Letter from Parliament - Jim Dobbin MP
Date published: 03 April 2012
All political parties are now in preparation for the local elections in May. The social conditions many constituents now face will have an influence on how they vote at these elections and the national scandals exposed in the press over the last few months will have some effect on their decisions. I was sad to see the Health and Social Care Bill passed. Our NHS was the envy of the world, and, tellingly, most of the professional bodies opposed the re-organisation. Meanwhile waiting lists are longer and frontline NHS staff are losing their jobs. Worse still, this unwanted reorganisation will cost the country billions at a time we need every penny.
I like many others felt that the Chancellor, George Osborne missed an opportunity to help the country get back on its feet. The Budget has highlighted the coalition’s lack of a coherent plan for industry, and as Minister Vince Cable said, it shows “a lack of compelling vision”. It all seems a bit pick and mix, which might succeed in a sweet shop but will not do in a government whose economy, is facing unprecedented challenges. We are falling behind because of lack of investment in key industries. Small and medium businesses are losing out and many are struggling to get credit. Growth in the economy is slow because most households are cutting back as their household incomes reduce.
Ministers are not helping. Peter Luff, Minister for MOD procurement said he was happy the North Koreans were building the new MOD tanker and they will not consider employment, industrial or economic factors in its value for money assessment. The train manufacturers in Britain are overlooked as contracts for Thameslink are given to Germany. We need jobs and training investment to get things moving in the UK. It is no wonder the Federation of Small Businesses said: “The Government’s growth strategy is not working”.
It was a disappointing budget for our national economy and it was a disappointing budget for local authorities who have to look at local priorities such as social care. Many areas now are introducing food parcel depots for families and individuals. Local councils have a real headache trying to prioritise where cuts can be made while being aware that local government funding will be experiencing cuts until 2017. The Regional Growth Fund which was set up to replace the Regional Development Agencies failed in its targets as over 40% of successful bidders are still waiting for their money 14 months after the winners were announced.
The ridiculous comments from the David Cameron and Francis Maude on fuel storage have led to a horrendous accident and an unnecessary panic to buy petrol. No strike had been called; no date set and the two sides were in dialogue. It was scaremongering and they should have known better.
The revelations about funding of £250,000 per secret dinner with Cameron came at a bad time for the Government as the country was still reeling from the cuts to child tax credits and child benefits in the Budget not to mention the shock of the granny tax that will hit new pensioners. Yet they still maintain we are all in this together.
I am glad to say that in the Parliamentary debate the move towards so-called right to die legislation was soundly defeated. We know that death is not a regular subject of conversation yet we are all going to die sometime. How we die is important. In addition, we know from the wonderful work of the hospice movement that the concerns people have about dying can be eased, relatives can be comforted and patients’ fears allayed. I attended a fund raising dinner for our local Springhill Hospice movement where the guest speaker was Dame Mary Peters LL the UK gold medal winner of the Olympic pentathlon. She spoke warmly of her close bonds with Springhill Hospice and the area it serves.
She is an Olympic ambassador and in that capacity visits schools and organisations in Northern Ireland, where she lives. We were entertained with anecdotes about her visits to schools and her warm personality made it a night to remember.
We attended lunch at the Broadfield Hotel at the invitation of the Heywood Lions, meeting old friends and acquaintances, sharing a lovely meal and enjoying the company of a great bunch of people who do a lot for charity.
Rochdale Town Hall hosted the Queen’s Jubilee Service led by three bishops, with clergy from various denominations and beautifully organised by Dean Maureen Thorpe. We were reminded of events that had taken place and of those who had made their mark in our borough over the 60 years since the Queen came to the throne.
The Co-op Movement is of course a lasting legacy of Rochdale from a much earlier era and I spoke at the Area Co-op Party in Manchester last week.
It is now the Easter recess and the weather is as usual very unpredictable.
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