The candidates who will form Labour’s majority in 2015 – outline what they would put on the statute book, in their Alternative Queen’s Speech:
By Kate Godfrey | @KateVotesLabour
So now we have the Queen’s speech for 2013, and so far so timid. Together, the coalition brought in 15 bills and four draft measures, and very little of substance among them. The coalition is place-holding, concentrating on social tinkering as a substitute for economic policy.
As divisions between Lib Dem and Tory, Tory centre and Tory right play out, Whitehall is lapsing into lethargy. The legislative program is getting thinner, scraped away at to avoid exposing conflicts of interest, and with the coalition bickering their way to 2013 we’re paying the cost in missed growth. The only economically substantive stimulus in this year’s speech was HS2 – a project initiated by a Labour government.
And government is doing, they are generally doing wrong.
Take housing as an example. Help to Buy may have been included, but it isn’t what’s needed. We need a housing bill which stimulates construction, not the unreachable prices on existing stock; a long-term rental market supported by new rights for tenants, not deposit support to tempt banks reluctant to lend. We need three times the housing stock currently being constructed each year; new rights for local councils and public bodies to use their land banks for new models of social development; a focus on flexible design to ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s. We ought to encourage sustainable construction instead of holding back on it, helping to bring down housing costs over time.
We don’t just need the living wage, we need affordable living.
And we need to stop thinking of housing failure as purely a product of the planning system. Analysis carried out by the Local Government Association in September 2012 found that local authorities had granted planning permission on 400,000 houses and flats that developers had yet to build.
Help to Buy may provide artificial bridging for housing values – but this is still money that needs to be repaid over time and it does nothing to make good-quality affordable housing the right that it ought to be. For all of the Queen’s subjects.
You can read the rest of the Alternative Queen's speech on Progress' website.
By Rowan Draper
At the 2013 County Council elections Labour set out a positive alternative of 5 key pledges in opposition to the Conservative group whose only lines to the electorate came from desperation to hold on to thr Council and their desire to increase council tax over the next four years.
Labour's positive message resonated on the doorsteps for many voters who called for change at the Council seeing the colossal increase of 21 seats taking Conservative and UKIP members away from County Buildings.
One such scalp was Cabinet Member Liz Staples from the East Staffs Horninglow and Stretton
Staffordshire Labour welcomed back John Taylor who is expected to be elected Leader of the Group in subsequent meetings. It also welcomed Cannock Leader George Adamson, Cabinet Member Diane Todd, former Staffs Moorlands MP Charlotte Atkins and former Cannock PPC Sue Woodward.
In battleground Stafford, Labour took three key seats in Stafford Central, North and West with Borough Councillors Ian Hollinshead and Trish Rowlands becoming County Councillors for the first time. Former Borough Council Leisure Cabinet Member and Central County Councillor Maureen Compton also fought off opposition from the Tories and UKIP to regain her seat lost in 2009.
Elsewhere: notable seats that Staffordshire Labour will look to gain in 2017 will be the Keele, Knutton and Silverdale division, with Newcastle Leader Gareth Snell losing out by two votes after three recounts, and Burntwood South with Lichfield Labour Leader Steven Norman beating former independent Councillor Paul Atkins but just coming short of a Labour gain.
One thing is certain: with Labour losing no seats to UKIP, and whose star is rising with the local electorate; Staffordshire Labour should look to gain ground now with its one nation message, listening to voters and changing how politics is done, and hold the Conservative group to account.
But in 2015 there should be a number of MPs worried about the rise of Labour in Staffordshire: Aidan Burley, Jeremy Lefroy and Andrew Griffiths - as Labour readies itself for conflict in these 2015 Battleground seats.
After collecting hundreds of signatures in the “Support Stafford Hospital” shop, the day we had been planning for the march arrived. The 20th April was to be a momentous day for everyone who all had one goal which was to Support Stafford Hospital and to send a clear message that we did not want the hospital downgraded. I was in Market Square early to watch people gathering with their banners, listening to the music being played.
