Column: Free TV Licences

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 1st March, Stephanie wrote her recent column on the importance of free TV licences, particularly for older people in Barnsley for whom TV can be their only source of company. She called on the Government to protect free TV licences. You can read her full comments here.    

Stephanie Reveals Cuts to school staff numbers

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 1st March, one in every four support staff in Barnsley’s secondary schools has been lost since 2011, Stephanie has revealed. The figures were admitted to the local MP by an Education Minister in response to a written parliamentary question. According to the Government, the number of teaching assistants in secondary schools across Barnsley has fallen from 287 in 2011 to 202 in 2017, a fall of nearly 30 per cent. Other support staff have fallen from 273 to 207 in the same period, a reduction of over 24 per cent. Combined, this means that staff other than frontline teachers in Barnsley’s secondary schools have reduced by over a quarter since 2011. Support staff are particularly important for children with special needs, often providing dedicated support and preventing increased workload pressure on teachers. Even auxiliary staff employed by schools, including everything from cafeteria workers to bus drivers, seen their number fall by over one in five. Since 2013 Barnsley’s schools have faced cuts to funding of £3m, equal to 5 per cent of the total schools block allocation funding. This is significantly higher than cuts across the region, equivalent to 3 per cent. Per pupil funding has fallen by over £500 in the same period, a drop of 8.4 per cent and higher than the national average of 4.9 per cent. Commenting, Stephanie said: “Once again, we see the real impact of this Government’s near decade-long obsession with austerity, as support staff in our schools have fallen by over a quarter since 2011. “Teachers are already under pressure after being asked in too many cases to do more with less, and now we see their vital support workers reduced significantly over recent years. “Many schools here in Barnsley are doing a fantastic job in trying circumstances, it’s time this Government properly supported them in doing so.”  

Stephanie Reveals Funding Snub to prevent violence against women

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport on 1st March, not a single penny from a Government funding package for tackling violence against women and girls has been allocated to Barnsley or South Yorkshire, Stephanie has revealed. The Government’s ‘Violence Against Women and Girls Service Transformation Fund’ was established to provide £17m between 2017 and 2020 towards schemes addressing this issue. Yet in response to a parliamentary question tabled by the local MP, the Government has admitted that no money from this fund has made its way to Barnsley or the wider South Yorkshire region. In their response to Stephanie Peacock’s question, the Government stated that decisions on allocation “were taken to ensure a reasonable spread of funding geographically”. Despite this, no funding has been provided from the service directly to schemes in Barnsley and South Yorkshire. Other fund allocations include £400,000 awarded to a project in Prime Minister Theresa May’s local Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner in the Thames Valley. Commenting on the figures she forced the Government to reveal through her parliamentary question, Stephanie said: “It’s greatly disappointing that, despite the Government’s pledge to offer geographically diverse funding to tackle violence against women and girls, not a single penny has been allocated to Barnsley or South Yorkshire. “In addressing such a pressing issue, money should be no obstacle, yet this Government appears to have focused funding on a select few areas. “Any intent to tackle violence against women and girls is of course welcome, but on the back of staggering cuts to the local authorities and police forces at the forefront of these efforts, the Government must do much more.”

Modern Slavery Event

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport on 1st March, Barnsley East Labour Party Women’s Forum are to hold an event in March on tackling modern slavery here in the UK. It is estimated that there are currently 14,000-16,000 people living in modern slavery in the UK, and the event will discuss the nature of this practice, and ways it can be identified and tackled. Speakers include Jane Williamson, a tutor who has worked on Northern College’s ‘Free Thinking Programme’ to provide education to survivors of modern slavery, and Mark Burns-Williamson, the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and national lead for tackling modern slavery. The event will be chaired by Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock (pictured) who says: “Modern slavery is an absolutely appalling practice, where people are forced into work without pay and life without freedom. “It’s staggering that this practice is still so widespread in the UK in the 21st century, and it’s so important that we do all we can to fight it. “That’s why I’m pleased to be chairing this important event, so that we can work towards understanding, identifying and tackling modern slavery, and ultimately ending it once and for all.” The event will be held on Saturday, 9 March at Barnsley Town Hall from 1.00pm to 2.30pm.

Stephanie Reveals Yorkshire Fire Services cuts

As reported in the Yorkshire Post, fire bridges in Yorkshire have suffered real-terms cuts of £19m since 2016, Stephanie has revealed. Read more below:

