It’s almost 15 years since Tony Blair rightly committed to halving child poverty by 2010 and to eradicate it completely by 2020 - a pledge that has received cross-party support and was made a commitment in the Child Poverty Act 2010. But the truth is that progress in reaching this goal has slowed and under David Cameron things have got worse.
Only this week, the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission published a report that said the absolute child poverty goal was “simply unattainable”. And this followed a report by Save the Children, ‘A Fair Start for Every Child’, which worryingly concluded that by 2020 there could be as many as five million children living in poverty in the UK.
Growing up in poverty not only has a devastating impact on children’s living standards, it severely damages their life chances in the long-term too. Only one in three of the poorest children in the UK will go on to achieve five good GCSEs including English and Maths. So it comes as no surprise that only a third of parents on low and modest incomes expect their children to go to university – a problem that will no doubt have been exacerbated by the tripling of tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 by the Tories and Lib Dems.
Some good progress has been made since the goal was announced, particularly in the first ten years. By 2004/5, the number of children in poverty had fallen from 4.7 million in 1996 to 3.6 million. A number of reasons for this good progress have been highlighted by Save the Children. These include: the introduction of Sure Start centres to help support family life; the help provided to get parents back to work; and the support given to those in work but on low pay.
It’s almost 15 years since Tony Blair rightly committed to halving child poverty by 2010 and to eradicate it completely by 2020 - a pledge that has received cross-party support... Read more
The following article appeared in this week's Barnsley Independent:
When I'm down in London, I travel to Westminster on the tube. And before the automatic doors open, the announcer always says "mind the gap". The same warning might also be given when it comes to the difference between what David Cameron says is happening compared to the reality about what is actually happening out there in the real world.
For instance, the Government like to talk tough on welfare spending and they also talk up what they are doing on housing - but the reality is they have failed on both.
Britain is facing the biggest housing crisis for a generation, with less than half the numbers of new homes we need being built. That means there aren't enough affordable homes to rent or buy.
And at the same time, figures from the House of Commons library show the number people in work claiming housing benefit has increased dramatically since 2010.
In Barnsley alone, there are 12,856 in privately rented homes.
Worryingly, the price of renting is one of the biggest causes of the cost-of-living crisis.
In Yorkshire and Humberside rents are now an average of £384 more a year than in 2010. Renters also face rip-off charges from letting agents and insecure tenancies.
We know that working people are now on average £1600 a year worse off as wages have fallen while prices have soared.
These problems affect too many people. That’s why we need to take action to tackle the housing crisis and reform the private rented sector to make sure people get a fair deal.
We need to build more homes. And if Labour win in 2015 that is exactly what we’ll do. By 2020 we are committed to build at least 200,000 homes a year.
We will reform the private rented sector passing legislation to ban unfair letting agents’ fees for tenants. And make three-year tenancies the norm.
So next time you hear a Government Minister open their mouths to tell you about what's happening out there, take my advice: mind the gap.
The following article appeared in this week's Barnsley Independent: When I'm down in London, I travel to Westminster on the tube. And before the automatic doors open, the announcer always...
The following article appears online for the South Yorkshire Times:
As a country we are justifiably proud of the NHS. Sometimes things go wrong but most of us have our own personal stories about the wonderful work performed daily by its caring and dedicated staff here in South Yorkshire. However, I’m really worried about its future.
The NHS is vital to the health and well-being of our nation but no one seems to have told David Cameron and the Tories. He said he could be trusted with the NHS but all we got was broken promises.
They attacked the NHS with a reorganisation that no-one wanted or voted for. A reorganisation that has cost £18 million in Barnsley and £3bn nationwide, including at least £78 million on unnecessary administration and legal fees.
One of the symptoms of this pointless top down reorganisation is seen in the increase in GP appointment waiting times. I know that patients value being able to consult with and speak to their GP who is local, who knows them and their family and whom they trust.
When meeting my Barnsley constituents I often hear that they are on the phone first thing in the morning to their local GP surgery, and when they finally get through, it’s only to be told there are no appointments available for days.
The number of people waiting for a week or more to see or speak a GP or nurse at their practice reached 46.8m last year. The proportion of patients who manage to see a GP within 48 hours has dropped from 80 per cent under the last Labour government to just 40 per cent now.
When a patient can’t get to see their doctor, the next stop is often the overstretched A&E department of the local hospital. This is neither what patients want nor is it the best use of NHS resources.
Labour is determined to stand up for the NHS and that’s why I support Ed Miliband’s announcement of Labour’s GP Guarantee.
