Figures compiled by the BBC show that in Kirklees there has been a real terms funding reduction of £54 less per pupil in 2016/17 than 2015/16, whilst the teaching unions have forecast that this will amount to cuts of £534 per pupil by 2020 in the Dewsbury constituency alone.
The Government is imposing real terms funding cuts on schools by freezing per-pupil funding while inflation and the cost of employer pension and national insurance contributions increase. Figures from the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers & Lecturers, using government statistics, reveal that every single constituency in England will be adversely affected by the government’s latest funding proposals.
Commenting, Paula Sherriff MP said:
‘Against the backdrop of a national crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, funding cuts are impacting on pupils in my area. I’ve already met with two local schools that are really struggling to balance the books.
Schools are feeling the strain of 7 years of Tory led government. I will be fighting hard against further funding shortfalls which will see ever greater pressure on our school staff and class sizes.’
Very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to all readers!
It’s been lovely to join the Christmas celebrations around the constituency over the last couple of weeks, from Santa’s special canal trips with the Safe Anchor Trust in Mirfield, to Dewsbury Young Diabetic’s Christmas Party, to popping in to the Royal Mail sorting office in Dewsbury to thank them for all their hard work throughout the year, as well as in the busy festive season.
As we all relax into the family traditions of Christmas, a time for getting together, enjoying each other’s company, exchanging presents and having a good time, we all know that unfortunately this can also be the most stressful time of year for people - for all manner of reasons.
Christmas is often a time when money is tight. There are presents to buy for the kids and meals to plan for family and friends. It’s not surprising that it’s a challenging time for our stress levels, particularly for those with mental ill health.
In addition to these familiar seasonal pressures, we are seeing a rise in the number of people suffering from mental health issues. So mental health provision is more important than ever.
Sadly, I’ve heard from several patients and families who tell me of the problems they’re facing. Only this weekend I met a local mum, whose teenage daughter is in a mental health unit in Colchester – the closest available inpatient bed.
It is disgraceful that vital services are stretched so thin and it is imperative that this issue is addressed urgently.
Unfortunately, mental health is yet to be given parity of esteem with other NHS services. This is of grave concern to me and is an issue that I have raised repeatedly during my time as an MP. Mental health services are definitely the poor relation of the NHS and the government must do more to address this.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve met with health professionals from around the country to discuss mental health services. They spoke about the problems they are facing, including concerns that funding intended for frontline mental health services, specifically for children and young people, is being diverted elsewhere by cash strapped Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).
Worryingly, information gathered by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows that spending per child across Kirklees is in the bottom 20% in the country. I’ve written to our local CCGs with regard to this unacceptable underfunding of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in our area.
I’ll be visiting some services that exemplify good practice in mental health provision in the coming weeks, but mental health spending should absolutely not be a postcode lottery. We need to ensure that the mental health of young people in our area is given the priority it deserves.
We desperately need to see some action from the Government to support those who are struggling. As we head into the New Year, I’ll continue to hammer home the reality to the Government. I do hope they will listen.
Originally published in The Dewsbury Reporter 15 December 2016.
I am delighted to have accepted a new role as part of Labour’s frontbench team. As Shadow Women and Equalities Minister, I will be working with the Shadow Secretary of State, Sarah Champion, on issues of pay inequality, violence against women and girls, maternity, disability and LGBT discrimination, and the erosion of equality and human rights.
I am proud of Labour’s history in fighting for equality and empowering some of our most vulnerable communities. Much has been achieved, but there is plenty in this role to get to grips with.
Often the lowest earners as well as the main carers of children and elderly or disabled relatives – a mammoth 85 percent of all the government’s austerity cuts have been at the expense of women, according to calculations by the House of Commons Library.
Women in this constituency are no exception. Here, women have been hit hard by Tory austerity – we have seen cuts to local maternity services, and slashed local authority budgets has meant cuts to children’s centres, as well as mounting pressure on social services.
Local women have been contacting my office in desperation, having had tax credits stopped without reason. They report being forced to pay for access to child maintenance services or risk unstable private arrangements, with children being the ones who stand to lose out on vital support.
Carer’s Allowance recipients – some 72% of whom are women – have told me that they are being hit by Tory benefit reforms. These cases seem to be at odds with previous government pledges to increase support for carers, and the considerable financial savings to the Exchequer associated with their role.
On top of this local women tell of ballooning costs of childcare and high rents. Half of housing benefit recipients are single women, while women occupy two thirds of low-paid and insecure jobs.
