NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Sunday 8th May 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp )
I’m delighted that Paddy Tipping has been re-elected as the Police & Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire following a strong record fighting for local police visibility and trying to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour across the whole of the county. It was great to get a good response out on the doorstep across Nottingham East (pictured below) and while the turnout was 21% it was a good result; the full details of Thursday’s poll are at the BBC website link here.
In London Sadiq Khan triumphed over a divisive campaign by his opponents and is now Mayor of London with the greatest personal mandate of any politician in Britain; he’s written about his win here in the Guardian yesterday. Forgive me a moment of partisan commentary, but I don’t sense there is any great enthusiasm across the country for the current Conservative administration especially after recent weeks of u-turns on disability cuts, academisation, steel industry mishandling, Ministerial resignations, the Panama Papers, doctors’ strikes and so on. So while Labour hung on in some areas, I’m disappointed we didn’t make the advances we yet need to put us on course for evicting the Tories in 2020 nationwide. Sadiq Khan is right to point out that Labour must reach out and persuade people from a wider range of views and backgrounds to support us and I will continue to argue that it’s our duty to confront these challenges because above all we need a change of government to deliver better public services and social justice.
- Small Steps Big Changes, an initiative run by Nottingham CityCare Partnership designed to give children the best start in life, is to receive £1.8 million of funding to deliver a ‘family mentor’ service to families in St Ann’s and Arboretum. The mentors – local mums, dads, grandads and grandmas – will work alongside existing services to help support a baby’s development from pregnancy through to 3 years old.
- Some local residents in Carrington are running a wildlife project called Swift Street to try and stem the decline of swifts due to urban development. The aim of the project is to install new swift nest boxes and nest box cameras on Church Drive, and by doing so raise awareness about the birds, inspire children from local schools and improve future prospects for swifts migrating to the area. If you would like to find out more about the project, you can visit their website here.
- Jobs and businesses in Nottingham and across the East Midlands would benefit from a serious boost in road, rail and infrastructure That’s why I challenged Business Secretary Sajid Javid this week to address the blockages in the Government’s infrastructure plan during Commons Questions (click on picture below to watch). As Co-Chair of the East Midlands All-Party Parliamentary Group, it is clear to me that the plans for a ‘Midlands Engine’ will only succeed if we do something about how far behind we are in investment compared with other parts of the country. For instance, in the East Midlands we have only £37 per head invested in rail, compared to £294 per head in London. While of course the capital city will have intensive public transport network needs, the East Midlands has been overlooked for too long. If we want growth and in turn the resources for improved public services, unlocking the potential of our local economy is essential.
- Plans are now progressing for the big ‘Nottingham in Parliament’ day, which is taking place on 25th October thanks to coordination by the University of Nottingham. The idea is that we will have a series of events in the Palace of Westminster that will highlight research in the city and showcase Nottingham generally. There was lots of interest from those present at our recent discussion with organisations from across the public sector, business community and voluntary sector, and I look forward to seeing how plans progress: more details at the website here http://www.nottinghaminparliamentday.uk/npd/index.aspx
- I was concerned to hear this week that the larger Co-op store at the top end of Mansfield Road in Sherwood (pictured) is due to be sold to a rival retailer. The Sherwood store is incredibly popular and it would be concerning for local residents if their choice and range of shopping is scaled back. As a Cooperative Party & Labour MP I am particularly keen to see a strong cooperative movement in our community and while I know that the wider Co-op Group has had its share of problems in recent years, I know that there are many people who’ve stuck with them as loyal customers because of their ethical approach to doing business. I will of course be seeking assurances about the future of the store and the staff – and to find out more about the future of this particular shop.
- It would be remiss to not congratulate Leicester City on their 5000-1 win of the Premier League title. It’s a very big deal and judging by the worldwide media interest will probably be a tourism boost for the East Midlands too. Former Forest defender Frank Clark told the Post this week: “If Leicester can win the Champions League a couple of times in the next few years, then we can compare their achievements. I do not want to downplay what they have done; it is an amazing achievement. It is fantastic.”
