The following article appeared in this week's Barnsley Independent:
This Saturday, 110 acts from across the UK will descend on Barnsley town centre to perform in what will be the best music festival Barnsley has ever seen.
This year I will have the honour of performing again at Live in Barnsley, the one day festival which showcases some of the best musical talent from across our town and the surrounding region.
Now into its second year, Live in Barnsley is going to be bigger and even better. People will be able to enjoy a long line-up of talented artists including local Darfield performer Jake Sharpe, Barnsley’s ownThe Voice star Emily Worton, Barnsley’s brilliant indie pop creators The Glavins and local singer song writer Danny Smart.
As well as being even bigger and better than last year, this year’s line-up promises to bring a more diverse and varied music taste to Barnsley’s music scene, remembering the town’s musical roots with brass brand Worsbrough Band of which I am a proud patron - playing in The Civic.
Last year was a resounding success, with about 3,000 visitors coming from all corners of the country to attend. Not only did this mean that music lovers had a great day out in Barnsley and saw first-hand exactly what we can do here, but it meant that they brought with them great benefits for our local economy, with venues reporting record breaking takings.
Organisers Steve Clifford, Dave Pearsall and John Backhouse, have yet again poured their heart and soul in to the festival. They have a great passion for music and desire to promote local talent and by ensuring the festival remains free they are able to share this with everyone in the community. This hard work was rightly recognised nationally with a nomination for Best New Festival at the prestigious UK Festival Awards last year.
What is more, Steve, Dave and John announced in December that my good friend and music royalty, Feargal Sharkey, former number one selling artist and ex-frontman of The Undertones who gave the world Teenage Kicks is giving up his time to promote local live music as patron of the festival.
There is a great opportunity for Live in Barnsley to continue to go from strength-to-strength. In October, council leader Sir Steve Houghton gave the event his backing a move which is warmly welcomed and recognised among the music-loving community. The Council has promoted this year’s event on Visit Barnsley, the official website for Barnsley tourism, and on council leaflets and publications and I think it is great it has endorsed this worth-while event.
I would urge all Barnsley residents to come along and enjoy the great day out, but it doesn’t stop here. We need to do as much as we possibly can to support this event and get Barnsley on the music map and showcase some of the best and most talented musicians in our town.
The following article appeared in this week's Barnsley Independent: This Saturday, 110 acts from across the UK will descend on Barnsley town centre to perform in what will be the...
The following column appeared in this week’s Barnsley Independent.
Figures released last week show that net migration has climbed to 260,000, an increase of 78,000 on the previous year. Net migration is calculated by taking away the number of people leaving the country from the number coming in and it is it is now 16,000 higher than it was when the Coalition Government was formed in 2010. At the same time, fewer people are being stopped at our borders, more people are absconding and fewer foreign criminals are being deported.
The truth is David Cameron has failed on immigration. In his first year as Prime Minister, Cameron promised “no ifs, no buts” that he would reduce the net annual migration rate from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands. Yet last week, Theresa May was finally forced to admit their target is “unlikely” to be met – another broken promise from this Tory-led Government.
We all know that immigration is important to the UK economy, and things like our universities and NHS have benefited from those who have come here from abroad, but it must be controlled and managed so that the system is fair. We know that uncontrolled and unfair immigration is a big problem in many parts of Britain.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper has been clear: we must have stronger border controls to deal with illegal immigration. A future Labour Government will ensure that when people cross our borders they are counted in and out, so we know who is here, who has gone home and who has stayed. At the same time, we will re-instate fingerprinting of illegal migrants at Calais and introduce US-style visa reforms to fund 1,000 more border and enforcement staff.
But strengthening our borders alone isn’t enough. It is far too easy for employers in Britain to undercut the wages and working conditions of our own workers at home by recruiting temporary employees from elsewhere in Europe on very low-pay and with no job security. Which is why Labour has said that we will introduce tough new laws to stop this – enforcing the minimum wage, making exploitation a crime and stopping agencies who only recruit foreign workers.
