COLUMN: Nursing Bursaries

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 13th April, Stephanie's recent column focused on nursing bursaries. She wrote about the Tories' plans to change nursing bursaries to a system of loans, and how this is reducing the numbers of nurses when the NHS needs them most. You can read her full comments here.   

Stephanie Calls for Better Opportunities for Barnsley

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport on 11th April, Stephanie made a speech in Parliament calling for a more inclusive economy that would provide better opportunities for people in Barnsley. She took the chance to make the call in a recent Parliamentary debate on ‘Social Mobility and the Economy’. According to the Social Mobility Foundation, Barnsley sits in the bottom 10 per cent of local authorities for social mobility, suggesting people there have a smaller chance of getting on in life than those elsewhere. The local MP commented on the lack of opportunities many children and young people in Barnsley face compared to their peers across the country, citing the huge inequality in both Government education spending and attainment for disadvantaged youngsters. She also suggested that the current economy has trapped people in low paid and precarious employment, rather than equipping them with the tools and opportunities to progress enjoyed elsewhere. Calling on the Government to produce an inclusive economy that works for people in Barnsley, she commented: “It’s completely unfair that even to this day, your postcode can still dictate your chances in life. “People in Barnsley should be given the same opportunities to succeed by this Government as everybody else across the country – but that’s just not the case. “Too many people here in Barnsley are left behind from early childhood and education, then trapped in precarious and insecure employment that pays too little. “We desperately need an inclusive economy that works for people here in Barnsley; that gives our children the same life chances as others, and hard-working people the opportunity to progress and get on in life – and the Government must urgently deliver this.”

Stephanie Reveals Confidence Crisis at Government's Key Lab

As reported in The Mirror and The Independent on the 7th April, Stephanie revealed a crisis in confidence in leadership at the Government's key science lab at Porton Down.  Staff at the Government’s chemical warfare HQ have lost confidence in its leadership as hundreds desert their jobs, an internal survey showed. Experts say a multi-million pound funding cut and the mass exodus of staff have left morale at rock-bottom. Stephanie exposed the alarming findings from an internal staff survey at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. Just 26 per cent expressed confidence in the decisions made by DSTL’s senior managers. Less than one worker in six felt their pay stood up against equivalent professionals elsewhere. And only a third felt motivated to meet the organisation’s objectives. Stephanie said: “As this week has shown all too clearly, Porton Down is in the front line of defending Britain. “But these disturbing results show this world-leading laboratory is being undermined by the Government’s refusal to invest in our services – with millions of pounds and hundreds of staff axed under the Tories. “Our scientists are at the global forefront of protecting people here and abroad from chemical and biological warfare or terrorism. “When ministers’ own civil servants have no confidence in their leadership, it is clear that the Government is letting down the people who work hard to keep us safe. “These figures are just the latest evidence that the Government needs to fundamentally re-think their whole approach to our public services.” Less than one worker in six felt their pay stood up against equivalent professionals elsewhere. And only a third felt motivated to meet the organisation’s objectives. DSTL has seen its income decline by more than 10 per cent since the Tories came to power in 2015. In the same period, it has lost nearly 200 staff. Stephanie said: “The consequences of Tory cuts are being laid bare. On their watch, the morale of defence staff is falling as fast as their budgets.”

Stephanie Discusses Local Authority Budgets

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 9th April, Stephanie said the government must take responsibility for the effects cuts are having on local councils and local services.Speaking in Parliament, Stephanie addressed the government’s new funding settlement will see Barnsley Council lose 29.8 per cent of its grant by 2020.The decrease follows a 49.1 per cent real-terms reduction in grants handed out by central government to local authorities across the UK since 2010.Stephanie said: “Once again, local authorities are being forced to shoulder drastic cuts in funding through this government’s continued obsession with austerity.“Barnsley Council has seen its budgets slashed since 2010, but demand for vital local services in our community continues.“It’s grossly unfair and unrealistic to expect local authorities to continue providing the same level of local services with ever-dwindling resources.“This government needs to take responsibility for their cuts and provide the resources local authorities like Barnsley desperately need to continue providing for local communities.”

