Armed Forces Day 2015

LSeaham Armed Forces Day 2015 (3)ast weekend, the East Durham community came together to recognise and honour the dedication and sacrifices of our Armed Forces during this years Armed Forces Day celebrations.

In Seaham, a parade was followed by a Drum Head Service in the Town Park. This provided an opportunity to remember East Durham’s proud and historic links with our Armed Forces.

While our service took place in East Durham, in Northern France, a delegation from the North East held a ceremony in the village of Authuille, close to the Somme battlefield to honour the many thousands from our area who had lost their lives during the battle of the Somme.

Armed Forces Day is an opportunity for us to reflect on the incredible sacrifices the service community have made for us in the past and those currently serving in some of the most dangerous places around the world defending our interests and national security.

The bravery and sacrifice of our Armed Force often goes unnoticed, however, East Durham is home to two recipients of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry.

William McNally of Murton was awarded the Victoria Cross in the final weeks of World War I, when regardless of personal safety he single handily rushed a machine gun post which had hindered his company. Just two days later he repeated his feat, with his company under heavy fire, William McNally crept to the rear of the enemy, capturing the position.

Our other VC made the ultimate sacrifice. Dennis Donnini VC of Easington was the son of an Italian immigrant. During World War Two Fusilier Donnini platoon was ordered to attack a small village. Despite being wounded he continued the attack coming under intense fire. After reaching cover Fusilier Donnini went out again under intense fire to carry a wounded comrade into safety. Then for a second time, and though again wounded Fusilier Donnini advanced firing a machine-gun until a bullet hit a grenade he was carrying and killed him. Through drawing enemy fire on himself, he enabled his platoon to capture the position and overcome more than twice their number.

At only 19 years old Dennis Donnini was one of the youngest recipients of the Victoria Cross, and his sacrifice and bravery was recently recognised when Easington Regeneration Partnership named a new park in his home village of Easington Colliery in his honour.

It is impossible to describe the debt of gratitude we owe to our Armed Forces, as without their sacrifice we would not have the freedom and security which we too often take for granted. Armed Forces Day provides us an opportunity remember.

When discussing our Armed Force we often hear the words “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”, emphasising the solidary between soldiers, however, as a civilian I think of the words of another Shakespeare quoteI can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks”, when highlighting my appreciation of our Armed Forces.

Grahame Morris MP pledges to become an Arthritis Champion for East Durham

Arthritis Research UKEasington MP Grahame Morris has pledged to fight alongside Arthritis Research UK for the thousands of local people in East Durham living every day with the pain of arthritis.

In County Durham alone, 47,111 people are living with the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis of the knee, with many more living with other forms of the condition.

Mr Morris has joined forces with Arthritis Research UK and agreed to become an ‘Arthritis Champion’, supporting the charity’s ‘Prevent, Transform, Cure’ manifesto.

Musculoskeletal conditions, including osteoarthritis, back pain and osteoporosis are the single biggest cause of disability and pain across the country, 10 million people in the UK are in pain right now because of arthritis.

The pain, fatigue and lack of mobility prevents millions of people doing simple tasks such as making a cup of tea or walking to the shops.

The manifesto called for an end to the myth that nothing can be done for people with arthritis.

As an Arthritis Champion, Grahame Morris MP has pledged to:

  • campaign to make musculoskeletal conditions a public health priority
  • fight to ensure that people with arthritis get high-quality care at the time that they need it
  • champion the UK’s leadership role in medical research.

Speaking about the manifesto at Arthritis Research UK’s reception, Grahame Morris MP said:

I’m proud to be an Arthritis Champion for the thousands of local people living with the pain of arthritis. We need to put the issues that people with arthritis face at the forefront of the new Parliament’s agenda, and work to transform services for the better.

“Today I’ve learnt more about the vital work of Arthritis Research UK and heard first-hand about some of the challenges people living with the condition face daily.

“I’m committed to making a difference in my first 100 days in Parliament and beyond. Together we can fight this debilitating condition that has such a huge impact on all aspects of people’s lives in East Durham.”

