500 days and counting: PM urged to listen as the number of workless households in East Durham soar to an all time high.

Grahame Morris MP has once again called on the Prime Minister to support private sector jobs in Easington as new figures show a sharp rise in the number of jobless households.

The number of households where no one has ever worked rose sharply in the last quarter of 2011 to 291,000 – a rise of over 7% on the year before.

Labour has revealed House of Commons library research showing the Government is now set to spend an extra £9 billion more than planned on welfare payments and housing benefits, due to rising unemployment.

And fresh revelations confirm:

  • The unemployment Minister, Chris Grayling, was forced to admit that some Government contractors may leave the troubled Work Programme – but he claimed to be ‘relaxed’ about it. The Programme has been hit by allegations of fraud at some of the contractors.
  • The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies said botched council tax benefit changes will ‘severely undermine’ the new Universal Credit set to be introduced in just over a year’s time.

Easington MP Grahame Morris said:

“The North East continues to be hit the hardest by the Government’s Austerity programme, which is sucking demand out of our economy.

The Government’s promised private sector led recovery has failed to materialise. Their attack on working people with excessive public spending cuts, tax rises, and Beecroft’s “no fault sacking” has undermined consumer confidence needed to stimulate growth.

One year after the Government’s Work Programme started we’ve seen the number of people out of work in Easington go up by 20 %. One of the highest year on year increases in unemployment in the country.

Locally, over the past weeks we have seen over a thousand job losses with the closure of Cumbrian Seafoods in Seaham, and JD Sports and Dewhurst in Peterlee.

It is no surprise the number of households where someone has never worked has hit an all time high. The Government failed Work Programme will mean an extra £9 billion being spent on welfare payments and housing benefit rather than supporting jobs and growth.

It is nearly 500 days since I first invited the Prime Minister to Easington, yet despite being one of the most deprived communities in the country, David Cameron refuses to accept my invitation or listen to our concerns.

The problems we are now facing are at crisis point and I have once again invited the Prime Minister to visit Easington and lend his support to those private sector regeneration projects in Murton, and Peterlee that continue to face unjustifiable delays at this time”

 

Easington MP Reflects on Jubilee Celebrations: Party Pooper or Cheer Leader

This month represents the beginning of a bonanza of summer events across Britain that will excite and unify millions of people, whilst at the same time many will be forced to look on in dread. Either way the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, England playing in Euro 2012 and the London Olympics will propel the notion of our ‘national pride’ to the top of the media agenda. Whether people feel British, English, European or perhaps have more affinity with their region, home town, local community or even street is a matter of personal identity.

However, our national identity is important, just as is the role we play in our local communities. Both, whether we like it or not, are important features in all our lives. The shootings in Horden on New Year’s Day brought the whole community together in sympathy with those directly affected by the tragedy and all of us feel the effect when one of our neighbours loses their job as over time it depresses our communities emotionally and economically.

As the Member of Parliament for Easington I pack my bag each week and travel to Westminster to speak up for our communities but also to vote on issues of national and even international importance. Over the last two years I have seen how this government has talked-up the ‘national interest’, the ‘British economy’ and the ‘Big Society’. Whilst the policies it pursues have done little to create such national unity. Proposals for regional pay in the public sector, imposing the biggest cuts on the most deprived areas and tearing up workers’ rights in favour of a free-for-all for unscrupulous bosses is all part of the wrong divisive agenda.

Here in Peterlee, Caterpillar, on the North West Industrial Estate, has won a prestigious Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development award for human resources performance. Rather than following the government rhetoric, pitting management against workers, the workforce was restructured to support the business, forge closer relationships with management and promote the best use of workers’ skills. Such local examples of excellence should inform national political ideas.

Whether it is at the national or local level we are all stronger by working together. Whilst our Government seeks to protect a privileged elite and seeks to divide society along as many lines as possible, Ed Miliband is reaffirming Labour’s agenda on the key issues of fairness and equality.  The last Labour Government took important steps on social mobility, but this Government is taking the country backwards. Instead it is cutting support for Sure Start children’s centres, it has scrapped the Educational Maintenance Allowances that had supported over 70% of pupils at East Durham College, and has increased tuition fees to £9,000 per year putting many young people from disadvantaged areas like ours off the whole idea of going into higher education.

