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CONTENTS
Budget and PIP U-turn
Shadow Minister Responsibilities
Proposals to Change Law on Serving in Public Office
ONS Study and What it Means for the Borough
Update on Recent Burglaries
Constituency Update
Parliamentary Business
 
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News from
Debbie Abrahams MP

For Oldham East and Saddleworth

March 2016

Dear <<First Name>> <<Last Name>>

Welcome to the March edition of my e-newsletter! This month's e-newsletter contains information on the Budget and the Government's u-turn on Personal Independence Payment cuts, my proposal to change the law on public office, the recent Office of National Statistics study and what it means for the Borough and 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
Budget and PIP U-Turn

The Budget has highlighted the Government’s economic and social failures, with growth revised down once again and a Chancellor who is breaking his own rules. 

Thanks to George Osborne, borrowing in 2015 was £74bn more than he had promised. As a result of this we’re now in debt to the tune of £1,600bn. With this stark economic context, the choices Osborne made show exactly what this Government are about: cuts in support for disabled people, he included a £4.4bn cut over five years to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), whilst prioritising a cut in the ‘Tycoons’ [Capital Gains] Tax.

The independent Institute of Fiscal Studies' analysis of the 2016 Budget show this is a profoundly inequitable Budget, with the poorest have suffering the greatest proportional losses meaning that the net effect of the Chancellor's changes to both our tax and social security system is that the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.

However, the Government had to make a spectacular (and welcome) U-turn on cuts to PIP after widespread opposition to these proposals from Labour (I have been raising this in Parliament since January), charities, disability groups and even some Tory backbenchers. Despite this, there are still many issues with PIP. For example, my constituent, Jane, who has a series of complex conditions and is in constant pain, described how she was assessed by someone who knew absolutely nothing about her conditions.  

In terms of other Budget measures, I welcome the support to small businesses through cuts in business rates, although I have concerns about what this will mean for local authorities that are already struggling. Regionally I welcome the go-ahead of £60m investment for the High Speed 3 railway line between Leeds and Manchester which will bring down journey times from 50 minutes to around 30 minutes.

But we also need to ensure that investment is not forgotten at stations like Greenfield where it’s desperately needed. And the £161m to accelerate the transformation of the M62 is positive too, although double this sum was first announced in the Autumn Statement. It’s worth noting that less than 9% of the infrastructure projects announced by this Chancellor have actually been delivered.

Read my full response on the Budget and the U-turn on Personal Independence Payments
here and here

 

Shadow Minister Responsibilities

I think the new Secretary for Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb’s, announcement that the Conservatives want to ‘start a new conversation’ with disabled people is too little, too late.  By 2020 the Government will have cut £30bn in support for disabled people.

The views of disabled people should be at the centre of party policy which is why I announced my UK wide Disability Equality Roadshow would be taking place this year. I suppose I should accept that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! We still haven’t seen the White Paper that was promised from the Government which is meant to explain how they intend to close the disability employment gap whilst making swingeing cuts to support for disabled people.

The Lords' amendments to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill
returned to the Commons. Although there were concessions on child poverty measures, Tory MPs pushed through the £30 a week cuts to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), despite Labour's objection and the plans being overturned in the Lords.

By 2020 ESA and other income-related support, will have been cut by nearly £1.4bn (9%) affecting nearly half a million people in the ESA work-related activity group (WRAG); who, in spite of being found NOT fit for work, will see their annual income fall by £1,500 a year. As a constituent, Patricia who is registered disabled explains, a £30 a week cut would mean she won’t be able to pay her household bills and food. She told me “it is a lot of money to be taken away from us and it is so wrong.”

Earlier this month, I joined Gill Thompson, the sister of David Clapson, the ex-soldier who died after his social security was stopped and other campaigners as they delivered a petition to the Department for Work and Pensions, calling for the Government to accept the Select Committee's recommendations on their new sanctions regime. I instigated the Committee's inquiry into the sanctions regime.  Campaigngers marched to Whitehall with a quilted banner with the names of people believed to have died while on sanctions. On the day he died, David had £3.44 to his name and six tea bags, a tin of soup and an out-of-date can of sardines in his kitchen cupboard. I will continue to support Gill as she fights for justice for her brother and the many others in the same situation. Read more
here.

Sign Language Week took place between 14-20 March 2016 and I proudly pledged to support British Sign Language. You can see my attempt at signing
here! Learn more about the British Deaf Association here.

Proposals to Change the Law on Serving in Public Office

I am pushing the Government to bring forward legislative proposals to ensure that people who have been convicted of a child sex offence cannot serve on a local authority or parish council.