Dr Liam O’Toole, chief executive officer of Arthritis Research UK, said:

“I’m delighted that Grahame Morris has become our latest Arthritis Champion. The support of our champions is paramount to highlight the needs of people with arthritis.

The vision for the future is clear, there needs to be a public health approach focusing on preventing arthritis and transforming the services for the 10 million people affected by this devastating condition and ultimately support medical research seeking to find a cure. Together we can make this happen.”

If you want to stop arthritis devastating people’s lives, join the fight against arthritis in your local area. For further information visit www.arthritisresearchuk.org/voice or email action@arthritisresearchuk.org

Grahame Morris MP supports heart research to save lives

~ More than 12,000 people in East Durham living with heart and circulatory disease ~

BHFdone30416smGrahame Morris MP showed his support for UK medical research by joining British Heart Foundation (BHF) scientists and heart patients to hear how research is helping to save and improve the lives of the millions of people affected by heart disease.

At an event in Westminster, Mr Morris spoke with heart patients and BHF-funded researchers to learn more about the latest research projects, the hope they offer to people with heart conditions and why government support is vital.

Grahame Morris MP said: “Heart disease is a devastating condition that affects thousands of people across East Durham.

“But with the public’s support, charities like the BHF are able to fund some of the world’s leading researchers, who work tirelessly to find the next major breakthrough that could help save more lives.

“If we are to continue making great strides in heart research both the public, including people in East Durham, and the Government need to support our brightest scientists.”

There are an estimated 12,160 people in East Durham living with heart and circulatory disease, and seven million people across the UK. It causes a quarter of all deaths in the UK.

The BHF is the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research and spends around £100 million every year on world class research to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease. The charity sector is by far the largest funder of life sciences research in our universities and every year the Government contributes £198 million towards the indirect costs, such as heating and electricity in laboratories, of charity-funded research. But this figure falls short of covering all the costs of undertaking life saving research.

The government’s science budget is currently protected from cuts to expenditure but only until April 2016. Any cut to science spending would put future and current research projects that could help save more lives at serious risk.

The BHF is calling on the Government to maintain the current ring-fencing of the science budget and to commit to future increases.

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the BHF, said: “Any cut to science funding would be extremely damaging to our life saving research and the fight against heart disease.

“Through our research we’ve helped make great progress over the last 50 years to reduce the number of deaths from heart disease by more than 50 per cent and improve the lives of people living with it.

“This year alone our researchers have developed a highly sensitive blood test that could double the detection rate of heart attacks in women. And recently our researchers have improved our understanding of how we may be able to regenerate the heart after a heart attack bringing hope that one day there will be a treatment for severe heart failure.

“Much more research is needed if we are to continue helping the millions of families across the UK deeply affected by heart disease, and this can’t be done without strong Government support.

“The Government urgently needs to secure the future of medical research by maintaining the current ring-fence and committing to future increases.”

Find out more about the vital work carried out by our researchers at https://www.bhf.org.uk/research

Easier Broadband Switching

BroadbandNew changes coming into force will make it easier for millions of consumers to change their broadband or landline deal.

From Saturday 20 June, the process of switching between providers who use the Openreach telecoms network – such as BT, EE, Sky and TalkTalk – will become simpler and smoother with a new ‘one touch’ process. This will place the responsibility for the broadband or landline switch entirely in the hands of the company to which the customer is moving.

Currently consumers wanting to change provider face a number of different switching processes, depending on who they are moving from and to, and the type of service being switched.

Ofcom research has found that, in cases where the consumer had to contact their existing provider to request a change, the process can be significantly more difficult for consumers to follow.

Under the new system, consumers will no longer need to cancel their contract with their old provider. Instead, the whole switching process will be handled by their new supplier on their behalf.

Once the switching process is under way, the consumer will receive written confirmation from both the old and new provider. If the consumer changes their mind, they can cancel the switch.

Providers must also keep records of each consumer’s consent to switch, to protect against ‘slamming’ – where a customer’s supplier is changed without their knowledge or consent.

Further consumer information is available in Ofcom’s new online guides to switching landline and switching broadband.

