Earlier this year I wrote to Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, raising concerns over constituents who had to travel as far as Stockport and Manchester for their disability assessments.
I'm delighted to hear that my concerns have been listened to and the decision has been taken to open an assessment centre in Huddersfield.
Whilst there are still a lot of issues to be resolved around the implementation of Personal Independence Payments I welcome the news that at least constituents will no longer have to travel impossible distances to attend their assessments.
Today I have written to constituents to set out my position on Syria. You can read my letter here:Read more
Six months in Parliament speaking up for you!Read more
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff addressed the board of the Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust on Thursday morning regarding the implementation of parking charges for disabled blue badge holders.
Sherriff, who sits on the Health Select Committee in parliament, launched a campaign against the proposed charges in July when the changes were first announced.
Addressing the board, Sherriff said she that she wanted to work with them and appreciated that they needed to make tough decisions, however she was immovable on her position on charging for disabled parking, saying:
“Whilst there are many users of the hospital that have been hit hard by the recent rise in parking charges, I feel it is the blue badge holders who will suffer the most. Able bodied patients have the option of walking or using public transport, many disabled patients do not have this choice and can only access their appointments by car. There is also an increased likelihood they are going to need to access the hospital services more frequently. These charges have a huge impact on the lives of people who are already suffering at the hands of their disabilities.
“One of my constituents contacted me distraught. Her and her husband are both pensioners and her husband is on many medications and has to attend Dewsbury Hospital weekly for blood tests. He has said he will not go to the hospital any more due to the charges being unaffordable. Obviously this is extremely worrying and she simply doesn’t know where to turn with this issue.
“Is this a unique case though? How many patients are missing appointments following the implementation of the new charges? Have DNA’s increased in the recent weeks?”
The Chair of Trust, Jules Preston admitted they had not considered missed appointments (DNA’S) as part of the parking charges and agreed the trust would look into monitoring the impact.
Sherriff challenged the trust on the spending of £15million on management consultants Ernst Young in recent years. Spending which was defended by the Finance Director as value for money. Sherriff responded that as Finance Director he had an ‘ulterior motive’.
Sherriff commented afterwards:
“When I was invited to speak to the board today I was under the illusion that the decision on blue badge parking charges was going to be reviewed. It came as a surprise to me when I was advised by the Chief Executive, Stephen Eames that this was not the case. It was certainly what he led me to believe at our meeting in September.
“I am however pleased that they are to monitor the impact of DNA’s as a result of the charges if not slightly surprised that this was never considered at the time. I await with interest the results from any research carried out and, as I said in the meeting, I will not let this issue drop. I have many constituents that this is causing great distress to and my priorities lie with them”
Paula speaks out on proposed police cuts in opposition day debate. Read her full speech here:Read more
The government has embarked on a major climb-down as ministers desperately seek to avoid a double whammy of defeats in both Houses of Parliament.
As the Lords voted to delay tax credit changes, Treasury ministers in the Commons faced an amendment to the Finance Bill from Labour backbencher Paula Sherriff, which would have mandated the government to include a demand for a zero-rate of VAT on tampons and other female sanitary products in their EU re-negotiation package.
The amendment had been signed by a dozen Conservative backbenchers, and Conservatives for Britain had indicated that they had enough backbench support to put the government majority under serious threat. Every Tory MP who spoke in the debate indicated support for the Sherriff amendment.
Ministers sought to head off the revolt by agreeing to Sherriff’s demands that the government start negotiations at EU level, and pledged to start negotiations with the European Commission, requesting that they allow member states to zero-rate all female sanitary products. They had previously said that this would be too difficult to achieve.
The government did not, however, commit to a clear timeline or that this demand would be on the Prime Minister’s “shopping list” in the EU re-negotiation before a UK referendum.
Sherriff pledged to work with a cross-party group of backbenchers to bring forward a vote on backbench time clarifying these issues, which would not be subject to the same degree of control by government whips.
Moving her amendment in the Commons, Paula Sherriff said:
“It is time to end the tampon tax once and for all and today in this House we have the chance to take a step towards achieving that. It is absurd that tampons and sanitary towels are taxed as luxuries not essentials in Britain, and not treated as a ‘public service activity’ or medical provision by European law. Almost a quarter of a million people from the across the country have signed up to call for that to change, and it’s about time they were heard in Westminster and Brussels.
