Stephanie Reveals Armed Forces Budget Black Hole

As reported in the i on 11th February, Stephanie revealed the armed forces budget faces being slashed by billions due to a “huge” funding black hole as a result of Treasury-enforced increases to pension contributionsFrontline defence spending will be hit by nearly £3bn in the next five years following the Chancellor’s decision to dramatically raise state pension costs. It comes after the Government’s spending watchdog the National Audit Office warned the Ministry of Defence was overseeing a shortfall of around £7bn in its 10 year plan to adequately equip its personnel.Commons Library analysis of official figures estimates the pensions burden on the armed forces will rise to £880m in 2021-22 and hit £970m by 2023-24. The huge shortfall is a result of the government allocating several billion pounds a year too little to cover public sector pension contributions for employers such as the armed forces. Library experts concluded that “the largest changes to the forecast come from government decisions”. Labour said the costs will all but wipe out the £1.8bn in additional defence spending Philip Hammond announced in the Autumn Budget over two years. Stephanie , who secured the details of the pensions increases, said the Government must rethink its plans. “The Prime Minister tried to tell us that austerity was over, and the Chancellor tried to tell us that he was investing in defence. But once again, the reality just doesn’t match the rhetoric,” “Our armed services are facing a stealth cuts bombshell that eviscerates the so-called extra funding, and there is no sign that the government will step up, step in, and sort out its own mess.”

PM's Tips Promise Delayed Again

As reported in the Mirror on 12th February, Theresa May’s promise to ensure waiters and hospitality workers keep tips left by customers has been delayed again, Ministers admitted to Stephanie. The new law would ban high street restaurants from making deductions from money left for staff by diners. Chains including Prezzo, Zizzi and Pizza Express previously faced anger after it emerged they deducted between 8 and 10% of tips from employees. All three chains have since reversed the policy, but other businesses still deduct  from staff tips. Mrs May promised to introduce the change “as soon as Parliamentary time allows” at Conservative Party Conference last September. And Ministers have been promising to make the change since 2016, when it was recommended following a consultation. The Prime Minister even used the change as evidence that her government protects But today, Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst said the legislation would be further delayed until the next “session” of Parliament - which begins in the Summer. In the House of Commons, Stephanie asked: “Where exactly is that Bill to finally enforce fair tips, first promised nearly three years ago?” Kelly Tolhurst: “The Honourable Lady is quite right, we announced in October of last year that we would bring forward legislation in the next Session [on] tipping and we are committed to doing that, it’s this government who’s brought it forward.” Commenting, Stephanie said: “After dragging their feet for nearly three years, it is far past the time that Ministers should have turned words in to action. “At this rate the Business Secretary will be the only member of the Cabinet with a worse track record on delays than Chris Grayling. “With the government often struggling to provide meaningful business in the Commons, there is really no excuse not to bring forward a Bill quickly and provide workers and customers with the protection they need. “It’s no time for half-measures, and this Bill needs to tackle the problems in full.”

Stephanie Lends Support to Cancer Charity

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 8th Feb, Stephanie and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust are raising awareness about how women can reduce their risk of cervical cancer. Over 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the UK, yet it is one of the only cancers that can be prevented and one day become a disease of the past. Cervical screening (smear tests) are the best protection against the disease, followed by the HPV vaccine offered in schools. Yet cervical screening uptake is at a 21-year low in England. It is at just 71.4%, meaning that more than one in four women are not booking a potentially life-saving test. This week Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has published new research which has found young women who delay or don’t go for cervical screening feel scared (71%), vulnerable (75%) and embarrassed (81%) at the thought of going. Commenting, Stephanie said: “Cervical screening prevents up to 75% of cervical cancers developing, so it is worrying to hear that so many women are not attending this test when invited, particularly due to embarrassment. “I’m delighted to have worked with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust over Cervical Cancer Prevention Week to help raise awareness about the importance of cervical screening.”

Stephanie Backs Town of Culture Award

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on Feb 8th, Stephanie has thrown her weight behind the campaign for a national ‘Town of Culture Award’ – because she’s sure Barnsley would win it. Speaking in a Parliamentary debate on the prospect of such an award, the local MP supported a new competition to recognise culture in towns across country. She made her intentions clear, however, in referencing cultural highlights like Elsecar Heritage Centre and Worsbrough Mill that she backs the award in no small part because she believes Barnsley would win it. Commenting, she said: “Barnsley has a rich cultural heritage, and we should be extremely proud of the local attractions we have to offer. “Too often towns like ours are overlooked for larger cities and tourist hotspots, but a specific award for culture in towns would be a great way to bring attention to what Barnsley has to offer. “I’ll continue to champion our cultural strengths on the national stage, and lend my support to this award which would properly recognise Barnsley’s cultural heritage – an award I’ve no doubt we’d win.”  