Whose Recovery – Economic Disparities in Older Industrial Areas

Older Industrial Areas: Economic Disparities
Westminster Hall
Thursday 25 June 2015

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time in this Session of the new Parliament, Mr Rosindell.

I take this opportunity to thank the Chairman of Ways and Means, who I understand has allocated the time for this important debate. It is significant not only to my constituents and other people living in some of the older industrial areas in England but to similar areas in Scotland and Wales.

Older industrial areas make up a substantial part of Britain. According to the definition used in the report that I will refer to extensively, 96 of the districts in England, Scotland and Wales account for 30% of the population of Great Britain, and these areas have been hard-hit by many years of job losses. I place on record my thanks to the Industrial Communities Alliance for helping me to prepare for today’s debate, and for its informative report, “Whose Recovery?”, which shows how the upturn in economic growth is leaving older industrial areas behind.

I draw the Minister’s attention both to that report and to early-day motion 171, “Industrial Communities Alliance report on the Economic Disparities in Older Industrial Areas”. That was tabled only yesterday, but it has already attracted more than 30 signatures.

The report provides an insight into the challenges faced by former industrial communities in the English regions, Scotland and Wales. It shows that the economic gap between London and former industrial communities continues to widen, not only during difficult economic periods, such as the one that we experienced after the global financial crisis in 2008, but throughout the recession, and even today, as the UK returns to modest growth.

I hope that during this debate the Minister will provide more details regarding the northern powerhouse initiative, which is of special interest to my constituents. In particular, will it be tasked with reducing the immense economic disparities between the north-east and London and the south-east? I welcome the Prime Minister and the Chancellor’s intention to create a northern powerhouse, but I must point out that good intentions will not get us very far. We need the political rhetoric to be translated into practical policies and targeted support for the poorest regional economies.

We need a strong voice in Cabinet as an advocate for our regions. I fear that such a voice is missing, particularly when I read comments by newly appointed Ministers, such as the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who questions the existence of the widening economic inequalities between the regions and London, despite the fact that the evidence is absolutely clear and presented very concisely in the report that I have referred to. The first step on the road to recovery is acknowledgement of the problem.

That problem has been evident in the lack of support for my area, and in particular the lack of support from the DCLG for Durham County Council, which is my local authority. The rhetoric about the northern powerhouse has not been reflected in the council’s budget allocation, which has been cut by £250 million—or 40% of its total budget. That situation is mirrored in other local authorities, where there are huge pressures, in other older industrial areas in England, Scotland and Wales. They are experiencing similar problems to those in my area. That reduction in the council’s budget is despite the fact it is providing services and support to some of the most deprived communities in the country, including some in my own constituency of Easington.

The lack of support for the council is not only felt in terms of budget cuts. The recently published County Durham plan outlined ambitious targets to create 30,000 new jobs, build 31,000 new homes and create 500 hectares of space for business, warehouses and office development by 2030. Indeed, the scope of Durham County Council’s ambition has been welcomed by the local business community, and I also welcome it as we seek to promote economic development and prosperity in my constituency and throughout County Durham and the north-east.

However, the plan was dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate for being too ambitious and, despite our best efforts, Ministers refused to intervene to support its bold proposals. We had a debate here in Westminster Hall in the last Parliament on this subject, but it was not until Durham County Council filed legal papers with the High Court for a judicial review that the Government listened and became involved in the issue. My current understanding—perhaps the Minister can give an update on events—is that there is a 30-day stay to Court proceedings, but I am disappointed that the only way to get the Government to engage in economic development plans in County Durham seems to be to seek legal redress, which could have been avoided altogether if the Minister for Housing and Planning, who responded to that debate on 3 March, had been more forthcoming when we originally discussed the matter.

The report, “Whose Recovery?”, by the Industrial Communities Alliance found that the economic upturn since the recession had been much weaker in Britain’s older industrial areas than in London and the south-east. Whereas the number of jobs in London and the south-east was 540,000 higher at the end of 2013 than in 2009, in the older industrial areas the number of jobs was 70,000 lower. Similarly, the rate of growth in private sector employment in older industrial Britain during this period was just a 10th of the rate in London and the south-east.

