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Many women in Wyre Forest will be deeply offended by the inappropriate language and behaviour of their MP, Mark Garnier. Many women, and no doubt men, will also rightly ask is this any way for an elected representative to behave?

Unfortunately, it shows that we still have a long way to go to change the attitudes of some people in our society towards women if we are to become truly gender equal.

equality.jpgSadly, it appears Mark Garnier has offered no meaningful apology, has shown no remorse by saying it is merely ‘high jinks’, and instead tries to blame the victim by saying she’s using it against him. It demonstrates not only his appalling views towards women, but an alarming lack of awareness on gender equality issues that raises wider questions about his abilities and judgement as an MP. Passing things like this off as a joke, as MP Diane Abbott says, is one of the reasons it is not effectively being tackled.

We judge our elected representatives by their actions, and whilst recent events shows sexism may be a wider non party political issue, this issue IS one for the people of Wyre Forest alone. Why? Because Mark Garnier has consistently voted in a way that highlights his lack of support for gender equality and you simply cannot separate out this scandal from his wider attitude towards equality and women. He has demonstrated consistently a level of hypocrisy between what he says publicly in his Shuttle Page, and what he does in Parliament. He has voted against equal marriage seeking to justify it based on a number of letters he received; but just as importantly politically, socially, and economically - he has voted for every measure of austerity and which by design has a disproportionally higher negative impact on women compared to men. Never mind what impact his votes have had on the disabled with the likes of the bedroom tax, or PIP, or closing services like women’s refuges and Children’s Services, or with Universal Credit, or the homeless, or our war veterans who make up one in ten of the homeless.

So, Mark Garnier is not representing ALL of his constituents equally, and this recent scandal highlights what we in Wyre Forest Labour Party have been saying about him, his hypocrisy, and his voting record in Parliament for a long time. That it takes a National Newspaper sex toy scandal to highlight to his constituents his dinosaur attitude towards women, should not however be allowed to detract from his failure to represent his constituents in Wyre Forest in a fair and equal manner. If nothing else, if he manages to hang on to his seat following this latest revelation, and we have previously called for his resignation on other issues, let’s hope people now start to scrutinise what he says and does locally far more robustly and hold him to account. Wyre Forest deserves better from its MP, and it’s up to everyone to demand that of him, otherwise he’s just going to keep getting away with it.

Stephen Brown
Wyre Forest Labour Party


Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier ‘sent aide out to buy sex toys’

Wyre Forest deserves better from its MP

Many women in Wyre Forest will be deeply offended by the inappropriate language and behaviour of their MP, Mark Garnier. Many women, and no doubt men, will also rightly ask...

After the numerous allegations and revelations about the Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein, the issue of sexual harassment and abuse is rightly being discussed much more openly.

Sexual harassment is not of course confined to Hollywood. Misogyny and sexism are widespread problems across society. It exists and thrives in the corridors of power, including in Westminster.

At this time, many women have felt more able to come forward and speak about abuse they have experienced.

And as they do, there must be a proper procedure for listening, holding the perpetrators of this harassment to account, and crucially, accepting our shared responsibility to challenge and work to change a culture where the abuse of women has too often been normalised.

In July, the Labour Party agreed detailed and robust policy and procedures to deal with complaints of sexual harassment, and to ensure that these complaints are treated with the sensitivity they require.

You can read our sexual harassment policy in full here, complete with details of how to report any sexual harassment, including through our hotline.

I urge anyone with any complaints to come forward and use the confidential party procedures, or for those working in parliament, to the Commons Authorities, or to the police where appropriate.

I want to make it absolutely clear that our party will not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment. It is not enough to say we have zero tolerance of sexual harassment and abuse. We must do everything we can to act against this injustice.

Jeremy Corbyn
Leader of the Labour Party 

Acting against sexual harassment

After the numerous allegations and revelations about the Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein, the issue of sexual harassment and abuse is rightly being discussed much more openly. Sexual harassment is not...

