As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle, Stephanie recently met the trustees of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme (MPS) to discuss amending the existing scheme arrangement. The meeting, which included other Labour MPs of coalfield communities and the NUM, was called in Parliament on October 18th to review the pension deal that has deprived ex-miners and their widows of billions of pounds in pension payments. Under an agreement made by the Conservative Government and trustees of the British Coal pension schemes in 1994, half of the surplus made by the MPS is given to the Government. Since the deal was made, the Government has received over £3.36bn from the scheme – despite making no contributions. The parties agreed to work together and present the case for a review of the MPS surplus sharing arrangement and protection of existing bonus payments for scheme members, to the Treasury. Stephanie said: “I’m pleased the MPS trustees agreed to meet us and discuss a fairer scheme that will help ex-miners like many in Barnsley. “For too long the Government has taken more than its share from the MPS whilst contributing nothing. “Thousands of miners in Barnsley and across the country worked hard for decades, and they should have a larger share of the huge surplus that has built up. “The meeting was productive and ended with real progress being made, with other MPs, the NUM and the trustees agreeing to work together for the benefit of the ex-miners.” Following the meeting, the next step will involve collating the financial information needed so that the case for the review can be presented to Treasury officials.
As reported in The Star, on Monday 16th October Stephanie questioned the Home Secretary on concerns voiced by local police in Barnsley after a recent visit by the MP for Barnsley East. Amber Rudd has given reassurances there are "no plans for further cuts" to the police budget amid concerns from the South Yorkshire MP that officers are overstretched. The home secretary faced calls to guarantee cash to forces across the country, particularly in Yorkshire, as she appeared in the House of Commons for departmental questions. Ms Rudd, in reply to Stephanie Peacock MP, said: "I can reassure you that there are no plans for further cuts, that the police budget has been protected between 2015 and 2020. "And I'd like to pay particular admiration to South Yorkshire Police, who recently launched a new neighbourhood policing model - moving significant resource into neighbourhood policing across the force's four districts, which shows exactly how well they're operating." Ms Peacock had earlier told Ms Rudd: "A quarter of my local police force's operational strength has been cut since 2010. "When I visited police in Barnsley this weekend they told me they're genuinely worried about how they will continue to operate at the same level if further cuts are made. "Do you disagree with officers like those in Barnsley that additional cuts will have a severe impact on neighbourhood policing?" Ms Rudd suggested fire services merge with police forces to make savings so they can spend more on the front line.
As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and the Barnsley Gazette, on 18th October Stephanie recently signed an open letter calling on the Football Association to fill empty seats at England matches with free tickets for schoolchildren. The letter, signed by a cross-party group of 128 MPs was drafted by Shadow Sports Minister, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, and sent to FA Chair Greg Clarke. It states that the 28,000 empty seats for the recent England game against Slovenia represent ‘28,000 lost opportunities to inspire England stars of the future’. Said Stephanie: “The FA does good work in communities across the country but there is still more that can be done. “There are dozens of schools in our local area that would welcome the opportunity to send children to Wembley Stadium to see England play, and I gladly joined the call for these empty seats to be used for opportunities for local children.”
As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport, the Barnsley Chronicle and the Barnsley Gazette, on 18th October Stephanie has been elected to the Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee. The move was passed by a Parliamentary motion on Monday and the Stephanie joins the cross-party Select Committee as a permanent member. The Science and Technology Select Committee’s main role is to ensure Government policy and decision-making is based on scientific advice and evidence, and it runs inquiries into topical issues, legislation and the Government. Commenting on the move, Stephanie said: “I’m pleased to be joining the Science and Technology Select Committee, which gives me a great opportunity to hold the Government to account. “A forward-thinking strategy that takes advantage of technological and scientific opportunities is vital to ensure our exit from the European Union helps working people like those in Barnsley with jobs and skills. “My place on the Select Committee will help keep Barnsley at the forefront of these developments.”
