Kirklees Council has had £110 million cut from its funding over the last five years and is set to be starved of millions more over this parliament. It appeared the government were starting to understand the impact this was having on people and local authorities when they announced a £300 million ‘transitional grant fund’. Unfortunately Kirklees will see none of this. With the fund coming from a currently unknown source, it has emerged that wherever this money is found, the vast majority – some 85% – is to be given to affluent Tory controlled councils who have had far lighter cuts over the last five years.
It is clear that the government have little time for Dewsbury or Kirklees. However, I have made it my duty to hold them to account on every false promise and misleading statement made about our area.
Before Christmas, following a question by my colleague Jo Cox MP for Batley & Spen on the social care crisis we are faced with, The Chancellor Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Letwin accused Kirklees Council of having ‘£200 million in useable and unused reserves’. Knowing this was an outrageously incorrect statement I had the official figures confirmed. It is in fact less than a fifth of the stated amount. I raised a point of order on the issue to ensure that it wouldn’t go un-noticed.
You may remember that prior to the general election, Chancellor George Osborne told a local newspaper that Dewsbury would be an Enterprise Zone within 100 days of the election. An Enterprise Zone would have meant that any new business or existing business moving into a town premises would be spared rates for 5 years as a means of encouraging investment.
As soon as I was elected I started to push the issue, last year asking twice in the House of Commons as well as submitting a written question and being fobbed off each time. Recently I raised it again, pointing out that it had been nine months and there had been no mention of an Enterprise Zone in Dewsbury. As usual I was fobbed off by the Minister. This time completely avoiding the answer, he insinuated that Dewsbury should look to prosperous tourist towns for tips on how to regenerate.
It is obvious that the government has no intention of granting Dewsbury an Enterprise Zone. But I’m pleased to have exposed the Chancellor for his broken promise in what was a despicable piece of electioneering. I will continue to lobby for much needed investment in our town and to hold the government to account on behalf of local people.
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff has called for a debate on the Department of Business Innovation and Skills consultation on tips and gratuities.
The call comes following revelations by the Unite Union (who led the successful campaign into stopping Pizza Express pocketing a percentage of staff tips last year), that a five star London Hotel owned by the Melia International chain, was using the staff service charge to top up senior managers salaries.
The Business Secretary Sajid Javid undertook a review into the practice of which the consultation period ended at the start of November last year. However to date there has been no government response into the review.
Sherriff asked the Leader of the House, Chris Grayling MP last Thursday:
“May we have Government time for a debate on the consultation by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on tips and gratuities? The consultation closed at the start of last November, but the Minister for Skills confirmed in a written answer this morning that no Government response is imminent. Just this week, Unite the union has exposed another scandalous practice in which the Melia Hotel International chain appears to take a 15% cut from tips and uses it to top up senior managers’ pay, which it describes as standard industry practice. Will the Leader of the House join me in saying that this is totally unacceptable, and urge his colleagues to move from consultation to action?”
“I have always taken the view that if someone is given a tip, either they should keep it or it should be pooled with their fellow members of staff. I know that the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills takes this issue seriously and I will make sure that the specific concerns raised by the hon. Lady are passed to him.”
Commenting afterwards, Sherriff said:
“It’s not acceptable that three months after the consultation has finished, the government are still saying that no response is imminent.
“Waiting tables is among the worst paid jobs in the UK with unsociable hours. Many waiters rely on their tips to boost their low earnings. They should not be getting robbed by their own employer.
“Tips are left by customers intended for the staff who served them, it is therefore immoral for companies to be siphoning this money off to boost the already high earnings of the company management. It also shows they have complete disregard for their customers.
“Deduction of tips from hard working and poorly paid staff is not something the government should consult on and then kick into the long grass. It is a situation which needs to be acted upon now.”
Tories hand millions to wealthiest councils – but there’s only cuts for Kirklees
Labour MP Paula Sherriff has accused the Government of a stitch-up after the Chancellor handed hundreds of millions of pounds to the wealthiest Tory councils to ease the pain of spending cuts – but offered nothing to Kirklees.
Kirklees has suffered some of the highest spending cuts since 2010, but has received nothing at all in yesterday’s announcement. Meanwhile, leafy Surrey, one of England’s wealthiest shires, has been given a hand-out of £24m despite suffering far fewer cuts in recent years.