A Roof over their Heads

One indicator of the health of civil society is whether all citizens have a secure place of residence. Therefore, it is disturbing to learn that, in 2016, 1,153 households in Wyre Forest were either in danger of becoming homeless, or had been successfully re-housed after being homeless. The majority of cases were actually resolved without residents having to quit their homes, often after decisive intervention by district council housing officers. However, 231 applications were made to be classified as homeless, of which 184 were accepted as “priority”, ie, categories of applicant whom the district council are required by law to assist. This number represented a significant increase from the 165 cases in 2015.

This body of evidence indicates that current government housing policy is not working.

All Housing Authorities try to avoid the placement of homeless families in Bed and Breakfast accommodation, which is both unsuitable for family life and expensive. Unfortunately, in 2016, B&B had to be used on twenty-six occasions. In these worrying circumstances, the district council has taken the decision to open a temporary accommodation hostel in New Street, Stourport, consisting of eleven en-suite bedrooms, a communal kitchen and an office. Obviously, length of time in residence will vary, but the expectation is weeks, rather than months. In addition to avoiding Bed and Breakfasts, the hostel option will enable housing officers to avoid placement in the worst of other unsuitable accommodation.

Better provision for homeless families is welcome, but a long way from being a solution to housing issues in Wyre Forest and nationally.

Homeless families will become tenants, ie, paying a rent to a landlord. Although given priority over others on the Housing Waiting List if allocated a housing association property, they will not usually be housed in accommodation that will meet their long-term needs. Therefore, along with many families re-housed in privately rented accommodation, they will be likely to join others on the Waiting List seeking more suitable homes to rent. In Wyre Forest, the total number waiting is 3,100 households. Consider this level of demand with the district council’s annual target of new “affordable” homes, just 100 per annum.

Admittedly, this comparison is not, on its own, entirely satisfactory, because homes within existing stock become available for re-allocation. Nor, actually, is the figure of 100 entirely satisfactory, because it is below the real estimated need of 149 per annum. The council has not set this higher figure as its target because it does not consider it to be achievable under current government policies. Furthermore, even the term “affordable” is not satisfactory. It includes “shared ownership”, ie, part-rent, part-buy. This option is beyond the means of many on the Waiting List, yet because of policies driven by ideology, not evidence, the government demands that this option is disproportionally favoured. For example, from the list of “affordable housing” completions in the district in 2016/17, one sees that the developments at Shaw Hedge Road, Bewdley; Keats Place, Offmore; and Drakes Crescent, Habberley; offer only shared ownership. The tenure of six of the ten properties on the former Coopers Arms site, Habberley, is, likewise, shared ownership. Only on one site, at Silverwoods, is the development of homes, four units, exclusively for rent.

Moreover, the total number of these new properties of either tenure suitable for families on the Waiting List, is paltry, just twenty-five. Although the council’s target of 100 has been exceeded, by twenty-seven, the figure is skewed by 100 of them being Community Housing’s extra care flats at Berrington Court, Silverwoods.

It is clear that the number of affordable homes for rent suitable for families in Wyre Forest falls a long way short of meeting existing need.

The problems faced by Wyre Forest District Council and its housing partners cannot be solved locally, because the failed policies of the Coalition, Cameron and May governments of the past seven years are to blame. National policy has to change.

From a Wyre Forest perspective, three of the changes Labour would make are,

  • A re-definition of “affordable”, which would enable rent levels to be set at a lower rate than at present;
  • “Shared ownership” to be excluded from the definition of “affordable housing” and housing of this type substantially down-graded as a proportion of properties offered by councils or, (as in Wyre Forest’s case), by housing associations;
  • Greatly increased capital investment, to fund a building programme, of which Wyre Forest’s share would build 3,000 genuinely affordable homes to rent by 2034, (the timescale of the District Local Plan).

Surely, our values as a society should make us strive for a suitable home for all.

Significant increase in homeless household cases in Wyre Forest

A Roof over their Heads One indicator of the health of civil society is whether all citizens have a secure place of residence. Therefore, it is disturbing to learn that,...

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