September 2014 Report

Parliamentary Business

Bedroom Tax

I joined other Labour MPs in voting against the unfair Bedroom Tax during a debate held in the House of Commons on 5 September.

Despite winning the vote, the bedroom tax will continue to be in place whilst the current government remains in office.

In London alone, over 48,000 people have been affected by this extremely unfair tax, including many Hackney residents. I have seen first-hand how this tax does not work.

Of those that are affected by this unfair tax, two-thirds have disabilities and 60,000 are carers. The average cost for low-income families is £700 a year.

Unfortunately, this vote was on a Private Member’s Bill and as these bills have a very low success rate, the likelihood of it becoming legislation is still low.

I will continue to monitor the bill carefully but that the only way we will see the end of the bedroom tax is with a change in government.

Iraq

On Friday 26 September 2014, I voted alongside 523 other MPs to condemn the barbaric acts of ISIL against the peoples of Iraq and to accept the Iraqi Government’s request for UK military support.

ISIL is an organisation that has clearly shown it does not want to negotiate, neither has it portrayed itself as an organisation that the UK should be negotiating with.

I completely understand that there is deep unease amongst many of my constituents that the UK has once more committed military force in the Middle East.

The decision reached last Friday means we will now be supporting action to prevent the foreseeable and certain killing of Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Christian and Yezidi Iraqis.

Personal Independence Payments

As a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) I have previously looked into the appalling service offered to PIP applicants.

PIPs are supposed to help people with long term health problems or a disability and the amount paid can vary from £21.00 to £138.00 a week. Delays in even getting around to arranging an assessment stand at around six months at present.

On 1 September, I raised this issue with Work and Pensions Minister, Mark Harper MP in the House of Commons. He told me, “The wait for an assessment faced by some claimants is unacceptable. We are committed to putting that right by clearing backlogs and improving processing times.”

Partial figures have since been released but details of the actual plans for ending the backlog and ensuring that reasonable decisions are made quickly and fairly remain unknown. I hope that firm action will now be taken to reduce the level of misery being faced by many vulnerable people.

Adult learning

I spoke at a Westminster Hall Debate on the Funding of Adult learning on 3 September.

There are very real funding problems in the sector at the moment. I was pleased that the debate made the government respond to legitimate concerns being raised by further education college managers and staff all over the country.

Prior to the debate I spoke with many people who directly benefit from adult learning colleges locally.

Read the text of the full debate here.

Other matters

Health and safety at work Act

It is 40 years since the Health and Safety at Work Act was introduced to Parliament by Michael Foot at the beginning of Harold Wilson’s second tenure as Prime Minister.

Many people often talk about “health & safety gone mad”. Regrettably, many of these people are in the current government. The act has however set a number of important minimum standards which have helped to keep workers safe.

The union Prospect has produced a guide which sets out just how important the act has been in stopping dangerous employment practices.

For further information click here.

Cheaper water?

FWAT has published draft proposals that would lead to average bills for water and wastewater being 5 percent lower in real terms (after accounting for inflation) by 2020.

OFWAT is currently consulting with consumer groups and water companies on the final detail. I very much hope that the water companies are not able to reduce the discount that OFWAT has proposed. I will await further developments with interest.

Further evidence for housing crisis

Rocketing house prices and rents in London are a pressing issue for all. I know there are many people locally struggling to afford to buy or rent a home. This directly impacts their ability to work in the city.

London First and Turner and Townsend have worked together on research into public and business perceptions of the housing crisis.

Their surveys found that two out of five employees would consider moving out of London and taking a job in a different city to avoid higher rent or mortgage costs. Almost half of those surveyed said they would consider leaving if house prices continue to rise at present rates over the next ten years.

People in the 25-39 age range are hardest hit by the current lack of affordable housing with 70 per cent of them saying that they find it difficult to live and work locally.

London’s population grows by 100,000 each year and new homes only offer housing for half of them.

London needs to remain a magnet for working families, young professionals and businesses.

The full report makes a number of interesting recommendations as to how housing supply could be increased, and can be found here.

Homophobia in football

Gay campaign group Stonewall launched Rainbow Laces last month to raise awareness of homophobia in football.

Rainbow coloured boot laces were given to every professional football player in the UK to lace up and show support to help end homophobia in football. The campaign is working with the Premier League, the Gay Football Supporters Network, top clubs and others to combat discrimination in the game.

For more information visit.

Football Foundation

In other football news locally, I was delighted that Hackney South and Shoreditch is set to benefit from a £3000.00 grant from the Football Foundation’s Grow the Game scheme.

The grants are for the creation of new football teams and coaching qualifications, with money provided by the Premier League and The FA.

Read On. Get On.

