This week is National Apprenticeship Week. Apprenticeships are really important, a fact we recognised in Government when apprenticeships, which had fallen out of fashion, increased from 70,000 in 1997 to quarter of a million in 2010. This Government has proclaimed “apprenticeships, apprenticeships, apprenticeships” but the rhetoric is not always matched by reality. I’ve met and talked to apprentices from pharmaceuticals to fishing and I’ve seen some good practice including “buddying up”. Buddying up is where big companies take on apprentices to ensure a future supply for smaller companies and supply chains, such as Accenture supporting small IT companies. There are however problems including SME’s accessing apprenticeships and attracting younger applicants. There’s also concern for youngsters for whom apprenticeships may be a big step. Take the Northumbria Youth Action project in North Shields. They have around 100 young people on their books. Most have struggled at school and learning in a workplace environment comes as a relief for them and probably for their school. Others arrive as former NEET’s. They begin a study programme to get them work ready and some go on to apprenticeships. Yet small successful projects often find accessing funding difficult. They also face new T Levels which focus on classroom learning, often the reason they struggled at school. On top of that the Education Skills Funding Agency sometimes tends to micromanage. Apprenticeships are crucial but they, and some of the smaller providers, need to be valued.
This week is National Apprenticeship Week. Apprenticeships are really important, a fact we recognised in Government when apprenticeships, which had fallen out of fashion, increased from 70,000 in 1997 to...
If you see anyone rough sleeping ring Streetlink who will come out. You can call their 24hr hotline on 0300 500 0914
If you see anyone rough sleeping ring Streetlink who will come out. You can call their 24hr hotline on 0300 500 0914
Governments often spend their first term blaming their predecessors but after that governing gets harder. So in recent times Ministers can be seen heading to the Commons either to make a statement or usually answer an urgent question on the latest departmental failure. Some even seem surprised by the outcome of their actions. If private companies like Carillion were given further contracts even after multiple profit warnings is it entirely surprising that when they collapse public services are at risk? If police cuts mean fewer officers does that not explain why crime is rising again? When the forensic science service was privatised and then some of those private companies fail isn’t it obvious that criminal convictions may be jeopardised? If the NHS is denied the funding it needs are winter crises really a surprise? And when grants to councils are cut including money for weekly bin collections is it a shock if those services have to be reviewed or cut? Some may argue, despite the evidence, that it will be alright in the end. The Brexiteers who say ignore the Governments own regional impact assessments fall into that category. There are those – often the same people actually – who think there’s plenty of the state left to cut and it’s fun to do so for ideological reasons irrespective of risk. But there’s always a price to be paid and as the gambling ads say when the fun stops, stop.
Governments often spend their first term blaming their predecessors but after that governing gets harder. So in recent times Ministers can be seen heading to the Commons either to make...
This week the House of Commons debated the annual police grant. The background to policing and crime has changed significantly in recent years and not for the better. Northumbria Police have lost £136 million since 2010 with a reduction of 942 officers. That’s 23% fewer officers over the same period that official figures show a 25% increase in overall recorded crime.
As the Office for National Statistics says, crime is not a common experience for most people though the statistics reflect just recorded crime, and we know not all crimes are reported or recorded. But the most recent figures go far beyond changes in recording. Burglary is up, vehicle related crime is up, shoplifting is up and, mainly in London and the Metropolitan areas, knife crime and gun crime are up. There have been falls in some IT based crime, reminiscent of the way better security technology reduced car theft, but that fails to mask the overall increase.
This year’s police grant fails to rise to the challenge. Police forces could see an extra £270 million – but it’s not new money and will only happen if the precept – a local tax – goes up. The increases in funding for new technology and counter terrorism are neither enough nor are they likely to reach our region. Police forces cannot drain their reserves further and still be prepared for emergencies. Our police forces need proper funding, the crime figures show we cannot wait.
This week the House of Commons debated the annual police grant. The background to policing and crime has changed significantly in recent years and not for the better. Northumbria Police...
25th January 2018
Now that the EU Withdrawal Bill has passed its Commons stages and goes to the Lords, the Commons is reverting back to a familiar weekly pattern with a day of debate inspired by backbenchers.
Whether last Thursday’s backbench debate on banking was the game changer being claimed, time will tell. The motion was about RBS’s Global Restructuring Group and SME’s, though the debate ranged more widely than just one bank. At the heart of the motion was the proposition that several banks deliberately managed the closure of businesses to suit the banks interests – a claim made in the Tomlinson Report set up to investigate what happened. Calling in loans and selling off assets, it is alleged, recapitalised the banks and made income for the banks plus the professional advisors involved in the process. The clients were left powerless and facing huge debts. Some of their stories are harrowing. I raised two constituency cases but there are many more. I also pressed the Minister to say if there is criminality involved, where are the resources to allow the police to investigate properly.
The Treasury Minister acknowledged the harm done to businesses and to trust in the banks. He said he would examine the case for an independent tribunal system. We need that; we also need regulators with teeth. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and they need a banking system working with them and not against them.
25th January 2018 Now that the EU Withdrawal Bill has passed its Commons stages and goes to the Lords, the Commons is reverting back to a familiar weekly pattern with...
