Mary Creagh

Working hard for Wakefield

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Congratulations to the councillors across our district who were elected last week, and commiserations to Wakefield’s Mayor Kevin Barker who sadly lost his seat after working so hard in his Mayoral year.  As we celebrate 100 years of women getting the vote, with the first ever statue of a woman- Millicent Fawcett- by a woman- artist Gillian Wearing, it's more important than ever that women, who have born the brunt of the Tories’ austerity, get out and vote!

Last month, the Children’s Commissioner published a report called ‘Growing up North’. It found that more than half of the secondary schools serving the North's poorest children are judged to be less than ‘good’, and that London’s poorest children are three times more likely to go to university.  We have had serious problems at Wakefield’s secondary schools in the past but I am glad they are now behind us. Cuts to school crossing patrols, special educational needs support staff and other non-teaching staff are frequently raised at my regular coffee mornings and in my mail bag.

The report, however, points out the many parts of our region which are thriving. In our city we have CAPA college, rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. CAPA was previously threatened with closure after the Department for Education’s botched attempt to relocate it to Leeds. Following our campaign, CAPA will stay at Cathedral School, before moving into their new purpose-built school in 2020, opposite Wakefield Westgate station. I’m looking forward to watching their next performance - ‘West Side Story’ in 2017 was sublime!

International Workers’ Memorial Day was last month. More people die at work each year than are killed by wars.  These deaths are preventable, but only if employers make workers’ safety a priority. I commemorated those who have died at the GMB trade union’s regional HQ in College Grove.  The deregulators like to talk about slashing “red tape” but health and safety rules save lives at work. We must not allow Brexit to destroy our hard won rights at work.

Mary with GMB’s Regional Secretary, Neil Derrick

Last week Parliament voted in favour of the Magnitsky Amendments to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill. The Amendments are in memory of the Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was murdered in prison by Putin’s thugs in 2009. Before he was wrongly imprisoned, Magnitsky revealed the source of Putin’s immense wealth - large-scale tax fraud.

The Magnitsky Amendments, like the Magnitsky Act in the USA, target individuals who commit human rights violations. It means those responsible for Magnitsky’s death will no longer be able to hide their money in our banks, send their children to our schools, or buy property in our capital city.

The Conservatives have voted against Magnitsky provisions in the past, and it is the hard work of Labour MPs who pushed it through. It goes to show, even in opposition Labour can make a difference.

Wakefield Express Column May 2018

Congratulations to the councillors across our district who were elected last week, and commiserations to Wakefield’s Mayor Kevin Barker who sadly lost his seat after working so hard in his...

At my monthly coffee mornings residents often raise the epidemic of potholes on our roads. Due to the recent Arctic weather and a long-term lack of investment, our roads are in a poor state of repair. Potholes are dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, causing injuries and damage. Wakefield Council does their best but their hands are tied. They only get £350,000 a year from central government to repair our district’s 900 mile road network, and they spend an additional £800,000.

But it is not enough. Conservative cuts to road budgets only cost us in the long-term.

Wakefield Council has spent £83,000 on compensation and legal fees for those affected by potholes in the last five years. Councils across the country have spent more than an estimated £72 million to settle legal claims brought by people injured on our crumbling roads.

I welcome and support the Express’ campaign to try and force the Government to fund Wakefield’s roads properly. What is needed is long-term funding. The Local Government Association has calculated that it would take £9.3 billion and over 14 years for councils to clear the current road repairs backlog. That won’t get fixed by austerity.

Roads aren’t the only thing suffering from a shortage of cash. I wrote to Theresa May last week calling on her to establish a Parliamentary Commission for Health and Social Care. We need to break the political deadlock on funding social care by working across party lines.

Wakefield CCG is one of the best run in the country, yet for the first time in its history it has a deficit of £3.9m. Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust is running a deficit of £23m, £15m of which is the cost of hiring agency staff to cover the 230 nurse vacancies.

Our health service is underfunded and understaffed. We must consider tax rises to fund our NHS and social care. We need a way forward to avoid another winter crisis, or sick, older and disabled people and their families will continue to suffer.

Education is under strain too. This week, the Children’s Commissioner published a report called ‘Growing up North’ which found that more than half of the secondary schools serving the North's poorest children are judged to be less than ‘good’, and that London’s poorest children are three times more likely to go into Higher Education than in the North. The issue of cuts to dinner supervisors, schools nurses and other non-teaching staff was raised at my last coffee morning in Middlestown.

It is an optimistic report however, that points out the many parts of our region which are thriving. In our city we have CAPA college, rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. CAPA was previously under the threat of closure following the Department for Education’s botched attempt to relocate it to Leeds. Following our campaign, CAPA will stay at Cathedral School, before moving into their new purpose-built home in 2020 opposite Wakefield Westgate. I’m looking forward to watching their next performance - ‘West Side Story’ in 2017 was sublime!

 

*This article was not published in the Wakefield Express due to the purdah period for the 2018 local elections.

Wakefield Express Column April 2018

At my monthly coffee mornings residents often raise the epidemic of potholes on our roads. Due to the recent Arctic weather and a long-term lack of investment, our roads are...

Last month I was in Parliament to support Labour’s Geoffrey Robinson’s Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill. I was pleased to see it gain cross-party support. Geoffrey’s bill will introduce an ‘opt-out’ system for organ donation. This will replace the current ‘opt-in’ system, where people who want to be organ donors must inform the NHS.

There are around 6,500 people on waiting lists for an organ, and nearly 500 of them die every year. Replacing the opt-in with an opt-out will prevent those 500 avoidable deaths from happening.

10 year old Max Johnson recently received a new heart which has saved his life. When Geoffrey’s bill becomes law it will be known as ‘Max’s Law’, in recognition of the work Max and his family have done raising awareness of this issue.

Sunday is the last day of Fairtrade Fortnight. It is a chance to celebrate how fair trade improves lives across the world. At the heart of fair trade is the idea that workers and producers should be able to earn a minimum, sustainable, fair price – and that this principle extends beyond our own borders. Certification schemes like Fairtrade helps farmers achieve that, and allows them to reinvest in their communities.

Fighting global poverty is not just the work of the Department for International Trade and Government funded aid - we can all play a role. Whether it’s buying fair trade fruit, chocolate, coffee or wine - the choices we make here in Wakefield are felt in the poorest countries of the world.

During the artic weather we have been experiencing recently, I found my thoughts moving to the homeless and rough sleepers in our country. It is sickening to think that the number of people across the country forced to sleep rough has more than doubled since 2010.

Here in Wakefield, the Baptist Church on Barnsley Road opens its door for rough sleepers when temperatures are low. It’s a scheme run by Wakefield Council, and the emergency shelter opens from 8pm and serves dinner and breakfast. The council are doing great work helping and supporting rough sleepers, and the shelter is always open for people looking to volunteer.

Theresa May on Monday said homelessness in the UK is a “national shame”, I agree. Homeless has risen every year under the Conservatives, home ownership has fallen to a 30-year low, and the number of new homes built for social rent has fallen to the lowest level since records began. The Government’s task force set up to solve this problem has yet to meet since being established, and the £28m earmarked for schemes around the country has gone unspent. It is time for the Tories to roll their sleeves up and sort this mess out.

Wakefield Express Column March 2018

Last month I was in Parliament to support Labour’s Geoffrey Robinson’s Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill. I was pleased to see it gain cross-party support. Geoffrey’s bill will introduce an...


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