Mary Creagh

Working hard for Wakefield

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Last month I visited Flanshaw JIN School, which is taking part in a project called Primary Futures to raise the aspirations of school children. It’s difficult for young children to make the connection between what they do in the classroom and how it relates to the world of work. I spoke at the school assembly about what MPs do and got some great questions. A child’s early years are important, but that encouragement needs to continue until they leave school or college. The National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) targets the wards where young people have the lowest rates of participation in higher education, and helps them get into university. Our local programme is called Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) and I met Wakefield College, one of the partners, last month. I was disappointed to learn that the future of NCOP is at risk.

20180126_100307.jpgMary with the pupils at Flanshaw JIN School

The body which supports them will be replaced by the Office for Students in April, and the Department for Education refuses to commit funding until then. In the meantime, GHWY and the other 28 NCOP groups around the country are put in limbo and may have to cut staff. It’s unnecessary and unfair to teachers, pupils and parents. I asked the Education Minister what she will do about it, but I’ve yet to get a satisfactory answer. I have tabled an Early Day Motion in support of NCOPs and I will be seeking a debate on it. By working with my colleagues in Parliament I hope to provide some certainty for GHWY soon.

It was Holocaust Memorial Day on Saturday, January 27. I attended the multi-faith service in Wakefield Cathedral to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and genocides everywhere. It was a poignant reminder of the need to resist anti-Semitism in all forms, and how we can never allow those perverted ideologies to rise again. But I was also reminded of something positive – Britain’s role in providing a refuge for some of those fleeing the Nazis, such as the Jewish children rescued in the Kindertransport. We need to be welcoming to people fleeing violence and persecution, and there is a group right here in Wakefield doing just that – Wakefield City of Sanctuary. I popped along to their 2018 party in the Elizabethan Gallery and met refugees from Syria, Iran and Eritrea. I wish them the best of luck this year.

Next to my desk in Westminster I keep a piece of paper pinned to the wall with ‘271’ on it. It’s a reminder that I’m only the 271st woman elected to Parliament. I marvel at the fact that this week is only the 100th anniversary of when some women were first allowed to vote. There will be celebrations across the country this year, including in Wakefield, where a plaque to Yorkshire’s first female MP, Alice Bacon, will be unveiled at Wakefield One on International Women’s Day. It’s a reminder of how far we’ve come, but also of how much is left to do. I work in Westminster to ensure Wakefield women’s voices are heard at the highest level of government, and to cover taboo subjects such as female genital mutilation, sexual harassment and the tampon tax. Maybe, in another 100 years, women will marvel that we had to do it at all.

Wakefield Express Column February 2018

Last month I visited Flanshaw JIN School, which is taking part in a project called Primary Futures to raise the aspirations of school children. It’s difficult for young children to...

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...


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