Oldham and Universal Credit

Figures given to me by the House of Commons Library state that the percentage of claimants for Universal Credit in my constituency for August 2019 stands at 7.2% of our economically active population (16-64). This compares starkly nationally, with an average of 3.7% claiming Universal Credit, almost double.

 

I see this not as a failure of people in Oldham, I know our town is full to the brim of hardworking working-class people and that we are proud of what we do. However, I do see this as a failure of our Government (If we even still have one) to look after the needs of our regions and former industrial areas and its people.

 

We are told that this Government has accomplished a record high employment rate, though they fail to acknowledge that this not through an increase of sustainable and reliable jobs, it is through forcing people to work unreliable, low-paid work, with some mothers even being forced into sex work to pay their way.

 

It fails to address the reasons for a rise in the Universal Credit claimant rate in places like Oldham, and with a new Secretary of State of month or so, it is easy to see why.

 

This can’t continue. We need urgent reform to the Department for Work and Pensions and a complete shift in focus from stat padding to a genuine focus on Job creation and helping people into finding good jobs that suit their needs, be it shift work, office or manual work.

 

A Labour Government would start this by abolishing Universal Credit and fixing our unemployment system so that the system doesn’t penalise people for being out of work, but actively supports them into finding and keeping jobs, while providing support for those most in need.

 

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£25 Billion Shortfall in Local Government Funding

The report by the New Economics Foundation and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has highlighted real and necessary concerns about funding for local services in the coming years, with a no deal Brexit and reforms meaning that funding for Local Government will reach a critical point, even surpassing the cuts from Austerity we have faced in recent years.


The report by the NEF highlights that around half of local-government funding came from central government in 2010, but by 2024-25 this will have been cut to zero, apart from a small amount of ring-fenced funding.

The funding gap is real and will need to be plugged, with these current plans it will be normal everyday people and business paying for this gap. Whether through Business rates or Council Tax. Our constituents will pay for the Governments cuts and it will push already struggling people and families further into poverty.

The threat of a no deal Brexit makes this scenario even more likely, with Business rates expected to be increased to help cover the shortfall. We must act in the national interest and that of our constituents to ensure this does not happen.

The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Any government that cared about local services would rule out a no-deal Brexit.

“These funding reforms leave councils far more vulnerable to the economic damage that would be caused by crashing out of the EU without a deal, and that will mean bigger funding gaps for services that families rely on like social care, youth services and children’s centres.”

A 25bn further shortfall in funds for Local Government could have disastrous effects on our services and local people. The funding crisis must be addressed by the Government and now.

We must act now to stop this before our services are crippled beyond repair.

 

School cuts bite

Tory cuts to school funding have hit Oldham West and Royton pupils hard, and much greater than the regional or national average.

Information gathered by the House of Commons Library shows that per pupil funding has been cut by 8.1% in just five years, compared to 4.7% for the North West and 4.9% for England.

The real impact of that means a reduction from £5,156 to £4,736 per pupil, and although the ‘block grant’ in the constituency has remained broadly the same, standing at £93m, it took little account of increasing pupil numbers requiring more school places, and in some cases expanded and new schools. It is also the case that while Oldham West and Royton received a real terms 1.3% increase in funding it was far below the England average of 4.8%.

One of the biggest per pupil cuts are in Oasis Academy Limeside which has seen a staggering £817 reduction for each child.

Though we have been campaigning for fair funding for many years I have again wrote to the Secretary of State for Education for this to be reviewed.

Raise the Rate. Back our Sixth Form Colleges

I have joined with 92 MPs in backing our Sixth Form Colleges. We all know the value of a good quality education and there has been lots of activity on School Funding, but often further education doesn’t get the attention it deserves. 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies reports that education funding for 16 to 18 year olds “has seen the biggest squeeze of all stages of education for young people in recent years”. This is having a serious impact on students. 

The underinvestment in sixth form education is bad for students, bad for social mobility and bad for the economy. A central aim of the Industrial Strategy is to help young people to develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future. 

We have urged the Chancellor to use the spending review to implement the first recommendation in A ten-year plan for school and college funding – the report published by the Education Committee in July – which is to “urgently address underfunding in further education by increasing the base rate from £4,000 to at least £4,760, rising in line with inflation.

You can find out more about the campaign by following the link below https://www.raisetherate.org.uk/

Constitutional outrage

The decision by Boris Johnson to suspend parliament has rightly been met with wide ranging criticism. 
As the clock ticks to the 31st October deadline to leave the EU, and no alternative withdrawal agreement in place it is clear we are being driven to a No Deal Brexit.

It is not usual, despite claims by Johnson and his spokespeople to prorogue parliament. Though the Tories have selected a new leader there is not a new government, there has not been an election, there has not been a successful vote of no confidence.

The effect of the move isn’t just that MP’s are sent out of Parliament, but critically that *any* legislation and parliamentary business automatically falls. That means any domestic laws making its way through parliament will be dropped, and there are hundreds of important Bills https://services.parliament.uk/bills/

It is also not acceptable that the Queen is dragged into a political constitutional crisis. As monarch the Queen has always stayed above party politics, which has been a great strength and stability (especially when so much seems in chaos!).

I will never support leaving the EU without a deal and I fail to see how anyone who has read the economic impact assessments prepared by the government itself can. 
Whatever your view on Brexit do not underestimate the chaos very likely to follow.

It is the chamber of the commons; I’m sent by constituents in Oldham West and Royton and not the government. I will support any move to establish a sitting parliament, wherever and however it meets, regardless of the move to suspend our sovereign parliament.