Wyre Forest Labour Blog

*UPDATE 6/12/2017* Parliament has been misled by David Davis, Tory Brexit Minster, over the impact assessments, or ‘qualitative quantitative sectoral analysis’ documents (if you prefer to now call them that like the Tories do to deny responsibility) about what Brexit means for the economy.

First he said the 58 assessments existed, then Parliament demanded to see them, now he says they don’t exist despite telling Parliament they did when they voted to see them.

How on Earth he can do his job properly without knowing the risks of Brexit to sectors of our economy is baffling? Is it blind faith, arrogance, incompetence or contempt?

David Lammy, Labour MP, has today accordingly written to the Speaker of Parliament, as per protocol, to raise contempt of Parliament proceedings against David Davis.

In any other job, David Davis would have been sacked for gross misconduct born of negligence and dereliction of duty. Tory MP’s, it seems, think they are Teflon coated, such is their arrogance and contempt not only for their jobs and Parliament, but for the electorate too who put them there. Has there ever been such a self serving lot of fools running the country?


Tories, Brexit, & The Grubby DUP Deal - the end is in sight

Make a note in your diaries of this date: Monday 4th December 2017. Then remember it well. It will most likely turn out to be a significant date for British politics and the demise of Brexit in its hardest form, if not in its entirety. And the end of the Tory Government, ultimately.

We all know Wyre Forest voted ‘leave’ and like many areas damaged by austerity, it is my belief that austerity was a significant causal factor here. Immigration and bashing the EU was merely a convenient Tory/UKIP scapegoat. Those on the left who voted leave argued it would free us up to nationalise and pursue a socialist agenda to reform our economy. I never swallowed this line because it’s hamper was to ignore the reality of public ownership across the EU, including EU Governments’ owning our privatised rail & utilities, and the fact a Tory Government hellbent on privatisation and starving our public services will be responsible for delivering Brexit. When was the last time the Tories did something to ‘sincerely’ benefit working people?

Their handling of the EU Withdrawal Bill and sensible motions to protect employment, environmental, safety, and animal rights, well and truly busts any myth their version of Brexit will enrich the poor, the vulnerable, or workers. The Tory right and UKIP Leave agenda has always been about enriching the rich further, tax dodging (check what EU anti-tax dodging rules will come into play in March 2019, the month we leave the EU) and a low regulation economy, all stuff they hid from plain sight under a banner of sovereignty. When, in fact, we never lost our sovereignty, just pooled 15% of it to enrich our economic and cultural lives. Sure, the EU has its faults, but from what happened on 4th December, quite apart from the whacking bill of £50billion (magic money tree anyone?) being talked about, we see the prospect of some if not all of the UK now remaining in the single market, and the customs union, whilst paying for the privilege yet having no say over any of the rules like we currently do. Take a look at Norway.

So, in my view, this day marks the beginning of the end of the Tory Government, their grubby DUP Deal to stay ‘in office’ but not in power, and a signalling that even the Government’s chaotic approach to Brexit is finally unravelling under the vacuous soundbite strains of ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ as the load on it increases. Especially, as the looney right of Theresa May’s own Party ratchet up their barmy undeliverable demands for Brexit. Demands that were encapsulated in the Leave lies of the referendum. You’ll recall what they said, “they need us more than we need them” and “we’ll get a better deal than we have now”, along with “absolutely no one is threatening our place in the single market”. None of it true to this point and all said to get your vote and to promise something they never had the capacity or imagination to deliver on, because they were so focused on getting a leave vote, the reality of understanding the single market, customs union, and WTO rules passed them by, deliberately so, if they ever really understood it in the first place. And to be frank, it’s quite clear from some of the things said by the likes of David Davies, Brexit Secretary, (who himself is now looking for an easy way out by supporting his scandal hit mate Damian Green) that he didn’t have the basic grasp of international trade, WTO, the EU, or the implications of a leave vote for the integrity of the UK remaining as the UK as it is now. All of which has been put into sharp focus, and not before time, by the Irish border question. The ‘grown ups’ debate has now started in earnest it seems.

The fact that Theresa May finally recognised that to ensure economic prosperity and peace in the North of Ireland, and to preserve the Good Friday Agreement, requires no hard border with Ireland and hence staying in the single market and customs union, is an admission no deal is a better Brexit as described by her upon her coronation as Tory leader, is dead in the water. It is untenable however that North Ireland gets a deal denied to everyone else, as much as it is untenable Theresa May abandons her plans to allow a bunch of political misfits to run policy in number 10. What’s driving the DUP though? I’d say it’s about the money, their grubby deal to empower themselves, getting the upper hand in North Irish politics, and bad old fashioned power play. They are overplaying their flimsy hand as they don’t even represent the majority referendum decision in North Ireland. Just 10 MPs holding everyone else to ransom with their stubborn, out of touch, and backward looking views. Is this the state of UK politics? Really? I think not. We are better than this as a proud nation. The DUP just broke what they thought they had and the deal with the Tories is about to wither into the ether. The clock just stopped on the DUP Deal, Hard Brexit, and the alarm bells are ringing loud and clear. If an exemption is good enough for North Ireland, what about Scotland? London? Those industries like auto, fishing, agriculture, retail, etc now demanding an exemption too and ironically many also in the largest leave areas signal a seismic shift here in the Brexit debate. Something bigger is happening.

Some may ask why is Labour playing its cards close to its chest? Well, when the Tories, our natural enemy, Bevan had a few things to say about that, is making such huge mistakes, why should we interrupt them? They own Brexit, it is their bad, they will fall into the political wilderness because of it. Labour has said all along we want a Brexit that works for jobs and the environment. That can only happen if we stay in the single market and customs union in my view. It is also my view that it is only a matter of time, as this mess plays itself out as it sadly must, and as Labour prepares for Government, that the right timing for the people to decide what type of Brexit, or no Brexit, will be back on the table. I predicted that in June 2016. My own view on Brexit has been clear from day one, I’ve not changed it, it’s bad economically for the country and its bad for our global influence. On the 4th December 2017, it seems that even elements of the Tory Party grasped that plain fact too. How many Tories will show some guts and come out and say it remains to be seen.

My view remains staunch, I haven’t shifted with the wind for expediency like our MP Mark Garnier does, the yes man of Tory HQ, who sucks it up so he can carry on enjoying the privilege of representing Wyre Forest. I’d prefer to hope that Wyre Forest, ultimately, might prefer an MP with their own mind who acts in the national interest, rather than their own, for the benefit of their constituents, even when there is a disagreement with those constituents on something as fundamental as this. That’s the foundation upon which our democracy is based, and it’s about time our MP recognised it and acted accordingly. If you happen to come across Mark’s own mind, do let me know and return it to him. He might need it at some point to see what damage him and his support for Tory policies and the Grubby DUP Deal is doing. He has, unwittingly however, unleashed the end of Brexit with his support for the Grubby DUP Deal, and with his road to Damascus Support for Brexit, just so he and his lot could put Party above Country and stay in power, and keep their seats. That is about to change, watch this space.