There was a real sense of a collective purpose. People spoke to strangers who became friends and marvelled at the ingenuity of children and adults alike in creating their colourful and poignant banners. Banners called for Support for Stafford Hospital and others indicated the time it would take to get to Stoke and Wolverhampton hospitals. There was considerable support for the staff at Stafford Hospital, many of whom were marching. Every group in Stafford and beyond were marching and though the outcome is uncertain, we were positive that we had expressed our views.
A group of us were marching under the banner “Stafford Labour Party supports Stafford Hospital” and it took six of us to hold it up. We have been involved in the campaign right from the beginning and spent many hours in the shop. The NHS was founded by a Labour Government in 1948 so it is very close to our hearts. The fact that we can all access its services for free is a concept which many people in other countries would like to have. We have been the envy of the world.
Today was a celebration of everyone in Stafford coming together to express support for the hospital and those who work in it. The proposal to downgrade A&E and remove critical care and maternity from Stafford led to everyone on the march determined to say that that cannot happen. And the numbers marching exceeded 30,000.
The Administrator needs to listen; the Government needs to listen and the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP needs to make the right decision for Stafford.
Rowan Draper writes:
"Equal Marriage isn't about civil liberties, it isn't about the redefinition of marriage or the waning influence of organised religion. It's simple. It's about being on the right side of history. It's about being able to look your son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson or grand-daughter in the face and say I believe in your fundamental right to love who you want and to be accepted by society with your love.
Our laws are best when they are redefined to fit the society we live in. It's why we don't murder people for working on the Sabbath or support slavery. Opponents of equal marriage talk about how we don't need to redefine marriage yet the current definition of marriage has undergone no less than three redefinitions enabling non-Christians to marry and removing the ability for under 16s to marry (http://www.freedomtomarry.org.uk). They'll also tell you that marriage is based on the pro-creative nature of a man or a woman yet aren't arguing over the definition of marriage for heterosexual couples who cannot conceive.
My local MP and many others argued in the debate for protections for people of faith to be able to express their beliefs in a workplace setting, and in schools, of a heterosexual concept of marriage without fear of reprisal. It is not acceptable to argue for greater freedoms, than anyone else, for those who practice religion. Schools and institutions of learning should be free from religious indoctrination, with families providing guidance and teaching in their chosen faith if they so wish it, but education should be about facts not fiction or faith. Workplaces should not allow any form of hatred or discrimination be it racist, sexist, ageist, (dis)ablist, based on your political affiliation, membership of a trade union, or your sexuality.
I am disappointed that Jeremy will oppose Equal Marriage, and thought that a fair compromise given his beliefs would be to abstain from the vote, because marriage equality is something that we as elected representatives should support in a fair and progressive society. Couples who love one another and are willing to marry should not be prevented in celebrating their union and strengthening the institution of marriage with their commitment. I hope he takes the time to consider what message this will send both to younger, and fairer minded, people in the constituency as well as the LGBT community and re-consider his decision."
- Ed Miliband and Labour's Shadow Cabinet are set, with over 200 colleagues, to vote to secure Equal Marriage in Parliament tonight.
Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham MP, gave what is being regarded by clinicians as the most important recent speech on the NHS. This speech heralds an entirely new vision for the NHS, and he outlines:
The mantra is that early intervention makes all the difference. But it is rarely a reality in a system that doesn’t have prevention at its heart.
If we leave things as they are, carers of young and old will continue to feel the frustration of dealing with services which don’t provide what they really need, that don’t see the whole-person.
They won’t provide the quality people want.
But nor will they be financially sustainable in this century.
For One Nation Labour, this is crucial. Protecting the institutions that bind us together, like the NHS – the expression of what we can achieve together when everyone plays their part.
Watch the video below:
It seems only a short time ago that I reported that Councillor Winnington agreed to supply me with a copy of the business plan for the new County HQ in Tipping Street, which he said was not a secret and would be made available. Well I'm still waiting.
In the meantime, I have received another anonymous letter that suggests the air replacement system for the building is less than perfect. Let me quote you parts part of the letter I have received, "Staff are sitting in outdoor fleeces, fingerless gloves and scarves, not to mention hot water bottles at their backs, to counter the cold."