Tory MPs became alarmed when they realised their areas might soon see cuts similar to those imposed on the rest of the country. They threatened to vote down the Government’s planned cuts until Communities Secretary Greg Clark announced a £300 million ‘transitional grant’. The Government have refused to say where the extra money comes from.
Labour analysis shows that £255 million of the grant – 85% – goes to Tory councils. Areas with Labour run councils receive just £17 million, despite suffering the harshest cuts since 2010 and having higher levels of deprivation.
“Kirklees Council has already suffered unprecedented cuts of over £105million since 2010 with millions more to be slashed in the coming years. My constituency of Dewsbury has some of the most deprived areas in the country yet the government continues to turn a blind eye to the Northern Poorhouse they are creating.
“We now know that the government are paying off their Tory run councils in wealthy areas with tax payers’ money. How can this be fair? The Chancellor once said we are all this together yet he cuts taxes for millionaires, lets Google off the hook with millions in unpaid tax and continues to cut northern, Labour run councils to the bone at the same time as giving handouts to leafy affluent Tory run councils.”
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff demanded an apology from the Communities & Local Government Minister, Marcus Jones for the Chancellors broken Enterprise Zone promise.
Prior to the General Election last May, the Chancellor George Osborne said to the Dewsbury Reporter that within 100 days of the election Dewsbury would be added to a list of Enterprise Zones. If this had been followed through it would have meant that new businesses moving into the town or those that wish to change premises would be exempt from business rates for five years. A measure which has proved to revitalise town and city centres.
During a ‘Support for High Streets’ debate on Monday Sherriff asked:
“A week before the general election, the Chancellor told the Dewsbury Reporter that within the first 100 days of a Tory Government, the town would be added to a list of enterprise zones in which new businesses would be spared business rates for the next five years. Will the Minister confirm that nine months into a Tory Government, there is no enterprise zone in my constituency, and local businesses on our high street are still paying full rates? Will he offer an apology to local people who were promised one thing when the Chancellor wanted their votes, and got quite another once he was in office?”
Completely avoiding the question, Communities & Local Government Minister, Marcus Jones said that Dewsbury could take tips from a number of towns around Yorkshire that had won awards in the Great British High Street Competition. An insinuation that Dewsbury should look to somewhere like the tourist town of Helmsley in North Yorkshire for ideas of how to regenerate itself.
This isn’t the first time Sherriff has raised the issue, having asked twice orally and once in written questions last year.
“This was the most despicable piece of electioneering imaginable. The Tories have reneged on many promises made before the election such as on elderly care costs, tax credits and transport infrastructure. However this was a deliberate and targeted false promise for the people of Dewsbury in a desperate attempt to save my predecessor from losing his seat.
“I have been pushing for answers on this for months and have been fobbed off by Government Ministers who have complete disregard for Dewsbury. This latest answer from Marcus Jones is simply unbelievable. Does he really think Dewsbury could look to the affluent North Yorkshire town of Helmsley for tips? There is no comparison between the two towns and to suggest that there is shows just how out of touch the Minister really is.
“I have many constituents contact me with concerns about Dewsbury Town Centre. The Government has let them down but I will keep pushing for both an apology and investment in our town.”
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff, who has joined forces with local action group ‘Friends of Mirfield Station’, has stepped up the pressure on the government to invest in much needed improvements to the dated Victorian railway station.
Many locals complain of inadequate parking facilities, poor waiting areas, and a platform that is inaccessible to many disabled, elderly and infirm passengers.
In a letter to Transport Minister Andrew Jones MP in December Sherriff raised all areas of concern particularly emphasising the accessibility issue.
In a response from the Minister referring to the £160 million ‘Access for All’ scheme Jones said:
“Although Mirfield Station was nominated, it was unsuccessful because out of the 278 stations, Mirfield ranked 177 by weighted footfall. All funding has now been allocated until at least 2019.”
Unhappy with the response Sherriff raised the issues with Transport Minister Claire Perry in the House of Commons on Thursday asking:
“The main platform at Mirfield railway station in my constituency is only accessible via very steep steps, which can make it very difficult, and sometimes impossible, for the disabled and the elderly or infirm to access the station. Will the Minister agree to meet me or perhaps visit Mirfield to see how we can facilitate much needed improvements to the station?”