Stephen Brown
Wyre Forest Labour Party

Tories, Brexit, & The Grubby DUP Deal

*UPDATE 6/12/2017* Parliament has been misled by David Davis, Tory Brexit Minster, over the impact assessments, or ‘qualitative quantitative sectoral analysis’ documents (if you prefer to now call them that...

Despite the gimmicks, the jokes and the distractions — today was a 'nothing has changed' Budget from an out-of-touch Government with no idea of the reality of people's lives and no plan to improve them.

The Budget has confirmed what we already knew: that we are worse off under the Tories and it's set to get worse. Economic growth is the lowest since the Tories came to office, real wages lower than in 2010, and the failure to pause the botched roll-out of Universal Credit will cause real suffering. Today the Chancellor has completely failed to recognise the scale of the emergency in our public services and found no meaningful funding to address the crisis in our schools, hospitals or children's services.

Make sure people know. Share the truth about this Budget now.

 time_for_real_change.png


Labour would take a different approach and build an economy for the many, not the few. We would scrap the public sector pay cap for the whole of the public sector; pause and fix the Universal Credit roll-out; introduce a real living wage of at least £10 an hour by 2020 and an energy price cap.

This Saturday, we're holding our biggest Campaign Day ever so that we can share our positive vision with people across the country.

Together we can stand-up against this failed Tory Government. Get involved with an event near you this weekend.

John McDonnell
Shadow Chancellor

We are all worse off under the Tories

Despite the gimmicks, the jokes and the distractions — today was a 'nothing has changed' Budget from an out-of-touch Government with no idea of the reality of people's lives and...

Once again its a case of the expectation of hope being defeated by the reality. The Tories had a chance to address the critical issues facing the country from everything on the economy, to Brexit, the NHS, Housing and Education. Once again they blew it.

On the housing crisis all they do is redirect money from taxation into developers pockets, many who donate to the Tories, by scrapping stamp duty for first time buyers which will force up house prices, even the OBR says so. Wyre Forest has a housing crisis, we are crying out for more rented social housing to be built in what is a low wage area, with over 3000 on the waiting list, and we get this. The Tories offer nothing for hard pressed working families who can’t afford to buy a house and need a home to rent. It’s Pathetic. 

Then we get £540million for driverless cars and yet our public transport system is creaking at the seams. Does anyone in the Tory Party ever use local trains or buses?

Boris’s Leave campaign bus promised £350million a week for the NHS, instead £3billion is going to have to be spent on Brexit bureaucracy replacing institutions we already had via the EU. The Tory Brexit plans are in chaos and we are staring down the barrel of ‘no deal’ and the reality of which many people still don’t appreciate the gravity of because it will make lives even harder for people in Wyre Forest because the economy will suffer. The people of Wyre Forest did not vote Leave to be poorer but this is what a Tory Brexit with their budget so lacking in imagination to rise to the challenges we face, will deliver to them. 

Sadly, the NHS suffers again. Yes it will get a single sum of £350million overall to ease winter pressures but that’s for the entire winter not for every week, and it’s way too little. Whilst the promised £2.8billion by 2020 is welcome it’s some £17billion less than needed according to the influential Kings Fund. It won’t even begin to address the issues. It’s £18million per week and falls well short of Leaver Boris’s NHS bus promise. Don’t expect the Tories to solve the NHS crisis, especially as our local NHS remains in special measures and near £40million in deficit with a further £123million required in cuts. Tory promises simply don’t cut any ice.

This is not a budget designed to help working people, it won’t solve low pay, the housing crisis, the NHS crisis, or put a spring in anyone’s step who’s worried about rising bills and falling wages. Labour’s alternative budget on the other hand would address the issues, on pay, the NHS, Housing and Education, not to mention addressing tax dodging which is costing the country billions of pounds; and it was all contained in our fully costed election manifesto here: https://labour.org.uk/manifesto/

It’s hard to believe that the election was just 5 months ago as the Tories lurch from one crisis to another. It was also not very reassuring to see it’s business as usual for our local Tory MP Mark Garnier, who this week reappeared after his recent disappearing trick following his embarrassing antics, but we can all be assured that he’ll be voting for and cheering on these Tory budget measures that won’t do anything for the majority of his constituents in Wyre Forest. His mission statement says ‘working for all Wyre Forest on every issue’. Frankly he should be prosecuted under the Unfair Trading Regulations, or Trade Descriptions Act for misleading people. Has anyone informed Trading Standards? Only Labour has the plans to deliver for the majority in Wyre Forest and across the country, the sooner a general election comes the better in my view. We can then start to rebuild the country and repair the damage of 7 years of needless Tory austerity.

Stephen Brown

Wyre Forest Labour Party

Tory budget not designed to help working people

Once again its a case of the expectation of hope being defeated by the reality. The Tories had a chance to address the critical issues facing the country from everything...

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour Press Officer, with the help of an expert in the field, Paul Herold, presents a focus on Addiction Services which have faced sweeping Tory cuts that affect us all in the end.

He says: “Addiction services, which help people deal with their addiction problems and offer them support, have been hit really hard by Tory austerity.

Not only have we seen deaths rise to all all time high, adding fuel to the claim that Tory austerity is costing lives, but it has a knock on effect on many other services like the NHS, Policing & justice. It leads to increasing social issues, with wider costs rising making these so called ‘savings’ a false economy. In Worcestershire, we’ve also seen such support cut drastically by our County Council who now have responsibility for it after the deeply flawed Tory Health & Social Care Act 2012 was enacted.

A recent report saw Worcestershire 136 out of 149 authorities and dealing with over 2500 people with addictions, over 50% with alcohol problems. Worcestershire does not have a great record on this issue and is not immune from it, with deaths in line with the national average.

So, we should all be concerned about it, and be helping to de-stigmatise it, so it shouldn’t be an ‘easy’ cut for heartless and clueless politicians to make. It could affect any of us, with most addicts (alcohol & drugs) in the 25 to 54 age group - which should be the prime of our lives. That tells us something about the type of society we are creating, and the pressures we face.

Wyre Forest Labour calls upon the Tory Govt & County Council to reverse these damaging cuts."

Cuts to Addiction Services Infographic

In this guest blog post, we feature a guest post by Paul Harrold. Paul is an addiction worker at an alcohol rehab in London known as Cassiobury Court. Paul’s infographic is titled “cuts to addiction services in England and Wales since 2012”.  The infographic discuss Government cuts to addiction services since 2012. Addiction is unarguably stigmatised, and cutting this budget has thus been low hanging fruit for those bent on austerity. The infographic aims to inform the public about these cuts and to help remove the stigma surrounding addiction.

The infographic explains that the cuts started to take hold when the Health and Social Care Act 2012 became law. Under the terms of the Act, the administration of addiction services was transferred away from local NHS Trusts and into the hands of local councils.

Sadly, this law effectively wiped out year-on-year decreases in drug-related deaths. In 2016, drug-related deaths are now at an all-time high, and even higher than in 1993 when the Office of National Statistics first began collecting this type of data.

Without further ado, here’s the infographic:

Addiction Services Infographic

Attributed to Cassioburycourt.com

Tory Cuts To Addiction Services Costs Lives

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour Press Officer, with the help of an expert in the field, Paul Herold, presents a focus on Addiction Services which have faced sweeping Tory cuts...

