Chi at Maker Space in Newcastle
It does appear as if winter is unending with freezing temperatures and snow returning at the weekend. It has been a bitter time in other ways too with huge concerns about the impact of the £100m Government cuts to Newcastle’s funding and both the council tax benefit cut and bedroom tax due to start in March.
I think Newcastle City Council’s decision to set a three year budget was the right one, it means that people and services can plan for the future. But that future is going to be bleak for many groups and service users with so much money being cut so quickly from the budget. There was a lot of media attention on the impact on cultural organisations in Newcastle, and I am glad that following the consultation the Council has announced a £600,000 fund to continue arts support. The fate of two of Newcastle’s respite homes received no national attention but I know the huge impact they make to peoples’ lives and I am very glad that the Council has found a way to keep them going.
But many services are going to be lost. I have received a large number of emails and letters about the closure of Fenham, Blakelaw and Cruddas Park libraries as well as the fate of the City Baths and the Turkish Baths. I know that the Council and community groups are still desperately looking for new ways of keeping these important community resources going in some form.
Housing is back again as the number one issue people raise with me, having briefly been displaced by benefits. But it is the welfare changes which are driving a lot of the housing issues I hear, in particular the bedroom tax. Many pensioners, disabled and Mums have come to me really worried that they are going to be loosing upto £14 a week which they can’t afford because somebody says they should have fewer rooms when there are no flats or houses with fewer rooms available.
The fact that this is happening at the same time as millionaires are having a tax cut adds insult to injury and is a sure sign that the Government is out of touch with
Shadow Ministerial Role
I continue to meet with stakeholders in my new brief in the Cabinet Office to get a better understanding of it. I am holding two roundtables on social enterprise in April, the first with voluntary organisations in Newcastle on the 8th and the second with the Federation of Business Services on the 19th. I am also chairing the Progress event ‘ Real Change for Britain: what should Labour’s priorities for government be?’ on the 14th. Contact me if you would like to join in.
Spoke from the front bench 13 February 2013 Collective Ministerial Responsibility [Westminster Hall]
I was drawn for a PMQ on 6th March and used it to highlight the combined impact of the council tax benefit cut and the bedroom tax in Newcastle at the same time as the tax cut for millionaires.
Continuing my housing campaign I spoke in 7 February on Letting Agents [Westminster Hall] debate . I also spoke 28 February Nuisance calls [Westminster Hall]
Spoke at questions in the House from the back benches 25 February 2013 Economic Policy, Loss of AAA rating; 14 February 2013 Working Mothers; 28 February Engineering Careers [Westminster Hall; 11 February 2013 Horsemeat (Food Fraud)
On 12 February 2013 I used a point of order to call on the Deputy Prime Minister to apologise for claiming that Newcastle Council was closing all arts venues.
Media: Quoted in Journal and Chronicle. Cyber security press release got national and international coverage. FTTH Council speech received trade coverage. Cyber security blog and Women’s Day Women in Tech blog were also covered by trade press.
Parliamentary spring intern started at the Westminster Office. I continue to receive a huge volume of letters, emails and phone calls, over 2000 per week.
Meeting, Visits & Speaking Engagements:
- Meetings & Visits: Newcastle International Development Conference, Eric Ash, British Library Enterprise Centre, Chartered Institute of Insurers, Autistic Society, British Private Equity Chairman’s Dinner, Tata Services, Chinese in Britain, Chloe Smith, FTTH Council, Broadband Forum, IET Annual Dinner, Maker Space, Northumbria Tyne and Wear Mental Health Trust, Amar Mirza, Sheffield Global Manufacturing Centre, Foodbanks come to Parliament, ESPRC, ICOMP, Medical Research Council, Social Firms UK, Sophy Ridge, Ingeus, Nick Forbes; Tom Levitt, Green Alliance, Launch of the National Asian Business Association, Reform Lunch Data is the new oil, Thales, Fujitsu, Comic Relief, Purpose Europe, Help the Hospices, Bashir Gwandu, EEF Manufacturing Dinner, Shell, Social Landlords Crime and Nuisance Group, Big Innovation Centre, NCVO, Lloyds Banking Group, BT, Being Heard International Women’s Day Event, Pendower Community Centre, NCFE
- Speaking engagements: Fibre to the Home Conference, North East National Housing Federation Building Neighbourhoods Conference, Policy Exchange GeoEngineering event, Intellect Board Meeting, Launch of Trailblazers Conference and Exhibition at Discovery, Launch of West End Stories Exhibition.