This might all sound just a bit depressing, but sometimes these things need to be laid bare.
Please rest assured that here, in the communities of Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton, I will support those local women, and men, who continue to contact me having been unfairly hit by government austerity cuts and, nationally I will campaign for greater opportunity and greater equality for all.
Originally published in the Dewsbury Reporter 27/10/16
The government is keen to cut the benefits bill, but employing a company that insists the dead are cohabiting with tax credits claimants in order to deprive working people of money they rely on to feed their kids is, to say the least, an unreasonable solution.
It might sound laughable, but to many local people that have contacted me in recent weeks about their tax credits claims which have been referred to Concentrix, the company contracted to do investigations on behalf of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, this is no joke.
Concentrix appears to have cut tax credits from hundreds of people because they believe someone else who previously lived at their address is still living there. The problem is that most commonly, the person has never even met the alleged resident, and in at least one case reported nationally, the alleged resident is in fact deceased.
I’ve personally received a great many complaints from local people who have been wrongly accused of living with a partner or who have not received a letter requesting evidence of their circumstances and have had their tax credits stopped as a result. Although I’ve been supporting those people, tax credits are not paid until the lengthy appeals process is completed, leaving people out of pocket for weeks or months.
The problem is widespread. My Labour colleague Louise Haigh MP was told in response to her parliamentary questions that there were nearly 6,000 mistaken reductions to claims in the ten months from October to August.
Sadly, the relentless pursuit of parents who are trying their best to work hard and raise a family is not the only example of companies employed by the government that again and again have put private profit before the legitimate needs of ordinary working people.
Atos and their assessments for fitness for work is another high profile example of the poor performance and the devastating impact of a private company operating in the public sector. Another I have witnessed first-hand as a former employee of the NHS, is the impact of the privatisation of frontline NHS services, which proved to be damaging for patients, staff and the taxpayer alike.
The government say they are seeking value for money – what frequently transpires is a costly shambles for the taxpayer, an immense amount of stress and hardship for patients, vulnerable disabled people and families, often pushing them into poverty and resulting in services that appear to be accountable to no-one including the UK government.
Please be assured that I will not be letting the government off the hook on this issue. If any local people are experiencing difficulties with Concentrix, or there’s any other matter I may be of assistance with, please let me have the details and I will be happy to help. You can contact my constituency office on 01924 565450 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Originally published in The Press, Friday 30 September 2016)
Earlier this week, I chaired a public meeting on the reconfiguration of services at Dewsbury Hospital at Dewsbury Town Hall. Both Mid Yorkshire Trust and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group were invited - I hope that they were available to attend this meeting to discuss both these and future changes as it is vitally important that the public are kept fully informed about their local health services.
With final approval now granted by Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust and North Kirklees CCG, the initial changes to maternity, children’s services and acute surgery will take place over the weekend of 16 September.
I remain incredibly concerned about patient safety across the Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust. Having held numerous meetings and taken part in debates in Parliament to bring these issues to the attention of the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, I am extremely disappointed that no action has been taken and that these downgrades are still going ahead.
Already, the changes from next month at Dewsbury District Hospital will leave the whole of Kirklees without consultant-led maternity services and expectant mothers will have to travel outside the borough if they want the reassurance of knowing that a consultant will be available if required during childbirth. A midwife-led unit does not even offer the option for an epidural, which is often vital pain relief for mothers to be. With parallel proposals to downgrade services at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, the Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group is due to report on this on October 20.
I will continue to scrutinise and monitor the Trust and the CCGs and also to press for more joint working across the Kirklees footprint. It is important to note that this is all happening against a backdrop of budget cuts and pressures from central government.
The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust faces budget cuts of £26m this financial year – its hospitals are facing well-documented staffing problems. Yet the Government seems to be blind to the problems faced by our NHS.
Nationally, Jeremy Hunt is pressing on with his push for a ‘truly seven day NHS’. Yet, as we’ve seen from leaked documents this week, the Government’s own civil servants have been warning of the dangers of putting increasing responsibilities on an overstretched service without realistic resources and staffing to meet these demands.
Responding to the news of the leaked papers this week, one former Tory Health Minister, Dr Dan Poulter MP, who is also an NHS doctor described this as, “a warning of the dangers of putting soundbites ahead of properly funded and resourced plans for our NHS.” The key elements of this certainly appear to echo the local picture – reduced funding and a shortage of staffing.