We will also require every firm hiring a migrant worker from outside the EU to offer an apprenticeship in return, to help ensure that young people are given the opportunities and training they need and so that we can plug the skills gaps in our economy by training up our own people.
Another big change we need is about access to benefits. Entitlement to benefits should be earned. Under the current Government’s rules, it is possible for citizens of other European countries to come to Britain without a job offer and start signing on after just three months. As Rachel Reeves announced, a future Labour will extend this period from three months to two years. On top of this, we will end the absurdity of child benefit and child tax credits being claimed for children living in other countries.
Let’s be straight with people: Labour got things wrong on immigration in the past, which is why Ed Miliband is right to have changed our policies, got us back in touch with our own communities and set out this tough new approach. We want to build a country that works for working people, with big changes to our economy to make work pay.
And we also want to ensure that our immigration system is tough and is built on the British values of fairness and contribution. I think that’s what people in Barnsley want to see too.
Labour’s tough new approach to immigration – based on the British values of fairness and contribution
The following column appeared in this week’s Barnsley Independent. Figures released last week show that net migration has climbed to 260,000, an increase of 78,000 on the previous year. Net migration...
This column appeared in this week’s Barnsley Independent.
Earlier this month, we learnt that ex-Tory cabinet minister John Redwood was recorded as saying that people looking to find work or struggling with the cost of living in the north of England are “jealous Northerners” who should go and find work in London – the “mighty capital” – to boost their incomes.
This just goes to show how totally offensive and out of touch these Tories are. But it also demonstrates that the Government’s economic policies are failing. You never hear David Cameron say “we’re all in this together” anymore, do you? That’s because the economic ‘recovery’ (such as it is) seems only to benefiting a privileged few. And it certainly doesn’t feel like much of a recovery here in Barnsley.
The Tories will tell you everything is fixed and that the country is on the right track. But hardworking people in Britain and across Barnsley are on average £1,600 a year worse off since 2010.
We know wages are much higher in London (though living costs are much higher too). But did you know that 80% of all new jobs under this Government are in London? Or that over half of people in our unelected second chamber in Parliament, The House of Lords, are from London and the South East? How can that be right?
That’s why Ed Miliband wants to see a One Nation Government where prosperity and opportunities are felt in every corner of the country – including here in the North. Labour has a radical plan for spreading power and prosperity across England’s city and county regions, including our own.
Labour’s Manifesto will include plans to give city and county regions more power by passing an English Devolution Bill. This will give people at a regional level the power and resources to reverse a century of centralisation and make decisions about what’s best for their county or city Region. This will support devolved funding for transport and housing, funding for business support and enterprise projects, commission further education provision and provide employment support to get the long term unemployed back to work.
Last week, I was appointed as Shadow Transport Secretary. Take local bus services for example. We need big improvements. Local people and local businesses demand a public transport system that helps them succeed, but that doesn’t happen at the moment. Labour will legislate so that regions can set fares, decide routes and integrate bus services with the wider public transport network.
That’s why last week in the House of Commons I voted to challenge Ministers to give local people in our city and county regions the powers they need to deliver fast, frequent and affordable buses. This means that local communities will be in the driving seat – not the bosses of the different private bus companies out to make a quick buck, or ministers sat on their backsides in Whitehall.
Redwood’s comments reminded me of those made in the 1980s by another Tory, Norman Tebbit. As the Tories were busy closing down large parts of industry, like the pits and the steel works, Tebbit said that the unemployed should “get on their bike”.
It just goes to show: some things change, some things stay the same. As for the Tories, they haven’t changed a bit. We can and must do better than this.
This column appeared in this week’s Barnsley Independent. Earlier this month, we learnt that ex-Tory cabinet minister John Redwood was recorded as saying that people looking to find work or...