This will provide an appointment within 48 hours for all who want one and an appointment on the same day for all who need one. NHS patients will also be given the right to book an appointment more than 48 hours ahead with the GP of their choice
Labour will also save £100m from repealing David Cameron’s market framework for the NHS and cutting down on the bureaucracy associated with it.
Under this government the NHS has gone downhill. Labour will put the principles of cooperation and integration - not competition and privatisation - back at the heart of our National Health Service.
We are proud of our NHS. But we now need urgent action to save the NHS - before it’s too late.
The following article appears online for the South Yorkshire Times: As a country we are justifiably proud of the NHS. Sometimes things go wrong but most of us have our...
The following article appears in this week's Barnsley Independent:
David Cameron likes to boast about all the new jobs he's creating, but how many of them are part-time, low paid or have no guarantee of work? The reality is that he has stood by as his government has created conditions for workers that are a throwback to Victorian times.
The government wants to tell people the cost-of-living crisis is over, but for millions of hardworking people it doesn’t feel like much of a recovery at all.
Last month Ed Miliband announced that a Labour Government would act to put an end to the exploitative use of zero hour contracts. The latest official government figures estimate that 1.4 million people had contracts that do not guarantee any work.
Zero hour contracts mean an employer is under no obligation to provide work but yet the employee is told to be available for work as and when is required.
Problems with these contracts have been widely reported. One employee quit her job after suffering panic attacks brought on by the lack of financial security their contact provided. And employees have also reported cases of management cutting their hours to zero as a punishment.
It is reports like this that led Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, to hold a summit looking at clamping down on zero-hours contracts last year.
There are certain situations where this can be of benefit to both the employee and employers, providing flexibility for both parties. However, an increasing number of employers are misusing zero hour contracts just to cut costs - creating miserable financial insecurity for workers.
The use of zero hour contracts has exploded under David Cameron. Official government figures from 2013 estimated that there had been a three-fold increase, from 168,000 in 2010 to 583,000 in 2013.
Worryingly, this was an underestimate. A new survey suggests there is a staggering 1.4 million people on contracts, being technically in employment but without any guarantee of work.
More and more people in Barnsley are being left not knowing if they can make ends meet. Zero hour contracts are increasingly becoming the norm.
It cannot be right that employees who have worked regular hours don’t get a regular contract. Nor should people be required to be on call all hours of the day for one employer without any guarantee of work.
That is why Labour will press for legislation to stamp out these unfair practices and abuses. People who have worked regular hours for over six months with one employer should be able to demand a fixed hour contract. And employees who have worked regular hours over a year should automatically get a fixed hour contract – unless they opt out.
We will ensure workers are protected from employers forcing them to be available at all hours, insisting they cannot work for anyone else, or cancelling shifts at short notice without compensation.
To create a strong and balanced recovery Britain must win a race to the top for secure, high wage and high skill jobs. Yet under George Osborne it is a race to the bottom for more and more insecure, low paid, low skilled jobs.
The following article appears in this week's Barnsley Independent: David Cameron likes to boast about all the new jobs he's creating, but how many of them are part-time, low paid...
The following article appears in this week's Barnsley Independent.
We all like to moan about Barnsley Council from time to time. But I think it deserves real credit for their ambitious plans, published earlier this month, to promote economic growth in the Borough over the next 20 years.
It focuses on more jobs, more businesses, improved businesses, and a more skilled workforce.
This plan will see £13.8 million of allocated funding to attract businesses to Barnsley through inward investment, aiming to target support into key sectors like advanced manufacturing, logistics and tourism, as well as increasing the rate of business starts in higher value job creation sectors.
This will help to increase the number of good jobs in the area. And investing in infrastructure and housing will also be a priority. This comes as Ed Miliband announced the biggest devolution of power to England’s regions in a hundred years. Labour would at least double the level of devolved funding to City and County Regions over the course of the next parliament. We would look to give new powers over transport, housing and infrastructure funding, as well as for jobs and skills.
We know that working together with the previous Labour Government, Barnsley Council helped bring in investment for new schools, hospitals and Sure Start centres.
But the Council's economic plan today comes in the most challenging of circumstances. Between 2010/11 and 2015/16, Barnsley Council will face a reduction of 17.7 per cent spending power per household - the equivalent of £168.07 per head. Interestingly, David Cameron’s local authority of West Oxfordshire is getting an increase in spending power of 3.1 per cent in 2013/14. And of course, despite bigger cuts in Barnsley, we also have higher needs here.
The legacy of the pit closures and the decline of other traditional industries means we need to create 45,550 more jobs here just to reach the national average for employment density. People are on average £1,600 a year worse off since 2010 and in Barnsley, long-term youth unemployment is up 103% since 2011.
Barnsley Council have had to deal with massive cuts of £46 million in four years to 2014/15 from central government, yet they have managed to maintain important key services with not one Sure Start centre in Barnsley being closed.