Britain, the North East and our local communities need a new political settlement that has fairness at its heart. I am no party pooper but it will certainly take more than a Jubilee party and a summer of sporting events, however much people may enjoy them.

Easington MP raises awareness of take your meds campaign, just like that

 

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, is supporting the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) campaign highlighting the importance of taking prescribed medication as directed by your doctor, pharmacist or nurse, and where you can go for help.

Around 29 per cent of people in the North East have returned medicines without using them, while around 25 per cent have thrown them away putting their heart health at risk.

 

The statistics have prompted the BHF to launch its Just Like That campaign, featuring the late great comedian Tommy Cooper, urging people with heart problems, high cholesterol and high blood pressure to take their medications.

Nearly 60 percent of people in the North East have high cholesterol and more than 30 per cent have high blood pressure. These conditions are known as invisible killers because they don’t have symptoms but left untreated slowly damage blood vessels in the heart and make it easier for potentially deadly clots to form causing a heart attack or stroke.

Grahame Morris MP said: “The British Heart Foundation has highlighted that many people struggle to take their medication as prescribed and so it’s important to spread the message that there is help out there.

“The nation’s heart charity is raising awareness of a very important issue and anyone who is worried about their medication should give the charity’s friendly and qualified nurses a call for support and guidance.

“I hope this campaign is successful in helping my constituents take Tommy’s catchphrase to heart and they take their medicines, just like that.”

The BHF is asking anyone struggling with their medication to phone its nurses via its Heart Helpline on 0300 333 1 333 or to visit bhf.org.uk/tommy.

Watchdog not Lapdog

Grahame Morris MP has backed Which?’s Watchdog not Lapdog campaign to show support for a strong, open and proactive financial regulator that stands up for consumers.

The Financial Services Bill which is currently going through parliament will change how the financial services industry is regulated, creating a new regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) with responsibility for protecting consumers.

Mr Morris, who today adopted the Which? Watchdog agrees that after the financial crisis and disasters like the payment protection insurance (PPI) mis selling scandal, the new regulator must:

Be ready to show its teeth – issue fines that are big enough to act as deterrents and promote competition by making sure products are transparent, simple to compare and easy to switch between.

Not be afraid to bark – tell consumers when firms are found to have broken the rules, what it is investigating and what it is going to do to stop it.

Sniff out dodgy products – take a more proactive approach and ban dodgy financial products and misleading adverts before they cause problems. Lessons must be learnt from the payment protection insurance mis-selling scandal.

Grahame Morris MP, says:

“At a time when money is tight it’s really important that the new financial regulator is a watchdog that puts consumers at the heart of everything it does.”

Which? chief executive, Peter Vicary-Smith, says: 

“People have told us they want a regulator that stands up to the financial services industry and fights on behalf of the consumer. The Which? Watchdog represents everything the new financial regulator must be. We need a financial watchdog that is ready to show its teeth to the banks, bark at poor customer service and sniff out dodgy financial products.

To find out whether your friends and family’s MPs have adopted the Which? Watchdog visit www.which.co.uk/watchdogadoption.

Citizens Advice: On your side in tough times

 

Citizens Advice has been offering free, independent, and confidential advice on a range of issues covering welfare, consumer and debt problems for over seventy years.

Their service has never been in greater demand as the Coalition Government’s cuts begin to squeeze families across the North East.

Knowing your rights can help you navigate an increasingly complex benefit system following the Government’s unprecedented changes to welfare – cutting £18 billion from the benefit bill with a further £10 billion worth of cuts in the pipe line.

The North East continues to bear the brunt of the Coalition Government’s cuts with approximately 60,000 people being moved off incapacity benefit of which 35,000 are being forced out of the benefit system altogether, following tougher medical examinations conducted by the discredited ATOS Healthcare. This will take away £170 million out of the North East economy at a time of rising unemployment here in East Durham.

In recent weeks and months we have lost over a thousand jobs just within the Easington Constituency with factory closures at Cumbrian Seafoods, Seaham, JD Sports and Dewhirsts, Peterlee. The North East region is also suffering with the closure of Kerry Foods, Durham, and BAE’s announcement of 600 job losses affecting Washington, and Newcastle.  These losses are in addition to the 32,668 public sector jobs forecast to be lost in the North East by 2017. Government austerity is taking the demand out of the economy which is hitting private and public sector jobs here in Easington.