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,...

Wyre Forest Labour today demand a pause on the rollout of the Government’s welfare reform policy, Universal Credit, following last week’s vote in Parliament and in order to address the obvious problems with it.

Stephen Brown, spokesperson for Wyre Forest Labour said “Last week we saw the Conservative Government not only lose the debate on pausing Universal Credit, but it abstained on its own flagship policy because they are in total chaos. Worse still, they then refused to honour the will of Parliament in what can only be described as a two fingered gesture to democracy, revealing their contempt for it as part of their grubby attempt to cling to power.”

After the vote of 299 to 0 to pause Universal Credit, it prompted one of their own angry Tory MP’s Sir Edward Leigh, to say “The road to tyranny is paved by executives ignoring parliaments.” While Valerie Vaz, the shadow leader of the house, when pressing Tory MP Minister Leadsom on the government’s response said. “This is where we make the law. This is not a school debating chamber. This is a disorganised government, disrespectful to the house.”

Universal Credit - Six weeks waiting timeUniversal Credit has been widely criticised because of the delays in paying out the benefit meaning many people fall into a cycle of debt with loan sharks, getting into rent arrears and losing their homes, causing mental and other health issues, as well as helping to fuel the demand for foodbanks. It is noteworthy that the issuing of emergency food parcels in foodbanks has gone up dramatically from 41,000 in 2010 to 1.3 million in 2016. Wider benefit cuts and low incomes are a real issue with Britain now seeing 7.4 million people from working families in poverty and some 41% of all Tax Credit claimants being in work and claiming because of low incomes. Labour firmly and squarely puts the blame for that on Tory economic policies which have seen the richest 1,000 see their wealth rise by £400billion as ordinary people’s income stagnate at 2008 levels. Universal Credit and it’s implementation is part of a Tory co-ordinated attack on not just the unemployed, but working people too. Tories proudly boasted at its inception that 3million people would be better off such is the misinformation and lies they endlessly peddle. If the benefit system collapses it will lead to a breakdown in society, more crime as is already happening, and that could lead to civil unrest. Is that the abject level of Tory ambition for this country?

In Wyre Forest, at this time, Universal Credit and as part of the phased rollout, only impacts single people but Stephen Brown went on to say “let’s be under no illusions here, the whole approach of the Tory Govt, aided and abetted by our own Tory MP Mark Garnier, is to dismantle welfare support for vulnerable people, cut benefits, and make it as difficult as possible for people to claim. Garnier has voted for every cut, every bit of welfare reform, but prefers to keep this fact quiet from his constituents to maintain his contrived chummy image.”

“Despite the national press hysteria about benefit scroungers, the reality is very different. Wyre Forest has some of the lowest earners in the Midlands and many rely on state help to make ends meet, be it working tax credits, disability payments, or housing benefit, especially when remembering we have an affordable housing crisis in Wyre Forest. Nationally, 60% of those in poverty are from working households and alarmingly have someone disabled in them. It busts the Tory myth that the best way out of poverty is by working. And you may well ask what Mark Garnier has actually done to improve the pay, conditions, and economic lives of people in Wyre Forest let alone to help vulnerable disabled people? He’ll happily waffle on about employment stats but ignore the real problems of constituents when it comes to incomes, insecure work, housing, disability and benefits. He’s famous for arguing an explosion of disability payment issues (under the new PIP) is down to a statistical anomaly rather than his own voting record in Parliament. There’s been a 15% rise in poverty since Garnier’s Party came to power and just this year, three quarters of single parent families have been hit by the latest Tory benefit caps. He’s a politician who cannot be trusted to deliver for ordinary people, he’s all about message over substance and is a classic ducker and diver to avoid being exposed by the truth.”

Wyre Forest Labour is of the view that Universal Credit should be paused and the problems with it put right, especially around delays in making payments and assessments, and reducing the 6 week wait for the first payment. One little known fact is that Universal Credit is particularly detrimental for low paid self-employed people. They can see their benefits dramatically cut by up to £1500 a year because of the way Universal Credit is assessed based on the variable and seasonal nature of the income they earn. Wyre Forest has over 7,000 self employed, many of whom are low earners, and if they claim Universal Credit in its current format they may be in for quite a shock. Universal Credit is a disaster waiting to happen in Wyre Forest, just as experience elsewhere shows, so it must be sorted. If it is not put right, many more people in Wyre Forest are going to get hit by it, and rightly wonder just what their Tory MP is doing to earn his not insignificant salary in supposedly representing them in Parliament on these important issues.

Stephen Brown concluded by saying “Wyre Forest Labour is the only Party locally with a vision for improving the lives of people in Wyre Forest. It will take a massive effort to reverse the damaging Tory cuts but come the next election that is what Labour will offer and we hope a Wyre Forest Labour MP will be part of that. We want a fairer benefit system, better pay and protection at work, more social housing, a better NHS, and investment in education, infrastructure, and public services. A General Election can’t come soon enough for us so that we can build a constituency and country for the many, not the few. Labour is the only Party that offers the many in Wyre Forest some hope. Mark Garnier and his Tories are finished, and he hasn’t got the backbone to stand up for his constituents. He’s a careerist politician more interested in his overseas junkets.”

Our campaign to fix Universal Credit

Labour Universal Credit Video here: https://labour.org.uk/issues/universalcredit/ 

Universal Credit - The Tory Shame

Wyre Forest Labour today demand a pause on the rollout of the Government’s welfare reform policy, Universal Credit, following last week’s vote in Parliament and in order to address the...

Labour Democracy

Conference improved democracy in the Party. The National Executive Committee (NEC) will increase from 24 to 28 members with 3 new constituency party representatives and one trade union member. For leadership elections, it’s now a 10% support threshold in the Parliamentary Party not 15%. 

NHS & Social Care

Labour pledges an extra £45billion for NHS & Social Care and will end marketisation and private companies involvement in the NHS. Scrapping the Tory Health & Social Care Act. More Health Visitors, School Nurses, improved Child Mental Health Services.

Education

Labour pledges £500million for SureStart, a new Early Years programme, initiatives for tackling child poverty in schools, £8billion for new school buildings, £13billion to repair existing buildings, £1billion for Further Education, a new National Education Service to provide free education and scrap University tuition fees.

Economy

The big news is renationalisation of water, energy, rail and Royal Nail. A National Transformation Fund, Regional Development Banks, support for transport infrastructure projects, more worker and trade union rights, end the pay cap, supporting co-operatives, an end to PFI projects – all designed to boost the economy and give workers and voters a bigger say. WASPI women to get pensions 2 years earlier with maximum pension age at 66.

Housing

Labour will introduce rent controls, stop the cuts to social security, regenerate housing for residents returning democratic control, build more social housing.

Councils

Labour will rebuild local services, end privatisation, bring services back under democratic control.

Brexit

Labour pledges a transition period with access to single market and customs union, thereafter a progressive partnership with EU including single market. Guaranteed rights for EU citizens to live and work in UK.