In the face of these cuts, it would have been easy for Barnsley council to have either buried their heads in the sand or just wallowed in self-pity.
But it has shown it is ambitious for the borough - and has a plan to try and deliver that vision. Moaning aside, let's give the Council credit where credit is due.
The following article appears in this week's Barnsley Independent. We all like to moan about Barnsley Council from time to time. But I think it deserves real credit for their...
Michael delivered the following speech to the IPPR today, outlining the need for jobs and growth in every region.
IPPR has a 25 year track record of policy influence and a reputation for robust, credible and independent research. I know that IPPR North is 10 years old this year and that you remain the only Westminster think tank to have a northern office. Your willingness to work across the country and with local elected leaders of all parties strengthens your influence.
I want to begin by quoting from 1961 the then One Nation Conservative Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, who said:
“We seek a balanced society, in which our prosperity as individuals is reflected in the standard of the things we do together, and in which public effort is conjoined with private purpose in a common endeavour to increase our wealth.”
Fast forward to 2012, when Ed Miliband told the Labour party conference in Manchester that he wanted to see:
“a country where everyone has a stake...a country where prosperity is fairly shared... where we have a shared destiny, a sense of shared endeavour and a common life that we lead together. That is my vision of One Nation”.
David Cameron once sought this One Nation mantle, describing his plans for economic policy in 2011 as “a One Nation deficit reduction plan – from a One Nation party”.
Since then, David Cameron has given up even talking about One Nation. But it is interesting to compare his approach and outlook to that of Harold Macmillan.
Like Cameron, Macmillan also went to Eton. But Macmillan’s political outlook was shaped by his experiences after leaving his privileged public school. Macmillan served in the First World War, a misery he shared with men from all backgrounds and from every part of the country.
After the war, Macmillan was Member of Parliament for the northern industrial constituency of Stockton-on-Tees. He saw at first-hand the impact of poverty, deprivation and worklessness that characterised the austerity and depression of those inter-war years. It gave him a genuine understanding of what the founding father of One Nation politics, Benjamin Disraeli, called “the condition of the people”.
In his landmark book ‘The Middle Way’ in 1938, Macmillan advocated a mixed economy and a politics rooted in the centre ground. Throughout the thirties, Macmillan stood out against the narrow orthodoxies of the time in both domestic and international affairs. He rejected, for example, the dominant view inside the Conservative party at the time that nothing could be done about prolonged mass unemployment, that this was somehow an inevitable product of a free market economy that must be left well alone.
Although Macmillan was a lonely voice in the Conservative Party 1930s, he went on to change his party before going onto change the country.
David Cameron got elected leader of the Conservatives by presenting himself as the ‘change’ candidate.
But looking today at the leadership of the Conservative Party, I was struck by the remarks of Michael Gove who said that the number of old Etonians sitting around the cabinet table and working on the next Conservative manifesto was “ridiculous” and “preposterous”. The significant thing here is not that so many prominent Conservatives all went to the same school; the issue about the way in which David Cameron chooses to govern.
David Cameron stands up for a privileged few not because he went to Eton, but because - unlike Macmillan - he has never really been exposed to a world beyond his own privileged background.
And this is why the early promise of Conservative modernisation under David Cameron has been abandoned – because its superficiality has been exposed.
As Ed Miliband will also set out later today, my argument here is that only Labour’s One Nation vision can deliver the jobs, growth, prosperity and opportunity we need to see across every part of the country.
Michael delivered the following speech to the IPPR today, outlining the need for jobs and growth in every region. IPPR has a 25 year track record of policy influence and... Read more
The following foreword from Michael appears in the Fabian Society's newly launched pamphlet, Organise!.
The forthcoming general election will be fought in a radically redefined political context from the last: the UK government is in coalition, Labour is determined to be a one-term opposition for the first time in 40 years and the post-war economic settlement, in which one generation does better than the last, is under threat. Campaigning itself is also being revolutionised: it is continuous, faster, online and more democratic.
But in 2014, it’s game-on for Labour. The Conservatives’ comparative advantages are dwindling. The rise of digital communications means the right wing-dominated print press is no longer the force it was and money doesn’t bring the benefits it once did, even in 2010. Today, people-to-people engagement is more important than ever – especially the closer it gets to election day.
The following foreword from Michael appears in the Fabian Society's newly launched pamphlet, Organise!. The forthcoming general election will be fought in a radically redefined political context from the last:... Read more
The following article appears in this week's South Yorkshire Times.
Shortly after the Budget the Tories produced a now notorious advert on Twitter to publicise changes to bingo and beer taxation that said “to help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy”.