Government austerity has undermined jobs and growth in our region, and there is disquiet over their welfare changes. Research by Citizens Advice has raised concerns about inaccurate medical assessments by ATOS that are creating huge difficulties and undermining the welfare system. They found that nearly 40 per cent of incapacity benefits appeals are overturned in favour of the claimant, of these 60 per cent were originally awarded no points following an ATOS medical assessment.

A Daily Mirror investigation has found that 32 people die each week after being found “fit to work” by an ATOS healthcare medical assessment. However, as the Government continues to force through unprecedented changes in welfare, there are no signs of improvement in the quality of medical assessments.

Katie Lane, head of Citizen Advice welfare policy said:

“We have always supported the idea that people who could work and want to work should be helped to do that. But we are seeing a lot of seriously ill and disabled people being found fit for work.

“We have serious concerns about whether the test used to decide if people are fit for work is the right test.”

Despite their failings ATOS Healthcare continue to enjoy bumper profits at taxpayer expense. Every inaccurate assessment leads to costly appeals and tribunals, as well as incalculable damage to the claimant. The Government have no mechanism to recoup this cost from ATOS’s £100 million a year public contract or any desire to do so as they continue to force people off welfare.

Citizens Advice has not been spared from Government axes. In the face of increasing demand Government funding has been cut by 23 per cent, to a total of just £137million across their 400 offices in England and Wales.

Cynics may suggest that the Government are cutting support to Citizens Advice so people cannot effectively challenge new processes and medical assessments. For the Government it is one way to reduce the benefit bill, as flawed decisions will go unchallenged, but will leave vulnerable people without the support they need.

While Citizens Advice offices are closing across the country, Seaham will be welcoming a new centre to be based on Shakespeare Street. The new office will be open three days a week offering free information and advice.

Even in these difficult times Citizens Advice continues to innovate and have recently launched a whole host of new and updated advice, information and helpful features for consumers on its website, www.adviceguide.org.uk,  including top tips, interactive letters to help consumers to make a complaint and details of what to do next to solve your consumer problem.

The new online advice is part of Citizens Advice consumer service, launched on 2 April 2012, which also provides over the phone advice. Anyone looking for phone advice on a consumer issue can call 08454 04 05 06. The phone service is available from 9.00am to 5.00pm on weekdays.

You can find all of the new consumer content on Advice guide at http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/consumer_e.htm.

Speech: May Day Rally

Comrades,

The first and most important thing I want to do today is to thank all of you for being here.

Millions of working people across the world will have celebrated May Day this week, they will have joined rallies and they will have united to celebrate the role of ordinary hard working people in all sections of society.

However, working people across Europe, and beyond, are under attack.

In the same way that we have come here today to show unity and courage, governments across Europe have colluded against the best interests of ordinary people.

As local elections on Thursday undoubtedly showed people across this country reject the savage cuts to local services and reject the austerity that is so badly failing our country.

And hopefully tomorrow, in France, our brothers and sisters there will endorse our socialist friend Francois Hollande and send shock waves across Europe and the world.

Events like these must be about sending a common message to governments who think that ordinary people should pay for the mistakes of wealthy bankers and city financiers.

This Coalition government is forcing millions of struggling families to pay more, whilst it is allowing millionaires to pay less.

It is forcing our Labour councils that represent the poorest areas in the North to suffer the worst cuts, whilst Tory Councils in the South face little or no cuts.

And it is forcing its cuts agenda furthest on welfare, the disabled, the sick and the elderly, whilst it does nothing to promote growth in the economy and nothing to create employment.

We are told that there is no alternative to cuts and austerity. But there is. These are political choices and they are the wrong choices.

How dare politicians now attack our public services as if this is somehow a coherent response to a crisis that started in the banking sectors of the United States back in 2008?

Reforms by Andrew Lansley to the NHS, to allow fly-by-night private health firms unrestricted access to profiteer from public investment has nothing to do with our debts, with cuts or austerity.