The Minister responded saying:
“I am always happy to discuss these issues with the hon. Lady. She will know that more than 400 stations have significantly benefited from the investment of the Access for All scheme. Clearly there is more to do and I am very happy to have a conversation with her about that.”
Commenting on issue Sherriff said:
“I am pleased the Minister has agreed to discuss the issue further with me following a negative response in writing from her colleague. I welcome the fact that 400 stations have benefited from the Access for All scheme but I would like to see this extended to more stations including Mirfield.
“The government talks of a Northern Powerhouse but needs to act to ensure we have the infrastructure in place rather than leaving places like Mirfield with outdated and inaccessible stations.
“I will continue to work closely with Friends of Mirfield Station to press the government into action on this issue.”Read more
MPs Paula Sherriff and Jo Cox met with Health Minister Ben Gummer last night to raise concerns about plans to downgrade Dewsbury & District Hospital.
Reconfiguration plans by Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust would see services centralised at Pinderfields and include the downgrade of Dewsbury’s A&E, which would cease to be consultant-led.
The meeting at the Department of Health was secured by the Labour MPs after news emerged that the Trust wanted to bring its plans forward by 12 months.
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff, a former health worker and member of the Health select committee, said:
“This is the first time any Health minister has met local MPs to discuss the planned downgrade of Dewsbury & District Hospital and it was a very productive and positive meeting.
“The minister listened to all the concerns Jo and I raised. He has promised to convene a further meeting with us and the leaders of the Trust so that he can visit and assess for himself what is happening with this reconfiguration and ensure there is no adverse impact on our constituents.”
Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox, who was born at the hospital at Staincliffe, said:
“Paula and I know how much this issue worries and upsets everyone who relies on our hospital. This meeting gave us the chance to raise our concerns about many aspects of the reconfiguration and downgrade – including the way it is being rolled out and serious concerns about a vacuum of leadership.
“If the downgrade fails we want assurances from the minister that he will step in and this meeting suggests we have taken the first steps towards achieving that.”
Miss Sherriff and Mrs Cox raised concerns about:
- The roll out of the reconfiguration and Closer to Home agenda, the implications of the downgrade and the accelerated process.
- Losing the CCG chief executive to retirement at the same time as the Trust chief exec goes part time to split his time with a Trust in Cumbria.
- Lack of regional planning and joined up thinking, and the potential knock on effect from the proposed closure of the A&E at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
- The risk of further, future reconfiguration
- Communication with the public and patients about the impact of the changes, including the need for tailored, interactive workshops in individual neighbourhoods.
- Transport, including the challenges Yorkshire Ambulance Service face.
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff held the government to account on Wednesday over a misleading statement made last month by the Chancellor Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Letwin, stating that Kirklees Council had ‘£200 million pounds in useable and unused reserves’.
The statement was made in a debate last month following a question on the problems facing social care in Kirklees from Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox. Letwin went on to say that the problems she raised were ‘not real ones’.
Outraged by the response Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff hit back at the government on Wednesday afternoon raising a point of order at Cabinet Office Questions:
“At Cabinet Office Questions before recess, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster stated in response to a question from my Honourable Friend the Member for Batley and Spen that Kirklees Council had “£200 million pounds in useable and unused reserves” and concluded that the problems we reported facing our constituents were, therefore, “not real ones”. I have now had it confirmed not just by officers of the local authority that their unused reserves are nowhere remotely close to this, and even including reserves that are already allocated and not useable the figure is nowhere near £200m. The Minister for Local Government has also now confirmed by Written Answer that according to the government's own official figures Kirklees Council had less than a fifth of this amount in unallocated financial reserves at the end of the last financial year. Can I ask you what recourse there is for Members where a Minister has, even if unintentionally, misled this House on a matter that so seriously affects our constituents?”
Sherriff commented afterwards:
“It’s an absolute disgrace at a time when local authorities, predominantly in the north are being stripped to the bone of funding, that Ministers should make misleading remarks.
“Social care in this country is in crisis and it just goes to show what a terrifying situation we are in when Government Ministers are picking random figures out of the sky, trying to pin the blame on local authorities for not spending money they don’t have.
