On Saturday 7 March I joined hundreds of people at Wakefield’s Unity Hall to mark the 30 year anniversary of the end of the miners strike. The ‘With Banners Held High’ event was packed, with music, drama, photos and poetry commemorating the 1984-85 strike. The pit closures left lives and communities decimated.
Last year, Labour launched our Justice for the Coalfields campaign to put right the wrongs from that time. We want the Government to make a formal apology for the actions of the Conservative Government during the strike. They should also release the details of contact between the government and the police and launch an independent review into what happened at Orgreave. It’s time for justice for the Coalfields.
I hosted a coffee morning at Balne Lane community centre on the same day as the miners’ event. Residents were concerned about anti-social behaviour and the prospect of more cuts to policing. The Conservatives’ extreme budget cuts would mean cutting 30,000 more police officers in the next parliament across England and Wales. West Yorkshire Police have lost nearly 1,000 officers since 2010 and our council services and people’s pay packets have been hit hard. But after this week’s Budget, the Office of Budget Responsibility predicts there will be “much sharper squeeze on real spending in 2016/17 and 2017/18 than anything seen over the past five years” and “a sharp acceleration in the pace of implied real cuts to day-to-day spending on public services”. The cat is out of the bag. Nobody believes George Osborne can make his sums add up without putting up VAT or harming the NHS after the election.
Unlike George’s budget, Labour’s manifesto pledges contain no unfunded spending commitments. A Labour Budget would protect the NHS, raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, cut taxes for working people with a lower 10p starting rate of tax and reduce business rates for small firms.
Finally, I was delighted to be asked to judge a Strictly Come Dancing-style fundraiser for the NSPCC last month which raised £15,000. There was a wide showcase of dance moves on display, and the worthy winners, with their witty interpretation of the cha cha cha, were Rachel Walker and Ian Cross!
I want to say a big thank you to Debbie and Mike Adams from the Black Olive Delicatessen in Horbury for organising such a fun evening, everyone who volunteered and attended and a big thanks to my fellow judges Sharon Wood, Cllr Janet Holmes and Horbury Academy’s Chair of Governors, Richard Dennett.