Tory reforms, spinelessly supported by the Liberal Democrats, are ideological and they represent an attack on our National Health Service.

Today is about unity, society and about people. And these are the values that are best represented by our public services.

These are the people who teach our children, who collect our refuse, who build our roads, who treat us and our family when we are sick and care for us when we are elderly.

In essence, it is our public services that create and sustain the civilised society in which we live.

The right-wing media and the millionaire politicians of this Coalition government, would have us believe that public services are the enemy. They want to pit private sector against public sector in order to divide and rule.

The real challenge we face is shrinking the growing gap between the richest (who are getting richer) and the poorest (who are getting poorer).

And the only way to achieve this is through tax justice.

If you are on a wage, you don’t have a choice about paying your taxes – they are deducted automatically. Yet, if you are part of the ‘corporate elite’, the richest 1%, and you can afford clever accountants, you can pay less tax than your cleaner!

This country – and the North East in particular – needs an end to austerity.

David Cameron promised that the private sector would ‘pick up the slack’ and replace the jobs he was axing in the public sector. That has not happened.

We need a new agenda of investment, growth and jobs.

We need investment in our public services, our infrastructure and our manufacturing base.

We need growth in the private sector, balanced across all sectors and all regions, not weighted in the banks of the City of London and the South East.

And we need jobs, for all those able to enter training and employment. This government would rather see generations of people in the North East linger on benefits than invest to create work.

I’m delighted to have been invited to speak here today. We must challenge what this government is doing at every point and at every opportunity. Today is part of that agenda.

 

Easington MP accuses Coalition of “running amok” with the NHS

Health select committee member and Labour MP Grahame Morris said that the planned outsourcing of treatments was part of a massive shift towards backdoor privatisation of all public services.

And he predicted that when the full extent of the coalition’s agenda is made clear, ministers will suffer a huge public backlash.

In a Westminster Hall debate spearheaded by the Easington MP on ‘outsourcing to the private sector by government departments’ he claimed politicians were in danger of losing control of public services as the influence of business over public policy was set to rise due to Coalition reforms.

“Ordinary people oppose rapid upheaval and fundamental reforms to public services,” he said.

“Yet this government has run amok with the NHS and forged ahead with public service ‘reform’ and outsourcing at a breakneck speed.”

He insisted that Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude had exposed the government’s real agenda by saying he wanted to  “extend competition in the provision of public services further and faster than ever before” with no bias between public and private sector providers.

Mr Morris said: “His government is out of step with the public on public service reform.

“Whereas ordinary people want public services in public hands for the public good, the government wants public services outsourced to business for the good of private profit.

“Whereas ordinary people want universalism, the government wants to decentralise, remove targets and create local variations and postcode lotteries, going against the idea of standardised and universal access.

“Frontline workers are being treated like pawns in a game of chess facing constant change, reorganisations and regarding at the whim of the political elites.

“Across the public sector, workers know that this latest policy move, towards the mass outsourcing of services and a free-for-all for businesses is the last hurrah.

“It means the end of job security for staff.

“It means the end of nationally determined pay, terms and conditions.”

Mr Morris predicted that under the coalition public services will become “ever more fragmented, unstable and variable offering short-term and risky employment not by the state but by any fly-by-night private outfit.”

He pointed to the contracting out of police services, 999 call centres, benefits administration and road building as the pace of government out-sourcing gathers speed.

“As more services are passed over to the private sector there is also a stark danger that we lose control over our public services altogether,” Mr Morris added

 

MP Calls for National Standards for Prostate Cancer Care

Easington MP Grahame Morris has expressed support for work being undertaken by The Prostate Cancer Charity to identify a national set of standards of quality prostate cancer care.

 After a wide-ranging consultation with people affected by prostate cancer, The Prostate Cancer Charity has compiled a draft set of standards that set out what good quality care looks like. The Charity is now calling on men who have been affected by prostate cancer, their partners and healthcare professionals to provide feedback on the standards, to ensure they reflect the care men with prostate cancer need.

Once finalised, The Prostate Cancer Charity will be working with the Government, health professionals and commissioners to ensure these standards are implemented across the country, so that men everywhere receive the same high quality care – regardless of where they live.

