Downing Street Parties
The past few weeks in Westminster have been dominated by the news of parties in Downing Street during the lockdowns. We made sacrifices to protect the NHS and our communities. Many of us did not see loved ones for months, with some unable to say goodbye to dying relatives. When I was asked about the Downing Street parties on BBC Politics East recently, I explained that people have every right to be angry, when the people who wrote the rules were flagrantly breaking them and thinking they did not apply to them.
Sue Gray’s investigation into these allegations and the first report findings are damning. They state that there were “failures of leadership and judgement” in No 10 and the gatherings “represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.” I raised my deep concerns that civil servants were afraid to raise issues about inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.
Even without the conclusion of the ongoing criminal investigation by the Met Police, the actions of the Prime Minister are indefensible, he must resign.
Levelling Up White Paper Announced
The Government finally launched its long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper last week and it failed to be the transformational strategy that it promised. There was no new funding, it contained several recycled announcements and had a bizarre preoccupation with Renaissance Italy.
The White Paper will not give Luton what it needs and falls far short of the ambitious programme needed to narrow regional inequalities and create a fairer UK. Levelling up cannot be achieved unless the Government addresses the savage cuts they made to local spending over the past decade. For every £1 the government has announced in levelling up funding, it has already cut £13 from local spending. The public deserves a new government to lead Britain, with a proper plan to invest in our country, to grow the economy and ensure jobs and opportunities are spread fairly across the nation.
Supporting people living with Pulmonary Fibrosis
In December, Luton lost a great champion in Lord Bill McKenzie when he passed away from Pulmonary Fibrosis. I recently met with Luton South constituent Peter, who is the Chair of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust, to learn more about the disease. We discussed how in many cases there is no known cause, and while there are treatments that may help extend the lives of those with the condition, there is no known cure.
I raised this issue with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in Parliament and asked him to commit to increasing research into this disease. The Secretary of State promised that he would ask his officials to look into this. I then asked the Leader of the House for a debate in government time to raise awareness of the disease. I will continue to keep up pressure on the government to improve care for those living with this debilitating disease and fund research into finding a cure. If you or someone you know has been affected by Pulmonary Fibrosis, please do get in touch with me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fair funding for Schools
Despite Government claims to want to level up our country, it continues to underfund our education system and is funnelling money away from the schools that are most in need. The schools in the most deprived areas have seen the largest cuts to their funding over the last decade. With schools in the most deprived areas receiving a 14% fall in real terms spending per pupil since 2009/10 compared with a 9% fall for schools in the least deprived areas. This Government cannot be serious about levelling up until it properly invests in our children’s futures.
Building Safety Bill – end the fire safety crisis
The Building Safety Bill seeks to address the cladding and fire safety defects that led to the catastrophe of Grenfell Tower. During the Bill’s passage through Parliament, the Government announced that it would devise a plan for making developers cover the costs of cladding remediation. Labour supported the Bill at Third Reading but called for statutory protections to ensure leaseholders are not forced to foot the costs for a fire safety crisis that was not of their making. In my speech, I also spoke about the stress and anxiety this situation has inflicted on many leaseholders. The Government must provide leaseholders with adequate mental health support.
Fraud and Waste in Government Spending
Waste and fraud seem to be endemic to the way this Government operates. A Government Minister, Lord Agnew, recently resigned at the despatch box in protest at the £29 billion the Government is writing off in fraud a year. The amount of money being written off for fraud equates to £154 per household or a total cost of over £6 million for my constituency of Luton South. This is money I am sure we would rather see in our pockets or invested in our communities not given over to criminal gangs.
The Government was even warned by senior civil servants that the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme was vulnerable to potential fraud. The Government chose to press ahead with the scheme and now it is estimated 8.5% of payments made under the scheme, totalling £71 million, were erroneous or fraudulent. I condemned the Government’s lack of respect for public resources in a speech to Parliament that you can watch below.
Levelling Up in the East of England Debate
The Government’s levelling up strategy is pitting towns, cities and regions against each other as they compete for limited amounts of Government funding. I spoke in a debate to set out how the amount of funding on offer for one-off capital projects does not sufficiently compensate for the £15 billion cut from local council funding since 2010. While I am pleased that Luton Council has received £20 million from the Levelling Up Fund, this does not make up for the £100 million the Government has cut from Luton Council since 2010.
I also spoke about the decrepit Luton Train Station and how we deserve better. As the gateway to our town, it should be accessible to all and reflect the 21st century town that we are. A full redevelopment of the station would play a critical role in encouraging the redevelopment of our town centre and encouraging new investment and job creation. ‘Levelling up’ is just a hollow strapline and this Government has no real plan to improve living standards for towns like ours.
Holocaust Memorial Day
As part of the Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations, I was pleased to sign the Holocaust Education Trust’s Book of Commitment. Holocaust Memorial Day provides an important opportunity to remember the six million Jewish victims and the millions of others murdered for their ethnicity, religion, disability, political beliefs or sexual orientation. With the passing of each survivor, the Holocaust moves from living history, so we must take time to remember the victims and pay tribute to the survivors.
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