When I am sitting in the main Chamber and listening to Government Members reciting examples of economic success and private sector employment, I often think that that is not reflected in the area that I represent, or indeed in many of the other older industrial areas, and part of the purpose of this debate is to draw these inequalities and problems to the attention of Government, to hold them to account, and to seek some redress.

Between 2010 and 2014, employment in older industrial areas rose by 230,000, or 2.9%, but during the same period employment in London and the south-east rose by 440,000, or 5.8%. When we look a little deeper at the figures, we see that there is not only a widening gap between the total number of jobs but a higher reliance on part-time work in the older industrial areas. In London and the south-east, virtually all the job growth since 2010 has been in full-time employment. By contrast, in the older industrial areas such as mine, almost a fifth of the increase in jobs has been in part-time jobs. In London and the south-east, the ratio between new full-time jobs and new part-time jobs is 16:1; in areas such as mine, in the older industrial areas in Britain, the ratio is just 4:1, so there is a considerable difference.

Another feature of job growth in older industrial areas has been the rapid rise in the number of people who are self-employed, which accounted for almost 40% of the increase in employment. An impartial observer might think that is a good thing, but I will drill down into this figure. A rising level of self-employment can be an indication of a vibrant economy, but it can also mask fundamental weaknesses in the labour market. This seems to have been confirmed by evidence gathered by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, in its self-employment evidence base, which found that in the south a higher proportion of the self-employed are in professional and higher-skilled occupations, whereas in much of the rest of the country, particularly the older industrial areas, more people are self-employed in elementary or low-skill occupations.

I am concerned that self-employment in older industrial areas, along with the expansion of zero-hours contracts, is creating a low-wage, insecure economy that is leading to the further casualisation of the labour market. Disparities in regional economies are deep rooted. In its report, “Northern prosperity is national prosperity”, the Institute for Public Policy Research North noted that

“regional inequalities date back nearly 150 years”—

this is not a new phenomenon—but

“despite some narrowing of the disparities between north and south in the post-war period, since 1985 the UK has had a higher rate of regional divergence than France, Germany, Italy and even the United States.”

It suggests that regional inequalities and disparities, far from being addressed, as they have been in many of our competitor countries in the European Union and in the United States, are getting worse in the United Kingdom.

We have allowed the north and south to pull apart. We should all be concerned about this, because it has led not only to an economic loss but to a loss of life chances for people in the poorest economies, in terms of education, health and income. I say respectfully to the Minister and the Government that there is also an impact on quality of life in London and the south-east, due to overcrowding and congestion.

Addressing the regional economic gap would provide significant benefits for the national economy. Halving the gap between the north and the national average would increase national economic output by £41 billion. If we are to achieve these gains, we need real commitments from the Government, but these are lacking.

I have some figures on transport investment that highlight the problems that we face. IPPR North found huge disparity between infrastructure spending in London and the north-east. London receives £5,426 per resident in capital investment, compared with just £223 per resident in the north-east; and a single project, Crossrail, is earmarked to receive nine times more funding than all the rail projects from the north’s three regions combined.

We are told of the benefits and economic importance of new projects such as High Speed 2, but I suspect that these will have little impact on vast areas of the north. The north-east has been entirely overlooked, with the line ending at Leeds—which many of us who live in the real north believe, with all due respect, is actually the midlands. We think HS2 will offer little practical benefit to the north-east or my constituents. It may have the opposite effect. A Network Rail consultation document suggested that the benefits to my constituents would be a cut in journey times from Durham to London of just 11 minutes by 2033, with the loss of direct services to the capital and slower journey times to major Scottish cities. At a cost ranging between £50 billion and £80 billion, I can think of few policies that are so expensive and likely to deliver so little to my community. A tiny shift in spending to constituencies like mine in east Durham would have a transformative impact on our transport infrastructure, as we seek to achieve our aim to improve connectivity to major lines and increase rail services.

In my constituency, I continue to work towards a new rail station at Horden, on the Seaview site. If the Government had shown the same commitment to my area as they do to London, I could press for an integrated public transport system, the extension of Tyne and Wear Metro and improvements to our bus network, which would expand access to a wider labour market for residents. There would be huge economic benefits to the area locally and to the wider economy.