Grahame Morris MP said,

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, which is why I believe it’s essential we know exactly what people affected by the disease require and expect from our health service”

“I am therefore delighted to back calls for national standards of care, and would urge anyone with direct or indirect experience of the disease to feed back on The Prostate Cancer Charity’s draft standards. Men everywhere deserve quality prostate cancer care, and delivering that is what this initiative is all about.”

Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of The Prostate Cancer Charity, said:

“It’s fantastic that Grahame Morris has backed our call, and I look forward working with him over the months ahead to make this a reality”.

“We need national standards of quality prostate cancer care to ensure that healthcare providers and NHS staff know what services and level of care they should be providing to patients. We also need standards to ensure that men who have, or are concerned about, prostate cancer know exactly what level of care and support they are entitled to receive.

“Before we finalise our standards we need to be absolutely clear that they reflect what men with prostate cancer want – which is why we want to hear from as many people with experience of the disease as possible.”

To view and feedback on The Prostate Cancer Charity’s draft standards of quality prostate cancer care visit: www.prostate-cancer.org.uk/takeaction

Save Our Pubs

Grahamemorris BPW3Easington MP Grahame Morris is calling on the Chancellor to save our pubs on the eve of the budget.

The newly elected Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group has called on the Government to cancel the 2% above inflation tax rise on beer in the budget, which would result in a 5-10p hike on the price of a pint in the pub.

Speaking on the eve of the budget, Grahame Morris MP said:

“In the North East pubs are closing at an alarming rate of one every fortnight. Rural pubs, those at the heart of our communities, are being hardest hit closing at a rate of six a week.

Good pubs are essential for healthy communities; they allow people of all ages to socialise in a safe and relaxed environment. They are a social hub especially for smaller more isolated communities”

CAMRA, Campaign For Real Ale, are calling on the Government to take action following research showing that 16 pubs now close across the country on a weekly basis.

In just six years there has been a 30% collapse in the volume of beer sold in pubs as more than 7,000 pubs have closed, with off-sales about to overtake beer sale in pubs for the first time ever.

The UK now has the second highest duty on beer in the European Union, paying on average over £1 in beer duty and VAT for every single pint you buy in the pub.

Mr Morris added:

“High beer taxes are forcing people out of pubs into drinking at home. This is not good for the community as we see more alcohol on our streets.

Supermarkets continue to undermine beer sales in community pubs offering alcohol for as little as 50p a pint. This cannot continue if we are to save our Great British pub.

I ask the Chancellor not to price pubs out of the market – give beer a break and cancel the beer duty rise”

Grahame Morris MP joins The Big Switch to cut energy bills

Easington MP Grahame Morris has backed ‘The Big Switch’ campaign for consumers to get a cheaper deal on their energy bills.

The Big Switch, launched last month by consumer champion Which? and 38 Degrees, is a new way for people to buy their energy. This will be the first time in the UK that a very large number of people will join together as a group to negotiate a deal with energy companies.

Grahame Morris is urging constituents to join the more than 200,000-strong group who have already signed up to The Big Switch, and to use their collective power to try to cut their energy bills and help shake up the market.

Which? has invited all energy companies to take part and will be negotiating with them to secure the cheapest deal. Energy companies will be asked to submit a market leading deal and take part in a reverse auction. If a deal is secured, Which? will contact everyone who signed up with a personalised savings estimate. Which? will handle the switching process, making it as quick and easy as possible.

Grahame Morris, says:

“Soaring energy bills are driving up inflation and contributing to the cost of living crisis afflicting tens of thousands of families across the North East. Labour believes that community action, including collective purchasing, is essential to reforming our energy market, and I am pleased to support the Big Switch campaign.”

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: 

“We know people are really struggling with their bills as household incomes are squeezed so it is encouraging that over 200,000 people are taking action to get a better deal on their energy bills.

“There is still time for people to join The Big Switch to get a cheaper deal so spread the word to your friends and family.”

Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint said:

“Collective switching is a simple but potentially trailblazing way to give people more control over their energy bills. When people come together, they will have more power to negotiate cheaper energy bills with the big energy companies.”

“It sets an exciting precedent which organisations such as local authorities and housing associations could take up to negotiate better energy deals on behalf of their residents. Our energy market needs reform – and people power is the first step.”