Floor speakers from the constituencies and trade unions dominated the early part of conference, speaking on topics ranging from transport issues through housing to local government.  Andrew Gwynne, Shadow Local Government Minister, followed this up by pledging that we will rebuild local services, ending private provision and bringing all services back into full democratic control by elected Councils who will pay fair wages to all employees.

Speeches by Carwyn Jones, Ian McNichol and Ian Lavery all highlighted the successes at the last election with Carwyn highlighting the abolition of the Trade Union Act in Wales and the return of free collective bargaining.

Conference moved into full throttle with a speech by Emily Thornberry who began by describing Theresa May’s relationship with Trump as “supine, sycophantic and spineless”. She then went on to say that Labour will reform arms export decisions by removing the current secrecy and replacing it with transparency and full parliamentary scrutiny. Emily is a powerful speaker and commands respect from all quarters.

Keir Starmer then grasped the Brexit nettle by firstly spelling out Labour’s guiding values of internationalism, co-operation and equality with social justice. There will be a transition period with full access to customs union and single market followed by a progressive partnership with the EU. Keir stressed that failure in the negotiations is not in the interests of working people and also stressed the need for a pragmatic approach rather than the “post imperial delusions” of the Tories.

The pace quickened with speeches on the economy from Len McCluskey (Unite), Dave Ward (CWU) and Dave Prentis (Unison) but the floor was stolen by a floor speaker from Bolsover CLP. Dennis Skinner brought the house down by stressing that investment should be funded by borrowing. As a warm-up act for John McDonnel it was perfect!

John wants us to “set the agenda for the next generation” with a programme of changes. Investment in transport in the North, Midlands Connect, HS2 to Scotland, rail electrification to Cornwall, de-carbonise the economy with publicly owned suppliers using eco-friendly generation, Swansea tidal barrier, expansion of worker control and the co-operative sector, nationalisation of water, energy, rail and mail, restoration of free collective bargaining, the scrapping of tuition fees as education is a “gift from one generation to the next, not a commodity to be bought and sold”, and finally the ending of all PFI contracts, existing and new.

Wow, follow that! Well, Debbie Abrahams(Work and Pensions) did so saying that WASPI women will get their pensions 2 years earlier and that the top pension age for all will be 66. Then Sadiq Kahn spoke with great dignity about events in London which have so shocked us all, Grenfell Tower and terrorist incidents.

Voting is an important part of the delegates job. Some votes are declared from the Chair by a simple show of hands. Closer decisions are made by seeing votes from CLP delegates first and then union delegates second. When this fails to produce a clear decision a card vote is held. All three methods were used and card votes for constitutional changes are mandatory.

It was agreed to increase the size of NEC from 24 to 28 members with 3 new CLP members and 1 additional union member. Leadership vacancy nominations must receive 10% support of PLP and EPLP(down from 15%). Members should behave with integrity. There was strong support for tightening up rules on discriminatory behaviour which especially gained the approval of Jewish sections of the party.  This section of conference dealing with rule changes was lengthy and time slipped away. However, two major contributions came from Rebecca Long Bailey and Angela Rayner who are rising stars in our party.

Rebecca told us that 60% of energy will come from low carbon and renewables by 2030 and that Labour has commissioned a report on Alternative Models of Ownership. Angela stated that £437m has been snatched from the SureStart programme since 2012. We will invest £500m in SureStart and there will be a new Early Years Programme. Angela then launched a whole series of initiatives to include £10m to end “period poverty” in schools, £8 billion for  new school building, £13 billion for repair of existing schools, £1 billion into F.E., a National Education Service offering free education for all from cradle to grave and finally, at last, full democratic control of schools and colleges!

Could conference get any better? Yes!

Jonathan Ashworth spoke with great passion about health and social care. He pledged an extra £45 billion for NHS and Social Care and £0.5 billion for emergency winter fuel payments. He told us how ambulance services in Sussex have been taken over by a company who own no ambulances! Instead, they sub-contract out to over 80 other companies to provide vehicles. This will end. Labour will end marketisation and private company involvement in the NHS. We will focus on child poverty and childrens’ health. There will be more Health Visitors, more School Nurses, more money for Child Mental health Services, and more support for children of alcoholic and drug abusing parents.

Conference has a great Fringe. I attended a reception for West Midland delegates, a seminar on Socialism and Hope, a discussion with Labour for a Republic, a book signing of Citizen Clem,a “fireside chat” between Keir Starmer and the Editor of Sky News and a discussion on West Midlands Future. All stimulating in different ways, and so to…..

Jeremy Corbyn’s Speech.

What an occasion. Atmosphere electric. Comradely. Expectant. Enter Jeremy to minutes of prolonged applause from delegates on their feet. Chanting of Jeremy’s name.  Labour has changed!

What did he tell us?

Jeremy began by cataloguing the failures of the Tories: falling pay, homelessness doubled, 20,000 less police officers, 11,000 fewer firefighters, growing poverty and disability rights reduced.

The election result prevented a range of nasty policies from being enacted: dementia tax scrapped, grammar schools stopped, threat to pension triple lock abandoned, cuts to winter fuel payments prevented.

JC-speech-conf2017-web.jpg

The nasty side of the Tories was highlighted, especially the “misogynistic and racist abuse” suffered by Diane Abbott.
Jeremy said that Labour has accepted the Brexit referendum result and he re-iterated our commitment to EU citizens living and working in UK. We will not allow a low-wage, low working conditions, low employment rights economy to result from Tory negotiations. Instead we will press for jobs first with unimpeded access to the single market and a co-operative relationship with EU.

Jeremy criticised the Thatcherite economic model of the Tories through the example of the water industry. Of 9 companies, 6 are owned by private equity or foreign wealth funds. Profits are shared out between shareholders and exported abroad. So, we will bring the utilities back into public ownership.

Labour will control rents. We will stop cuts to social security. Labour will regenerate housing for the benefit of the residents. Public sector pay cap will be scrapped. Organ transplant law will be changed to an opt-out system. We will bring in regional development banks, National Transformation Fund and a National Education Service for lifelong learning.

The speech emphasised the need for a change in the way we all think. An end to the “me, now” society and the development of a new, kinder, community-based way of life in which everyone is valued and where everyone has a stake. Jeremy is a gracious man who respects all and does not accept the unpleasant, slanderous ways of our political opponents.

Well, that is Conference! Vibrant, comradely, positive, co-operative, forward-looking. Last year, we were a party finding its feet and developing some rising stars. Now, we are a party ready for government with a talented and forceful Shadow Cabinet who are itching to get on with the job.

Can I thank Wyre Forest CLP for allowing me the honour to be their delegate and I trust that I voted as you would wish. It has been a privilege to attend such a stimulating event. The cause of Labour continues to be the hope of the world and the salvation of our people.

Conference ended with a rousing rendition of the Red Flag. Let us keep the Red Flag flying here in Wyre Forest.

Tony Clay - Wyre Forest Labour

Labour Party Conference 2017

Labour Democracy Conference improved democracy in the Party. The National Executive Committee (NEC) will increase from 24 to 28 members with 3 new constituency party representatives and one trade union...