Stephanie reveals Barnsley School staff reductions

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport on 20th February, one in every four support staff in Barnsley’s secondary schools has been lost since 2011,  Stephanie has revealed. The figures were admitted to the local MP by an Education Minister in response to a written parliamentary question. According to the Government, the number of teaching assistants in secondary schools across Barnsley has fallen from 287 in 2011 to 202 in 2017, a fall of nearly 30 per cent. Other support staff have fallen from 273 to 207 in the same period, a reduction of over 24 per cent. Combined, this means that staff other than frontline teachers in Barnsley’s secondary schools have reduced by over a quarter since 2011. Support staff are particularly important for children with special needs, often providing dedicated support and preventing increased workload pressure on teachers. Even auxiliary staff employed by schools, including everything from cafeteria workers to bus drivers, seen their number fall by over one in five. Since 2013 Barnsley’s schools have faced cuts to funding of £3m, equal to 5 per cent of the total schools block allocation funding. This is significantly higher than cuts across the region, equivalent to 3 per cent. Per pupil funding has fallen by over £500 in the same period, a drop of 8.4 per cent and higher than the national average of 4.9 per cent. Said Stephanie: “Once again, we see the real impact of this Government’s near decade-long obsession with austerity, as support staff in our schools have fallen by over a quarter since 2011. “Teachers are already under pressure after being asked in too many cases to do more with less, and now we see their vital support workers reduced significantly over recent years. “Many schools here in Barnsley are doing a fantastic job in trying circumstances, it’s time this Government properly supported them in doing so.”

Stephanie to Attend BIADS AGM

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd February, Stephanie will be attending the Barnsley Independent Alzheimers and Dementia Support AGM next week. Read more below. 

Stephanie Meets with Openreach

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd February, Stephanie recently met with Openreach’s Project Officer for Barnsley.Stephanie has been campaigning for improved coverage in the local area for over a year now, including writing to the Government and broadband providers, raising this issue in the House of Commons, conducting a residents’ broadband survey, and meeting with Superfast South Yorkshire.During the meeting with Openreach, Stephanie outlined her concerns regarding broadband coverage in Barnsley East, and the ways in which poor coverage can impact on her constituents’ day-to-day lives.Commenting, Stephanie said:“A stable and reliable internet connection is so important for people right across our area in their day-to-day lives, with people relying on the internet for shopping, paying bills, or dealing with benefit claims.“Unfortunately, coverage in Barnsley lags behind other areas, and often isn’t satisfactory – something constituents regularly raise with me. “That’s why I’ve been campaigning to improve connectivity and will continue to do so until broadband coverage here in Barnsley is at an acceptable level for my constituents.”

Stephanie Visits Exodus Project

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd February, Stephanie recently visited the Exodus Project.The Project works with children and young people, providing activities, clubs and trips, as well as working with the local community on outreach events and activities.During her visit, Stephanie met with Martin Sawdon, the Project’s Co-founder and Development Manager, and had a tour of their centre.Commenting, Stephanie said:“It was a pleasure to visit the Exodus Project, and see the work they’re doing with children and young people in our area.“Given the cuts to children and youth services since 2010, local groups like this here in Barnsley are so important.“That’s why I’m pleased to see the Exodus Project going from strength to strength, and I’ll support them in any way I can in future.”

Stephanie Brings Mineworkers Pension Scheme Campaign to Parliament

As reported in the Yorkshire Post and Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd February,  held a debate in the House of Commons last week to discuss the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme. In securing the debate, she took the opportunity to press a Government Minister to amend the controversial surplus sharing arrangement which has seen the Government pocket over £4.4bn from the scheme since 1994 – all without paying a single penny in. The Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme was established upon the privatisation of British Coal in 1994, and still contains around 160,000 members across the country. An agreement was struck at the time between the Government and the trustees of the scheme that the Government would act as guarantor to the pensions to protect their value, in return for 50 per cent of any surplus made. Since 1994, lucrative returns made by the scheme has seen the surplus soar, and the Government has raked in over £4.4bn without paying into the scheme. This includes £617m this year alone, with another £427m planned over the next three years. This is in contrast to the average weekly pension for a retired miner of just £84, whilst others are forced to get by on as little as £59. A previous admission from the Government to the Barnsley MP in the form of a response to a written question showed the initial deal that entitled the Government to such a large proportion of money was based on no expert actuarial advice. In previously refusing to review the surplus sharing arrangement, the Government has identified their role of guarantor in protecting pension values as providing an entitlement to funds. In the debate, however, Stephanie suggested that with a reducing and aging membership the guarantee no longer provided value for money for members, as the Government’s risk is in continual decline. Pressing the Government, Barnsley East’s MP asked Business Minister Claire Perry to protect the bonus element of the scheme, and amend the surplus sharing arrangement that will see a greater share of any surplus given to retired miners and their families. The Minister also offered to meet the Barnsley MP following her request, alongside MPs of other coalfield communities, scheme trustees, and the NUM. Commenting, Stephanie said: “Miners in communities like Barnsley toiled for years in dangerous, gruelling conditions to help keep our lights on and our country running. “Yet in retirement many are forced to get by on a pittance, whilst this Government is happy to take billions from their pensions pots without paying a single penny in. “Not only does the surplus sharing arrangement no longer provide value for money for its members, it’s staggeringly unfair. “Retired miners and their families should be given a greater proportion of any surplus, and the scheme should be immediately reviewed and amended to ensure they get what they have only ever wanted: their fair share.”