Every child is entitled to a good education, and being able to read well is the foundation. However, almost a quarter of children leaving primary school in the UK leave without reaching the expected level in reading

Children from the poorest backgrounds tend to be most affected by this. It is estimated that, over the next ten years, 1.5 million children will fall behind unless action is taken.

This month a new campaign Read on, Get On is being launched by a coalition of charities, language experts, teachers, and businesses to get every child reading well at age 11 by 2025.

Children who cannot read well by the age of 11 are far more likely to have poor literacy as adults, and their lives and earning prospects will therefore be held back.

There are a variety of complex reasons why people struggle with reading. Read On, Get On has some interesting proposals that could make a real difference.

For further details visit.
Find the report on the campaign here.

Hackney Issues

Hackney Transport 2014-2024

Hackney Council is consulting on proposals for its transport strategy for the next ten years.

Now is your chance to influence the council’s plans at an early stage. The plan does not just cover roads but pedestrian and cycle routes as well as public transport. Further information can be found here.

Big Lottery Funds awards

The National Lottery is awarding £5,866,500 in Hackney to tackle social isolation amongst older people. Hackney is one of 15 areas across the country to receive funding through the National Lottery ‘Ageing Better’ scheme which will help up to 200,000 individuals affected by this issue.

Social isolation can have detrimental effects on health and wellbeing, and the stigmatization around the issue is persistent. Research cited by the Ageing Better scheme found the mortality risk of social isolation is comparable to that of smoking. Between 6% and 13% of people aged over 65 say they feel ‘always’ or ‘very’ lonely, and this is projected to increase by nearly 50% in the next 20 years.

With these considerations in mind, schemes such as Ageing Better are paramount for the benefit of the ageing population.

The money will be awarded to Hackney CVS which is Hackney’s leading voluntary and community sector support agency. I am encouraged to hear that this will facilitate services for older people and prioritise decisions shaped by their needs and interests.

394 Bus Route Proposals

Transport for London has been consulting on possible changes to the 394 bus route. Essentially, the proposals will stop the bus running along Amhurst Road, Dalston Lane, Lower Clapton Road and Urswick Road.

Instead it will be re-routed via Morning Lane and Ponsford Street. Affected passengers will be able to use the 276, 425 and 488.
Further details can be found here.

Mossbourne Victoria Park Academy

The second Mossbourne School opened on the former Cardinal Pole Lower School site at the beginning of September.

I wish all pupils and staff the very best.

Cycle Superhighways

The deadline for TfL’s consultations on the east-west and north-south cycle superhighways has been extended to November.

Information can be found on the TfL website about how the predicted changes will impact commuter journeys.

Please send your views on the proposed routes by Sunday 9 November by visiting:
East West.
North South.

The Listening Project

From July to late September, Hackney police worked this project which is designed to bring the police closer to local communities.

In Hackney, police officers created a series of events designed to give local people a closer look at the way the police work.

Using parks in the neighbourhood including Hackney Downs, Shoreditch and Haggerston; Hackney wardens allowed members of the public to climb into CCTV vans and see how Hackney Council use them to keep crime down. Hackney Homes also participated.

Since the change in neighbourhood policing I have been concerned about the links between police and communities.

I hope that this initiative will continue and that the police and local community will be able to continue to work together for the benefit of everybody locally.

I continue to press the Metropolitan Police Commissioner on neighbourhood policing which was a real boost to Hackney.

Haggerston station forthcoming works

TfL is extending London Overground trains from four to five carriages.

As part of an in improvement plan in Hackney, platforms one and two in Haggerston station will have work done to accommodate these longer trains by the end of this year. It will increase capacity by 25 percent and reduce crowding across the network.

Feeding Britain’s Future Initiative

Earlier this month I visited the Tesco superstore on Morning Lane to attend a careers training event.

Tesco has been working with the IDG Feeding Britain’s Future initiative, which encourages food retailers and manufacturers to open their doors and provide free employability workshops for young unemployed people.

The day consisted of informal discussions on employability, and practical advice sessions, how to complete online application forms, and common interview questions.

The initiative was aimed at young unemployed adults aged 18-24. In Hackney South and Shoreditch 7.6 per cent of young people aged 18-24 are on job seekers allowance.

This is above the rates for London (6 per cent) and the UK (7 per cent). I hope that the efforts made by the initiative will aid in combatting this issue, and that it was a beneficial day for all that attended.

Anti-Burglary Kits

Hackney Council has funded the purchase of Smartwater kits for residents of Kingsland Road, Dalston Lane, Tudor Grove, Tudor Road and Graham Road.

Residents can sign up for the free liquid pack which cannot be seen by the naked eye but which will enable police and other law enforcement agencies to trace stolen goods.