The following article appeared in issue 6 of the Barnsley FC Fanzine – West Stand Bogs:
The other week I switched on the telly to watch some football on the box. It was Cardiff City v Nottingham Forest. And although I’ve been a Forest fan for more than twenty years, being a huge admirer of Brian Clough (who did more than most to support the miners during the Strike) and having lived and worked in Nottingham many moons ago, I was aware that most of my mates who are Barnsley fans would have enjoyed seeing Forest get beat!
But what struck me was that Forest, who normally play in red, were having to wear their white away kit for the trip to South Wales because Cardiff – the ‘Bluebirds’ – were playing in red. Yet when I looked at the Cardiff fans in the stadium – that was well short of capacity, by the way – most were wearing older blue replica shirts.
Cardiff’s infamous overseas owner Vincent Tan, who has become a sort of panto villain in football, scrapped Cardiff’s traditional blue kit and bluebird emblem, despite a staggering 85 per cent of fans wanting the decision reversed. It would seem that all the money in the world is no cure of Mr Tan’s unpleasant arrogance and crass stupidity. Can you imagine what Barnsley supporters would think if the Club changed the colours to a nice shade of Tory blue?!
Equally, Newcastle United fans were rightly outraged when their owner, Mike Ashley, briefly renamed St. James’ Park the ‘Sports Direct Arena’ without any fan consultation. Similarly, Hull City fans are locked in an ongoing battle with the club’s owner over a proposed name change to ‘Hull Tigers’.
Now I may a Forest fan, who naturally has a huge soft spot for Barnsley and I try to get to games at Oakwell to cheer on the club whenever I can, but I feel a strong sense of solidarity with the supporters of Cardiff City, Newcastle and Hull.
Football has undoubtedly lost it’s way and there are too many clubs that seem completely remote from their supporters. That sense that some clubs are out of touch from ordinary longstanding (and often long-suffering) fans does not just extend to club colours or the names of stadia.
The BBC’s recent ‘Price of Football’ survey showed how average prices have risen at almost twice the rate of the cost of living since 2011. The worst offender is Arsenal, who have the most expensive match-day ticket in the Premier League at £97 – and that’s down £29 on last season! The Gunners charge up to £2,013 for a season ticket but the club are at pains to point out that this includes seven credits for cup competitions. For over two grand a year, I’d want Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to personally serve me my Bovril at half time.
Now the price of season tickets vary, even in the top flight, with Manchester City charging £299 – that’s cheaper than 15 Championship Clubs, ten clubs in League One, four in League Two and even one in the Conference. However, Barcelona only charge their fans £103 for their lowest-priced season ticket.
And it isn’t just the cost of season tickets. The average premier league ticket costs £28.80 – that’s the equivalent of almost four and a half hours work for any fan who earns the minimum wage, and that’s before any additional costs like transport are factored in, never mind the cost of a replica shirt or a programme on match days.
I recently had nothing but respect for Liverpool fans who protested against increasing ticket prices imposed by their American owners at Anfield in October. Banners held up in the Kop read ‘supporters not customers’. And how right they are too.
Yet, as fans continue to be fleeced, rewards for many of the game’s owners, managers and players have never been better. In February, Wayne Rooney signed a new contract that sees him earn up to £300,000 a week. Clubs recently pocketed a massive £3.1 billion from the sale of television rights. But, who is representing the interests of the club and those supporters who pay to walk through the turnstiles week in, week out?
Now there are huge disparities in terms of how fans are treated. I’ve always been impressed by Barnsley FC’s community work with their Community Sports and Education Trust. Barnsley’s impressive chief executive, Ben Mansford, makes a big effort to get round the fans and listen to what they have to say. And equally, it is difficult to see what state Barnsley would be in without the continued and major financial support of the Club’s owner Patrick Cryne. Owners can be fans too.
But for too many clubs, fans have little power and next to no say or voice in how their clubs are run. Owners come and go, but the fans stick with their club through thick and thin (or in many cases, through thin and thinner).
It’s clear we’ve reached a tipping point in the way football is run. That is why Labour has unveiled plans to give football fans a voice in every boardroom and the chance to buy a significant slice of the shares when the ownership of their club changes.