Stephanie Discusses Local College Funding in Parliament

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle on 8th Feb, Stephanie discussed in Parliament recently the funding challenges faced by Barnsley’s colleges. She was speaking in a parliamentary debate on a recent public petition calling for an increase in college funding signed by over 70,000 across the country, including over 400 in Barnsley. Since 2010, government funding for 16-19 education institutions, including schools, sixth form colleges and further education colleges, has fallen by 21 per cent in real terms. Stephanie highlighted the challenges faced by the likes of Barnsley College that have been brought to her attention in meeting local educators, and claimed colleges are also disadvantaged by cuts elsewhere in the education system. She commented: “Post-secondary education is vital for so many young people here in Barnsley to get on in life, but cuts of over a fifth to colleges under this Tory government have had a damaging impact. “I’ve been told time and again how already strained colleges are being forced to spend vital resources simply bringing students up to standard in core subjects, as underfunded schools struggle to do so – evidence that these issues are part of a wider funding problem in our education system. “This debate was an opportunity to voice the concerns of Barnsley’s college educators in Parliament, and I’ll continue to stand up for greater opportunities for young people in Barnsley.”

Barnsley Hardest Hit by Austerity

It was revealed this week that nowhere in the UK has been hit as hard by the Government's policy of austerity than Barnsley. New figures produced by the Centre for Cities charity showed Barnsley Council's day-to-day spending has reduced by over 40% since 2009 - equivalent to £688 per person and the heaviest fall in the country. Read more below, including Stephanie's comments in the Barnsley Chronicle:  

Holocaust Memorial

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 1st February, Stephanie signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in Parliament. The local MP pledged her commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day, honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust and paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people today. Holocaust Memorial Day is marked annually on 27th January, the anniversary of the liberation of the former Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. In the lead up to and on Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. The theme for this year’s commemorations is ‘Torn from Home’. After signing the Book of Commitment, Stephanie commented: “Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people from Barnsley and across the country to reflect on the tragic events of the Holocaust. “As the Holocaust moves from living history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the victims and also pay tribute to the survivors. “I would encourage everyone to show their support for such an important day.”  

COLUMN: Failed Privatisation Agenda

As featured in the Barnsley Chronicle on 1st February, Stephanie wrote her recent column on the Government's failed privatisation agenda. She referenced the failings of Capita in fulfulling their outsourced contract to recruit enough soldiers for the British Army, along with other instances of how outsourcing public contracts to private bodies fails taxpayers. You can read her full comments here.  

Stephanie Opens Barnsley Brew

As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle and Barnsley Gazette, Stephanie recently visited the Barnsley Brew company and opened their factory in Grimethorpe.The company produces tea here in Barnsley using ingredients sourced from as far afield as India and Kenya.Having only recently opened, the company invited Stephanie to officially open their factory and meet their staff.Commenting, Stephanie said:‘As a long-standing supporter of our local businesses here in Barnsley, it was a real pleasure to visit the Barnsley Brew company, meet their staff and open their factory. ‘It’s a great story about how the company have relocated to Grimethorpe and launched a local tea, and soon coffee too. ‘I’ve always loved a good cuppa, and I’ll be drinking Barnsley Brew from now on.’  

Stephanie criticises TV license U-turn

As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle on 25th January, thousands of elderly people in Barnsley are set to lose their TV licence in 2020, according to Stephanie . Despite the Conservative Government promising in their 2017 general election manifesto to protect free TV licences until 2022, over 4,000 people aged over 75 in Barnsley East alone look set to lose out. As part of the last BBC charter the Government devolved responsibility for the free TV licence policy, and the cost, to the BBC. The BBC can decide what to do with the benefit from 2020 and they are currently consulting on a number of options including scrapping the free TV licence concession altogether, raising the eligible age to 80 and means testing it, for example by linking it to pension credit. New figures produced for the Labour Party show that under each of the changes proposed by the BBC in their consultation, millions of pensioners will lose their free licences. The House of Commons Library calculated that were the free licence linked to pension credit, i.e. means tested, over 3 million people would lose their free licence. If the eligibility age was raised to 80 over 1.8 million older people would lose their free licences. The House of Commons Library has also calculated local figures, with 5,880 older households in Barnsley East at risk of losing their free TV licences. If the age threshold is raised to 80, 2,390 local pensioners will lose their TV licence. If free TV licences are means tested 4,120 will lose their free licences. Free TV licences are an important benefit for older people who suffer disproportionately from loneliness and social isolation. The Campaign to End Loneliness found that 40% of older people say their television is their main source of company. Said Stephanie: “The loss of a TV license will be a huge blow to older people in Barnsley who already struggle to make ends meet, and particularly to those who are housebound or isolated and rely on their TV for company.  “The Government knew what it was doing when it forced the cost of paying for free licences for over 75s out to the BBC – an outsourcing of a social policy that the Labour Party strongly opposed after introducing free TV licenses when last in Government.  “This Tory Government needs to come clean and to tell us urgently what they are going to do to ensure free TV licences for the elderly are not cut.”