When even his colleagues are voicing public concerns, perhaps Mr Hunt might finally take note?
Originally published in the Dewsbury Reporter 25/8/16
Summer’s finally here – and we’ve been enjoying some sunshine in Dewsbury! It was a busy last few weeks in Parliament, and amidst the turbulence and unrest following the EU Referendum result, with leadership changes and challenges; my role has been more important than ever in pressing the Government on issues that matter to local people.
Responding to local concerns, I called on the Prime Minister to convene an urgent meeting of a cross-party commission to look into the rise in race hate crimes. In a statement I wrote, signed by West Yorkshire MPs from all parties, we appealed for unity. It is vital that we come together to condemn all incidents of racism and xenophobia in our communities and I will keep up the pressure on the Government to improve the way that hate crime is tackled.
Now is not the time either, to let the Government off the hook on challenges faced by our local NHS services. Speaking in the final adjournment debate before summer recess, tabled last week by Labour’s Yvette Cooper MP, I raised the concerns of patients I met on a recent visit to Dewsbury Hospital. Sadly, the same problems prevail – namely, a serious shortage of staff. Again, pressing the message I raised only a few months ago, I urged the Minister Philip Dunne to ensure tangible progress is made for the sake of patient safety.
Looking forward, it is essential that changes to hospital trust services are not taken in isolation. I formally objected to the proposals to downgrade Huddersfield Royal Infirmary largely because of the impact they will have on Kirklees as a whole. I look forward to an upcoming meeting with the regulators—NHS Improvement, the CQC and the NHS providers and commissioners, where I will continue to press for the co-ordination of crucial support and strengthening of our local NHS services.
With the House of Commons now in recess I’m using this opportunity to get involved in even more events and activities across the constituency. I love meeting people and this is the time of year that I get to go to events that I wouldn’t normally be able to.
And there have been some truly fabulous local events lately. Amongst the many, more than I can list, it’s been a real privilege to join groups like Kumon Y’all, who do some excellent work promoting community integration. Their recent family fun day brought people to the Savile Town Playing Fields to enjoy a fun day together, regardless of their differences. Over at Kick Off Dewsbury, I caught up with the fantastic team there, who are also doing great things toward breaking down barriers and building community cohesion.
Meanwhile in Mirfield, the Arts Festival showcased some great local music, art and culture, whilst the Safe Anchor Trust’s pirate’s day gave me the chance to hear about their fantastic work providing free access to the waterways for special needs groups.
We really do have some excellent local groups and volunteers who make these things possible, and I’m very much looking forward to joining more terrific events over summer and working with these groups to ensure they’re able to keep up the good work. Hope to see you there!
Last week Jo Cox was brutally and senselessly taken from us whilst working for the people she represented in Batley and Spen. An MP dedicated to making the world a better place for both those local people and for people in need around the globe, I join those across our region and across the whole country in paying tribute to her.
Having been part of the same intake of MPs in 2015, elected to represent the constituency of Batley and Spen, which neighbours my own Dewsbury Constituency, I saw her as a tireless and passionate MP who embraced the difficult issues. She championed women’s and refugee's rights as well as many others and was a dedicated constituency MP. I think everyone is struggling to come to terms with her loss.
Jo’s family have set up a fundraising page to support organisations close to her heart. I would urge people to consider making a donation – we can best serve Jo’s memory by continuing the fight for the causes she believed in.
Starting the week with some great political debate at GMB Congress in Bournemouth, I heard some fantastic speakers and enjoyed taking part in a lively Q&A with Labour colleagues, Ruth Smeeth, Gill Furniss and Jo Stevens.
On Tuesday I was delighted to secure and lead a Westminster Hall debate on diabetes related complications. This is a big issue both here in my constituency and across the UK - it carries a huge cost both to people with diabetes and the NHS. I was pleased that my speech was well received – it’s a critical issue and I’ll continue to call on the government to take action.
Wednesday saw the official launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Health. As Chair of the group I was proud to welcome Angela Rippon, Katie Piper, Victoria Derbyshire and Caroline Criado-Perez, all inspirational women who have overcome adversity. I’m grateful for their support for the group, which will be pressing for a change in culture within our health services so that women are better empowered to receive the care they deserve.
I held my new regular monthly surgery at The Greenwood Centre in Ravensthorpe on Thursday. No appointment is necessary - I’m always pleased to have the opportunity to meet residents, to hear their concerns and to do whatever I can to help.
