Mary Creagh

Working hard for Wakefield

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It’s a sad fact that under the Tories there’s an NHS winter crisis every year. It is predictable and preventable but staff shortages, 15,000 fewer beds and cuts to district nurses and social care mean frail and elderly people are suffering huge waits in A&E and ambulances. We have seen the closure of NHS walk-in centres as well as the cancellation of non-urgent operations until February leaving many people in pain and distress.

It’s a sad fact that under the Tories there’s an NHS winter crisis every year.

It is predictable and preventable but staff shortages, 15,000 fewer beds and cuts to district nurses and social care mean frail and elderly people are suffering huge waits in A&E and ambulances. We have seen the closure of NHS walk-in centres as well as the cancellation of non-urgent operations until February leaving many people in pain and distress.

I was reminded how vital our Wakefield NHS walk-in centre is when a family member was ill over the holidays, but it’s not just convenience that’s lost when they’re shut down. If people can’t see their GP or go to a walk-in centre they go to overburdened hospitals instead. Sadly, Pinderfields was in the news this week after shocking pictures emerged of patients sleeping on the floor. Across the country, the number of patients having to sit in ambulances outside hospitals waiting for treatment has trebled since 2010.

It isn’t the fault of our wonderful NHS staff, who are working flat out, that wards are overcrowded, but the incompetence and poor planning by ministers in Westminster. In 2018 I’ll continue to hold Jeremy Hunt to account on his shoddy treatment of our NHS.

Can you do anything? Well, yes. If you or someone you know is in a vulnerable group (eg pregnant mothers, the elderly, people suffering from diabetes or chronic lung or heart disease), then get your free flu jab from your GP, pharmacist or midwife. I got one myself last month from the Maybush surgery on Portobello Road. It’s an easy way to help prevent the spread of flu this time of year.

Mary_flu_jab.jpgMary getting her flu jab at the Maybush surgery on Portobello Road.

In other news, many of us who watched Blue Planet 2 last year will have been moved by the tragic images of the effect of plastic pollution on our oceans. Microbeads in cosmetic scrubs and body washes are an avoidable part of the problem. This week it became illegal in the UK to make cosmetics with microbeads in them - something I have been campaigning for.

The government needs to go further to turn back the plastic tide, and I have been leading a Parliamentary inquiry into disposable packaging. The UK uses 13 billion plastic bottles a year, around half of which are not recycled. Plastic bottles make up a third of all plastic pollution in the sea, and are a growing litter problem on UK beaches. I have led calls for a deposit return scheme, which would mean a small charge on plastic bottles which you get back when you take your used bottles back to the shop.

The UK also uses an astonishing 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year, but almost none are recycled. This is because they are made from card, bonded with a thin layer of plastic, which cannot be separated in most local council recycling centres. The cross-party Environmental Audit Committee which I chair is calling for a ‘latte levy’ on disposable cups, and for the government to ensure that all cups are recyclable by 2023. Many cafes offer a discount of 25-50p if you bring your own cup. Why not make switching to a reusable cup your New Year’s resolution?

Wakefield Express Column January 2018

It’s a sad fact that under the Tories there’s an NHS winter crisis every year. It is predictable and preventable but staff shortages, 15,000 fewer beds and cuts to district...

Last week the UK government finally reached an agreement with the EU to move onto the next phase of Brexit negotiations. 18 months after the referendum result, and after a week of serious embarrassment and frantic late night phone calls the prime  minister has u-turned on all her redlines on Brexit to agree continued regulatory alignment with the rules of the single market and customs union to protect the Good Friday agreement; a continued role for the European Court of Justice in the UK; and payments of tens of billions of pounds to the EU for a worse trading relationship than we have now.

This deal contains more fudge than a Christmas stocking. And there is nothing for the NHS which voters were promised would get £350 million a week. Instead the budget gave the NHS just £350 million to deal with all the winter pressures it faces. As phase 2 of the negotiations begins in the New Year we will see the difficulties and complexity of the negotiations increase.

Meanwhile our armed forces face a double whammy. First, the Tories’ budget cuts have left army numbers at their lowest since Napoleonic times. Second, as Ministry of Defence officials told Parliament last week, equipment is more expensive because of the weaker pound, which is worth 13% less after the EU referendum. Despite a manifesto pledge not to cut military personnel, the Chancellor suggested last week that the army should be cut from 80,000 to 50,000.

Commuters returning to work after Christmas will face the largest rail fare increase for five years - 3.4%. Rail prices have risen 32% since the Tories came to power in 2010. The increase is based on the rate of inflation, and prices have risen as the pound has fallen. The hefty train fare rise is another Tory betrayal of passengers as public sector workers enter their seventh year without a pay rise. Labour would cap rail fare rises, saving the average commuter £500 over the course of the parliament.

Meanwhile Transport Secretary Chris Grayling made clear whose side he’s on by giving East Coast operator Stagecoach a bailout. Stagecoach will be toasting the rise in their share price which came after Grayling allowed them to cancel their loss-making East Coast franchise three years early. I have argued that the Tories should have kept East Coast as a public sector operator and avoided the millions that have been spent on new uniforms and interiors.

Finally some good news. Residents were concerned they could lose their local post office after Post Office Ltd announced that they were reviewing it. I am pleased that after 1,600 people signed my petition to save Ossett Post Office, Post Office Ltd will keep the Post Office on Towngate.

As a dramatic year draws to a close, I want to send my heartfelt thanks to everyone in Wakefield who has contacted me - and who voted for me! - over the past year. Christmas is a chance to spend precious time with friends and loved ones. But during these celebrations we should remember those who are alone or ill, and those dedicated people working in our public and armed services all year round to keep us safe and well. I wish you all a peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.

Wakefield Express Column December 2017

Last week the UK government finally reached an agreement with the EU to move onto the next phase of Brexit negotiations. 18 months after the referendum result, and after a...

Friday 24 November

17.30-18.30

Wakefield Sports Club, Eastmoor Road, Wakefield, WF1 3RR

 Following the announcement by Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) that they will no longer run the 21 schools within the academy chain and subsequent proposals by the Department for Education to place these schools with new sponsors, I am inviting parents and teachers in Wakefield to attend a public meeting on this issue.

Wakefield City Academy and Heath View Academy are the two schools affected within the Wakefield constituency. I share the concerns expressed by teachers and parents about what the re-brokerage of these schools will mean for the running of their school and the uncertainty about what happens next.  

On Friday 24 November I will be hosting a public meeting in Wakefield to discuss the current situation surrounding WCAT and the DfE’s proposals for a new sponsor for the affected schools in Wakefield. It is also an opportunity for parents and teachers to contribute their views and to raise any concerns they have.

I will be joined at the meeting by Kevin Courtney, joint General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) and Sally Kincaid, Divisional Secretary of Wakefield NUT.  

Public meeting on Wakefield City Academies Trust – with Wakefield MP Mary Creagh and the National Union of Teachers (NUT)

Friday 24 November 17.30-18.30 Wakefield Sports Club, Eastmoor Road, Wakefield, WF1 3RR


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