“It’s time they came and saw first-hand the effects their cuts have on people’s lives in areas like Kirklees, and stop trying to pass the buck in such an incompetent appalling manner to try and mask their failure. “
After raising the issue in the House of Commons Dewsbury MP, Paula Sherriff, secured a meeting with NHS England and the Minister of State for Health, Alistair Burt MP, to discuss dental health and provision in Dewsbury.
Paula raised the issues currently facing dental provision in our area, including evidence from Healthwatch showing that dental activity is very low throughout the Dewsbury constituency compared to similar areas. She also raised specific concerns surrounding children's oral health as statistics show much higher than average extractions and tooth decay in the area.
Representatives from NHS England, who are responsible for commissioning dental services, agreed that the Dewsbury constituency is significantly under-served but that this would be incredibly difficult to resolve without further funding from central Government. Unfortunately the Government Minister was clear that there would be no significant extra funding for dental services in Dewsbury, regardless of extent of the current problems.
Paula managed to secure an agreement from NHS England that existing dental practices could be commissioned in the short term to accept, see and treat new patients who have been unable to source an NHS dentist. The NHS are devising a strategy whereby these patients who have been overlooked can be identified as soon as possible.
It is clear that the NHS is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to help Dewsbury, and to cover provision we have been without, compared with a Government who are happy to acknowledge a problem but then do nothing about it.
Paula will be meeting again with NHS England to discuss the progress of these new initiatives, and will continue to push the Government in Parliament to fulfil the duties they are currently neglecting.
Dewsbury Member of Parliament, Paula Sherriff, has written to the Chief Executive of the Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust, to express her grave concerns surrounding the Trust's decision to bring forward the reconfiguration of Dewsbury and District Hospital.
The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust is planning to speed up a shakeup of services after being warned by the Care Quality Commission over staffing levels. These changes will see critically injured and ill patients be taken to Pinderfields, while Dewsbury and District Hospital deals with minor ailments. These changes were planning for spring 2017, but have been brought forward to September of this year.
Paula Sherriff comments,
“The NHS is currently being placed under immense financial pressure by the Government, and my primary concern remains the welfare of my constituents. It is not clear yet whether there has been sufficient research to demonstrate the safety of these proposals, and we certainly shouldn’t be talking about bringing forward this change until that time.
“Previously the Trust has not met the 95%, 4 hour wait target for A&E patients in the last 12 months, so I have also asked for information on how this will be alleviated following the reconfiguration.
“This reconfiguration could potentially lead to patients in Dewsbury and the surrounding areas being unable to access vital medical services - I have therefore written to the Chief Executive of the Trust to ask that we work together in the best interests of the all patients of the Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust.”
As the nights draw in ever earlier, shops play Wizzard, Chris Rea and Mariah Carey on loop, and supermarkets try to outdo each other with their adverts, we know that Christmas is fast approaching.
Over the Christmas period, it’s important to remember those for whom Christmas may be a difficult time of year, or who may be alone, or working. Our armed forces abroad, spending time away from family, those who may have nobody to spend Christmas Day with, or our emergency services, still on call as we tuck into our Christmas Dinners.
This will be my first Christmas as a Member of Parliament, and I have had the honour of meeting so many people in the past seven months, in Dewsbury, Mirfield and across the constituency, that make our area great.
The NHS and health is something which, as many of you will know, I feel passionately about and will always campaign to defend. It is those NHS workers, working over Christmas I want to pay particular tribute to in my column today. I know that our health service staff will be working tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy, sacrificing their own Christmases for the sake of our own.
Recently, I spoke in the House of Commons about mental health, about how it affects us, problems encountered in treatment and how early intervention is so vital in ensuring that the conditions effects are minimised. It is over the Christmas period that many of these mental health conditions may be exacerbated and it’s vital that we look out for one another.
I know too that many of you have faced particular challenges and so please always do get in touch with me or my office and we will always try our upmost to assist you. I look forward to continuing working for all of the Dewsbury constituency as we head into 2016.
Over the Christmas period it’s so important that we enjoy those things that are truly important in life; our families, friends, neighbours and communities. I know this will be a special time for many, both Christians and non-Christians alike. So I’d like to thank you, at this special time of year, for everything that you do to make our area such a special place to live.
I wish you and all of those closest to you, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.