Another matter of great importance in my constituency is housing. Other hon. Members wish to speak, so I will say less about this than I intended. The villages and towns that make up my constituency were established specifically to serve local collieries in this coal-mining area. The mines have gone, but investment to transform and redevelop the local communities has not followed. This is as true in terms of infrastructure spending on transport and economic development as it is in respect of housing. These issues have recently come to a head in the villages of Horden and Blackhall, following a series of problems experienced by Accent homes, a registered social landlord with properties in these villages. This situation was the subject of an Adjournment debate just before the old Parliament was dissolved. Accent cited the introduction of the bedroom tax as a cause of the fall in demand for its properties. As tenants vacated their Accent properties, the housing associations decided not to let them but to board them up.

It is soul-destroying to watch your community suffer. I invite the Minister and any of her colleagues to Horden and Blackhall to see at first hand the situation in the numbered streets as these properties fall into decay and disrepair. Many former tenants have vacated the area. Homeowners are trapped, unable to sell their property as there is no demand, and they have to live on streets with boarded-up properties, which are a target for antisocial behaviour, vandalism and crime. This situation is replicated elsewhere in the constituency, particularly in areas where private landlords have bought up properties at low cost and are seeking a return, mostly at the taxpayers’ expense, funded through the housing benefit system.

Local residents do not accept the situation. I commend the work of the Horden residents’ association, which has been engaged in meetings and discussions with Accent housing, the Homes and Communities Agency and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, and other private and public sector partners and agencies, to find a way forward. Local councillors do not accept the situation, but the cuts to local authority budgets and the lack of any national housing regeneration fund is holding back the redevelopment of east Durham. This is disappointing, particularly given the level of funding that is available but seems to be diverted almost exclusively towards London and the south-east.

There is immense potential for redevelopment in older industrial areas, including my own in the north-east, especially as the properties that I mentioned are located in an area of immense natural beauty bordering the award-winning east Durham heritage coast—a newly declared nature reserve—and tracking one of the first stretches of the England coast path. These areas of natural beauty are at the forefront of our efforts to promote leisure and tourism on the east Durham heritage coast, but the Minister must accept that these efforts will continue to be hampered due to the deteriorating situation in the villages. Poor, derelict housing will also undermine our efforts to bring forward economic development, which is the only way to create jobs. We need to ensure that local people have skills and training and that those who acquire skills are not forced to move away from the region to find work.

We need to deliver a complete package of housing, transport investment and education if we are to attract new business and industries that will sustain our communities in the future and bring forward the economic development that is needed to narrow the wealth gap between the regions and London. We need a redistribution of economic activity to provide a new purpose for communities such as the ones I represent in east Durham, which have lost their core industry over the past 30 years.

We have had some recent successes. Only last weekend, I was delighted to attend a groundbreaking—a ceremony to mark the start of work on Dalton Park phase 2, which is a £45 million investment that we hope will deliver up to 1,000 new jobs in my constituency— 500 during the construction phase. The new retail and leisure facilities will be very welcome in east Durham and the wider region, after nearly two decades of campaigning by the local community, supported by the local council, to secure the investment.

We need greater economic diversification in east Durham and to grasp all of the opportunities available. We need new industries to sustain my constituency in the future. There is a rare opportunity in Easington to secure significant private sector investment for the proposed centre for creative excellence to be built on the east Durham heritage coast. The project would deliver more than £200 million of private sector investment and could create 2,000 jobs and training opportunities in a ready-made global film and media communications market. Our regional development agency, One North East, was supporting the project until it was abolished. I sought to discuss the importance of that project with Ministers in the previous Parliament, but I am afraid that I received little support from the Government.

In view of the Government’s conversion to a northern powerhouse, I will welcome the Minister’s input on any direct support that they are prepared to offer to that unique and potentially transformative project in my constituency. Unfortunately, I am yet to witness the positive impact of my local enterprise partnership, and the Government’s other flagship policy designed to support business development, the regional growth fund, which I feel has a misleading name. It should be called a national growth fund, since it is open to all regions. Widening economic disparities between the various regions, especially between the older industrial regions and London and the south-east, are proof of that fund’s failure. That is why I advocate direct Government intervention for the centre for creative excellence.