My first conference

What a conference! My first - and a pretty good choice. It was great to be there and I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity. I attended the Women's Conference too, a much smaller affair but equally impressive. One slightly twitchy moment was when I was introduced to Yvette Cooper at a reception as someone who only joined the party two years ago. I was relieved not to have to explain further.
Some of my highlights:

  • the 16 year old delegate from Manchester who spoke passionately and movingly about the impact of the new GCSEs on her and her classmates. She's called Lauren Stokes and apparently her speech has gone viral. It reflected so much that’s wrong -  top-down, untested reforms with no regard for those at the sharp end, and an obsession with targets at the expense of human beings. View Lauren's speech here
  • a 79 year old man from Sheffield who spoke to the audience in the overflow room after we'd listened to the Leader's Speech. He said that he'd been a party member all his life, that this was the best Leader's Speech he'd heard, and that it had given him renewed hope for the future. I had a word with him afterwards and he said that he had four children and although he'd tried to persuade them to join the party, they'd never been interested. But now, he said, they'd joined. Renewed hope indeed.
  • Jeremy Corbyn's speech - by common consent his best yet. It was great to hear it in real time rather than just the excerpts on news bulletins. I was in the overflow room and after he'd extricated himself from the ecstatic crowds, he came over and spoke to us for another ten minutes.
  • Continuing the education theme - Angela Rayner.  Her conference speech was excellent and I also went to a fringe meeting on the impact of education cuts. She was hugely impressive, and highly respected by the senior and experienced professionals also on the panel. View Angela's speech below:

There were frustrations, mostly to do with timetabling, time-keeping and fringe events in tiny, airless rooms with massive queues to get in. I missed loads that I’d hoped to go to but having said that, I caught some interesting and thought-provoking fringes, one very useful training event and probably the majority of the main speakers as well as a fair proportion of delegates' speeches. The intricacies of party democracy continue to elude me, although I think I've just about grasped what a composite motion is.  But as for the discussion about the official definition of a contemporary motion......
Helen Coll – Wyre Forest Labour

ben_dennis-skinner-conf2017-web.jpgMy first conference too

It was my first time at conference, I was taken aback at the levels of enthusiasm and high spirits. The fringe events organised were engaging and thoroughly interesting, with speakers coming from the party, journalists, world figures, and the deputy and Leader's main hall speeches were particularly enticing. To be amongst such excitement, surrounded by MPs that I admire (my personal highlight was chatting to Dennis Skinner about our ever more distant MP for Wyre Forest!) was such a beneficial experience and I would recommend any who hasn't been to think about attending next year.
Ben Davies - Wyre Forest Labour

 

My first Labour conference

My first conference What a conference! My first - and a pretty good choice. It was great to be there and I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity. I...

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour, commenting on Garnier’s weekly column:

stephen_brown_10-2017.JPG"Seriously Mark, you’re blaming the demise of the carpet industry on the EU and cheap Belgian carpets? Cheap shot especially when carpet imports have remained more or less, recession aside, within an inflationary margin of similar value since 2004 only peaking back to 2004 levels since 2014. And what about child labour in carpet factories in Asia exporting here? What has the Govt done to combat that and challenge child exploitation to stop it for moral reasons, let alone what it’s doing to jobs here?

Cheap carpets maybe but not just from the EU. That free trade you champion, it’s caused cheap imports from all manner of countries outside of the EU (Asia, Turkey, China, India, Middle East) that have also hit us. The carpet industry has been in decline since the 70’s and accelerated under Tories in the 80’s as they decimated traditional manufacturing. Tastes have also changed towards hard flooring for instance, and since 2010 the current Govt of which you are part, have caused people’s wages to stagnate and wider economy to falter exacerbated by Brexit. People can’t buy what they can’t afford can they? But do carry on indulging in whataboutery and finger pointing to distract from the real issues as you conversely argue for such ‘trade’ on coffee.

And the coffee, yes, we should be doing what we can to support coffee growing economies through fair trade and other such initiatives. However, if it wasn’t processed here for instance, and it does provide UK jobs, what do you think would happen to those UK jobs in that sector? You seem to be preaching for free trade at the expense of UK jobs? I note you’ve been touring South America,(which actually does have processing plants - try Brazil) funny plugging coincidence that eh?

I think those in Wyre Forest who voted for you would sooner you champion jobs and trade for Wyre Forest, after all, it’s they who pay your wages as an MP.

And if you think ‘free trade’ really exists and our exit from the EU is suddenly going to mean other countries are going to open their doors to us, and risk damage to their own economy (eg USA) only to serve a Tory Brexit illusion, think on.

What we need is a proper industrial, financial, infrastructure, and jobs first strategy. And all we get is Tory chaos and egos vying for top Tory jobs. And from you.......misinformation about carpet industry, and ramblings about the coffee trade. Keep up the good work."

Mark Garnier blames EU for the demise of the carpet industry in Kidderminster

Stephen Brown, Wyre Forest Labour, commenting on Garnier’s weekly column: "Seriously Mark, you’re blaming the demise of the carpet industry on the EU and cheap Belgian carpets? Cheap shot especially...

In today's Shuttle (28/9/17), our Tory MP Mark Garnier, takes the opportunity to once again ignore the issues of his constituents, instead focusing on London matters and Uber's licence.

http://www.kidderminstershuttle.co.uk/news/15555668.MPs_View_September_28/?action=success#comments-feedback-anchor

Stephen Brown said "It is quite a remarkable column in support of a tax dodging multi-national found to have breached safeguarding rules and operator licensing regulations, not to mention one that has lost a court case for abusing worker rights. Indeed, Mark passes off serious sexual assaults it would seem, by its drivers, as mere 'infringements'. Mark is basically demeaning women and their right not to be assaulted in their daily life. But then he's one who doesn't think marriage in all forms should be equal either. Let us not underestimate the significance of this dereliction of duty in office of a publicly elected representative in safeguarding the public, all done so he can take a political pop at the Labour Mayor of London, who incidentally did not actually make this decision, TfL did"

"This is all done by Mark in aid of serving the bidding of his Tory masters, and political point scoring. One might ask the question of Mark, where's his support for those multitude of small taxi businesses and properly trained self-employed taxi drivers in London who follow the rules and pay tax without resorting to a race to the bottom? A recent business survey of Uber found 51% of its drivers worldwide work part time, less than 15 hours per week, and earn less than £300 per month, although there are no equivalent stats for London as these figures include London. The point is they undercut the competition, so drivers earn less than competitors, probably pay less or no tax, and Uber squirrels away it's 25% commission profit offshore to avoid tax. It's an international shark operation designed to kill competition, it is not simply a tech platform. That Mark doesn't understand that as he swans around the world talking about Shrimp exports in Ecuador is revealing in itself. You can't compare CD to digital sales and artist rights to what Uber is up to. Is Mark 'really' that stupid? What the Tories want is a low wage, low regulation economy and we know where that ends up - just ask anyone who lived in Grenfell".


Stephen's full response in The Shuttle comments and to The Shuttle is below.

