Northern Powerhouse Failure

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle on 28th June, Stephanie has marked the five-year anniversary of the day the Government’s much-vaunted ‘Northern Powerhouse’ project was announced by labelling the initiative an ‘abject failure’. The project formed part of the Government’s plans to boost the lagging Northern economy by investing in transport, skills and business. However, half a decade after the announcement, recent research suggest that results have fallen short of  the promises made by former Chancellor George Osborne. New independent analysis by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) North has outlined some improvements, such as the devolution of some powers through the creation of “metro mayors”, but suggests that the project has overwhelmingly failed to have the intended impact. Amongst their findings, IPPR North states that the project has proceeded amidst £3.6bn cut from public spending in the North since 2010, compared to £4.7bn rise in the South East and the South West. Despite promises on transport funding, increases on per person spending on transport in the North (£149) was less than half of that experienced in London (£330). The number of cancelled and late trains in the North has more than doubled from 20,000 in 2014/15 to 47,000 in 2018/19. Meanwhile, the think tank has stated that 200,000 more northern children are living in a poor household, meaning there are 800,000 children living in poverty in the North. According to answers given by the Government to parliamentary questions submitted by Barnsley MP Peacock, show the percentage of people earning either the national minimum wage or the national living wage in South Yorkshire and the Humber are higher than the UK average. The Government also stated that there are an estimated 5,500 workers in Barnsley currently earning this wage. Said Peacock: “As we’ve come to expect from this Government, affluent areas in the South and London continue to prosper whilst the North and towns in it, like Barnsley, are neglected. “What started as a raft of bold promises about addressing generational inequality has proved to be an abject failure, and many places in the North have been left even worse off. “Missed targets and token gestures for good PR by the Tories just won’t cut it anymore – places like Barnsley deserve proper investment and an effective industrial strategy that properly addresses the neglect we’ve experienced for too long.”

Column: More in Common

In her Barnsley Chronicle column on 21st June, Stephanie wrote about this year's Great Get Together event, and the importance of coming together to remember Jo Cox's words that 'we have more in common'. You can read her full comments here.

Campaign on Mineworkers' Pensions Continues

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 21st June, Stephanie took further steps in her campaign for a change to the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme last week as she challenged the Government in the House of Commons and met with the scheme trustees. The pension deal has come under controversy after it was revealed the Government has pocketed over £4bn from the Scheme since the privatisation of British Coal in 1994. As part of the scheme, the ‘surplus sharing arrangement’ sees the Government take 50 per cent of all surpluses made, and in return acts as the Scheme’s guarantor. Despite the treasury pocketing such significant funds from the Scheme, the Government has yet to pay in any money. Barnsley MP Peacock has long campaigned for a review and amendment to the surplus sharing arrangement, and last week made a speech in the House of Commons urging the Government to make a change. Commenting on the scheme’s surplus sharing practices, she suggested that ‘rather than in the Treasury, money should be in the pockets of retired miners’. She also stated that this issue concerned ‘people who toiled for decades for the good of our country’ and that ‘the Government should put right this wrong and give miners what is rightfully theirs: a decent pension that they have earned and paid for’. Following her speech, the local MP also met with trustees of the Scheme to discuss working together to press the Government to make changes that will benefit retired miners and their families. Commenting, she said: “The current arrangement that has seen the Government pocket billions from the miners without paying in a single penny of their own is a huge injustice that affects so many people here in Barnsley. “I’ve long called for a change to the Mineworkers Pension Scheme that would see more money in the pockets of miners and their families, and I pushed the Government again on this issue in the House of Commons. “Following the debate and my meeting with the Trustees of the Scheme, I’ll be continuing to press the Government to produce a fairer deal for Barnsley’s miners.”

MP's Campaign Fixes Water Leak

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 21st June, Stephanie has spoken out after a water leak affecting Milton Road, in her constituency, was fixed after months of disruption.The leak started over a year ago, and was brought to the MP’s attention in November.Since then, the local MP has been in contact with Barnsley Council and Yorkshire Water, lobbying them to find the cause of the problem and ensure that a solution was found.Commenting, Stephanie said:“This water leak first came to my attention when a resident on Milton Road contacted me about the disruption it was causing.“It seemed like it should be a quick fix, but due to the complexity of this issue, it’s taken far longer than expected, and I can understand just how frustrating this is for residents.“That’s why I’ve been in constant dialogue with Barnsley Council and Yorkshire Water about this, and I’m delighted that the issue has now been resolved and the leak has been fixed.”  

Stephanie Criticises Cuts to Legal Aid

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 21st June, Stephanie is backing the Law Society’s campaign to end the problem of legal aid deserts, in which communities are left isolated from vital legal support and advice. More than half of the local authorities in England and Wales have no publicly funded legal advice for housing. According to Law Society figures, in Barnsley there is just one specialist housing legal aid provider for those requiring legal help with housing matters. Legal aid is a vital means of state-funded support in legal matters for people who cannot afford it. However, as a result of significant cuts to legal aid budgets in 2013, provision has substantially declined and ‘legal aid deserts’ where huge areas are left isolated from legal advice and representation have developed. Commenting, Stephanie said: “I’m often contacted by distressed constituents forced to tackle complex legal matters without the expert legal support and help they desperately need. “Savage cuts to legal aid budgets under this Government have left some of the most vulnerable people in our community isolated and facing devastating circumstances like homelessness.” “The Government must ensure that everyone who needs it has the right to legal advice, especially those who otherwise could not afford it.”