“Quite simply, a tax system that lets you dine on crocodile steak on your private jet without paying a penny, when we can’t survive a period without the Treasury taxing us for it, cannot be a fair one.
“Periods are a fact of life and it’s not like women have a choice. Many were shocked to see Kiran Ghandi run the London Marathon without a tampon to highlight that too many women around the world do not have access to sanitary products. But that’s the point – this is a basic matter of biology and it is time to end the taboo. Here in this country, we can buy tampons but we are taxed for it.
Frankly VAT on tampons is the Vagina Added Tax. A tax on women, pure and simple.”
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff is to use her office in the former Dewsbury Reporter Building, Wellington Street as a drop-off point for food bank donations.
The MP visited the ‘The Pantry’ food bank at Fusion Housing in Dewsbury last week to learn more about the work they carry out from not just supplying food parcels but also providing housing advice for people all across north Kirklees.
Paula commented afterwards:
“It greatly saddens me that in 2015, the need for food banks in our country is growing exponentially.
“The staff and volunteers at ‘The Pantry’ are simply fantastic and it was great to meet and thank them for their incredible hard work, both supplying food for those in need and offering housing advice.
“I will personally be making regular donations to the food bank and I am delighted to announce that my constituency office will become a drop-off point for food donations.”
Ridhwan Nadat of ‘The Pantry’ food bank said:
“It was great to have Paula here to see first-hand the vital work we are doing to support the most vulnerable in North Kirklees. We are delighted that Paula has offered to use her office as a drop-off point for the food bank and we look forward to working with her. Hopefully, this will also encourage other individuals as well as organisations to do the same”
The MPs office are now accepting donations of food items such as tins of meat, fish and vegetables as well tea, coffee, coffee cereal and toiletries. For further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 07467 323402.
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff yesterday made a passionate speech attacking the government on their proposed cuts to tax credits.
The cuts will affect up to 13,000 children in Dewsbury & Mirfield whose families are currently receiving tax credits and are estimated to leave up to three million families nationwide worse off, with the average loss of £1300 per year.
Her opening lines were aimed at the privileged backgrounds of some on the government benches:
“I look at today’s debate as someone – perhaps unlike some of the Members opposite who have spoken – who did an ordinary job on an ordinary wage before I came to this House.”
She then went on to talk about her former work colleagues and constituents who stand to lose out through the government cuts:
"Many of the people I worked alongside in the NHS relied on tax credits to make work pay, and now find themselves caught in a pincer between the government’s pay cuts and the work penalty.
“There are more than thirteen thousand children in my constituency who are in families supported by tax credits. That is over two thirds of all families with children in Dewsbury and Mirfield.
“Literally thousands of the people I represent, now fearful for their future.”
The vote saw a victory for the government despite many of their own MP’s voicing concern over the cuts.
Sherriff commented afterwards:
“Despite many Labour MPs making passionate speeches in this debate, I am devastated that we lost the vote. But the fight will carry on, I will never give up standing up for the people in my constituency. I'm Labour; it's what we do.”
Paula's Press Column this week - Is deprivation in Dewsbury acceptable in the seventh richest country in the world?
Is deprivation in Dewsbury acceptable in the seventh richest country in the world?
Official figures revealed recently that some areas of Dewsbury featured in the top thousand most deprived areas in Britain. I would say this came as a shock to me, but sadly this is what many towns, particularly in northern England have come to accept as the norm.
Dewsbury has been left behind and neglected under this government, as have many northern towns. The Chancellor’s rhetoric of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ has been one of the biggest cons of the Conservative’s general election manifesto. The deprivation figures are hard evidence that all he is creating is a ‘Northern Poorhouse’.
I have had many constituents visit my office since being elected who are desperate. People with disabilities having all income cut off through not being able to get to assessments as far afield as Manchester. Families being forced to move out of their homes or face financial penalties because they have the audacity to have a spare bedroom. Not to mention the anticipation of the impending tax credit cuts to be inflicted next May, where many working families stand to lose thousands of pounds a year.
In July I voted against the government’s welfare bill and I welcome that the new Labour leadership has taken this stance and that we voted as a party to oppose the bill in September.