Aside from the fact a penny off a pint is not exactly going to help ordinary families deal with the cost-of-living crisis – you’d basically have to drink about 300 pints in order to get a free one! – the advert told you everything you need to know about David Cameron’s Government. The use of the word “they” showed how out of touch and removed they are from the lives of most hardworking people.
But this is hardly surprising when you think of who Cameron chooses to surround himself with. Even Michael Gove can see that the number of Old Etonians in Cameron's inner circle is “ridiculous” and “preposterous”. It's up to David Cameron who he puts into top jobs and he’s chosen to surround himself with people just like himself. It’s not just the old school tie Cameron’s cronies have in common. It’s been reported that two-thirds of the Cabinet are millionaires like Cameron.
And Nick Clegg isn’t any better. There are now more Lib Dem MPs who have been knighted than there are women Liberal Democrat MPs – that’s more ‘Sirs’ than women.
No wonder his decisions have helped just a privileged few rather than hardworking families - tax cuts for people earning over £150,000, but everyone else’s wages are down an average £1,600 a year.
The following article appears in this week's South Yorkshire Times. Shortly after the Budget the Tories produced a now notorious advert on Twitter to publicise changes to bingo and beer... Read more
The following article appears in this week's South Yorkshire Times.
Last week we celebrated St George’s Day, a day when we celebrate everything that is great about England.
I’m very proud to be British, but I’m also proud to be English – just as I’m proud to be a Yorkshireman!
Last week was also Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. On Twitter I saw a great picture from 1964 of the Beatles dressed up in Shakespearian costumes marking the 400th birthday. That picture on Twitter showed just two great things the English have given the world.
We also have much to be proud of today. But yet it sometimes feels that the English, specifically the English regions, don’t get much of a look in when it comes to our own government. For instance, Wales and Scotland have rightly retained their ministerial representation, but there is currently no ministerial representation for the English regions. How can this be right?
That is why I announced in a recent speech that Labour will appoint Regional Ministers in government to put the voice of the English regions at the heart of decision-making.
We don’t want more politicians. Nor do we want to spend more taxpayers’ money. So, rather than increasing their overall number, ministers with existing duties in departments will be given the additional role of being a Regional Minister.
These Regional Ministers will work with business and local authorities to promote jobs and growth, and to tackle the unfairness that have arisen under the Tories.
For instance, London and the South West have been the biggest beneficiaries of this Government’s infrastructure programmes and 80 per cent of new private sector jobs are in London.
Since 2010, the Government has implemented cuts which have disproportionately hit the most deprived areas – with the ten most deprived local authorities losing ten times the amount compared to the ten least deprived over the course of the parliament.
In Barnsley, long-term youth unemployment has increased by over 100 per cent since March 2011. It’s good that finally growth is slowly returning to the economy and we know how important London is to our economy.
But we don’t want to go back to a situation where growth in the economy just means a few people at the top get better off, or that only some parts of the country do well.
That’s why Ed Miliband has announced plans for the devolution of power across England. Rather than the current Government’s approach, economic growth in the regions should be co-ordinated by initiatives at a regional level.
It is time for the English regions got a louder voice and more control - and Regional Ministers can play a big role in making this happen.
The following article appears in this week's South Yorkshire Times. Last week we celebrated St George’s Day, a day when we celebrate everything that is great about England. I’m very...
The following article appears in this week's Barnsley Independent.
David Cameron promised he would protect the NHS. But on his watch A and Es are in crisis, thousands of nurses’ jobs have been lost, more people wait longer for vital care and billions have been spent on an unwanted top down reorganisation that nobody voted for. The cost of this reorganisation was reportedly £18m in Barnsley and £3bn nationwide. And after all this, David Cameron now wants to give his Health Secretary sweeping powers to close hospitals without proper consultation with local people.
Clause 119 of the Care Bill has been nicknamed the “hospital closure clause” because it leaves well-run hospitals in danger of being closed if one nearby gets into financial difficulties. The clause allows a trust special administrator to make recommendations affecting trusts other than that to which it has been appointed. This could include taking away services like A and E from that successful hospital or even shutting it. There would be minimum public consultation and the government in Westminster will be able to go over the heads of local communities to close hospitals across the country, including Barnsley, if it wants to.
The Government recently attempted to close down Lewisham Hospital in London despite it being highly successful. This closure was stopped by the High Court but Clause 119 would now give the government power to do this to other hospitals in the future. It is a clear example of the arrogance of Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron that they expect Parliament to give the Secretary of State powers that the High Court has denied them.
The following article appears in this week's Barnsley Independent. David Cameron promised he would protect the NHS. But on his watch A and Es are in crisis, thousands of nurses’... Read more