Column: Buy British to Lead Local Recovery

Barnsley has a proud heritage of being an industrial town from our mining and glass blowing heritage to our long-established markets. We’ve been a key part of Britain’s growth over the past 150 years and we have the perfect opportunity to be a key part of its future.    Even today, the phrase ‘Made in Britain’ has often been associated with a level of quality unmatched around the globe and as we emerge from the Covid crisis, we have the perfect opportunity to continue and reimagine our heritage.    We must commit in the coming years to making sure that British businesses are given the potential to expand in the UK and around the world, and that public money is used to invest in British manufacturing to help revive our local economies in towns like Barnsley.    Covid-19 has forever changed our communities. Our highstreets have already lost some of the giants like Topshop and WH Smiths but we could also lose smaller independent businesses as no one will emerge from this crisis unaffected.    I’ve spoken previously about the challenge ahead of us. This recovery will be hard, but it’s nothing that we cannot handle. It’s so important that wherever we can we support our regional industry and businesses giving a much-needed boost to our local economies. Something the Tories have failed to do in over a decade of power.    Labour wants to change this. We’ve been urging the government to adopt a new approach that would ensure that the government leads by example and buys British when it can and where it can when it comes to rewarding large scale public contracts.     The Tories have failed to use British Steel for crucial infrastructure and failed to guarantee British firms an opportunity to work on key defence contracts. Whatever the project, this government has consistently let down British industry and opted to take the cheaper approach, often looking abroad.    Labour’s buy British approach is different, we want to prioritise British jobs and keep investment in our local communities. This is the best way to ensure communities like Barnsley are world leading manufacturing hubs where our local businesses thrive, and our highstreets prosper. This has already been clearly shown by the recent commitment of our council to our high streets through the Principal Town’s fund. A £5m pot of money that is solely for the improvement of our local highstreets.    Keeping the manufacturing process as local as possible also ensures that producers have control over every aspect of production. This local investment will also encourage people to buy British having the effect of helping our local economies prosper post pandemic.    It’s time for a new approach. So as our country looks to recover and rebuild from Covid let’s back our manufacturers and our local economies by buying British and help bring the real levelling up that our communities so desperately need.  

Post Office services in Darfield

I’m pleased that Post Office services will be restored in Darfield, after a long-running campaign with local residents, councillors and community campaigner Kevin Osborne. The new Post Office will be at the Snape Hill Convenience Store, with a provisional reopening date of 26th June.As a Darfield resident, I know this will make a huge difference for the village. I will remain in contact with the Post Office regarding these plans, and I will keep residents updated on any further developments.

Tory failures

Hospital waiting lists are rising. Crime is going up. People are worried about their jobs. Yet the Tory priority is covering up sleaze. This needs to change.Watch my comments on Politics North here.

Towns Fund and COVID recovery

The Government should admit that levelling up is no more than an empty slogan or change the Town’s Fund criteria and put the money where the need is greatest.Watch my comments in Parliament here.

Off road bikes in Darfield

Off-road bikes cause misery and nuisance across our borough.I met with our Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings in Darfield alongside Kevin Osborne & Cllr Pauline Markham- to raise the issues that off road bikes have been causing for residents and to talk about the steps that South Yorkshire Police are taking to tackle it.

Social care reform

It’s unacceptable that three out of four carers do not earn a living wage. I was on Politics North talking about why it’s important this changes.

Visiting the Barnsley Churches Drop-in Project

I visited the Barnsley Churches Drop-In Project, who support people affected by poverty and homelessness.I want to thank them for the amazing work they do. Feeding around 40 people a night, they are open every day from 6pm.I dropped off a donation - dried food, milk and biscuits are always needed. Do get in touch with them if you are able to volunteer or make a donation.

Column: Levelling Up

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 30th April:I recently challenged the Government over levelling up money being given to affluent areas such as Richmond, North Yorkshire whilst ignoring us here in Barnsley, despite the fact that we’ve suffered some of the worst cuts in the country. In a week full of government sleaze allegations, it probably comes as no surprise that Richmond is the constituency of the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, or that many other areas that received money through the levelling up fund were Tory held constituencies, but it is still frustrating that we are governed by a party who favour their mates over fairness and that, once again, they have completely overlooked Barnsley. Levelling up is a phrase that’s regularly used by this government, but it is no more than a slogan for areas like Barnsley and we’ve yet to see any meaningful impact. Barnsley has faced ten harsh years of austerity with the council facing some of the worst cuts in the country. BMBC has lost a staggering 40% of its income since 2010 – no small amount. In spite of this challenge, the Council has continued to innovate and push development through public and private investment in our towns. They’ve led the way with the £5m Principal Towns project which recently awarded money to both Hoyland and Wombwell, helping to encourage regeneration across the borough, not just the town centre. They’ve ensured that PCSOs are ready to support the most vulnerable, made support payments for Covid widely available, and ensured that our kids are fed by funding free school meals. All of this has been achieved whilst also ensuring that any Council Tax increase is lower than most of their neighbouring councils, proof that even when facing the harshest of cuts in the most trying of circumstances Barnsley Council will always ensure that residents come first. The sad truth is that, in spite of the successes here in Barnsley, not all councils have been quite so fortunate and whilst the slogan of “levelling up” sounds like a good idea, the Government have chosen to make it political by allocating new funding in a way that favours affluent areas over those of greater need. Without fair funding, there’s a risk of jobs leaving our area as investment dries up, more people will then be in need of further government support, and our local economic growth will begin to halt. Something we must avoid as we begin to recover from the pandemic. I recently met with the borough’s other MPs and Barnsley council officials to discuss the levelling-up fund. I am committed to supporting the council and our communities and continuing to raise these issues with Ministers until I get clear answers from the Government. I will also continue to raise this important issue with ministers and other colleagues until I get a clear answer from the Government. We cannot go back to business as usual; the government must finally start to take levelling up seriously in order to secure our jobs, support our high streets, and strengthen our communities through investments that deliver for people in every area of the UK, not just a select few.

Mineworkers' Pensions breakthrough

The injustice of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme has gone on for far too long.Following the Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Select Committee’s inquiry into the Scheme, I’m pleased that today’s report concludes that the surplus sharing arrangement should be amended in favour of miners, and the £1.2 billion Investment Reserve should be shared out to provide an immediate uplift to members’ pensions.Despite the Government having made no contributions to the Scheme since it was privatised in 1994, they have received over £4.4bn from it thus far and are due to receive a further £1.9bn, at least. The report states that, in creating these arrangements, the government ‘failed to conduct due diligence … and was negligent by not taking actuarial advice.’The publication of this report follows a cross-party letter I coordinated to the Committee, signed by 50 fellow MPs, and years of campaigning from the NUM, Trustees, and members of the Scheme.The report concludes that any government should not be in the business of profiting from miners’ pensions, and I’m calling on the Government to immediately implement the Committee’s recommendations in full, to provide a fairer deal for miners and their families.

Carbon Monoxide awareness debate

I led a debate in the Commons on Carbon Monoxide Awareness.CO is a poisonous gas that can be emitted by household appliances. It has similar symptoms to COVID-19There is currently no Government information highlighting this, that needs to change.