This morning, Friday, I was glad to meet with Dewsbury Rams RLFC, to hear about the fantastic work they’ve been doing and their future plans.
This afternoon I’ll be out and about again in the constituency. I’m looking forward to joining Lingotots, a group teaching Spanish for toddlers at Christ the King, Battyeford and visiting Old Bank School, Mirfield.
This weekend I’ll be joining a fundraising event organised by local campaigner Lloyd Smith for Brain Tumour Awareness Day at the Old Bank Co-op in Mirfield, as well as attending the annual Shelley Village French Sunday Lunch and popping in to Queen’s birthday celebrations around the constituency.
The NHS and public health, transport, broadband, pensions, migration and the refugee crisis, how to tackle racism and to promote gender equality in advertising, sport, and the workplace. These are some of the issues I’ve been discussing in Parliament over the past couple of weeks. No doubt, they are also amongst the many and varied issues that in recent weeks have been argued will be directly or indirectly affected by our forthcoming decision over the UK’s membership of the European Union.
In just a few weeks’ time, on 23 June, every voter will have a choice to make about our future EU membership. In or out. This is such a vast and wide ranging debate and to be clear – it is not possible for either side to be certain of the impact that a decision to leave could have on our day to day lives here in the UK.
One argument from leave supporters is that ‘Brexit’ could protect us from the many negative influences of TTIP, the EU- US trade deal. I disagree.
I do have strong concerns that the unremarkably titled ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’ poses a serious threat to our NHS and other public services by opening them to the risk of American privatisation. That is why I tabled an amendment to the Queen’s Speech demanding new protection for the NHS, and last week pressed the Government to make it clear that they will reject any treaty that puts the interests of big business ahead of ours.
Forced to accept my amendment, it is the first time since 1924 that a government has accepted a motion of regret to a Queen’s Speech - an unprecedented humiliation. It is clear from the support my amendment received that a majority in the Commons, as well as in the country, do not accept the government’s position on TTIP.
The truth is, the Tory Government have not only turned a blind eye to the warnings of the unions, campaigners and MPs, including many on their own backbenches, who have warned them about the danger that TTIP poses. Whilst other EU countries have been adding their reservations to protect their powers and interests, our government have actively encouraged TTIP’s pro-privatisation and foreign business friendly form. Disturbingly, in 2014 the Conservative Trade Minister actually lobbied the European Commission to try to make sure TTIP kept its Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions – the unaccountable international courts that allow foreign investors to sue governments for things like increases in the minimum wage.
So, I stand in direct contrast to those Tory Eurosceptics eager to exploit this issue. Conversely, it is my fear that, if Britain left the EU, far from protecting our public services like the NHS, transport or education, our own Government, driven by its ideological belief in privatisation, would subject us to even worse trade deals, with less of a voice to challenge them.
I believe that Britain is much stronger as part of the EU. I will be voting remain on 23 June, to protect jobs, growth and investment as well as workers’ rights and I urge local people who care about these issues to do the same.
This week, we've had the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen's Speech, which sets out the Government’s legislative plans for the year ahead.
I’m proud that the amendment I tabled on TTIP (the EU-US trade deal) became the first amendment to a Queens Speech to be accepted for 94 years. It is clear that action needs to be taken to ensure the NHS is specifically exempted from the threat posed by private American healthcare companies. This is an important issue and I’m glad to have forced the Government into yet another climb-down, just months after doing the same on their Budget.
I’ve also been working to ensure that the savings from the abolition of the tampon tax are fully passed on to customers. I’ve had an encouraging meeting with trade association representatives for UK manufacturers and I look forward to working with them further on this.
On Wednesday I met with the Transport Minister Andrew Jones to discuss Mirfield Railway Station and the ongoing battle for better accessibility at the station. He has promised to look into funding options that may be available to make much needed improvements. I’ll continue to work with local campaigners to press this issue.
I’ve had meetings with the Royal College of Physicians and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) this week to discuss the situation at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust. It is imperative that everyone works together to resolve issues at the Trust, primarily the very serious staffing shortage. Patient safety must come first.
Today (Friday) I have a busy day in the constituency – after meeting with the CQC this morning, joining a street stall to support National Dementia Awareness Week and having a catch up with West Yorkshire Police Constable, Dee Collins, I’ll be joining the Labour In campaign team this afternoon with Tom Watson MP.
On Saturday morning I have a surgery in Shepley which is open to any local constituents who have issues or concerns they would like me to help with.