However, it remains to be seen whether the media pick this up and treat it with the seriousness and significance it deserves given it affirms what we know about Mark, his Party, and no doubt the CCHQ message being circulated to all of its lapdog, uncaring, unthinking MP's who don't think women deserve protection from assault. Business as usual for the Tories then post the election, especially now that they have their unsavoury DUP guard dogs watching their backs in Parliament:

Stephen Brown comments in The Shuttle on Garnier's Uber comments:

"What a shocking column, and you may ask, again, what's this got to do with Wyre Forest? Mark's certainly well and truly sitting comfortably in that London elitist bubble ain't he.

So, again, Mark uses his regular column to preach yet more CCHQ propaganda as fact, this time taking a pop at Sadiq Khan, Labour London Mayor, and in the process defend the interests and practices of a huge tax dodging multinational business. This is Mark showing his true colours, he really should think harder before spouting this nonsense, but maybe he doesn't care, after all he's safe as MP for a couple more years isn't he.

Let's get a few things straight here Mark. 40,000 workers have not lost their jobs, Uber has appeal time, all it has to do is comply with every regulation every other taxi business has to abide by. They could also work for a different law abiding firm because if the business is there other cab firms have said they will take such people on. Indeed, there exists an alternative app too, and being improved, that has more regularised rules of compliance.

Uber is a tax dodging Goliath on the international stage, it is not just a tech app company. It is an employer, and it abuses the law to avoid its worker obligations by practising false self employment, and in case you hadn't been keeping up, it lost a court case about it. It also uses its global power to subsidise fares charging a whopping 25% commission to its drivers making them dependent on them in a form of financial usery. That's why, with its subsidy on fares, it can undercut other business. It's model is to seek and destroy competition. If it cared for its 'workers' it would not be advocating for driverless cabs in London either.

You may also want to look up the incidents of sexual assault committed by Uber drivers in London and importantly how Uber tried to hide that fact to stop it affecting its business. Are you seriously suggesting Mark that these are mere 'infringements' notwithstanding the employment law cases that because of technology are deserving of less serious status? And of course, there's the the tax dodging on an industrial scale.

I told you weeks ago that Uber also manages to circumvent local licensing rules outside of London that safeguard passengers. That could happen here in Wyre Forest. It can use drivers of cabs who may have been denied a licence in one town, and for very good reasons, who then get a licence because of system failures elsewhere in another town, and come back to ply their trade in the town they had their licence revoked in. Uber knows this but uses it to undercut local drivers and takes no responsibility because of their business model of self employment to flout the rules. No other business does this or is allowed to. A loophole in the law that needs fixing.

That our MP chooses this topic in the middle if it's own Brexit shambles and concerns by ordinary people about their future is staggering but sadly not surprising. Mark once again sides with corporate interests in a way that is an insult not only to the safety of Londoners, but to the concerns of his own constituents. So what if Londoners have raised a petition to save their own access to cheap fares? It says more about how they are struggling to make ends meet, like many of us, and the media has cynically tapped into this to attack the Mayor, aided and abetted by uncritical thinkers like Mark, to their own ends. I'd say people should be more interested in public safety, workers rights, and earning a decent living. This race to the bottom has to stop, as does support for it. Only then will we see wages and living standards improve. The gig economy is not something the UK should be proud of but it is what the Tories have made, and they'll do their utmost to protect it, including putting safety at risk and cosying up to tax dodging, safety flouting, workers rights abusing multinationals. Take that as a warning about post Brexit Tory Britain. This is not about technology changes it's about good old fashioned capitalism and abuse of people to earn a profit. At least we know where Mark stands on this, and it's not on your side".

Mark Garnier passes off serious sexual assaults as mere 'infringements' of the regulations by Uber.

In today's Shuttle (28/9/17), our Tory MP Mark Garnier, takes the opportunity to once again ignore the issues of his constituents, instead focusing on London matters and Uber's licence. http://www.kidderminstershuttle.co.uk/news/15555668.MPs_View_September_28/?action=success#comments-feedback-anchor...

Wyre Forest Labour is very concerned about the threat to our Parliamentary Democracy, and the fact that Brexit it being used as a pretext to implement a Bill that effectively bypasses Parliament's voice in our lawmaking and hands over that power to a Ministerial cabal.

Stephen Brown said "whether you voted Brexit or Remain, there are elements of this Bill that should seriously worry you. It threatens the foundation of our Parliamentary democracy and it's why Labour opposed it. Brexiteers' promised Parliament 'would take back control' from the EU, yet the first act of this minority Tory Government is a power grab to give Ministers absolute authority over changes in the law without Parliament getting a say. It's brutally ironic as it's the very thing Brexiteers complained about the EU having. These changes could erode your rights as a citizen or a worker without any proper scrutiny or Parliamentary challenge".

"The lack of any critical thinking on this from many Tory MP's, who voted like loyal lapdogs, is astounding. Exponents of the Bill will try and dress it up as an innocuous change to implement Brexit, and will do so because they fail to understand the consequences. They essentially voted to surrender their role as an MP and one wonders why they bothered standing for Parliament at all if that's the case, because it appears they have no opinion on it of their own. They also seem unaware or unconcerned with other events linked to this that are handing control of Parliamentary committee processes to the Tories outside of accepted protocols. It's something Tory Brexit negotiators could seize on to do trade deals that are disadvantageous to our country and our citizens. People really need to wake up to what's going on here".

It seems many serious political commentators are drawing references to a Bill passed in the Reichstag in Germany in 1933, by supporters of the Nazis, which ultimately handed control to Hitler. That may appear a little over the top but let's not forget the Govt bribed the DUP with £1billion to prop them up, and that has now been used to break with Parliamentary consensus to put the Minority Tory Govt in control of what should be politically balanced committees. These committees also scrutinise Parliamentary process. As if to add to the feeling of an orchestrated Coup d'état, Crawford Falconer, the Government's chief Brexit trade negotiator, believes he should be free to negotiate new deals and have the power to change regulations at will if it seals a deal.

Stephen Brown summed up by saying "People should be joining all these dots, spotting the patterns, and objecting to their MP about what all of this means for our democracy. If taking back control really means what it says, let's see some evidence of this and our MP's respecting the will of the people, respecting Parliamentary democracy, and not turning the country into what potentially could be a banana republic when it comes to our law making. Labour will fight tooth and nail to protect your rights as both a citizen and worker, and I can't see the Tories doing that during Brexit or beyond. Basically, because the Tories serve the agenda of a rich elite intent on making Brexit work for them and stripping us of our rights in a deregulated economy as a European offshore tax haven".

Brexit: Parliament will be sidelined by Government for 40 years if Theresa May's withdrawal bill is passed.

Government's EU Withdrawal Bill threatens our Parliamentary Democracy

Wyre Forest Labour is very concerned about the threat to our Parliamentary Democracy, and the fact that Brexit it being used as a pretext to implement a Bill that effectively...

In the Shuttle of 7th Sept 2017, Mark Garnier responded to Labour's living wage claim in typically dismissive fashion quoting untruths. 

Calls for higher living wage to boost lowest earners in Wyre Forest

http://www.kidderminstershuttle.co.uk/news/15521435.Calls_for_higher_living_wage_to_boost_lowest_earners_in_Wyre_Forest/

This is Wyre Forest Labour's response from press Officer Stephen Brown:

Mark Garnier is a lucky man. Lucky that he gets to represent this great constituency. And lucky because he always gets 2 bites of the political comment cherry in print. He has his propaganda channel in the form of his weekly Shuttle column which he uses to attack opponents and propagate Tory mantra as fact and without challenge; he also gets the right of reply in these articles, again without challenge. No such luxury in print is afforded to anyone else.