Hearing the words NHS winter crisis, as we enter the 70th Anniversary year of the NHS, cynics may ask what is different about this winter. There is however evidence that this winter crisis is worse than usual though Government data delays mean the scale may not be evident until much later in the year. I am relieved that our local Trust, unlike others, has been able to keep bed occupancy levels at a safe level. It’s down to hard pressed staff including managers, that this has been possible but my visit last week brought home how difficult things are. The Norovirus and flu are having a devastating effect, with pressure on beds, limits on visiting and cancelled operations. This crisis was foreseeable and, indeed, foreseen. The progress of “Aussie” flu had been tracked since mid-2017; Norovirus is not unprecedented. Underlying causes however turned big challenges into a full blown crisis. Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust kept bed occupancy levels safe but cuts meant 150 fewer beds in the last five years, making the challenge much more difficult. The Government was warned early last year that a Winter Fund was needed but waited until the end of the year before coming up with any additional funding, which then proved to be too little too late. A better NHS needs resources as well as reform or warm words so the Government needs to put their money where their mouth is.
Hearing the words NHS winter crisis, as we enter the 70th Anniversary year of the NHS, cynics may ask what is different about this winter. There is however evidence that...
2017 saw the passing of actor Rodney Bewes who as Bob in 'The Likely Lads' helped put our area on the comedy map. He famously asked Terry what epitaph he wanted. Terry's response was 'None the bloody wiser'. I have to admit that after writing twelve months ago that I hoped for greater clarity on Brexit those words seem appropriate. There were fleeting grounds for optimism. On my suggestion we forced the Government to publish their Brexit Impact Assessments only to be told they didn't really exist. Let's hope for better in 2018.
We should find out what fishing looks like post the Common Fisheries Policy. I hope 2018 sees the end of the Urgent Care Centre saga and that patients can access the treatment they want where they want it. And I finally look forward in June to the opening of the regenerated Spanish City. It's been a long time in coming but having toured the site recently it looks like being well worth the wait.
The enduring images of 2017 include the terrorist attacks on Westminster, Manchester and elsewhere as well as the terrible tragedy of Grenfell. So let me first wish you a safe and peaceful 2018. And thank you to everyone across our communities who work hard, who do their bit, to make our area a great place to live and work. I look forward to working with you in the year ahead.
Happy New Year!
2017 saw the passing of actor Rodney Bewes who as Bob in 'The Likely Lads' helped put our area on the comedy map. He famously asked Terry what epitaph he...
There’s always a lot going on across our communities in the run up to Christmas. Carol services, Christmas lights, office parties and ringing shop tills are the face of Christmas today. But there’s also a hidden side of Christmas. My former colleague Jo Cox drew attention to loneliness, not just at Christmas but particularly at Christmas. Calling in on your neighbour would be in the spirit of Christmas. Snow falling as a Salvation Army Band plays carols may be part of a Christmas scene, less obvious is the important work the Salvation Army does to keep the homeless warm and fed. Many church members can be seen organising church services, but maybe not noticed as much when volunteering at a foodbank or as Street Pastors.
USDAW’s excellent “Keep Your Cool” campaign reminds us that queues in shops may be frustrating but that’s no excuse for being uncivil or even threatening to hardworking shop workers. Also feeling the pressure are the police, firefighters, doctors, nurses and council gritters for whom Christmas is just another working day and another day when public sector workers feel undervalued and facing cutbacks. So there is another face of Christmas and it’s not Bah Humbug to point it out.
Enjoy the festivities but let’s also celebrate the strength of our local community. And don’t forget the Boxing Day Pudding Run on the Links organised by North Shields Polytechnic and raising money for Woodlawn School, a great cause.
There’s always a lot going on across our communities in the run up to Christmas. Carol services, Christmas lights, office parties and ringing shop tills are the face of Christmas...
The test of a modern budget seems to be whether it survives past the weekend before it falls apart. In that respect the Chancellor probably gets to keep his job, but his lack of ambition means others may lose theirs.
Some of the measures are welcome. The alcohol duty freeze and pub business rate changes are responses to popular campaigns. More money for the NHS is always welcome but the truth is there’s more money for Brexit preparations in this budget than the NHS. Easing Universal Credit rules are also a step forward but many will still wait too long for help and debts will rise.
The devil is in the detail. Growth is set to fall and people in work as well as out of work will continue to see their incomes fall. The reality is the Chancellor needed to go much further in investment, end austerity and tackle the economic uncertainty arising from Brexit.
The country needs a step change in economic thinking. We need more support for small businesses, not just this weekend on Small Business Saturday but every day. We need to support local foodbanks over the next few tough months but we need jobs that pay decent wages in the first place. And while I welcome the North of Tyne devolution deal we need to go further in devolving more resources and powers, closer to the people and businesses we serve.
The test of a modern budget seems to be whether it survives past the weekend before it falls apart. In that respect the Chancellor probably gets to keep his job,...
Consider the humble prawn, on many shopping lists and menus and the mainstay of the fishing industry in North Shields, England’s biggest prawn port.
Fishing is one of the most emotive and important parts of the Brexit debate. In fact exiting the Common Fisheries Policy was discussed long before the referendum but there was little in the way of planning. Different regions have different priorities. In the South West taking control of a 200 mile limit could keep out French and Spanish boats. For the North East prawn fishery a 12 mile limit would probably suffice and visiting boats are likely to be Scottish or Northern Irish.
But catching fish is just part of the issue. More than 90% of prawns landed at North Shields are taken by lorry for sale on the Continent. The prawns are not processed or frozen, they are fresh and have to be delivered within 5 days. So access to markets is vital and exporters would not welcome additional bureaucracy, licences or tariffs. Some Brexiteers argue Europeans would simply have to buy our prawns whatever, but that’s a theory I would not like to see tested.
This week in Parliament, Labour Friends of Fishing was launched to make sure the voices of our fishing communities are heard. The fishing industry was sold out by one Conservative Government on entry to Europe, we need to make sure it’s not sold out by another on exit.
Consider the humble prawn, on many shopping lists and menus and the mainstay of the fishing industry in North Shields, England’s biggest prawn port. Fishing is one of the...