In the last few weeks we have seen another broken manifesto promise from the Government, this time a dramatic U-turn coming from Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
A key promise in the Conservative manifesto in May, to cap care costs for the elderly, has been shelved less than three months into the new Parliament.
On top of the disappointing and utter shameful treatment of the electorate, the fiasco is estimated to have cost tax payers £100 million. Not only money wasted on advertising agency fees, but it has been reported that countrywide, already cash strapped local authorities had been implementing new IT systems and training staff in anticipation of the now shelved reforms.
Having worked on the front line of the Health Service for over 13 years I was recently elected onto the Health Select Committee. The first committee meeting took place shortly before Parliament went into recess earlier this month where I was given the opportunity to question the NHS Chief Executive and Chief Nurse on the astronomical fees which have been spent using agency staff and management consultants. Since 2011 there has been an increase in spend on agency staff from £1.8bn to £3.3bn across the country, locally the spending has risen from £91,000 to £1,250,000 in the same time period within the Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust.
Furthermore there is also the scandal of the increase in the use of management consultancies. It is alleged that the Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust could have spent up to £11 million over the last five years on management consultants such as Ernst & Young. Upon questioning the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, he informed me that whilst new contracts would be capped, existing contracts would have to be honoured.
The amount of money being spent on agencies and management consultancies is alarming. Serious questions need be asked as to why our NHS doesn’t have the nurses it needs and why we need to spend millions on external consultants to make decisions for us. Is a public sector pay freeze and stripping out the so called bureaucracy really saving tax payer money and providing a better value NHS?
Our NHS workers are amongst the hardest workers in society. Doctors, Nurses and other hospital staff work long hours under incredibly stressful conditions and their input should not go unrecognised. Since being elected as your MP I have undertaken ward walks at Dewsbury Hospital, day and night and have witnessed first-hand the great work being done often in pressurised circumstances. I have been heartened in recent weeks to see the overwhelming public support for them spread across social media including the #ImAtWorkJeremy campaign which went viral on twitter following the Health Secretary's misleading comments suggesting weekend hospital staffing levels lead to higher death rates.
Prior to the General Election I promised that I would always stand up for Dewsbury Hospital and the NHS and I will continue to hold this Government to account to ensure a better deal for all us within the Dewsbury constituency.
Voting against the wishes of my own party was not something I envisaged myself doing when I was elected as MP for Dewsbury 11 weeks ago. This was an incredibly difficult decision and not one that was taken lightly. The Dewsbury constituency has pockets of high levels of deprivation and child poverty and ultimately I had to make the choice to stand up for the people I was elected to represent. To abstain would have been letting many of my constituents down.
Tax Credits are in the main an ‘in work’ benefit. They were introduced by the last Labour government and have been proven to improve the lives of millions of families.
The Government are proposing multiple measures to cut tax credits, amongst them to limit child tax credits to two children only. Child Tax Credits as the title suggests are intended for the child and the costs incurred for raising that child. A child does not choose when to be born so why should a third or fourth child suffer as a result.
George Osborne has appealed to, in his words, ‘progressive’ Labour MPs to vote with the government on the Welfare Bill. I however do not see anything progressive about taking away from low paid working families at the same time as cutting taxes for large corporations.
I agree that we need to bring down the deficit and national debt. However I don’t agree that it is a fair or responsible to transfer the nation’s debt onto that of a low paid household. It also doesn’t make economic sense when trying to grow an economy, that working people have less money to spend in it.
Paula has won £315 for charity after placing a bet on the winner of the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, Amazing Maria, which came in at 17/2.
Paula was given a free £50 charity bet when she visited her local Ladbrokes shop in Mirfield recently to learn more about the industry, the customer experience and meet some of the colleagues.
She placed a canny bet of £25 each way on the winning horse, mainly, like so many betting punters, because she liked the name. Amazing Maria was not the front runner in the field but Sherriff’s beginners luck clearly paid off when the horse was able to see off its international rivals and cross the line first.
The winnings have been donated to Kirkwood Hospice who provide specialist care free of charge to adults in Kirklees with advanced, progressive illnesses.
As she presented her winnings to charity representatives at her local Ladbrokes shop, Paula Sherriff said, “I’m delighted my first flutter on the races has paid off and enabled me to donate my winnings to Kirkwood Hospice, who are my chosen charity throughout the course of this parliament. They do some fantastic work locally and really make a difference to the local residents they help”.
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff has hit out at the Chancellors budget delivered on Wednesday afternoon. The first budget delivered by a majority Conservative government in over 18 years saw deep cuts to welfare payments, including tax credits, whilst giving a tax break that will benefit wealthier people.
Sherriff said: “What is clear following this brutal budget is that it is going to be a long and painful five years for working people. Thousands of my constituents will be hit in the pocket whilst the Chancellor once again dishes out tax cuts to the most wealthy in society.”