In light of the conviction of Saddleworth Parish Councillor, Mike Buckley, for downloading indecent images of boys, I submitted two written questions to the Department for Communities and Local Government. The issue hinges on the fact that councils cannot disqualify councillors convicted of child sex offences whose punishment is lower than a three month suspended or custodial sentence.

The response from Marcus Jones, Minister for the Department for Communities and Local Government, indicated that the Government intends to launch a consultation, ‘as soon as practicable’, this year which will look at ‘proposals for change to bring the legislative rules into line with modern sentencing guidelines’. Whilst I find the response encouraging I will be pushing for a swift process and I have written to the Minister for the Department for Communities and Local Government to request a meeting with myself and a local delegation.

 

Office for National Statistics Study and What it Means for the Borough

I know that many of you will be aware that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently published a study into housing and poverty, which found Oldham is the most deprived area in England. What does this mean for Oldham? For many of us this will feel like another report that paints a negative picture of our Borough. It is important we take the time to assess the data but we should also take account of the local action already in place to build a fairer Oldham for all our residents.

Data from the study shows that Oldham had over 60% of their local areas ranked in the most deprived 20% of areas in England.  In fact, the 28 towns and cities with the largest percentage of deprived areas were in the North or Midlands. You can read the full study
here

It is clear we have more to do; for instance Oldham Foodbank is one of the busiest in the country; but it is important that we also point to the number of actions and initiatives in the Borough, which the study will not have necessarily considered. I established the Oldham Fairness Commission to tackle persistent inequalities in the Borough. Local commissioners have drafted plans to tackle inequalities in the Borough and we will meet again next year to see how they are progressing. 

The Oldham Education and Skills Commission, commissioned by Oldham Council and chaired by Estelle Morris has conducted a wide-ranging review of education provision locally. It made 19 recommendations and focuses on achieving key targets in Oldham by 2020 to improve educational performance. I see this as a promising initiative working hand in hand with local school and colleges across the Borough. 

Oldham Council initiatives such as Get Oldham Working to support local residents into sustainable jobs and the warm homes scheme, which has lifted more than 3,300 people out of fuel poverty, are having a positive impact locally. The investment in the town centre and public transport infrastructure are helping to regenerate the town. The regional science centre is helping to create a passion for science amongst young people. Organisations such as the Link Centre, Voluntary Action Oldham and the hundreds of voluntary and community organisations are helping people and creating a community that looks out for each other. Oldham Business Leadership Group and the Chamber of Commerce are assisting the businesses and entrepreneurs of the future. This all points to a positive direction of travel. 

I am immensely proud to represent the people of Alexandra, Lees, Saddleworth, Shaw and Crompton, St Marys, St James and Waterhead. The people of our Borough are resilient and I meet constituents who inspire me every day, who work hard and won’t give up, who will help others before thinking of themselves.  We owe it to them to push ourselves so everyone in the Borough whoever they are and wherever they come from are able to dream big and achieve their full potential. 

Update on Recent Burglaries

Greater Manchester Police have announced around 20 arrests in connection with raids on commercial properties in the Borough. There were almost 30 linked offences on commercial premises across Oldham between November 2015 and February 2016 - double the number of the previous year.

Since early last month there have only been a handful of new offences. Greater Manchester Police have said over the last few weeks the rate has dropped significantly to a 'normal' level. I organised a public meeting with Greater Manchester Police in Uppermill last month and I want to thank the police for all their hard work and the work of the community and businesses who came together to raise awareness of the burglaries and responded to calls from the police for information. 

Constituency Update

In addition to my regular advice surgeries I have been busy locally this month.

International Women's Day takes place annually on the 8th March and I attended a number of fantastic events in the Borough including events organised in Uppermill by the Saddleworth Palestine Women's Scholarship Fund, the Indian Oldham Association and the Labour Women's Forum. The theme this year was a Pledge for Parity. The progress towards gender parity has slowed in many places, the World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Everyone - men and women - can pledge to take concrete steps to help achieve gender parity more quickly. Learn more
here.

As part of the events, I also celebrated the the great suffragette, Annie Kenney. Annie who was born in Springhead in 1879 started working in a cotton mill when she was 10 years old and went on to become a leading figure in the Women’s Social and Political Union. She became an inspiration to many women (including me) across the globe. It was great to learn that memorials could be erected in Oldham to honour Annie Kenney and the victims of the Peterloo Massacre - a fitting tribute to a courageous and inspiring group of people. Well done to Councillor Elaine Garry for proposing the motion. Watch my video tribute to Annie Kenney
here.

