I’d like to wish Wakefield Express readers a Happy New Year.
Wakefield’s annual Charity Christmas lunch at the Cedar Court hotel was a highlight in my Christmas calendar. It brought together over 300 members of Wakefield’s business community, and raised more than £25,000. I am delighted that the funds will be split between the Theatre Royal Wakefield's Performance Academy and MY Burns Club based at Pinderfields Hospital, which helps children and young people recovering from burns.
I worked with MY Burns Club on my ‘Hot Water Burns Like Fire’ campaign in 2009 and 2010, when I successfully lobbied the Government to change the law so that all baths in new homes are equipped with a Thermostatic Mixing Valve. Regulating water temperature means we have reduced the number of children and adults severely scalded each year by bath water.
I also want to thank our farmers, who provided us with great food over Christmas and the New Year - maybe too much good food! However, they face an uncertain future. The cross-party Environmental Audit Committee, which I chair, has found that Brexit could mean our farmers are hit by increased competition and tariffs in new trade deals, extra paperwork on their exports, and lose EU subsidies vital to their livelihoods.
Leaving the EU will be the largest administrative task since World War Two. Theresa May’s Great Repeal Bill, a ‘cut and paste’ job of EU law into UK law, won’t work for up to a third of our environmental law. That means we could be left with meaningless ‘zombie legislation.’
That’s why we are calling on the Government to pass a new UK Environmental Protection Act before we leave the EU, to ensure the health and wellbeing of future generations and to protect our most treasured natural places, plants, and wildlife. We don’t want to see our environmental protections and animal welfare standards negotiated away in trade deals.
For many people, returning to work this week also meant being hit by rail fares rises, up by 27% since 2010, three times faster than people’s wages. I met with commuters at Westgate train station on Tuesday morning as part of Labour’s ‘Rail Fail’ campaign. People in Wakefield are amongst the hardest hit. Virgin Trains East Coast fares are up by an eye-watering 4.9%, the highest increase of all rail operators.
Sadly, the situation is no better for people using our local bus services. Government cuts to council budgets have left bus services in crisis. Since 2010, fares are up faster than wages, passenger numbers are down, and thousands of routes across the country have been axed.
The Government’s Bus Services Bill comes to Parliament in a few weeks, and will give cities with elected Mayors London-style powers over public transport, which will mean more buses, on more routes. Wakefield and Leeds will miss out as we do not have directly elected Mayors. I’m calling on the Government to change this Bill to allow Wakefield to benefit from these plans. If you want better buses please sign my petition via http://www.marycreagh.com/bus_services_petition. You can get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01924 386 124.
Finally, thank you to the 1,955 people who signed my petition to save King Street Health Centre. I will present my petition to Parliament next week, and Wakefield CCG. With local GP surgeries and Pinderfields A&E under pressure, King Street is a vital service and I’m pleased that so many residents got involved with this campaign.