The proposals were drawn up by Clive Efford, Labour’s Shadow Sports Minister. Clive is a really top bloke and he can’t help being a Millwall fan. In consultation with 95 football supporters’ organisations, our plans would require supporters to come together to form a single accredited trust, like the Barnsley FC Supporters Trust. In return, they will obtain the right to appoint and remove up to a quarter and not less than two of a football club’s board and purchase up to 10 per cent of the shares when a club changes ownership, if they so wish.
This would ensure those running clubs share information, power and responsibility with supporters. It would give trusts, like the excellent Barnsley FC Supporters Trust, who work tirelessly to improve and strengthen the link between fans and the club, a real voice and stake in their clubs. They could hold the owners to account on all issues on and off the field including ticket prices, shirt sponsorship, ground naming rights, and changing the colour of the strip or the name.
Labour doesn’t have all the answers and, yes, we should have done a lot more when we were in power to address the problems with governance in the game. But our recent announcement is a step in the right direction and a welcome move to put fans back at the heart of their football clubs.
We will now consult further on the detail of these proposals with supporters and we want to hear your views. If you go on my website, there is a link to a survey we’re doing so make sure you have your say.
Anyway, next time I’m at Oakwell, you might see me having a pint before or after the game in the Old No 7 in town. If you do, let me know what you think of Labour’s plans for football and what more we could be doing. Oh and if you do come up and talk to me, try not to give me too much stick for being a Forest fan.
The following article appeared in issue 6 of the Barnsley FC Fanzine – West Stand Bogs: The other week I switched on the telly to watch some football on...
Last week, I led an historic debate in Parliament as part of Labour’s ‘Justice for the Coalfields’ campaign. This follows the revelations from the 1984 Cabinet papers, which exposed just how much Thatcher and her government misled the public and how badly mining communities were treated during the Strike.
Our campaign is about ensuring that what happened is properly acknowledged and that coalfield areas, like ours in Barnsley, get the necessary support to meet the huge challenges we still face. For it’s not just about our past, but about our future too.
Despite denials at the time, thanks to the release of those Cabinet papers, we now know that there was a secret hit list of 75 pits planned for closure. The papers also reveal that ministers sought to influence police tactics and, most disturbingly, Thatcher even considered deploying the Army against striking miners.
My motion was passed by MPs in the House of Commons last week, but there is still a lot more we are calling on the Government to do.
Firstly, there should be a formal apology for the actions of the previous Conservative government during the Strike. Will we get one? Fat chance.
But secondly, all the details of the communications between the government and the police at the time of the Strike should be published. Without the transparency, we won’t get to the truth. Without the truth, we can’t have justice.
Thirdly, there needs to be a proper investigation into what happened at Orgreave. It is indefensible that the whole truth is yet to come out. That’s why Labour has said that if the Independent Police Complaints Commission can’t or won’t undertake a proper investigation, the Government should consider initiating a swift, independent review.
And lastly, we need to make sure that coalfield communities like ours receive the much needed support to deal with the consequences of the pit closures that still remain. We still don’t get our fair share in Barnsley and the Government needs to do a lot more to bring decent jobs and investment to our area.
Of course there have been many improvements in recent years – thanks to the efforts of the local authority, the investment we had from the previous government and the brilliant work of organisations like the Coalfield Regeneration Trust. But more that needs to be done.
The Justice for the Coalfields campaign and the debate in Parliament comes too late for so many of the miners and families in Barnsley who saw their lives and communities decimated after the Strike. But those of us who lived through and grew up during that period still feel a strong sense of injustice.
Of course we cannot undo the damage that was done. But we can shine a light on what happened and promise to provide the necessary support for regeneration that is still needed. As well as ensuring justice for the past, it’s vital we work to secure a better future for former coalfield communities too.
Barnsley Independent – ‘Justice for the Coalfields: It’s not just about our past, it’s about our future too’
Last week, I led an historic debate in Parliament as part of Labour’s ‘Justice for the Coalfields’ campaign. This follows the revelations from the 1984 Cabinet papers, which exposed just...