The facts

So - let's clear some things up here with 10 facts about wages, austerity, debt, unemployment and the economy to bust the rubbish Mark continually spouts:

  1. Income Inequality fell under Labour between 2000 and 2005 and rose after the financial crisis and has not improved since. Working households are worse off especially the bottom 10% but the richest 10% have gained and the difference is set to be the highest on record.
  2. Labour's crisis, as he refers to it, was, in fact, a WORLDWIDE banking crisis caused by Mark's mates (he was a banker before being our MP so he'll obviously deflect from that) which lead to a bank bailout and bankers being jailed (e.g. In Iceland whereas in UK they get a bonus and taxpayers handout) because they over-lent in an inflated price market to people who could not afford it.
  3. The Banks were under-regulated and abused that fact see 2.
  4. Before the financial crisis the Tories wanted LESS banking regulation.
  5. Govt debt as % of GDP in: 2007 was 36% £527billion; 2010 was 60% £902billion; 2016 was 89% £1.8trillion. The Tories have doubled the debt even though our debt levels were less than France and Germany up to 2010 and were historically very low (fact). What have we got to show for this increase in Tory debt? A transfer of wealth from poor to rich, see 8.
  6. Every Tory Govt in history has borrowed more and repaid less back than Labour. A little nugget most people are oblivious to thanks to press bias dominated by Tory supporting Daily Mail, Sun etc.
  7. Tories inherited an economy on the mend in 2010. Tory Austerity broke that leading to years of debt growth, poor wages, and since 2010 the richest 1,000 families are now £400billion better off at £658billion; which is up 14% in the last year alone because Brexit is as good for them as the Tories are. The rest of us are not so lucky. Did you get a 14% rise last year?
  8. This shows that Tory austerity is a political choice not a necessity. It is designed to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich and it is working just as the Tories planned.
  9. Due to Tory austerity our wages have stagnated at 2008 levels, something Mark is quoted as being ok about. His party opposed the minimum wage originally and Tory policy falls well short of Labour's living wage policy of £10 per hour so we won't be taking any lectures from Mark. Austerity means we're more likely to have zero hour contracts, insecure and seasonal work, and under-employment in a weak economy. If unemployment was really as low as Mark claims, wages would rise because of supply and demand in a strong economy. He knows this but masks it and instead offers up platitudes about tackling low pay.
  10. Unemployment is so 'low' because the figures are now excluding thousands in Wyre Forest e.g. Sick & disabled. The actual unemployment figure is more like 7,000 not 758, so it's really more like 16% not the 1.8% unemployment level claimed.

Be under no illusions, Mark is a wolf in sheeps clothing who wants you to believe he cares and is doing something. He holds a Ministers job with Minster pay, he employs his wife, he is privately educated and was a banker; he does not share yours or the low pay pain of Wyre Forest, nor does he understand it. He is on to a good crack.

Wyre Forest deserves much better

Labour's living wage plan seeks to restore some equality to the wages of ordinary people. True equality won't happen until the Tories and Mark are given the boot, and we have a Labour Govt, with investment in our economy, and better protection for workers. Wyre Forest made a choice in 2017 to stick with Mark, he may not be so lucky at the next election when he runs out of excuses and runs out of time. I for one hope the good people of Wyre Forest see him for what he is and and finally send him packing. Wyre Forest deserves much better.


 

Can Labour be blamed for the economic crisis?

http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/14006/economics/can-labour-be-blamed-for-the-economic-crisis/

Every Tory Govt in history has borrowed more and repaid less back than Labour. A little nugget most people are oblivious to thanks to press bias dominated by Tory supporting Daily Mail, Sun etc.

Mark Garnier trots out the ususal debunked rhetoric in response to calls for a higher living wage for Wyre Forest workers

In the Shuttle of 7th Sept 2017, Mark Garnier responded to Labour's living wage claim in typically dismissive fashion quoting untruths.  Calls for higher living wage to boost lowest earners...

Wyre Forest Labour today made a call for more social housing to be built in the District to address the urgent crisis in social housing.

As a result of Tory Govt policy, and District Council inaction on affordable housing, many local people are struggling to afford their rent, buy a house, or even make it on to the housing waiting list. We even have 1400 homes in the private rented sector in need of repair. Why should people be forced to live like this? It's nothing short of a scandal in 21st Century Britain, one of the so-called richest countries in the world.

Wyre Forest has some 6,000 households in urgent need of an affordable home and little is being done about it. You can read the headlines and report provided by Jamie Shaw, Labour Councillor, at the foot if this article following Labour's comments on the crisis.

Stephen Brown, Labour spokesperson said: "I am grateful to Jamie Shaw, Labour District Councillor, for highlighting the scale of this issue here in Wyre Forest in his report. Jamie has long been a champion of social housing and standing up for local people when it comes to housing needs. Unfortunately, What we see in Wyre Forest is the sheer inadequacy of both Tory Govt policy and District Council willingness to address the urgent crisis in affordable rented social housing in Wyre Forest.

"We need 500 new truly affordable homes built every year, and will get 100 if we're lucky. The District has a median yearly income level of £18,000, with at least 8,000 earning low wages, and a waiting list of 3,000 households in need of affordable homes and which in reality is double that. The Local Plan that will go nowhere near to resolving this issue. The maths don't stack up and no wonder we've got a local housing crisis if this is the kind of thing on offer.

"This crisis has originated in Downing Street thanks to Theresa May and our MP Mark Garnier, and is exacerbated by the Tory council. Why so you may ask? Tory Govt housing policy has deliberately created a situation forcing people into an improperly regulated housing market at rents they can't really afford.

"Worse still, is that rogue landlords are being subsidised by taxpayers. Landlords are making a tidy profit at our expense and you can include Tory landlord MP's in that. Tory MP landlords who voted against a Labour Parliamentary motion for better protection for tenants. It's a local and national disgrace.

"Govt could better use the £2.6billion a year it hands to those private rouge landlords by giving it to councils to build truly affordable rented housing, including here in Wyre Forest. In addition to that, scrapping the ridiculous formula it uses to judge what's affordable, and which is based on private landlords greed rather than real wages, it should be a no brainer. After all, Govt has capped housing benefit yet in contradiction to that is driving up rents.

"Who is benefiting? Landlords of course and it's also why homelessness is rising. In any case, £2.6billion would build 500,000 homes in 5 years nationally and we'd get our fair share. That's what Labour would do if in Government. If we ran the council you can be sure we'd make building such affordable homes more of a priority issue too, starting with those brownfield sites. We should be building homes fit for local people to live in".

