As we go into Christmas we have the heartbreaking images and devastating consequences of the Newtown shootings to remind us of just what humanity is capable of in both the best and worst senses.
In a moving speech, President Obama put into words what so many of us were thinking. He explained, better than most politicians can, why we all have a responsibility to each other’s children and indeed to each other. He set out why the USA needs to do better by its children. And that is true for the UK. Thank God we do not have the sort of gun culture they have in America. But there are children in Newcastle who do not have, in Obama’s words, the “chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose.”
Obama’s words came to mind when thinking about food poverty in Newcastle. The rising number of food banks in the city is both a tribute to those Geordies wanting to help others in need, and a terrible indictment of this Government’s failed economic policies. Newcastle has one of the highest levels of child poverty in the country at 31% of children. In the 21st Century, in a rich country like the UK, no child should go without food.
There was a sharp rise in foodbank use at the beginning of the last school holidays. The Children’s Society believes that is because parents who rely on free school meals to give their children at least one good meal a day had to turn to other sources. In addition The Children’s Society estimates that there are 1.2 million children living in poverty in England missing out on free school meal every day. 700,000 of them are not even entitled to receive them, often because their parents are in work. I know there are many parents in Newcastle for whom the end of the school term means an additional financial burden which is a real worry to them. This Government’s cuts to child tax credit and working tax credits and have made it so much harder for working families to make ends meet.
That is one reason I was pleased to take part in the Grainger Street Co-op’s YOU CAN campaign and Eldon Square Tesco’s Food Collection, to see the work they were doing to help collect food for needy families at Christmas.
I was told that shoppers who did not have much themselves were donating that bit extra because, they said, they knew what it was like to go without. In Newcastle many local charities do a great deal to help food poverty, including the People’s Kitchen which will be open on Christmas day.
We will all enjoy Christmas more in the knowledge that those in need are being cared for and I hope we will do everything we can to make sure that is the case.
This is my last blog of 2013. I hope everyone has a great Christmas. I wish I could say that things will be better next year but I know that the Council is facing disproportionate cuts of £90 million pounds over the next three years, £162 per person in Newcastle against councils in the south who have had a cut of only £2.70 per person.
There has been a lot of controversy about what is being cut and the Council, in consultation with everyone who lives and works in Newcastle, has some tough choices to make. But whatever services are chosen, it is going to make life harder for so many in Newcastle, it cannot do otherwise. So I wish everyone the help and support you need in 2013 and certainly I will be doing all I can to make sure you have it.
Shadow Ministerial Role
I held a number of roundtables on science and the policy framework I am developing as part of Labour’s policy review: http://chionwurahmp.com/2012/10/science-and-innovation-policy-key-themes-and-examples/
I supported the progress of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform bill through the Lords. We hope that the Government will be persuaded to introduce amendments improving the Bill so that it can have some positive impact on the economy.
I held first adjournment debate in the Chamber on Empty Properties in Newcastle http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121112/debtext/121112-0004.htm#1211132002141 , emphasizing that the Government was undermining the Council’s ability to deal with empty properties . Spoke in the Chamber six times in addition to the adjournment debate, covering Autumn Statement, Middle East, Physics education, Clinical Commissioning Groups, European Council and Superfast Broadband.
I also spent an afternoon shadowing Dr James Kavanagh at the Renal Complement Institute in Newcastle:
Dr Holly Anderson, Chi and Dr James Kavanagh
- Quoted in Journal and Evening Chronicle. Interviewed by BBC radio and TV on Martin Luther King. Appeared on Politics Show and Daily Politics,
- Meetings & Visits Forth Banks Police Station, Remembrance Sunday, Ericsson, UKie, Michelle Rowland Australian MP, NERC, BAE, National Housing Federation, Clinical Commissioning Group, Nick Forbes, Self Build Workshop, Andrew Adonis, Mondelez, Committee on Public Services Nigeria, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Network Rail, Centre for Cities, Parliament Hack Day, Prospect, John Innes Centre, The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), Patients Association, Institute of Civil Engineers, Institute of Engineering Technology, Digital Heroes, Arts and Humanities Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, Reaction Engines, Airwave, West End Women and Girls, Social Finance, Co-op & Tesco Christmas Charity Appeals, Friends of Africa Business Awards, Science and Technology Facilities Council, National Infertility Awareness Campaign, Royal Society labs to riches, Engineering UK, Energy UK,
- Social Science Festival, International HE Conference, Dame Allen’s Sixth Form, MEDSIN Save our NHS Conference, SPRU debate Future of Scientific Advice, Association for Black Engineers Awards, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce Unlocking Success Business Conference, Pancreatic Cancer Research Round Table, St Aloysious College, PICTFOR Annual Dinner, Green Social Democracy Advisory Group, Society of Biology Policylate, Science and Democracy Roundtable, Teenage Cancer Trust Christmas at the Cathedral, Pearsons, Newcastle Youth Parliament.