The following article appears on the South Yorkshire Times website:
I have nothing but respect for the brave men and women of our police service.
They do an amazing and difficult job – putting their lives on the line day in, day out – and they don’t always get the recognition they deserve.
On top of this, they have had to cope with Government cuts that have seen 8,500 frontline police officers across the country gone since 2010. South Yorkshire Police expect to have lost over 800 police officers and staff by 2015.
When I go out and about with the police in Barnsley, I am always struck by the challenges they face. From taking on drug dealers and violent yobs, to having to act like social workers and surrogate parents, dealing with kids on the streets who should be at home in bed.
But as well as doing their job with total professionalism and dedication to duty, I know that the extraordinary public servants who make up the rank and file of our police service often feel incredibly under-valued.
The following article appears on the South Yorkshire Times website: I have nothing but respect for the brave men and women of our police service. They do an amazing and...
This column appeared in this week’s Barnsley Independent.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This annual, international health campaigning month is really important and is organised to increase awareness and to raise funds. But even at this time of the year people don’t talk about secondary breast cancer very much. I think it’s time we did.
From January to September this year, there have been 162 people diagnosed with breast cancer at Barnsley Hospital. But it’s impossible to know how many of these people will go on to develop secondary breast cancer.
The work of so many charities, as well as the high profile breast cancer cases in the media and local breast cancer fundraising efforts, tends to focus on a person’s initial diagnosis of breast cancer – what’s known as ‘primary’ breast cancer. And it’s a testament to all their hard work that women, and men, are much more aware of the need to go for regular mammograms and to report any changes to their GP. But what you don’t often hear about ‘secondary’ breast cancer.
Secondary breast cancer is cancer that has returned and spread. A diagnosis of secondary breast cancer means that the cancer cannot be cured, although it can be controlled, sometimes for years.
Breast cancer outcomes have improved greatly over the past twenty years and it is estimated that over half a million people are alive in the UK after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Of these, the charity Breast Cancer Care estimates that there are approximately 36,000 people living with secondary breast cancer in the UK.
One major concern is that the pain suffered by people with secondary breast cancer is not managed properly. Pain is a common symptom, but there is much that can be done to control and manage this through proper treatment. Correct treatment can dramaticallyimprove your quality of life. The problem is that sometimes people are not directed to where they can get help soon enough.
In a recent survey, Breast Cancer Care discovered that 29 per cent of people living with secondary breast cancer had never reported their pain to their doctor or nurse. Also, despite it being an important national standard that treatment that relieves pain, symptoms and stress be offered to people shortly after being told they have secondary breast cancer, 41 per cent had never been offered it.
If this is something you or a loved one is going through, don’t suffer alone. There is a lot of help out there, but sometimes it is hard to know where to go to get it. Breast Cancer Care run a free, confidential helpline where fully trained nurses can answer any questions you may have about breast cancer. The number is 0808 800 6000. You can also find out more about the treatment and control of secondary breast cancer on the Breakthrough Breast Cancer website – http://www.breakthrough.org.uk
The NHS, charities and policy makers all need to work together to make sure that there is enough support for those affected by secondary breast cancer, including their families, and that the quality of healthcare continues to improve. This is something I am committed to doing, during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and beyond.
This column appeared in this week’s Barnsley Independent. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This annual, international health campaigning month is really important and is organised to increase awareness...
The following column appeared in this weeks Barnsley Independent:
Time to make work pay
I’m proud that Labour introduced the National Minimum Wage in 1999. It was one of the last Labour Government’s greatest achievements.
It was created, in the face of Tory opposition, to help tackle poverty pay without risking jobs. It ended the scandal of people going to work for as little as £1 an hour.
Did you know that there are 5,400 people in Barnsley in a job that pays the minimum wage? That’s the equivalent of eight per cent of the total jobs in the area, which is higher than the average for Yorkshire region or the rest of England.