If the northern powerhouse is anything other than rhetoric, we need a real development fund that is targeted specifically at weaker regional economies to bring in developments such as the one in my constituency and to address the employment and skills imbalance between the regions. There is a moral duty on the Government to close the gap and address regional inequalities that damage our national economy and leave generations of people in the poorest economies behind, as well as reducing their life chances. There are development opportunities if the Government want to seize them.

The modest return to growth in the last quarter has not been a recovery for all. In older industrial communities, the recovery is in fact reinforcing existing economic divides. If we are to rebalance the economy and deliver a sustainable recovery, the Government need to back up the rhetoric. We need to ensure that the same level of resources and development that is directed towards London and the south-east is targeted at the weakest regional economies. Delivering those practical policies would give us an opportunity to narrow the economic gap and deliver much-needed jobs and growth to the former industrial communities that have been ignored by the Government for too long.

I have made a number of practical suggestions, and I hope that the Minister will reflect on them. They are opportunities to take forward the Government’s vision of a northern powerhouse in a practical, meaningful way that would benefit the region. I will be interested to hear her comments on my proposals.

Grahame Morris MP is calling for greater efforts to tackle air pollution in Easington.

Portcullis event 09.06.15 - Grahame Morris MP with campaignerAir pollution has been under increasing scrutiny recently, due to smog events which covered much of the country and a high profile legal case against the Government by NGO ClientEarth. As a result of the Supreme Court ruling, Ministers must now come up with ambitious ideas to reduce air pollution across the UK.

The health effects of air pollution are substantial and affect us all but in particular the more vulnerable members of our communities such as children, older people and people with heart and respiratory conditions. In County Durham, experts say 223 people die prematurely each year, due to the effects of air pollution.

Attending an event run by the Healthy Air Campaign last week, Grahame Morris MP said, “Air pollution is an invisible killer and not enough is being done. It’s horrifying to see the damage poor air quality can do to health, particularly to young children’s development.

“Through simple ideas, such as support for cleaner technologies and active travel like cycling or walking, we can improve the air we breathe and save lives. The Government are currently writing new air quality plans and I will ensure these plans protect people in Easington.”

You can find out more information at http://healthyair.org.uk/

Closing the gap between regional economies

PMQThis week we will put the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse to the test.

I have secured a Westminster Hall Debate on the widening economic disparity between the regions. I welcome the warm words of the Prime Minister and Chancellor about northern development, however, until we see practical detailed policies to promote employment and growth in the North East, it is nothing more than an empty slogan.

Growth and development in the poorer regions and nations of the UK will require strong local authorities. To achieve this the Government will have to end their assault on local government which has been forced to implement severe spending cuts. Durham County Council’s budget has been cut by a quarter of a billion pounds by the Government. Our fight for fairer funding based upon need is unlikely to get a fair hearing from the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark MP.

Mr Clark is a strange choice by the Prime Minister to head the department in charge of the Northern Powerhouse. In an article earlier this year Mr Clark claimed that the widening divide between the north and south no longer exist arguing that the “north and south are pulling in the same direction, which is upwards”.

We need a strong voice in cabinet advocating for our region. If Ministers do not recognise the problem, they will be unwilling to allocate the resources necessary to close the north south divide, which worsened during the global financial crisis in 2008, throughout the recess, and even into the recovery.

During the recession while London and the South East pulled away creating over half a million jobs between the financial crisis and 2013, while older industrial areas saw employment decline by 70,000. In terms of private sector employment for every job created in an older industrial area ten were created in London and the South East. 

The North East continues to lag behind in terms of government investment compared to London. HS2, a project of supposedly national importance will cost £50 billion, but none of this investment will reach the North East which has been excluded from the project. The investment gap is stark when you consider that London’s Crossrail will receive nine times more funding than all the rail projects from the North’s three regions combined. In London the Government has committed to spend £5,426 per resident on infrastructure project, while the North East while receive just £223 per resident.

