NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 20th November 2015
On Wednesday the Chancellor will announce the public spending allocations for a wide range of services for the coming three years, including grants to Nottingham City Council, money for our NHS, schools and also for the Police. This is one of the most important statements affecting public services and we should be watching what the Government do extremely closely. George Osborne is already having to back down on his planned cuts to working tax credits – and so he should – but he may ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ and hit other budgets in doing so.
I am particularly worried about the squeeze facing our health and social care services, with our local NHS Hospitals Trust already in a deficit and with social services under intense pressure. And when I met with our local Police Commissioner Paddy Tipping and the Nottinghamshire Chief Constable Chris Eyre this week, we discussed the impact of a further relentless reduction in resources for community policing and frontline patrolling.
I believe that it’s vital for us to approach this challenge constructively and press Ministers to find resources from lower priority areas in order to protect frontline services and facilities. For example, I think that we should think about merging more of the back-office services from across the Police Authorities in the East Midlands to get money into police officer posts, something the Home Office are still resisting. And I think it’s appalling that £4.6billion is wasted at the Department for Work & Pensions in fraud, error and overpayments when that is the exact amount of money needed to avoid the cuts to working tax credits.
I am trying as hard as I can to press Ministers to think about sensible, constructive ways to save resource and prioritise vital public services. An ideological approach to public spending risks harming the community and it’s time we worked harder, looked in detail at where the money goes, to get through this tight financial period without causing so much damage.
- On Thursday, Aldi opened its latest store on East Point Retail Park in Sneinton. The new store represents part of a wider regeneration of the area, and I welcome the more affordable choice that the supermarket offers for residents. The store has created 40 jobs for the area, with a further 80 jobs being created at other units in the retail park. In conjunction with the opening, Aldi made a donation to a local youth centre. The new retail park is a welcome boost to the area and residents were eager to try out the new store on Thursday – people were queuing from as early as 6.30am!
- Small Business Saturday is taking place on Saturday 5th This annual event is a fantastic way to support local small businesses. It was great to see the Small Business Saturday Tour Bus in Nottingham on Monday, and the Small Biz 100 list has celebrated many small businesses including Nottingham-based Debbie Bryan and Shake Social Ltd. To find out more about what you can do to support local business, visit https://www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com/
- East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) was inspected by the Care Quality Commission this week. I spoke a few weeks ago about my concerns that response times for the ambulance service had dropped from their eight minute target in the last couple of months and the EMAS Chief Executive welcomed the opportunity to show inspectors the care they offer as well as the challenges they face. I will be meeting with the EMAS Chief Executive in the New Year to discuss the challenges ahead.
- In last week’s update, I talked about the outpouring of sympathy and solidarity with the French people following the attacks in Paris. That has been demonstrated in Nottingham this week with a number of vigils and events to show both our solidarity and that hate will not be tolerated in our diverse communities. One such event was organised by Nottingham Citizens, where a series of one-to-one conversations were held between people who had never met before at The Bridge Centre in Hyson Green on Wednesday. The event was organised in 48 hours, and over 100 people from different faiths and backgrounds attended the event to strengthen community relationships in the wake of the Paris attacks.
- You may remember that I launched my annual Christmas Picture Competition last month. The competition is open to all primary school aged children in Nottingham East – all local schools have been invited to participate, but we accept individual entries too. This year’s theme is ‘Christmassy Books’. This is a final reminder as entries for the competition close on Friday 27th November, and prizes will be presented on 11th Entries should be A4 or smaller and please avoid using loose materials like glitter. Please remember to provide contact details and a return address. Please send the original artwork to my office, either by post (to 12 Regent Street, Nottingham, NG1 5BQ) or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Best of luck!
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- Following the Home Secretary’s statement on the Paris attacks, on Tuesday the Prime Minister made a statement in the House of Commons also covering the G20 summit that took place in Turkey over the weekend. In the face of the tragic events in Paris, it is right that we stand united with France in expressing our unequivocal condemnation of these atrocities and support the steps that are being taken to protect the people of this country and keep them safe. During the Statement I asked the Prime Minister to ensure that the police have full and necessary powers to keep our communities safe. The UK is currently working with our allies against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, training local forces, striking targets in Iraq and providing intelligence support. The Government also agreed at the G20 to base some British aircraft alongside other NATO allies at the airbase at Incirlik in an air defence role to support Turkey. It is important to work for a consensus in the international response to the attacks in Paris.
- The Prime Minister also updated the House of Commons on the G20 discussions on global warming ahead of the UN Climate Summit in Paris. I believe the Government’s approach to renewable energy in this country run directly counter to its aims at the climate change talks and they must do more to combat climate change here in Britain, as well as pressing for international action. Thank you to those who replied to my question on this issue some weeks ago.
- On Wednesday the House of Commons debated an Opposition motion on further education. Investment in 16-19 education is directly linked to a higher wage, higher skilled and more productive economy. You cannot build a 21st century economy on falling investment in education. However, over the last Parliament, the 16-19 education budget fell by 14% in real terms. Many colleges are reporting severe financial difficulties and are therefore no longer offering courses in subjects key for our country’s competitiveness. Furthermore, over 100 chairs of further education colleges have warned that further cuts to 16-19 funding will tip their colleges ‘over the precipice’. For the 2015 Spending Review, the Chancellor asked Departments to model two scenarios of 25% and 40% savings by 2019-20. Research by the House of Commons Library reveals that this could mean the budget for sixth form and further education colleges could fall by £1.6 billion. At the last election, I stood on a platform that promised to protect the entire education budget in real terms, including for post-16 and early years. Under this Government, good and outstanding sixth forms and further education colleges are under threat. In next week’s Spending Review, the Government must recognise the devastating impact that cuts of between 25% – 40% over this Parliament would have and protect the education budget from early years through to 19.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Over the coming weeks I suspect that there will be an increasing debate in Parliament on a series of national security and defence issues, especially as the international community adjust to the indiscriminate threat from jihadi terrorism. Today’s attacks in Mali are sadly the latest such example.
There are debates due on the role of our security services, on the defence equipment and the nuclear deterrent, on how Britain should aid France in sharing their peacekeeping commitments worldwide, and of course on whether to be involved with action against ISIL in Syria. I’d be interested to hear any views that you have as the issues develop – and as ever please do email me your thoughts. Britain cannot cut itself off from the wider world community, and we have a fundamental duty to protect people and those who work to defend the country. And we also have to work locally recognising that good quality community policing is really important for the longer term as well.