But 15 years later, we’ve got work to do. With the value of the minimum wage having been run down and declined by five cent since 2010, many of my constituents are really struggling to make ends meet. Under David Cameron millions of people are having to work harder for less, with people on average £1,600 a year worse off.
And by giving a tax cut to millionaires, it’s clear that Cameron and the Tories only stand up for a privileged few - not the millions earning the National Minimum Wage.
That’s why it was good news last month when Ed Miliband announced that a future Labour government will increase the Minimum Wage to £8 per hour by 2020.
The scale of the challenge we face as a country was brought home to me last month when I visited the Kendray Foodbank and the Fareshare distribution warehouse in Stairfoot.
I have huge admiration for the amazing hard work of the volunteers there, together with the brilliant generosity of Barnsley folk in the local community. But it’s a disgrace that we have to set up foodbanks in Barnsley to feed those in need when we live in one of the richest economies in the world.
One of the most shocking things of all is the fact that so many people who are really struggling are in work. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, some 6.7 million people in poverty live in a household where someone works. And Trussell Trust figures show that the number of people using foodbanks has increased by a shocking 1,386 per cent since 2010/11.
Labour’s increase to £8 per hour in the National Minimum Wage is not a King’s ransom, but it will put £3,000 a year back in the pocket of Britain’s lowest paid workers.
People who do a fair day’s work should be entitled to a fair day’s pay. But under Cameron, Britain is going backwards.
I was proud when Labour introduced the National Minimum Wage. And it’s good news for Barnsley that Labour is leading the fight to make work pay. But it’s also high time some of the big employers, many of them making big profits, started paying people a decent, living wage too.
The following column appeared in this weeks Barnsley Independent: Time to make work payI’m proud that Labour introduced the National Minimum Wage in 1999. It was one of the last...
The following column appeared in this week's Barnsley Independent:
Did you know that earlier this month the Government forced Northern Rail to introduce evening peak ticket restrictions on local rail services, pushing some fares up in Barnsley by as much as 26 per cent?
This now means that some passengers who previously used off-peak tickets face sharp increases in their fares. Since Monday 8 September, off-peak tickets are no longer valid on some train services which depart between 4.01pm and 6.29pm on weekdays.
For example, a person travelling from Elsecar to Barnsley under the new peak restrictions will now have to pay £4.40, an increase of 70p or 19 per cent. To travel from Elsecar to Sheffield will now cost £6.00, an increase of £1.20 or 25 per cent. To travel from Wombwell to Meadowhall under the new peak restrictions will cost now cost £5.90, the equivalent of a 26 per cent increase.
In the past, the government has given a certain amount of money as a subsidy to rail companies to cover the cost of running their particular section of the rail network, but when this latest franchise deal was done, the amount of money provided by central government was reduced. As a result, Northern Rail has hiked up fares to make up the shortfall and now commuters in Barnsley are paying the price.
This hidden tax on travel is another kick in the teeth for hard working people, students and anyone already struggling with this Government’s burden of low pay and cost of living crisis. Yet again it demonstrates how out of touch David Cameron’s Government is with the realities of life for ordinary folk in Barnsley. As winter approaches they will have no choice but to stump up the extra cash, face waiting until after dark to travel or be forced not to travel.
Rail passengers in our area deserve better. That’s why Labour would help tackle the cost-of-living crisis by enforcing a strict cap on fare rises. We will also reform our railways so that they work for passengers, not profit. We will review the Government’s failed franchise system and legislate to allow a public sector operator to take on lines and to challenge the train operators on a level playing field, securing better value for money.
Our plan is ease the pressure on passengers by passing on the savings from our reforms by capping annual fare rises on every route, simplifying fare structures and introducing a new legal right to the cheapest ticket.
It used to be said “let the train take the strain”. Now it now seems that with these latest stealth fare increases, it’s the passenger who once again has to take the pain. And it’s just not fair.
The following column appeared in this week's Barnsley Independent: Did you know that earlier this month the Government forced Northern Rail to introduce evening peak ticket restrictions on local rail...