As reported in Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Gazette on 4tth October, Stephanie has revealed Government figures that show Barnsley residents are forced to wait over 15 weeks on average for a decision on welfare appeals. The figures were attained by Stephanie after she forced Ministers to admit the statistics through a Parliamentary Question. The figures relate to the appeals made on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) applications. ESA provides both help to those unable to work through long term illness or disability and support when they can work, whilst PIP helps cover the extra costs caused by serious disability or long-term ill-health. The data obtained by Stephanie shows that residents in Barnsley wait on average 15.2 weeks for an outcome to their appeal of the initial decision. The figures follow her recent reveal of the ‘shocking’ number of two-thirds of initial PIP and ESA applications rejections that are eventually overturned on appeal in Barnsley. Commenting, Stephanie said: “Many people who have fallen on difficult times through no fault of their own depend on vital financial support. “Yet this admission by Tory Ministers just shows how carelessly those who are struggling with disability or long-term illness in Barnsley are treated. “I recently revealed figures showing two-thirds of people who are initially rejected PIP and ESA are found to be eligible on appeal, with the original decision eventually overturned. “This figure is shocking enough, but now we find out those same people are being forced to wait nearly four extra months for the privilege of being offered the help they are eligible for. “This is simply not good enough, and the Government should immediately explain why residents in Barnsley are forced to go months without the vital help they are entitled to.”
As reported in Barnsley News and Sport on 11th October Stephanie joined the fight for truth and justice for what happened at Orgreave during the miners strike. Stephanie spoke to members of the public at an event on Orgreave hosted by the Darfield Ward Labour Party and Barnsley East CLP. It brought together local Councillors, the Orgreave Trust and Justice Campaign, Trade Union representatives and the public. Actions that took place at Orgreave between striking miners and the police over 33 years ago were discussed, along with the information that has come to light in the years since. Stephanie said: “It’s important to have the opportunity to speak about the Orgreave injustices at events like this. “The incidents that took place that day in South Yorkshire are still incredibly pertinent to so many people in our community, and it’s crucial we continue our campaign for those who were affected. “The event was open to all, and it was great to be joined by so many people to discuss how we can continue our fight for the truth and justice that working people deserve.”
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 29th September Stephanie pledges support for deaf children. Stephanie met with deaf teenager Erin McKay at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton to discuss how support for deaf children can be improved. Erin, 17 attended the conference as a Youth Advisory Board member for National Deaf Children’s Society which recently launched a ‘right to sign’ campaign for BSL British Sign Language to be an option at GCSE. Erin said “BSL is one of the languages of the UK so I think everyone in the country, deaf or hearing should get the chance to learn it. Sadly, most people miss out because it’s not taught at school and private lessons are expensive. “I want to break down the barriers to learning BSL, so it was great to speak to Stephanie to help her understand this issue because she has the power to make a difference” Erin and Stephanie also talked about the charity’s ‘Listen Up’ campaign to improve children’s audiology services. Mandatory inspections were scrapped in 2012 and a voluntary accreditation scheme was introduced instead. But many services, including the New Street Health Centre in Barnsley haven’t been inspected for years. Jess Reeves, Campaigns Manager for the National Deaf Children’s Society, said “there are more than 40,000 deaf children in England, and a good audiology service is a vital lifeline for them but without mandatory inspections this cannot be guaranteed”
As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 29th August, Stephanie outlined the unsustainable situation in Barnsley with fewer police recourses, less pay for officers and a mounting number of 999 calls being made. You can read the full column here.
As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport, Stephanie has started the new Parliamentary term highlighting the importance of animal welfare by meeting with the RSPCA and their inspectors at the House of Commons. In 2016 alone, the RSPCA received over 1.1 million calls to its cruelty line and investigated just under 160,000 complaints of animal cruelty. Said Stephanie: “I’m proud to support the RSPCA and the work that they do to protect animals in Barnsley East. “It was fantastic to meet some of their hard-working inspectors and to thank them on behalf of the animal lovers in our area for all that they do. “I know how important animal welfare issues are to my constituents and it is an issue that I intend to take up on their behalf in this Parliament, and I look forward to working with the RSPCA moving forward. David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs at the RSPCA, commented: “It is always a pleasure to be able to highlight the work that our outstanding team of inspectors do day in, day out, twenty four hours a day. “Despite having limited resources the RSPCA continues to be the leading enforcement organisation for animal welfare in England and Wales, as the fact that we receive a call to our Cruelty Line every 27 seconds shows. “The RSPCA has been working to improve the laws that protect animals since we were founded in 1824. “As the UK exits the European Union there are all sorts of animal welfare issues that we need to work with politicians to make progress on; from protecting animal sentience to working to end live animal exports, from reforming the Common Agricultural Policy to encourage better farm animal welfare to improving food labelling.”
As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 15th September, Stephanie calls on the Government to give our hard working public sector employees the proper pay and support they deserve, and finally scrap the cap You can read the full column here.