Government Heeds Stephanie's Protection Plea

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle on 6th April, the Government have recognised calls including those by Barnsley East MP Stephanie to offer increased protection for victims of terrorism. The local MP has previously called for the closure of an insurance loophole that has prevented businesses affected by terrorism from receiving compensation for economic disruption. As the law stands, only victims with property damages have been entitled to pay-outs – a reflection of the era in which the 1993 Reinsurance Act that covers terrorism compensation was written. But the changes in the targets of recent terrorist attacks has seen areas and independent businesses suffer through closures and reduced custom, often resulting in severe economic losses for business owners. Back in December, Stephanie Peacock called for a change to this law in Parliament, suggesting that a minor amendment could allow economic victims to be properly compensated. Acknowledging calls like the Barnsley East MP’s, the Government has vowed to close the loophole. Pledging new legislation to do so, Pool Re – the Government backed terrorism insurer – will now be allowed to cover business interruption losses such as those suffered during the closures of many Borough Market businesses following the London Bridge attack in 2017. Welcoming the Government’s intent, the Barnsley MP has called for urgent legislation to be immediately brought forward to ensure the change. Commenting, Stephanie said: “As terrorism has changed over the years, our laws have failed to adapt and protect victims. “It’s wrong that innocent victims can be hit financially through the economic disruption caused by the cowardly attacks we’ve witnessed in recent years. “I’m pleased to see the Government had taken my appeals on board and pledged to amend this damaging oversight – something I addressed in Parliament as recently as December. “But it’s still just words and good intentions until legislation to amend the law is brought forward – something the Government must urgently do.”  

COLUMN: Arts and Heritage

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on March 29th, Stephanie's recent column focused on our local arts and heritage centres. She wrote about the museums, heritage centres and arts hubs Barnsley has to offer, how these are flourishing despite lower funding across the country, and how we should show these off. You can read her full comments here.   

Stephanie Gives VIP Tour

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 29th March, Stephanie and Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West and a Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, recently visited some of Barnsley’s fantastic cultural spots. They visited the Experience Barnsley museum in Barnsley Town Hall. The new ‘Barnsley On Film’ exhibition brings together historical footage of Barnsley to give an insight into the town’s past. past. They also visited the Elsecar Heritage Centre and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which showcases art from around the world.Commenting, Stephanie said:“It was a pleasure to visit these fantastic cultural sports.“Culture builds pride in our communities and the creative industries are the fastest growing sector in our economy. It’s great that this is so well supported in Barnsley.”Kevin, Labour’s Shadow Minister, commented: “Culture and our creative industries are so important for local communities.“Cultural sites such as these provide unique experiences for local people, and can breathe new life into an area.“I’m pleased to see that so much good work is being done in Barnsley and South Yorkshire to ensure that sites such as these are properly supported, so that they can continue to make an important contribution to the cultural life of the community.”  

Stephanie Visits Barnsley College

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle, Barnsley Gazette and Barnlsey News and Sport on 27th March, Stephanie and Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West and a Shadow Minister in Labour’s Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport team, recently visited Barnsley College, where they were able to see the different facilities offered to students and the local community. They were also interviewed by Media students for the College radio station. Said Stephanie:  “It was a pleasure to visit this excellent College in Barnsley town centre; to see the facilities, and hear about the work the College is doing.” Kevin added: “I signed off the funding for the fantastic new college building when I was Further Education minister in 2009, and it was great to see the result. “The brilliant facilities at this College show why infrastructure projects and investing in our future are so important.”  

Stephanie joins in Central Area awards celebrations

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle and Barnsley News and Sport on 21st March, Stephanie recently attended the Central Area Council Celebration and Awards Evening. The Central Area Council covers the five wards of Central, Dodworth, Kingstone, Stairfoot and Worsborough. The awards evening was held to celebrate the achievements of people in those five wards. The local MP took the opportunity to speak about the importance of young people getting involved in civic and community life, and handed out awards to ‘highly commended’ young people and five Young Volunteer of the Year awards. She said: “It was great to attend the Central Area Council awards evening to celebrate the achievements of people in Central, Dodworth, Kingstone, Stairfoot and Worsborough wards. “It’s fantastic to see young people engaging in and actively helping their local community, and it’s important their efforts have been recognised.”  

Stephanie Reveals Unequal Lottery Funding

As reported in The Mirror and the Barnsley News and Sport on March 24th, Stephanie challenged Ministers over the distribution of National Lottery funding in the Commons today, revealing that the West Suffolk constituency of Tory Culture Secretary Matt Hancock had received over £22m compared to just £13m for Barnsley East. The amount given to her South Yorkshire constituency is dwarfed by the £63.9m in grants handed out in Prime Minister Theresa May’s seat of Maidenhead, and is less than half the £27m given to Chancellor Philip Hammond’s wealthy Runnymede and Weybridge patch in Surrey. Tory culture minister Michael Ellis responded by saying that over 70% of lottery funding goes outside London, though London had under 15% of the UK population at the last census, suggesting that it still receives a disproportionate amount. Overall, the capital has received around £7.3bn in lottery funding since the programme began in 1995, while the South East received another £2.8bn, and the South of England overall has been allocated £12.4bn in grants. This is compared to just £2.4bn given to Yorkshire across the same period. Stephanie slammed the unequal distribution in lottery grants, demanding the Secretary of State explain the staggering difference in funding. She said: “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. “When the wealthy constituency of the Culture Secretary is getting almost double the amount that my own constituency has, it is a clear sign that something is deeply wrong. “Our research starkly illustrates the problem. Yorkshire has received just £2.4bn, while London and the South have been handed £12.4bn – over five times as much. “We need real change – it’s time that towns like Barnsley got our fair share.”