The Government are not addressing regional inequalities but exacerbating them. Failing to fulfil the economic potential of our region damages the national economy and reduces the life chances of thousands of people in the North East.

On Thursday we will give the Government an opportunity to outline what there Northern Powerhouse will mean for the North East, as well as what steps they will be taking not only to grow the economy but narrow the wealth gap between the regions and unlock the potential we have in the North East.

 

Residents of Easington set to benefit from smart energy technology

British Gas Smart MeterAs the number of smart meters installed by British Gas in homes approaches the 1.5 million mark, Grahame Morris MP has welcomed news today that 2,630 homes in Easington are already benefiting from increased control over energy bills through British Gas smart meters.

Smart meters were on show at a British Gas Innovation Reception in Westminster, along with other technology which helps people understand and reduce their energy use.

Smart meters give people greater insight into how much gas and electricity they’re using.  A smart energy monitor can be placed anywhere in the home to display in pounds and pence how much gas and electricity is being used, helping people to be more efficient. Smart meter readings are sent automatically to energy companies, putting an end to estimated bills and manual meter readings.

Smart meters installed by British Gas also come with a free online tool that:

  • breaks down a home’s energy use by day, week or month;
  • shows how much is used on things like appliances, heating and lighting;
  • compares the household’s use to other similar homes, and;
  • provides personalised tips on how to be more energy efficient.

Grahame Morris MP  also saw British Gas’ smart thermostat, Hive Active Heating, which lets customers control their heating and hot water remotely from a smartphone, tablet and laptop.  More than 200,000 homes now control their heating remotely using Hive. 51% of customers use it daily, and 70% think they’ve made energy savings since having it installed.

Smart meters and Hive Active Heating are part of a wave of ‘the internet of things’, which sees household objects connecting with each other and people through the internet, opening up new ways of controlling our homes.  More products are being developed by British Gas to maximise the internet of things and help people more easily manage their energy, and create homes of the future.

Grahame Morris MP said: “The British Gas Innovation Reception provided a terrific insight into how new technology is helping my constituents become more aware of energy use and how they can manage their bills.”

Vicky Charles, a Smart Energy Expert for British Gas who took part in the Innovation Reception, said: “Whether it’s discovering how energy efficient the fridge is, or the cost of using the tumble dryer; or if it’s being able to turn the heating off without getting out of bed, our customers are excited about these new technologies.  They make life easier and can save you money on your energy bills.”

British Gas is leading the way in the smart meter roll-out, with its 1,200 Smart Energy Experts getting smart meters into homes more quickly than any other energy supplier. The roll-out is part of a Government initiative to replace current gas and electricity meters with smart meters as standard by 2020.

If you are a British Gas customer and want your home to be upgraded to smart meters, you can register your interest by visiting britishgas.co.uk/upgrade/smartmeter and filling in the form.  Alternatively, you can wait until we contact you to arrange for one of our Smart Energy Experts to carry out the meter upgrade as part of our phased roll out.

More information is available at britishgas.co.uk/smarter-living.html

Our Party, Our Voice – Sign up as an affiliate trade union supporter

Unions Together

Since the very beginning, trade unionists have rooted the Labour Party in the working world; in the communities where our millions of members live and many of the Labour Party’s proudest achievements wouldn’t have happened without our voice.

But now the way we make ourselves heard in the Labour Party has changed – instead of being collectively signed-up, trade unionists now need to sign-up individually and become what’s now known as “affiliate trade union supporters”.

We must sign-up to ensure our values and our voice will be heard loud and clear.

http://www.unionstogether.org.uk/our_party_our_voice.

What’s more, if your union already formally supports the Labour Party – it’s free!

The Labour leadership contest just a few months away and all those who sign-up you can vote for the candidate of your choice.

So don’t waste any time, get signed-up today, it will only take a couple of minutes, it’s free and you can do it here http://www.unionstogether.org.uk/our_party_our_voice.

If you need to know anything else you can visit the dedicated page to find out more http://www.unionstogether.org.uk/our_party_our_voice.

Still unsure, have a look at Danny Coyne blog post – Why become an ‘affiliate trade union supporter’?  http://www.unionstogether.org.uk/affiliate_blog.