Some may simply say that getting people into work is the answer. Unfortunately our town is being starved of investment, with the government playing politics with devolution and decisions on transport infrastructure and as a result Dewsbury suffers and fails to grow and provide the jobs required. The figures are more concerning in other ways too. Many of those below the poverty line are actually in work, the governments so called ‘strivers’. It is mainly those in work who will lose out financially with the impending tax credit cuts. The combination of these cuts and the Chancellor’s so called ‘living wage’ set to come into force in May, is doing no more than giving with one hand and taking away more with the other, leaving many more families struggling to pay their bills and provide a decent standard of living for their children.
But on top of jobs, wages and benefits the government fails to address the other huge contributor to deprivation - the lack of affordable housing. Private sector rents are spiralling out of control with rents on average £1000 more than in 2010. Despite this David Cameron plans to sell off more and more social housing stock at knock down prices. History shows that this is false economy, with former social housing falling into the hands of private landlords who are able to charge exorbitant rents and push up the housing benefits bill.
For many in Dewsbury, home ownership is an impossible dream. With average first time buyer deposits ranging between £16,000 & £20,000 based on research from Yorkshire Building Society. David Cameron announced at Conservative conference last week his new starter home plan, a scheme aimed at helping the younger generation get on the housing ladder as opposed to renting. However research from the housing charity Shelter suggests that in 98% of local authorities, those earning George Osborne’s so called ‘Living Wage’ would not be able to afford one of these starter homes. For many generations rip-off rent will continue.
In the seventh richest country in the world is it right that people in Dewsbury are suffering from deprivation and poverty? Of course it isn’t. The Government need to stop patronising us with terms such as ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and wake up to the harsh realities of severe deprivation in northern towns and cities caused as result of their policies.
Paula Sherriff MP (Labour, Dewsbury & Mirfield) expressed disappointment today that Marks and Spencer had refused to follow the lead of WHSmith in reducing the price premium charged in hospital outlets.
The chain was under pressure from the MP, a former NHS worker who now sits on the House of Commons health select committee, following an investigation showing that they were charging significantly more in hospital outlets than in high street stores. There was widespread criticism that they were taking advantage of a vulnerable captive audience.
WHSmith agreed to a range of measures with Sherriff, including capping food prices in hospital shops and cheaper “get well soon” cards.
Marks and Spencer met the MP in Westminster today but claimed that they were legally unable to take any action on pricing in their hospital franchises, despite setting the wholesale prices. The retail giant denied they were “exploiting a captive market” or any “undue profiteering”, stating that the overall price uplift was a “single digit percentage” but admitted that it was significantly more for products such as flowers. They blamed higher prices on rents charged by NHS Trusts.
Despite criticism from unions and the Patients’ Association, the firm also denied that they had ever received any complaints from staff or unions on the subject.
Despite owning the depot, M&S hires staff through recruitment agency 24-7, with another company registered at the same address the legal employer. 75% of the staff are now treated as agency workers, using a loophole in employment law, despite effectively working exclusively for M&S. They receive significantly lower pay and only 7 hours of guaranteed work a week, with bosses able to turn them away when they arrive for shifts. The GMB trade union is pursuing a legal challenge.
It was revealed earlier in the year that M&S Chief Executive Marc Bolland received more than £2m in pay after bonuses, and the chain’s global revenue exceeds £10bn.
Paula Sherriff said:
“I'm deeply disappointed that Marks and Spencer hasn't followed the lead shown by WHSmith on hospital pricing. Patients feel like they’re getting their pockets picked to prop up the profits of one of Britain's biggest brands. The biggest premium is on flowers, and I think that’s just wrong – there will be people in desperate circumstances who want nothing more than to look after their loved ones and these shops are making a quick buck on the back of them.
“No doubt M&S Chief Executive Marc Bolland could afford the extra on his two million pound pay package, but with this government’s tax credit cuts working people are struggling and the costs of looking after a seriously ill relative can make all the difference.”
“And just they're charging vulnerable customers more, they're paying vulnerable workers in their supply chain less. Put together, you have to question what’s happened to the values behind this brand.”
“I hope that we see some progress on conditions for their workers when we meet next. Their adverts say that there's only one store that does it like M&S, but apparently that’s not true for prices and it’s not true for payscales. Instead the most vulnerable customers and staff get charged more and paid less.”
The MP pledged to seek a Commons debate on the behaviour of Marks and Spencer if she wasn't satisfied with their response.