As announced prior to the budget, the Chancellor raised the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million meaning those with wealthy parents stand to be rewarded.
Sherriff continued: “10,000 families in the Dewsbury constituency are reliant on tax credits, most of whom are in work. Unfortunately most of them will not stand to inherit £1million properties. While I welcome the Chancellor's commitment to a higher minimum wage, people in low paid work will still be worse off - he's giving with one hand while he takes away with the other. How is it fair to punish people who are working hard while giving away something for nothing to others who will benefit from a tax cut on unearned wealth?”
It is near enough impossible for new patients to get an appointment with an NHS Dentist in Dewsbury constituency, it has been revealed.
During a health questions session in parliament on Tuesday, MP for Dewsbury, Paula Sherriff asked the Health Minister Alistair Burt:
“A vast number of my constituents have advised that they are unable to obtain a dental appointment. Enquiries reveal that there is not a single NHS dentist in the Dewsbury constituency which is accepting new patients.”
“Will the Minister agree to meet with me as soon as possible to discuss how we can resolve this unacceptable situation?”
The minister accepted Sherriff’s request.
Sherriff later commented: “It isn’t acceptable that in this day and age so many people are struggling to get access to dental care. I am pleased the minister has agreed to meet with me and intend to push them for answers on how we move forward on this issue.”
Do you know of any young person (or group) within the Dewsbury constituency who you feel has made a real difference and should be recognised?
Each year the British Red Cross runs the Humanitarian Citizen Award. This scheme is open to anyone aged 25 or under and celebrates the achievements of young people in one of four categories; first aid, volunteering, community action and fundraising.
As MP for Dewsbury Paula would like to nominate one of her young constituents. If you know someone who you would like Paula to nominate then please email firstname.lastname@example.org or if you would like to nominate a family member yourself then do so online at www.redcross.org.uk/theaward.
Nominations close on 2 August with the award ceremony taking place on 24 November at the House of Commons.
Paula has been elected as one of four Labour MPs onto the House of Commons Heath Select Committee. The result was announced on Wednesday evening following the ballot of Labour MPs.
In her approach to fellow MPs Paula said:
“Though I am a newly elected MP, I bring 13 years' experience on the front line delivering healthcare, and representing my fellow health workers as a trade union shop steward. I signed up to work for the NHS but the final two years of my time in the service were with Virgin Care, following the forced privatisation and transfer of staff to the private sector under the Coalition.”
“During this time I gained a particular insight in the internal (and often carefully hidden) policies and practices of a private health provider delivering public services with public money, and I would be well placed to scrutinise such companies, as well as their commissioners and of course the ministers ultimately responsible. “
“Similarly, as a former councillor I am well aware of the challenges faced by local authorities whose role in health policy is growing more important, and the particular importance of integrating health and social care.”
Paula commented afterwards: “I am delighted that as a new member of parliament I have been elected onto the Health Select Committee. Many will know the health service is an issue I am passionate about. I look forward to using my knowledge and experience to scrutinise decisions effectively.”
Following the shelved plans to upgrade the TransPennine rail route as promises by the Conservatives before the general election, Paula has written to the Transport Secretary to express her disappointment:
"This news is extremely disappointing for rail passengers who have faced year on year of rising fares and our local economy which stood to benefit from the TransPennine upgrade. I am particularly concerned that it would appear Network Rail knew long ago that the upgrade would be undeliverable yet the government continued to make false promises right up to general election."
“My constituents deserve an explanation as to why they were misled by the government. Simply passing the buck onto Network Rail will not do. This is yet another failed promise from the Conservative government who shout about a ‘northern powerhouse’ but then once again leave the north starved of investment.”
Thousands of families in Dewsbury and Mirfield are set to be hit in the pocket through cuts to tax credits in the government’s attempt to slash 12 billion a year on welfare.
One option under consideration would see a family with one child lose £845.00 and a family with two children lose £1690.00. Figures show that 8,700 families with children are in receipt of tax credits in Dewsbury, with 6,200 of them in work. Lowest earners are set to be hit the hardest.
In an exchange in Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday between the Prime Minister and the acting leader of the opposition Harriet Harman, Harman challenged the prime minister, accusing him of robbing from children.
The Prime Minister responded saying: “My programme for tackling poverty is to get more people in work, get them better paid and cut their taxes.”.
Dewsbury MP, Paula Sherriff furiously commented afterwards: “Is the Prime Minister seriously saying that upon the implementation of these cuts in tax credits that employers will just suddenly dish out pay rises? With many of my constituents already struggling on in work benefits, zero hours contracts and low pay, the latest proposal to rob them of on average of £1400 a year is a kick in the teeth.”