In other words some parts of the large open plan offices are cold in one place and hot in another. It seems that the system sucks outside into the building and blazing fire and number events in each concrete floor to maintain room temperature. The county council claims that the system operates at a temperature of both of 21c, which is well above the 16c required by law for office working.
However, it is also seems clear that members of staff are suffering called conditions. I have been told that the air events are covered over with paper files to reduce the cold draughts. Let me quote again: "Staff go in to work with chest infections, coughing and spluttering sickness bugs, sharing them with their colleagues.
Councillor Winnington said that staff sickness was significantly down, due, in his opinion, to the good working office environment, but I pointed out that staff might be reluctant to complain because of concerns about the 2000+ redundancies which are due in 2013. My anonymous writer explained people are scared to go off work sick because it becomes a formal warning in no time at all, onto the Bradford Score Policy, a formula devised By human resource personnel to measure and absenteeism amongst office staff, which sees workers rapidly not up negative points for a series of sure absences. I only visited the third floor, where the chief executive officer has his office, and saw only one person wearing a woman cardigan. I should have visited every floor, as there are variations within the system across large open plan offices. It might be useful for the county CEO just visit every floor I'm gauge personal concerns for himself. Now there's a novel idea.
Councillor Malcolm Millichap
I would like to thank Mr. Washington for his reply, published on 20th December and 10th January, and offer a clear response to the substantive questions he poses in his letter:
He is right to acknowledge that the Living Wage does affect a smaller demographic of employees because many salaried positions are paid above the Living Wage. This policy directly affects hourly paid workers on the bottom of the ladder and will make a real difference to their lives as the cost of living continues to rise. He should also note some supermarkets pay their Chief Executives 500 times more than the people you interact with every week on the shop floor. This is hardly supply and demand. It cannot be right, and it must be addressed, and that is why the Living Wage enjoys cross party support from the Leaders in Westminster.
In my unedited letter, available at www.littleworthlabour.org, I acknowledged two local authorities within the West Midlands who have approved the Living Wage policy and agenda: Bromsgrove and Wyre Forest as I understand the dilemma for working people is not only faced by London people alone but by workers across the country who find themselves having to find more money for the rising cost of bills with stagnating wages and a depressed labour market.
The Greater London Authority calculates the London Living Wage, currently set at £8.55, as opposed to The Living Wage currently set at £7.45 per hour calculated in the UK by the Centre for Research in Social Policy on the basic cost of living not only on housing costs.
However when government is forced to subsidise employment through tax credits, and other in work benefits, to employees of private sector companies to live and support themselves and their family it is clear acknowledgement that we are not a free market as his letter seems to suggest. What he, and the Conservatives at Stafford Borough Council, have missed from this debate is the question of priorities. It is up to responsible employers to find ways to pay for the Living Wage – if they choose to – and I can only hope that more come on board sooner rather than later.
David Lammy MP for Tottenham recently explained that why paying the Living Wage would be good for the Treasury saying: “a recent report by the Resolution Foundation and the Institute for Public Policy Research estimated that widespread use of a living wage could save the Government £2 billion a year. About £3.6 billion of the extra money paid out in higher wages under a universal living wage would go straight to the government, in the form of extra income tax and national insurance payments, along with reduced spending on benefits and tax credits for the lowest-paid. As some of those workers would be in the public sector, their wages would cost the Government an extra £1.3 billion. However, that would still leave the Treasury with an extra net income of £2 billion”.
I agree with him that the country does need faster job creation as there are still too many people struggling to find work but he also must also recognise that this is the fault of the government and not the private sector. The government is failing to get the banks lending to small and medium enterprises, failing job seekers by introducing schemes where you’re more likely to find work by not being on the scheme, failing to deliver a plan for jobs and growth and failing to reduce government spending.
We need more money in people’s pockets, stability in jobs, and businesses competing for our economy to thrive – not rock bottom wages, job cuts and a government that rewards the wrong people. We need a government that delivers for everyone, not just those at the top, and we don’t have that with David Cameron’s re-launched Conservative coalition.
Councillor Rowan Draper