Football legend, Sir Bobby Charlton visited Kingfisher Special School for the launch of Manchester United Foundation Partnership. And what a wonderful launch it was! I was honoured to be there with my colleague, Jim McMahon MP. The aim of the partnership is to develop sports provision within the school and enable the children to experience enjoyment of physical activity, whatever their individual needs. Find out more here. I also attended the 10th fundraiser for Kingfisher School which raised enough money for a new hydrotherapy pool. Well done to all involved!

This week I attended a vigil organised by Oldham Mosque's Council and Oldham Interfaith Forum to stand united against the recent terror attacks. These cowardly attacks are designed to cause the greatest harm and divide communities. However we stood together, united in our common humanity opposing the terrorist divide and rule tactics and I know we will continue to do so.

If you are organising any constituency events and would like me to participate (ideally Fri-Mon), please e-mail abrahamsd@parliament.uk and we will do our best to fit you into the diary!

   

Parliamentary Business

Earlier this month I ran my second Dementia Friends Session in Parliament for MPs, Peers and their staff. The session's aim was to provide a better understanding of Dementia and Alzheimers and how to offer a better service to people affected by the illness.  Developing a Dementia Friendly Oldham is one of my key priorities and I ran a Dementia Friends Session with Oldham Youth Council. Learn more about Dementia Friends and how you can take part here or ring my office on 0161 624 4248.

I asked the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt about The King’s Fund analysis which revealed that there will be not a £10 billion, but a £4.5 billion real-terms increase to the NHS and whether he would apologise for inadvertently misleading not just Parliament but the public? Read the exchange
here

I also asked the Business Minister what steps were being taken to help small businesses receive prompt payment from their customers and why the new small business commissioner would not be reviewing public sector contracts under prompt payment rules? Although there was an encouraging response from the Minister there is still more to do and in reality many small businesses are crippled by late payments. I will continue to push the Government on this. Read my exchange
here.

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 8 April 2016; 5:00pm - 6:00pm at 11 Church Lane, Oldham, OL1 3AN


Saturday 9 April 2016; 10:00-11:00AM, Lees Library, Thomas Street, Lees, OL4 5DA

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 Mar – Ran a Dementia Friends Session in Parliament for MPs, Peers and their staff

5 Mar - Spoke at the Indian Oldham Association International Women's Day event

6 Mar - Spoke at Saddleworth Palestine Women's Scholarship Fund International Women's Day event

8 Mar - Meeting with Action on Hearing Loss and the Disability Charities Consortium about their priorities, including closing the disability employment gap and research into hearing loss

8 Mar - Met with UNISON's South East Regional Disabled Members Group to hear about current challenges facing them

9 Mar - Met with disability campaigners from Camden to discuss their priorities for my Shadow Ministerial role

9 Mar - Heard from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists about their work on dementia and with disabled people


11 Mar – Joint drop-in constituent advice surgery with Greater Manchester Police in Shaw

11 Mar –Visit to Kingfisher Special School for launch or Manchester United Foundation Partnership.

11 Mar – Advice surgery with constituents in Oldham town centre

12 Mar - Advice surgery with constituents in Uppermill

12 Mar – Spoke at International Women's Day event at Oldham Library organised by Labour Women's Forum

12 Mar – Attended Fundraiser for Kingfisher Special School

14 Mar - Met with the Stroke Association on improving stroke outcomes and their areas of focus

 15 Mar - Met with the One Handed Musical Instrument Trust to discuss their work on ensuring access to arts for disabled people

15 Mar - Met with the Fit for Work coalition on support for people with illness and disability both in work and in helping seek employment

17 Mar - Led for Labour Frontbench in a Statutory Instrument Committee on Child Maintenance Service regulations


18 Mar – Joint drop-in constituent advice surgery with Greater Manchester Police in Shaw

18 Mar – Advice surgery with constituents in Oldham town centre

22 Mar - Met with Mencap, alongside Shadow Housing Minister Teresa Pearce, to discuss housing policies affecting people with a learning disability

24 Mar - Attended a briefing roundtable on the Australian Disability Insurance Scheme


29 Mar  – Attended a vigil in Oldham organised by Oldham Mosque Council and Oldham Interfaith Forum in condemnation of recent terror attacks
Focus on....

Cafe Mandels...

a new community cafe has opened in Dunwood Park in Shaw - the result of a partnership where young people have played a key role. Find out more on Cafe Mandels including opening times here. 

Easter Activities...

have been planned by a wide range of organisations across the borough including kids clubs, gardening lessons and theatre productions.

To keep up to date with what's on locally, click
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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