Report Headlines include:

  1. Just how many new households need affordable housing every year - some 470.
  2. The massaging of the figures for people 'In need' of housing, which currently stands at 3,000 households but more realistically stands at 6,000. Households were deleted because there was simply 'no chance' of ever getting an affordable rented home rather than them not being in need.
  3. That 6,000 homes are rented social housing, mainly from Community Housing, out of a total of 46,000 properties in Wyre Forest; and this is clearly insufficient and needs to double to 12,000 (see below*) to address the clear need.
  4. Substandard properties in the private rented sector total 1400. How much taxpayers money is being sent providing an income for rogue landlords? The national figure is £2.6billion per year of public subsidy to such rogue landlords. Enough to build 500,00 affordable homes over 5 years (5 x £2.6billion).
  5. Tory Govt policy which sets 'affordable' rent at 80% of private sector renders it unaffordable in an area with a median income of £18,000 per year. We have over 8,000 on minimum wage so how are they supposed to afford rent if £130 per week is set as 'affordable' level? A third can't - total employed in Wyre Forest is 42,000 making 14,000* potentially in need of affordable homes.  Govt policy forces Housing Assoc to charge this so-called 'affordable' rent. It's a tool to drive people into the private sector and unsuitable accommodation. No surprise Tories voted against a Labour motion in Parliament to force landlords to make homes safe. Many Tory MP's are such landlords.
  6. Shared ownership is not working. There's little demand despite Govt pressure to build it. It can also tie in people to a property they may need to move on from preventing movement in the market. Evidence dictates that people much prefer more affordable rented social housing accommodation.
  7. The 'Local Plan' on social housing will fail, it will be woefully inadequate in numbers. Not only that but not enough social housing of even those built may be truly affordable.
  8. Case studies included.

Housing Need in Wyre Forest - Report by Jamie Shaw, Labour Councillor:

Rate of Household Formation

Every year in Wyre Forest, 940 new households seek accommodation in the district. 50% of them cannot afford to buy a house priced at £130,000.

Waiting List in Wyre Forest

The number of households seeking a rented property from a housing association in Wyre Forest has been as high as 6,000 within the last six years. Since then, Wyre Forest District Council has reduced the number on the Waiting List by 50% on two occasions. There was no sudden provision of houses; instead, the district council told half the households on the list that, for them, there was no hope of a property ever becoming available and their names were deleted. Currently there are just over 3,000 registered applications.

Low Wage Wyre Forest

Average work place remuneration in Wyre Forest is £18,000. This level of remuneration for those residents whose employment is actually located in the district places Wyre Forest in an official “low waged area” category. Also, there are areas of significant economic and social deprivation, most notably in the former Oldington & Foley Park ward, which consistently featured in the top twenty most deprived wards in the country. (“Country” not “county”)

Homes for Rent

There are 12,000 homes for rent, 26% of Wyre Forest’s 46,000 properties. However, only half of the 12,000 are owned by housing associations; the remainder are privately rented. The privately rented sector grew significantly in Wyre Forest under the policies of the Coalition and Cameron governments, despite this sector having the by far the worst record of disrepair,nationally and locally. Currently, in Wyre Forest, 1,400 privately rented properties are listed by the council as being in disrepair. Wyre Forest Community Housing, to which the council’s housing stock was transferred in 2000, is by far the biggest housing association provider in the district.

Social & Affordable Rent and Shared Ownership

The reference point for the calculation of both “social” and “affordable” rents is the average rental in the private sector in the relevant housing authority area. The figure for Wyre Forest is c£130 per week. In Wyre Forest a social rent could be 50% cheaper. However, the Coalition Government introduced the “affordable” rent, which sought to increase rents in the public rental sector to 80% of the private rate.  Unsurprisingly in a low wage area, significant numbers of Wyre Forest households cannot afford “affordable” rents. To return to the 940 new households per annum seeking accommodation, well over a third could not afford the “affordable rent” on a one or two-bedroomed apartment. The Coalition, Cameron and May governments have taken measures to force housing associations to charge “affordable”rents, such as making capital grants dependent on rent levels.

Shared ownership, ie, part-rent, part-buy occupancy, is also favoured by Government. Housing associations are required to transfer some previously wholly- rented properties to this tenure when they become vacant. Also, they are required to include the tenure in their new-build programmes. This government policy is the reason why properties lie vacant for months in low income Wyre Forest. A good example is the recently built properties on the former Reilloc Chain site on Stourport Road, Kidderminster. The houses in the new street to the rear of the development, Collier Close, are rent-only; they were filled immediately. The houses along Stourport Road are part-rent, part-buy; some stood empty for well over a year after completion.

A current example of the relative lack of demand for shared ownership comes from the report of the Strategic Housing Manager to the Planning committee on 15th August 2017. Referring to a specific area of Kidderminster, she identified a need for forty-four “affordable houses”,only one of was which recommended for shared ownership.

Current Demand and Supply

The decreasing size of households and “benefit reform” has had a significant effect on the sizes of property sought. Current advice is that 50% percent of new-build should be two-bedroomed, 33%, one-bedroomed and only 17% three-bedroomed. Houses can be built in two ways. A housing association may have the resources to fund a development by itself. Thus, in August 2017, Wyre Forest Community Housing gained planning approval the construction of fifteen homes at Comberton Place, Kidderminster. The alternative means is by exercise of the district council’s power to require a development of ten or more houses, (in Kidderminster and Stourport), to contain up to 30% as social housing, (to be purchased and managed by a housing association). Probably the least recognised socially rented houses within an otherwise private development in Wyre Forest are part of the Lichfield Basin former “brownfield” site in Stourport, a mixed-tenure, mixed social-class community.

The Local Plan 2016-34

6,000 homes are proposed to be constructed within this period, an average of 300 annually. Assessing real need, planning officers find that 149 properties in each 300 should be “affordable”. However, they do not consider that this target is realistic, given current national housing policies. Therefore the Plan’s current recommendation is for a target of 100 perannum. Moreover, again bowing to government policy, 35 in every 100 are identified as shared ownership properties. That leaves just 65 for rent, the proportion at “social” and “affordable” levels not being specified. 

Case Studies:

Case Study 1 – A woman with a school-age child and a three year-old was required to leave her privately-rented house after the landlord refused to renew the tenancy because part of her rent was funded by Housing Benefit after her partner left the household. The only offer of socially rented accommodation was a flat, which she turned down because there was no secure area for her children to play. With the aid of a district council housing officer, another privately-rented property, was found, but at the other end of town, and only for a temporary period, causing a problem in getting the child to school on time.

Case Study 2 – An elderly couple, both suffering from degenerative illnesses, sought a move from their mobile home on a Stourport site. After two years, they were still in their caravan. A Housing Needs officer suggested that they consider Community Housing’s new assisted living complex, Berrington Court. Unfortunately, the service charges required in addition to the rent were too expensive for the move to take place.

Case Study 3 – A couple with two children live in an upstairs, one-bedroomed, Community Housing flat. One adult and one child suffer from medical conditions which have been confirmed by doctors to have been exacerbated by the family’s current accommodation. However, the advice from Housing Needs is that there are so many other needy families ahead of them in the queue that they are likely only to be successful in moving to a ground floor flat in the foreseeable future.

Urgent Call For More Social Housing In Wyre Forest

Wyre Forest Labour today made a call for more social housing to be built in the District to address the urgent crisis in social housing. As a result of Tory...

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