Meeting with Family of Jacqueline Wileman

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 21st June, Stephanie coordinated and attended a meeting between the family of Jacqueline Wileman and Justice Minister Robert Buckland MP this week to discuss their campaign for longer sentences for deaths caused by dangerous driving. You can read the full story below. Commenting, Stephanie said: “Jacqueline’s family feel like the justice system has let them down at every opportunity, and the meeting in Westminster was a vital opportunity for them to have their say to the very person who can make the long overdue changes. “The Minister appeared sincere in his pledge to gather more answers that Johnny and his family urgently need surrounding the circumstances of Jacqueline’s death and the punishment of those responsible. “But sadly, the Government could not confirm when they would be increasing the maximum sentence for those convicted of death by dangerous driving, meaning we will have to wait even longer for action the Government promised in 2017 and to me as recently as April. “I was pleased to secure this meeting and the further commitments from the Justice Minister for Jacqueline’s family, but I will continue our campaign on longer sentences to make sure nobody else has to go through what Jacqueline’s family have.”

Stephanie Visits Elsecar Holy Trinity Primary

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 14th June, Stephanie recently visited Elsecar Holy Trinity Primary.During her visit, the Barnsley East MP met with headteacher Mr Silverwood to discuss his work with the school, the challenges the school faces, and any ways she can support the school in future.Stephanie was then given a tour of the school, where she went into classrooms to meet staff and students.Commenting, Stephanie said:“It was a real pleasure to visit Elsecar Holy Trinity Primary.“It was good to have productive meeting with Mr Silverwood, to discuss ways I can support this brilliant local school, and I really enjoyed having a look round the school and chatting to their brilliant staff and students.”

Stephanie Joins Celebration of Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership

As reported in the Barnsley News on Sport on 11th June, Stephanie recently attended a celebration of the work of the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership.The Landscape Partnership was formed in 2014.Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project worked on preserving important environmental sites and listed buildings, as well as celebrating our area’s industrial heritage and supporting local community groups.The recent event, held at the Elsecar Heritage Centre, celebrated the work of the Landscape Partnership as it draws to a close this month.Commenting, Stephanie said:“It was a real pleasure to attend this celebration event for the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership.“This project has done important work over the last five years in preserving and celebrating our environment and industrial heritage.“While the project is now drawing to a close, I’m sure that the legacy of its work will continue to have a positive impact here in Barnsley.

Stephanie Tackles Government on Minimum Wage Climbdown

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 14th June, Tory Ministers have admitted to tephanie that they are no longer ‘naming and shaming’ employers who illegally fail to pay workers the minimum wage. The government slipped out news that they were reviewing the practice over Christmas in 2019, and now confirmed that they will not name any employers caught breaking the law by underpaying staff while that review is ongoing. Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst told Peacock that there was “no set completion date” for the review, which has now taken nearly six months. In April this year, the Low Pay Commission called on the government to resume ‘naming and shaming’ as part of a package to crack down on bad bosses, warning that over 400,000 workers were illegally underpaid last year. The last official ‘naming’ round was on 6 July 2018, nearly a year ago, when 239 employers found to have underpaid 22,400 UK workers by a total of £1.44m were publicly revealed. The amount was the largest identified by HMRC in any single naming list and generated record fines. Commenting on the admission, Stephanie Peacock MP said: “This admission makes clear that the Tories are soft on rogue bosses, and that ordinary working people just can’t rely on this government to protect their most basic rights. “The minimum wage has lifted pay for millions, but it won’t work if it’s not enforced. There should be no hiding place for criminal employers who refuse to follow the law, and the government should be cracking down not backing down.”  

Stephanie's Comments on the Scrapping of Free TV Licences

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 14th June, Stephanie has commented on the ending of free TV Licences for millions of older peopler across the UK, and criticised the Government for breaking their election promise. Commenting, she said: “The decision to link TV license concession to Pension Credit will come as huge blow to older people here in Barnsley, with more than 4,000 set to lose out in Barnsley East alone under these misguided plans. “In their 2017 election manifesto the Tories promised to protect free tv licenses for the over 75s, but once again we see a promise broken by this Conservative Government and it’s some of the most vulnerable people in our community who will suffer as a result. “TVs are the main source of company and news for so many older people, yet this Government has outsourced a social policy which will now see many isolated, lonely, and pushed into greater financial hardship. “It is a disgrace that this Government is sitting back and overseeing the scrapping of TV licenses for three million older people across the country and thousands in Barnsley, and Labour will fight against these changes.” Read more below.