Hello again, There was an excellent turn out for the Stapleford Freedom Parade when the Royal Engineers marched through the town. Broxtowe’s Mayor, Halimah Khaled and I later enjoyed the ‘Chilwell Weekend’ with Royal Engineer veterans and serving personnel. I was also delighted to attend the opening of the Canalside Heritage Centre in Beeston. Read on for my tribute to the man behind this remarkable project.
Unfortunately, MP’s email accounts have suffered a cyber attack and over a week on, normal service has finally been resumed. Please bear with us as it means we have a considerable amount of emails to catch up on. There are lots of great events on in Broxtowe in the next few weeks – details in the What’s On section. There is also some politics ! As ever, Anna
Stapleford Free Wi Fi launched I had to be in Parliament this morning so I missed the launch of free Wi Fi in Stapleford Town Centre this morning. It’s taken more time than we would have liked but it is finally there. Congratulations to Amy Davis of Tailored To You, who has campaigned relentlessly for free wi fi in the town and Broxtowe Borough Council who made it happen!
Public sector pay Beware the spin and fake news! Last week Parliament debated the Queens Speech and the Opposition tabled a number of amendments all of which were a test of confidence in the Government. There is nothing new in this and equally nothing new in MPs who support the Government voting against amendments to the Queen’s Speech.
I voted in support of the Government and against the Labour amendments one of which called on the Government to lift the 1% cap on pay rises for public sector workers.
I think it’s very important to remind ourselves why the cap was introduced in the first place. In 2010 our country was on the verge of economic collapse; we were living well beyond our means with a huge national debt and deficit – in the words of Labour’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury “there’s no more money”. It meant the then Coaltion Government had to take some tough decisions. To reduce the deficit and begin to balance the books, we cut the rate at which public expenditure was set to rise. That meant a pay freeze and then, as our economy improved, a modest rise for all public sector workers. Some workers have had bigger rises than the 1% cap and it’s worth remembering that although the gap has narrowed, public sector workers remain better paid than comparable private sector workers.
I want everyone to be better off – I believe we need a strong economy with jobs for all and growth we can all benefit from. And only a strong economy can pay for the public services we all want. In the last 7 years 2.8 million jobs have been created, 4 million people on lower wages have been taken out of paying income tax and a basic rate tax payer is £1.000 better off as his or her taxes have been reduced. We have also introduced the living wage which is set to be one of the highest in the world.
Many people now believe the public sector workers pay cap should be lifted. The problem is – how do we fund pay rises for our 5.3 public sector workers?
A recent report from the highly respected and independent Institute for Fiscal Studies stated;
“In 2016, the public sector paybill (excluding nationalised corporations) was £179 billion. This includes the wages and salaries of public sector workers, the employer National Insurance contributions, and employers’ pension contributions towards public service pension schemes. With such a large paybill, even small percentage increases can lead to significant increases in the cost of employing public sector workers.”
The IFS conclude “Our analysis of the Labour plans implies that, compared with the current government’s plans, by 2021–22 a Labour government would need to provide departments and local government with an additional £9.2 billion per year to pay for the higher costs of employing public sector workers. Of this, £2.9 billion would be for the NHS.”
Government debt is currently an eye watering £17.3 trillion which means we pay about £46 billion a year in interest on that debt; to put that in to context, each year we spend £125 billion on the NHS and just over £43 billion on Defence. Although we have cut the deficit by two thirds (so we are living more within our means) we still have this large and expensive burden of debt.
If we want to put up the wages of public sector workers then Government will have either to borrow more or put up taxes. I don’t believe we should do either.
My final observation on this difficult issue is this. I don’t doubt that NHS workers want a pay rise. I also believe they want better working conditions. Too many front line NHS workers, like midwives, are working long, hard shifts. A survey by the Royal College of Midwives found 80% of respondents said increase pay would stop them from leaving the profession but for 95%, better staffing levels were the critical factor.
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Nottinghamshire Police set to recruit an extra 180 more officers I met the new Chief Constable for Nottinghamshire Police, Craig Guildford. I was pleased to learn that hate crime is down to pre EU Referendum levels. New guidelines on how crime is recorded means the figures will rise. I specifically raised constituents concerns about off road bikes. The Chief Constable plans to raise the number of officers in Notts to from 1,822 to 2,000.
Canalside Heritage Centre opening
‘An impossible dream’ was the reaction of many when Stewart Craven, a man with a passion for all things connected to canals, said he would restore the Weir Cottages at Beeston lock. At the time Stewart was living in a boat on the canal by the cottages. Ten years on and having raised almost £900,000, the Canalside Heritage Centre has opened – and it’s largely thanks to Stewart. It was an honour to attend the opening and see the wonderful restoration of the cottages, the exciting extension which includes a cafe and the abundance of information about the history of the cottages and Nottingham Canal.
Stewart’s enthusiasm, determination and sheer hard work not only raised Heritage Lottery Funding of over £850,000 but he also gathered a remarkable collection of Trustees, architects and enthusiasts together. They inspired support from Notts County Council and elected representatives and the result is a tribute to them all, and especially Stewart.
I then had a meeting with the Head Teacher and Chair of Governors. Like too many schools in Broxtowe, Bramcote Hills has less money than in previous years which is undoubtedly placing an unacceptable level of strain on the schools plans. I have already raised these concerns with the Secretary of State for Education and will continue to make the case that no school in Broxtowe should find itself less well off than in previous years.
The Bramcote School is set to close after almost 70 years. Pupils will move to Bramcote College whilst the old school is demolished and a much needed new school is built to open in 2019.
Former pupils attended a Summer Celebration organised by the PTA and it was such a success ‘old girls ad boys’ are invited to another chance to bid a fond farewell to their former school.
Stapleford Borough Councillor Richard MacRae opened the Summer Celebration as a proud former pupil and has helped organise the final goodbye on Tuesday July 18 from 4pm til 6pm at the school. Everyone is encouraged to bring their old reports.
Meanwhile, I am very pleased that all the schools in the White Hills Park Federation have been marked up by Ofsted and are now ranked “Good”. This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the staff and students with the support of parents and carers.
Tuition fees question I took part in Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. I asked: “When the Prime Minister and I left our comprehensive schools to go to university, we entered a privileged elite. Will she confirm that as a result of tuition fees, introduced by Labour and improved by the coalition, more young people from working class and poor backgrounds are now going to university than ever before? Some people say that there are fewer. Are they right or are they wrong?”
The Prime Minister replied: “I am very happy to join my right hon. Friend in recognising that she and I left comprehensive schools and went to universities at a time when the number of people going to university was significantly lower than it is today. I am also grateful to her for reminding the House that, actually, it was the Labour party that said it would not introduce tuition fees and then, when it got into government, introduced tuition fees. Under the current system, we are seeing more young people than ever going to university, and crucially—to address the point she raised—disadvantaged 18-year-olds are 40% more likely to go to university now than they were in 2009.”
Abortion and Northern Ireland The law concerning abortion is devolved which means the Northern Ireland Assembly determines its own restrictions on terminations. It means that unlike the English Law the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland where the law is hugely (and wrongly in my view) restrictive. As a result women and girls travel to England to terminate a pregnancy. However, current law means they must pay for their treatment. Last week in the House of Commons I called the situation an “injustice” and then worked across the normal political divide to help find a solution, which was finally reached at the end of the week. The Government agreed to fund terminations by way of the various charities who currently provide terminations and support for women coming to England from Northern Ireland. The far better outcome would be for women in Northern Ireland to have the same rights as women in England.