Sherriff who is backing Yvette Cooper for the Labour leadership echoed comments from the Shadow Home Secretary made on Wednesday where she accused the Prime Minister of again hitting woman hardest. Sherriff said:
“In my maiden speech I spoke of the struggle women still face in society and it appears that the Prime Minister is intent on making that struggle worse, not better. With 90% of tax credits being paid to woman, its clear woman still have an uphill battle in society.”
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
It is the ultimate honour to be here today to deliver my maiden speech as the Member of Parliament for Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton. To every man, woman and child living in my wonderful constituency, I promise to be your champion and stand up for you at every opportunity.
I warmly congratulate my fellow new Members for their excellent and eloquent contributions and I continue to enjoy my whistle stop tour of the UK through their speeches.
In keeping with tradition, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the input made by my predecessor Simon Reevell, and I wish him well for the future.
The suffragette movement fascinated and inspired me from a young age and visiting the cupboard where Emily Wilding Davison hid in order to be included in the census as a resident of this building reminded me of the ongoing struggle that women have both in society and in politics. It is refreshing that 65% of the new Labour intake are female but there is a lot more to do, and I look forward to contributing to that cause. As James Brown famously sang 'it's a man world, but it ain't nothing without a woman or a girl...'
It is therefore a particular privilege to be the first female MP elected in the constituency since Ann Taylor, who now sits in the other place. Every corner of the constituency still holds great affection for Ann, both for her unstinting commitment and no-nonsense approach. I have big shoes to fill and I thank Ann for the generosity of her advice and support - I aspire to make her proud.
On the subject of inspirational women it would be remiss of me not to mention Betty Boothroyd, born in Dewsbury, the daughter of textile workers, who broke new ground by becoming the first woman to be elected as one of your predecessors, Mr Speaker.
The Dewsbury constituency is a wonderful place to live, work and indeed play. Dewsbury itself is often referred to as the Heavy Woollen district, a nod to the manufacture of heavyweight cloth which saw a significant population of South Asian origin relocate here in the late 1950's, many of Kashmiri and Gujarati heritage.
Indeed, the town maintains a rich manufacturing industry and has something of a monopoly in the bed and mattress industry. In common with many other Northern market towns Dewsbury is currently struggling economically, with the town centre crying out for regeneration. It is therefore welcome that Dewsbury has been earmarked as an enterprise zone.
Dewsbury is also famous for its hospitality and warmth of welcome. It is perhaps unique in that upon visiting a constituent's home intending to stay a short time, you are greeted with a three course banquet and an invitation to the family wedding.
Many of you may have shed a tear watching Mushy overcome his stammer on Educating Yorkshire, the fly on the wall documentary filmed at Dewsbury's Thornhill Academy.
The town of Mirfield has strong socialist roots. The Community of the Resurrection, an Anglican religious community for men, was founded in 1898 and hosted Keir Hardie and Emeline Pankhurst in its incredible outdoor amphitheatre.
Denby Dale and Kirkburton comprise of a number of small villages and arguably boast of some of the finest scenery in Yorkshire, or is it is better known, 'God’s own county'. I always know I'm near home when I catch sight of the splendid Emley Moor Mast, the tallest freestanding structure in the UK, at 1084 feet.
Many will know that I am a Trade Unionist, having previously acted as a shop steward and equalities officer. I will continue to seek to strengthen the bond between the Labour Party and the trade Union movement. The Trade Unions were instrumental in creating the Labour Party, to fight for working people in Parliament and in this time of insecure employment, zero hour contracts and exploitative labour, unions have never been needed more in the workplace, and the voice of working people has never been more needed in Parliament. This government's shameful attempt to weaken that collective voice should be universally condemned throughout this House.
I must also acknowledge my parents who taught me that you don't have to go to university to achieve your dreams and to never give up on your principles, maintaining the courage of conviction. I am proud to bring over 20 years’ experience on the front line of our public services to this Parliament.
After some time working with the victims of crime, I worked in a frontline Healthcare role for the fourteen years prior to taking my seat in this place. The last two years of this were challenging as the service I worked within was privatised. On my first day working for Virgin Care I was advised that 'my political beliefs did not fit in with the company objectives'. As my beliefs were free healthcare at the point of need and patients before profit, this affirmed my fears that the Health Service was moving away from its fundamental principles. I shall have more to say about Virgin Care in future debates, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I will also continue to campaign tirelessly for a fully re-nationalised NHS, and on the subject of today’s debate, I will fight for the future of Dewsbury Hospital, which remains under threat of significant downgrade with an Accident and Emergency service is literally fighting for its life.
Dewsbury has many challenges ahead over the next five years, not least in the growing inequality we now see in our country. I intend to use my time diligently as Dewsbury's Member of Parliament to redress this, and fight for the fairer, more equal society that my constituents deserve.