Industrial heritage

I was pleased to be elected as Chair of the APPG on Industrial Heritage this afternoon.We should be proud of our industrial heritage, here in Barnsley and across the UK. The Industrial Revolution which began in the UK changed the world, while here in Barnsley, we celebrate heritage sites such as Worsbrough Mill and the historic village of Elsecar, and a coal mining industry which powered the nation.I have long been a supporter of efforts to celebrate and preserve our local heritage, from visiting sites in Barnsley, highlighting in Parliament the importance of protecting our industrial history, and meeting with Historic England and Barnsley Council to discuss their work on projects such as the Elsecar Heritage Action Zone.Following this work, it was fantastic to see the recent upgrading and listing of 16 historic sites in Elsecar – protecting and maintaining sites that are at risk has never been more important, and with the impact of COVID-19, it has never been more challenging.Our industrial heritage should be accessible to everyone. As the MP for Barnsley East, and now as the chair of the APPG on Industrial Heritage, I will continue to work with colleagues across Parliament, heritage organisations and voluntary groups to ensure that this is the case, both now and for future generations.

Union Learning Fund

As a former union education officer, I have seen the positive difference that union learning makes for working people across the country, and I am incredibly concerned by the Government’s decision to abolish the Union Learning Fund (ULF) from next March.I taught shop steward courses for retail workers across Yorkshire on Health and Safety. These courses gave workers a sense of responsibility and ownership over their role in the workplace, and were proven to reduce workplace accidents. Other courses engage and empower employees in many different ways, and the value of this training and lifelong learning should never be underestimated.Alongside the benefits to workers, the ULF benefits employers and the wider economy. For every £1 spent on the ULF, £12 is returned. The ULF delivers an estimated net contribution to the economy of more than £1.4 billion as a result of a boost to jobs, wages and productivity, benefitting workers, our economy and business.For more than 20 years the Union Learning Fund has supported working people to access skills and training at work through their unions, helping up to a quarter of a million people access learning every year.Surely the Government must see that the middle of a pandemic is not the right time to take away this vital funding, particularly at a time when the Government claims to be putting a greater emphasis on skills. All our efforts should be on rebuilding the country and ensuring people have the opportunity to upskill and retrain for the sectors we will be relying on after the pandemic.I have long called for investment in the skills of working people and those seeking work. They are, and always have been, the greatest asset in our economy. It is only by making the most of all their potential that we can truly recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and achieve a lasting and shared prosperity.

Meeting with Good Food Barnsley

I met with Good Food Barnsley.I spoke to Innovation Manager Amy about their work to support local residents and tackle hunger in our community.We have seen an increase in food poverty over the last few tough months.Good Food Barnsley work closely with Barnsley Foodbank and FareShare Yorkshire - find out how to donate here: https://barnsley.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/donate-food/ and here: https://fareshare.org.uk/giving-food/

Column: Remembrance

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 13th November:Seventy-five years on from VE Day and VJ Day, our armed forces have once again shown their dedication and patriotism by mobilising to protect us from the COVID-19 pandemic. They have stepped up in places like Liverpool to carry out mass testing, to help limit the transmission of the virus and save lives. This week, we remembered the sacrifices of our armed forces and their families. Like hundreds of families across Barnsley, I stood on my doorstep for the two minutes silence on Sunday morning. Whilst we could not come together in person, we joined together in spirit to pay our respects to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country. Last week, I virtually met with representatives of the Royal British Legion to discuss the work they do and the current challenges they face due to the global pandemic. COVID-19 restrictions have had a huge impact on everyday life. Sadly, it is the most vulnerable in our community, who have been hit the hardest. Many veterans have struggled since March, both physically and mentally. Remembrance is normally an occasion for veterans to come together and remember the sacrifices of their fallen comrades. This year was very different. Only a small number of veterans were able to participate in the ceremony at the Cenotaph on Sunday and, sadly, our physical ceremony here in Barnsley was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. Thank you to those who laid wreaths and those who placed poppies in their windows. We have a proud tradition of supporting our armed forces personnel here in Barnsley. It is important that we continue to commemorate the sacrifices of troops, including those from the Barnsley Pals battalions, in the years to come. It was an honour to record a message for Barnsley Council’s virtual Remembrance commemorations, to thank servicemen and women for their dedication, and remember the sacrifices of the generation of Brits who lived during the world wars, including my grandad who served in the RAF in WW2.  This year marks seventy-five years since the end of the second world war and the restoration of global peace. As recent events have shown, our security can never be taken for granted. Our armed forces remain instrumental in protecting and keeping us safe. We must never forget the sacrifices of brave servicemen and women. And, we must never forget the fallen.

Online Harms Bill

The Government must use the opportunity offered by the long awaited Online Harms Bill to hold social media companies to account on their efforts to tackle online hate and extremism.As Hope not Hate say: “there must be freedom of speech not freedom to harm.”

Remembrance Day

As we mark Remembrance Day, I want to thank our armed forces and veterans for their bravery and dedication in serving our country.We must remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

APPG on Veterans

As a member of the recently formed Veterans All-Party Group, I virtually attended today's meeting to discuss COVID-19's impact on veterans' charities and groups.I will continue campaigning to get veterans the support they need, especially during these difficult times.

Flood Action Week

This week is Flood Action Week.Too few people don't know if their homes/businesses could be flooded.The Government must do more to communicate flood risk.Enter your postcode here to find out about your area. Find out what to do in a flood here.

Meeting the Royal British Legion

Leading up to Remembrance Day, I met virtually with the Royal British Legion.We discussed the good work they do not just with the Poppy Appeal, but also to support and give voice to the needs of veterans and our armed forces community all year round.You can find more info here.

Sheffield City Region funding to support flood resilience

One year later, many homes and businesses across SY are still recovering from November’s floods.I welcome the recent announcement of funding from the Sheffield City Region to increase our region's resistance to flooding.The Government need to step up and commit resources to help protect our community. Read more here.