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CONTENTS

Brexit Bill and next steps 
Tackling Flytipping
Constituency Update

Shadow Work and Pensions Update
Burnham for Mayor - The strong and experienced voice for Greater Manchester
Parliamentary Business
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News from
Debbie Abrahams MP

For Oldham East and Saddleworth

February 2017

fDear <<First Name>> <<Last Name>>

This is the Feburary edition of my e-newsletter. 

This edition contains information on the Brexit Bill, fly-tipping, constituency and parliamentary updates. 

For more regular news you can like my page on Facebook, follow me on twitter @Debbie_abrahams or visit my website at www.debbieabrahams.org.uk  

Debbie Abrahams MP
Brexit Bill and next steps
I didn’t support the Leave campaign but I, and Labour, accept the referendum result and have stated that we will not frustrate the Article 50 process. I believe that there will still be dark days ahead because of the decision to leave the EU, but I think trust in politics and politicians would plummet to new lows if we fail to accept the result of the Referendum. I therefore voted for the EU Bill at Third Reading; but that does not mean I will give the Government a blank cheque. Labour will hold the Government to account throughout the Brexit process and fight for the best possible Brexit deal – one that prioritises jobs, the economy and workers’ rights.

During the passage of the Bill we argued for three pillars of Parliamentary accountability over Brexit: a White Paper setting out a basic plan; regular reporting to Parliament on progress in negotiations; and a meaningful vote in Parliament on the Article 50 deal. Due to our pressure, the Government made concessions on these points. We now must ensure that the Government delivers on their promises. The risk of a 'hard' Brexit to our economy and jobs cannot be underestimated. People are already struggling now; a hard Brexit will make it much, much worse and the poorest will be hardest hit. Shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer visited Oldham in May as part of his UK-wide tour to speak to voters about immigration and I look forward to inviting him again to discuss Brexit.  Read more here.
Tackling fly-tipping 
The number of cases I have received from constituents on fly-tipping has seen a marked increase in the last two years. I understand the frustration about the condition of some parts of the borough and the real impact this can have on people and their local neighbourhoods.

Although I lay much blame on the Government as our public services have been decimated, I also recognise rubbish doesn’t just appear. In some areas, people have behaved in a way which is contrary to the standards of other local residents and this has caused offence. Clearly this has to be stopped. But we also need to do more to make sure that people new to an area get to know their neighbours and what is expected of them; landlords also need to take some responsibility. I’m trying to play my part as well and will be working with the Council and others to tackle this issue. It is important we have streets and neighbourhoods that people can be proud of.                     

Constituency Update
Alongside my regular constituency surgeries, it's been a busy time in the constituency. 

I have hit out at the Government’s decision to make further cuts to Oldham’s local government funding. Analysis of the Local Government Finance Settlement by the Local Government Association reveal that in Oldham a cut of £10.11m every year in Revenue Support Grant is scheduled. There are 1.2 million elderly people who are living without the care they need. The Government have no new ideas on how to fund social care, and are just passing the buck to overstretched local authorities and council tax payers. The Government need a long-term, sustainable and strategic vision for social care. Frail elderly people and vulnerable disabled people are suffering right now because of this government’s inaction. Read more here.


This month, Oldham politicians, faith groups and individuals stood together at a special meeting held at Oldham Parish Church to discuss recent events in America particularly the travel ban imposed by US President, Donald Trump, on seven, mainly Muslim, countries. In the same week we marked the Holocaust, to introduce such a discriminatory policy, alienating people based on their religion is not just ironical but abhorrent. It was great that all major faiths were represented at the Church alongside many local groups. Myself, Council Leader Jean Stretton, fellow MPs Angela Rayner and Jim McMahon, the Interfaith Forum and local groups also produced a joint statement which can be read here.

I was delighted to speak at a book launch which captures the life stories of Oldham residents with dementia, and their carers at Oldham Library. ‘Life Story Work with People with Dementia: Ordinary lives, Extraordinary people’ explores the life story approach to helping to care for people with dementia and how it all began in Oldham. The life story approach involves care staff working with carers and relatives of a person with dementia to build up a knowledge and understanding of the individual’s background.

It originated in Oldham when resident Alice Holt was diagnosed with dementia and her husband, Ken, wrote down Alice’s life story for care home staff, as he recognised how important it was for staff to know about her background. Polly Kaiser, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Pennine Care, worked with Ken to establish the Life Story Network and was an editor on this book, along with Ruth Eley. I was delighted to be part of this launch. Good luck to all involed with the book - it really is a must read! More here.


I was delighted to attend the Saddleworth Peace Vigil where the community came together to remember all those affected by war and conflict. I took part in a silent vigil in Uppermill followed by a gathering at Uppermill Methodist Church. Thank you to all the organisers for another successful event and all their hard work and for putting it together. 

 

Shadow Work and Pensions update
As ever, there has been a great deal of work in Parliament particularly in my role as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.

