Free TV Licences cut; Austerity Continues

This is another ruthless welfare cut for the most vulnerable in our society.

It’s appalling that this Tory Government is trying to offload responsibility for funding free TV licences onto the BBC.

The Labour Party and I will fight to reverse these cuts. Older people in my constituency rely upon their TV’s to relay social and news information about the region that they would otherwise go without, it is an essential part of their lives and the BBC and the government must recognise this.

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, 40% of older people say that the TV is their main source of company. Under the new system, 3,037,950 households will lose their free TV licence because of linking the concession to Pension Credit.

1.6 million pensioners living alone will lose their tv license under a means tested system. It is estimated that 1.3 million over-75s are eligible for Pension Credit but do not claim the benefit. This will result in most who are eligible paying the fee anyway.

Over 3,700 households in Oldham will be affected by these changes that will see many of these elderly people who are already struggling tipped over the edge.

The cost of these changes is rarely seen by those on the Tory front bench or at the top of the BBC, changes like these directly affect peoples lives and impact on their everyday freedoms.

Boris, Raab, Leadsom, Javid or McVey will not see the crippling impact this will have on elderly people’s finances.

Nor will they care, as they continue to admit to breaking the law, taking drugs and promising tax cuts for the richest 10% in society, leaving nothing for the rest of us.

The Tory party have proven themselves inept, in contempt and out of touch.

Their attacks on the most vulnerable in our society must not go on. A Labour government would commit to making TV a right for everyone over the age of 75.


Climate Emergency: Where is the action?

Our Parliament is the first in the entire world to have declared a climate and environment emergency, however there is no evidence that the government are indeed taking it seriously or at all acknowledging it. We have a duty to accept the emergency and then plan and act according to it and I’m pleased this was a focus at PMQs yesterday.

Figures released in April show that the UK is set to miss its own carbon budgets by an ever-widening margin, and last year saw the smallest drop in carbon emissions in the last six years – just 2%. We must wake up and intervene before this becomes irreversible.

Even worse, this Government has no authority on climate change. Three current cabinet ministers have denied the scientific consensus, and several current and former cabinet ministers standing in the Tory leadership contest have close links to climate change denial. They are towing the Trump line, be it Climate Change or Brexit, their intentions are not to protect the environment, our country or our planet

They act only in their own self-interest, they are in the pursuit of profit above all else. For example, the Tories continue to promote fracking which is only supported by 12% of the public, and effectively blocks green energy onshore wind project that are supported by 79% of the public according to polls.

Child Poverty has become the ‘norm’. This must change.

According to new figures released by End Child Poverty, around one in three children in Greater Manchester live below the poverty line.

In Manchester the figures have our region as one of the highest for Child Poverty, with around 40% of children living in poverty. This is further exemplified within my own constituency, as Werneth and Coldhurst have been identified as areas with the highest levels of Child Poverty.

I want every child in Oldham to have equal opportunity to succeed, and the fact that government policy is to decrease these opportunities to excel and limit our children to what they have always known deeply troubles me.

Child Poverty seems to be becoming the norm in our society. A total of 14 million people in the UK were in poverty in 2017/18. This includes 4.1 million children, a rise of 500,000 since 2010/11. This must change, our children deserve better than this.

The policies which have led to this are clear for all to see; Universal Credit, two child restrictions on benefits, the loss in the real value in children’s benefits as a result of the 4-year freeze and the link between benefits and inflation being ignored by the government and families being forced to use food banks.

 This coupled with the governments record on in-work poverty, with around 4 million workers in poverty, this shows that the answer is not cuts, not austerity, the answer is investment. Investment in our children, constituents, and country.

The New Economics Foundation has found that 100 billion has been lost from the economy as a result of this government’s austerity policies. That money could and should have gone toward our children and their futures.

We need a radical overhaul of the way this government deals with child poverty and poverty overall.

We need ambitious and credible alternatives for both reducing and then eradicating Child Poverty in Oldham, Manchester and the UK.

Labour will reverse the cuts and investing in children’s services such as mental health, education, childcare and social care. We will invest in our future and create a new Child Poverty Strategy to eradicate the problem.

Financial Exclusion and its impact on Oldham and Royton

Earlier this week, I participated in a debate surrounding financial responsibility and exclusion stemming from the closing of bank branches and charges being placed on ATMs in our regions.

Access to appropriate and fair financial services is a key requisite for participation in today’s society due to its centrality to everyday life. Access to a bank account, savings and affordable credit are essential, however a significant minority lack access to these products and even those who do are now being cut off from accessing them.

Its staggering to think that since the mid 1980’s we’ve lost over 10,500 banks and building societies and 9,700 post offices, with the real impact on the High Street we have seen across the constituency.

And although over that period the number of cash machines has increased year on year, for the first-time last year we saw the first reduction in cash machines 20 years.

Cash machines around the UK are now closing at a rate of 300 a month, and there are over 3,000 communities in Britain that no longer have a single bank branch, especially in smaller towns

Although habits are changing it is still the case that 1.3m do not have a bank account at all, and for a precinct like Royton the market is heavily dependent on access to cash for its customers.

This is why we must act on financial exclusion and the charges being put on ATM’s. Our local businesses are at serious risk if we cannot access the cash to put into our local economies. Losing branches, cash machines and having charges put onto ATM’s is reducing customer choice, forcing local people to shop at chains where they will always accept card.

This will kill local independent shops and markets not just across Oldham, but country wide. This cannot be allowed to continue.

There was an agreement in place between Yorkshire Bank in Royton and a local convenience store to move the ATM into the store, with access to cash to be free. However, just a year into this agreement we have seen a charge implemented and enforced for anyone using the machine.

These agreements are banks taking advantage of a local community that has no other choice. We need to change the law now, to protect our communities and put the emphasis back on the communities who rely on free to use ATM’s and bank branches and who keep the local economy going.

A formal review of ATM charges should take place, with a view to reforming them or abolishing charges altogether. Alongside establishing a minimum standard of banking in communities for financial accessibility and fairness, every community must have access to a branch with free ATM’s.

The move toward a cashless society is a danger to communities such as Oldham where so many of us do not rely on using cards. So, Local Councillors and I are working together, particularly in Royton, to tackle these unjust charges on our own money.

Response to Greater Manchester Spatial Framework

Local MP Jim McMahon MP has published his response to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework plans that have been drawn up to develop land across the borough for residential use and employment space starting in 2037.

Jim McMahon has raised concerns to the inclusion of additional housing in our borough despite the opposition voiced by himself and local leaders and residents in the original 2016 plan.

The new plan would see the development of entirely new sites such as Thornham Old Road in Royton and the sites in Medlock Vale have been met with increasing opposition from local people.

Continue reading “Response to Greater Manchester Spatial Framework”