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- It was hidden away under the local election result news, but as predicted, Nicky Morgan the Education Secretary undertook a major u-turn on Friday with the decision to drop the forcing of academy status on schools that are already judged to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED. This is a big relief and clearly something that recognises the sheer common sense of those of us saying it was ridiculous to foist expensive structural change on headteachers and governors when they are already making great strides with their existing management systems.
- On Tuesday the House of Commons considered the Housing and Planning Bill. The Housing and Planning Bill does little to fix the causes of the last six years of failure on housing and in many areas will make things much worse. Since 2010, home ownership has fallen, rough sleeping has doubled, private rents have soared, housing benefit costs have ballooned, and during the last Parliament, fewer new homes were built than under any peacetime Government since the 1920s. This Bill doesn’t do enough to tackle the overall housing shortage or produce more housing across all tenures, including housing to rent as well as buy. With the exception of provisions on rogue landlords, it does nothing to improve the private rented sector on which so many people now rely. Ahead of Tuesday’s debate, the Government was forced to make a string of concessions in the House of Lords and was defeated 13 times, showing the extent of opposition to this Bill. And on Wednesday, the Bill returned to the Lords where the Government suffered five further defeats. The Bill will return to the Commons tomorrow. I support measures to help people own their own home, however, I am concerned that so-called ‘starter homes’ costing up to £450,000 will be a big let-down and simply out of reach for young people and families on ordinary incomes. The number of home-owners rose by a million under the previous Labour Government. The Opposition’s attempts to make starter homes more affordable have been blocked by the Government. I voted for an amendment to the Bill to permit an English planning authority to decide how many starter homes are built, based on its own assessment of local housing need and viability. It is sensible that the need for starter homes should be assessed locally and then delivered, rather than ordered from on high. I also voted to support an amendment, to ensure like-for-like replacement of council homes which the Government is forcing councils to sell to fund the extension of the right-to-buy- vital to ensuring that housing need is met across the range and that homes for social rent are not simply replaced by starter homes or homes at higher rents. Again, the Government opposed this amendment and it was defeated. It was also disappointing that the Government defeated an amendment which would require one million new homes to be built with sustainable drainage systems. This would have helped to protect homeowners against flooding and delivered wider environmental benefits. The Government showed on Tuesday that it still had no answers to concerns from housing experts and campaigners. The Government should now listen to the opposition coming from all sides and rethink their damaging plans.
- On Wednesday the House of Commons debated an Opposition motion on NHS bursaries. Under plans announced by the Government in November, bursaries for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals will be scrapped from 2017. I recognise the contribution of these staff to our NHS and I have serious concerns about the potential impact of removing bursaries on the recruitment and retention of staff. There is already a shortage of nurses in the NHS. The Government’s decision to cut nurse training places during the last Parliament has left hospital wards dangerously understaffed, with patient care suffering as a result. If the Government presses ahead with their plans I believe it will end up discouraging the future frontline staff we so desperately need. Not only are NHS students’ courses long, but students are required to spend a significant amount of their course working with patients in clinical practice, including night and weekend shifts as a normal part of their studies. Many student nurses have family or caring commitments. Because of the hours they study and work many are unable to get a part-time job to supplement their income, as many non-NHS students do.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
As I mentioned earlier in this email, I am keen we really focus on the transport, road and rail improvements residents and businesses need to give Nottingham the real boost we need. The city council have been making great strides with the tram network and defending the bus services but we now need to look at our connectivity with the rest of the country. The HS2 rail link to Toton will potentially improve the ‘east-west’ service with Birmingham as well as the north-south linkages. My colleague Lilian Greenwood (MP for Nottingham South) has been arguing in today’s Sunday Times for Ministers to defend the East Midlands and north of England investment in HS2 – something that could be at stake if rumours are correct. Apparently Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has been asked to slim down some of the northerly parts of the HS2 plan including ditching the Meadowhall station at Sheffield and moving the route eastwards after Toton. We will see what eventually emerges.
But in general I’d be interested in your thoughts about transport infrastructure across the north Midlands area. Do we have good enough links to Derby / Lincoln / Sheffield and Leicester? What about connection to East Midlands Airport? Will the tram link to Toton be good enough? Setting out the next wave of our transport aspirations is really important – including where the tram should go next eastwards from the city centre – because unless we campaign hard we will stay at the back of the queue.