Conservative ministers have introduced emergency legislation which denies 160,000 people from receiving social security payments that are rightfully theirs. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was advised to expand the reach of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) by two tribunals to cover a broader spectrum of claimants, including those with psychological problems. The Tories have shifted the goalposts as 160,000 people are set to miss out. Instead of listening to the court's criticisms of personal independence payment assessments and correcting these injustices, the Government has instead decided to undermine the legal basis of the rulings. This is an unprecedented attempt to subvert an independent tribunal judgement by a government with contempt for judicial process. Disability charity Scope called the move 'concerning' and said it could mean disabled claimants lose their independence. Read more here.

The Government published its long-awaited ‘Improving Lives: Work, Health and Disability’ Green Paper at the end of October 2016 after originally promising a White Paper in 2015. The White Paper was supposed to define how disabled people would be supported into work and meet the Government’s manifesto pledge of halving the disability employment gap of 34% by 2020; currently it stands at 32%. In particular, the Bill announced cuts of approximately £1,500 a year in Employment and Support Allowance to half a million people in the Work-Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG) – those people who had been found not fit for work, but who may be in the future – to be introduced in April 2017. 

The Green Paper makes the bold claim that ‘…employment can…promote recovery.’ The issue I have with this statement, and the tone of the Green Paper as a whole, is that this implies that disabled people and people with chronic conditions would recover if only they tried a bit harder, or their doctors weren’t such soft touches. But even the conclusion of the United Nations inquiry that the UK Government has been responsible for ‘grave…systematic violations’ of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since 2010, has been met with Government stonewalling. Labour will hold this Conservative Government to account on all these areas, developing meaningful, alternative, approaches with disabled people, employees, and employers as part of our Disability Equality Roadshow. Read more here.


I appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme earlier this month to criticise the Government’s plans to cut the widowed parent’s allowance from April this year. I appeared on the programme alongside Ros Sobotnicki and Georgia Elms, Chairwomen of Widowed and Young. Both women have been left to raise young children as single parents following the deaths of their husbands. From April this year widowed parent’s allowance payments will only last for 18 months. At the moment when a spouse or civil partner dies there is a £2,000 tax free sum then a monthly payment of £487 which is taxed. The widowed parent’s allowance will impact on child poverty. We know that three quarters of the parents who are bereaved and their children, around forty thousand were affected in 2015, will lose, on average, about £17,000 and this compounds the grief that they’re experiencing. It really is a new low for the Government and I will be pushing them hard on this unfair policy. 

The Government’s policy to limit tax credits to two children is simply wrong, as we argued during the passage of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.  This Government policy seeks to impose a limit on family size that applies only to poor families. For over a year now the Government have failed to adequately explain how they will develop protections for women who have a third child as the result of rape, or other exceptional circumstances.It is fundamentally wrong to include a rape clause in our social security system. This and the wider impact of the two-child policy on the poorest again busts the myth of the Government’s support for families. I will continue to push them hard on this unfair policy.

Plans to shut job centres across the country have been revealed. The Tories announced they want to merge staff and facilities from 78 smaller Jobcentre Plus offices into larger ones. the closures are reckless at best and perverse at worst. Only this government’s distorted austerity agenda could lead to such contradictory policies. Either the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing, or they are both acting together to make working people’s lives harder. This Tory Government’s decision to close job centres across the country shows they are not serious about helping people to find decent, secure and well-paid work.

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Burnham for Mayor - The strong, experienced voice for Greater Manchester

On May 4th 2017 you will be able to vote for the first elected Mayor of Greater Manchester. The new Greater Manchester Mayor is not just another civic role. The candidate we select will almost certainly go on to represent Greater Manchester on the national and world stage.

We need someone with the leadership skills and experience and someone with the integrity of Labour’s Andy Burnham to hold such a position. That’s why I am backing Andy Burnham, a fellow Greater Manchester MP, to be Mayor. Andy will be a strong voice for Greater Manchester, fighting for a fair deal for Oldham and Greater Manchester and arguing our case to the Government - whether it’s on improvements to our transport system, investment in our health and social care services or housing for our young people. Find out our more here: www.burnhamformayor.co.uk 


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Parliamentary business

As a member of the Shadow Cabinet, I am more restricted in what I can raise on the floor of the House. However, I have had a number of meetings in Parliament in recent weeks.

I have thrown my weight behind a campaign to challenge the Government’s plan to cut schools’ funding by £3bn in real terms by 2020.The campaign - at www.schoolcuts.org.uk - estimate that under the Government’s new funding formula 98% of schools could lose out leading to increased class sizes, loss of school staff, and cuts to extra-curricular activities and resources. I have also written to Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Education, following a meeting last May with Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP, alongside Oldham colleagues Angela Rayner MP and Jim McMahon MP to discuss the challenges schools are facing in their constituencies. 

I’ve asked Justine Greening to tell me what discussions she’s having with her Treasury colleagues about additional funding for schools ahead of the Budget on 8th March, so we can be sure that all schools in Oldham East and Saddleworth, across Oldham and indeed around the country, have the funding needed to provide an excellent education for every child.


