihoods and jobs of people here in Barnsley to vote through a botched deal designed by the Prime Minister to benefit her own position and party, not people in our community.

Chairing an event on tackling modern slavery

To mark International Women's Day, Barnsley East Labour women held a discussion event on modern slavery.Thanks to our fantastic panel of speakers and everyone who attended.I'm really pleased that we raised over £90 for Barnsley Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Services​, who I ran The Vitality Big Half​ for today:

Attending the NUM memorial for David Jones and Joe Green

It was a real honour to lay a wreath at the incredibly moving NUM memorial for David Jones and Joe Green, who sadly lost their lives on the picket line in 1984. We must never forget the injustices done in the miners’ strike, where the Government at the time did all they could to break the miners and their way of life in communities like ours here in Barnsley. And we must always remember David and Joe, brave men standing up for their communities and their way of life, whose lives were so tragically cut short.

Meeting with The Coal Authority

As a proud mining area, the closure of the pits has had a profound impact on our community here in Barnsley, so I recently met with The Coal Authority​ to discuss the work they’re doing in our area. They tackle a range of issues stemming from our mining heritage, from subsidence to water pollution - if you have any issues you’d like them to look into, please do get in touch.

Visiting Hunningley Primary School

It was great to visit Hunningley Primary School in Stairfoot.It was lovely to chat to headteacher Ms Thorpe about the work the school are doing, and meet brilliant students on my walk round the school.

Attending the launch of the Darfield Environmental Group

I was pleased to attend the launch of the Darfield Environmental Group recently, lots of plans to improve the local area.As a local resident, big thanks to everyone who has set this up and I will do what I can to help.

Questioning the Government on workers' rights

Amidst the Government's inadequate promises on workers' rights, I questioned them recently on their delay in scrapping the Swedish Derogation.It's unacceptable agency workers must wait until 2020 for equal rights in the workplace. You just can't trust the Tories on workers' rights.

Challenging the Government on funding for towns

The Government acknowledged what we’ve all been telling them for the best part of a decade: their cuts have had devastating consequences in towns like Barnsley.In an attempt to make amends, the Prime Minister has offered towns struggling under this Tory Government funding worth £1bn over the next seven years, with £600m more available through bids.That may sound large, but just £197m has been allocated to Yorkshire and the Humber.And to put Theresa May’s offer in greater perspective, £7.3bn has been cut from council budgets by the Tories since 2010.Across Yorkshire and the Humber, £932m has been cut.In Barnsley alone, £145m – not much less than the Prime Minister’s offers for the entire region over the next seven years.Any money given to address the effects of this Government’s austerity policies is welcome, but this derisory offer will do little to reverse the damage caused by Tory cuts over the last 9 years.Nor will it buy the Prime Minister the political support she needs to prop up her Government – people in Barnsley aren’t so easily fooled.I challenged the Government on this in Parliament - you can watch my comments here.