The Government had been expected to take 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees in from camps in Europe but instead closed the scheme after 350. Ministers said they believe the scheme was acting as an “incentive” for children to travel to Europe as refugees. There was a growing number of child refugees returning to northern France to sleep rough because of the closure of the so-called Dubs scheme, which gave lone children a legal chance of asylum in the UK. This Tory Government has really sunk to a new low. I believe as a country we want to help people when they are in the direst of situations and it shocking the government had turned its back on this children who need our help most. 

Our NHS and social care services are facing disaster if it doesn't get more funding. A report from AGE UK  shows grim analysis that hundreds of thousands of over 65's are not getting the essential help they need. Age UK says that social care in England is living on 'borrowed time' and without an emergency injection of funds in next month’s Budget faces disaster. We have already seen how  ministers were prepared to offer a sweetheart deal to Conservative-led Surrey council to avoid a local referendum on raising taxes to fund social care. We will continue to hold the Government to account on this matter.

To read all my contributions in Parliament click here.
 

ADVICE SURGERY DETAILS

If you live in Oldham East and Saddleworth and would like to attend one of my surgeries to discuss personal cases regarding housing, immigration, social security or other matters please call the Oldham office on 0161 624 4248 to book an appointment.

PLEASE NOTE ALL SURGERIES ARE BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.

My next advice surgeries are on:

Friday 3 March 2017; 5:00pm - 6:00pm, Oldham town centre

Saturday 4 March 2017; 10.00am - 11.00am, Lees

Friday 17 March 2017; 5.00pm - 6.00pm, Oldham town centre

Saturday 18 February 2017; 10:00am - 11:00am, Uppermill

Friday 31 March 2017; 5.00pm - 6.00pm, Oldham town centre

Saturday 1 April 2017; 10:00am - 11:00am, Shaw (tbc)


If you have an urgent enquiry, please send an e-mail, including your name, address contact number and details of the issue you are e-mailing about.
Meetings and Events

Some of the events I've been involved in this month have included:

1 Feb - Gave keynote speech to TUC Pensions conference.

2 Feb- Met with PCS union.

4 Feb - Met with constituents at my advice surgery in Oldham town centre.

4 Feb - Met constituents in Shaw as part of my regular constituency door knocking session.

4 Feb - Local action with MPs, Councillors, Faith and community groups to oppose the Trump ban on 7 mainly Muslim countries.

6 Feb - Met with Chief Superintendent, Neil Evans of Greater Manchester Police in Oldham.

7 Feb Met with Age UK.

8 Feb - Interview on BBC Victoria Derbyshire show opposing the cuts to Widow Parent's allowance.

8 Feb- Met with the Faculty of Public Health.

9 Feb - Chaired fourth Disability Equality Roadshow in Bristol.

16 Feb - Campaigned in Copeland for Labour in the by-election.

17 Feb - Met with the Oldham Women's Inspire Centre.

17 Feb  - Met with local constituents regarding the recent tensions in Kashmir.

17 Feb - Met with constituents at my advice surgery in Shaw.

 17 Feb - Spoke at the book launch of 'Life Story Work with People with Dementia' at Oldham Library.

18 Feb - Met with constituents at my advice surgery in Oldham town centre.

20 Feb - Led Work & Pensions Questions for Labour in the House of Commons.

21 Feb  - Spoke with Combined Women's Action Groups on state pension changes for women.

21 Feb- Attended panel discussion with Ken Loach on social security following a screening of I, Daniel Blake. 

22 Feb - Met with TUC National Consultative Committee for Unemployed Workers Centres.

 22 Feb - Took part in a panel discussion on Newsnight.

24 Feb - Met with Spartacus (a Disabled people's group) with Shadow Disability Minister, Marie Rimmer MP, about their recent report, Smokescreen.

24 Feb - Met with constituents in Hathershaw as part of my regular door knocking session with local councillors, Cllr Jenny Harrison and Cllr Shaid  Mushtaq.

25 Feb - Met with local Labour Party members in Oldham.

25 Feb - Hosted a rugby league session with Cllr Shaid Mushtaq and Waterhead Warriors Rugby League Club as part of my Sports for All initiative at Oldham Leisure Centre .

27 Feb - Fifth Disability Equality Roadshow event in London.

 
Focus on....

Have you checked out the excellent Oldham Libraries Live at the Library Arts programme? 

There are some excellent performances. Please do pop down for a visit when you can. Find out more here.
Debbie on the Parliamentary Website

To find out more about how I have represented Oldham East and Saddleworth in Parliament, you can read my contributions in debates and questions I have asked here on the parliamentary website.  
Be Fair - Pay on Time

To keep up to date on my Be Fair - Pay on Time campaign, read my campaign page here

To get up to the minute news and information between e-newsletters see my
Facebook page, follow me on Twitter or read my blog.

 
If you know anyone who would like to receive news about Oldham East and Saddleworth, they can sign up to my e-newsletter here.  Past editions my e-newsletter can be accessed here.
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