Liverpool is tackling Ebola through important research

Yesterday in Parliament I praised the fantastic work that the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health and the School of Tropical medicine are doing to tackle the deadly Ebola virus.

Researchers at the two Liverpool institutions are currently helping to fight the Ebola outbreak in Africa and are working together to understand the spread of the virus and the risks it poses to the UK.

I asked the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt:

Liverpool University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, have done a great deal of work to address the problem of the transmission of Ebola. Does the Secretary of State’s work involve their recommendations, and do his proposals for combating Ebola, particularly as regards international travel, address the issues that those institutions raise?

The Health Secretary agreed with me saying that “we have fantastic research on the spread of infectious diseases at a number of institutions in this country, including in Liverpool, and we are not only using that research in the battle that we are leading in Sierra Leone, but making it available to partner countries leading the battle in other parts of west Africa”.

The full text of the question can be found here: http://bit.ly/1vZPw2S

My calls for Aigburth Cricket Club to be saved

I am calling on the owners of the land in Southwood Road (where Aigburth Cricket Club is based) to withdraw their plans to evict the club on November 15th.

The Cricket and Bowls club, who have been in existence for nearly 130 years, face eviction – having been asked to leave the ground by the owners.

I have been supporting the club and have taken up their case with Sport England and Liverpool City Council.

Sport England say that they would oppose alternative development unless the site was surplus to requirements. Liverpool City Council have confirmed to me that Liverpool currently has an under provision of cricket pitches.

In addition, should the owner wish to sell the land they would be responsible for replacing provision in the area and would have to provide “an equivalent or better quantity and quality of playing field including ancillary facilities within the locality.”

I call for the eviction notice issued on Aigburth Cricket Club to be withdrawn with its requirements for the Club to vacate the Southwood Road site by November 15th.

Sport England and the Council have indicated the difficulties the owner would face if he sought to close the club and develop the land for other purposes.

This situation is causing great anxiety to the many people who use this club.

It is time the uncertainty was removed.

Government must think again on cuts for disabled students

I am very concerned that the Government has not yet completed an equality analysis on its plans to cut Disabled Student Allowances (DSA). This was revealed in the Minister’s answer to my written parliamentary question (June 11th):

Mrs Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what impact assessments he carried out on proposals to change disabled students’ allowances.

Mr Willetts: The proposed changes to disabled students’ allowances will be subject to an equality analysis, which will consider their impact in relation to protected characteristics. Extensive discussions are under way with a wide range of stakeholders to help inform this.

I will consider a final version of the equality analysis before any final decisions are made and regulations are laid before the House.

Higher education students can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) if they have a:

  • disability
  • long-term health condition
  • mental health condition
  • specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia

I have also signed David Blunkett’s Early Day Motion (EDM 48) on this issue. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2014-15/48

I have made representations to the Minister. This deserves a major rethink. The government must think again.

No decision must be taken before the equality impact is published and debated!

The Bedroom Tax – One Year On

On the one year anniversary of the Bedroom Tax, Labour has pledged to scrap the Bedroom Tax when it forms the next government, which has hit over 78,000 people in the North West, 26,000 in Merseyside alone.

Since David Cameron’s government introduced the Bedroom Tax low-income households have been forced to find, on average an extra £720 a year. According to the National Housing Federation two thirds of households hit by the Bedroom Tax cannot find the money to pay their rents and one in seven are at risk of eviction.

Some of the poorest households have been hit by this cruel and costly tax on bedrooms. It’s time for the government to ditch the Bedroom Tax.

The next Labour Government will repeal the Bedroom Tax.Image

Turf cutting ceremony at new Royal

Along with Mayor Joe Anderson, Lord Mayor Cllr Gary Miller and Walton MP SteveIMG_0041 Rotheram, I was very pleased to be at the new Royal Liverpool hospital’s turf cutting ceremony on Monday morning. I am delighted to see it now happening.

It has been a long journey to get here, with many dedicated groups playing their part to secure the £429m investment. The city is a step closer to having a new world class hospital in 2017 – an important part of our city’s regeneration.

I look forward to seeing the construction progress.

Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School shortlisted in national ‘win a classroom’ competition

Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Kensington has been named as a finalist in a national competition to win an £80,000 classroom. This morning, I met with Mr Daniels, the Head, and pupils at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Hall Lane about their great achievement in making the final stage of the competition.

The school was selected from nearly 400 schools that entered the competition in the Times Educational Supplement. It will now battle it out against four other shortlisted schools in a public vote to win a bespoke classroom.

Pupils and parents at Sacred Heart Primary produced a short film for the competition, which can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beN7QjWNhAs

The competition was open to all primary and secondary schools in the UK. To enter, schools simply had to explain, in no more than 300 words, why they deserved to win a new learning space.

A panel of four judges selected the six shortlisted schools. The panel included Olympian Rob Hayles; Lord Jim Knight, Shadow Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister in the Lords and consultant on education, technology and welfare; Gail Larkin, National Association of Head Teachers Vice-President; TES Editor and Digital Publishing Director Ann Mroz; and Managing Director of Clearspace Construction Scott Horner.

The judges were impressed with Sacred Heart’s plan to turn the permanent modular building into a ‘love to talk’ classroom to encourage speaking and listening throughout the school, particularly in aid of the many students that speak little or no English. As well as providing much-needed classroom space, it will also benefit the local community by providing a drop-in centre for parents at the school and enable the school to lead ‘baby and toddler’ sessions.

The eventual winner of the £80,000 building will now be decided by a public vote. Voting is now open at http://www.tesconnect.com/building and closes on 27 April 2014.

The winner will be announced on Thursday 8 May 2014.More information about the competition can be found at: http://www.clearspaceeducation.co.uk or http://www.tesconnect.com/building

I hope you can give your support to the school!

Calls for Osborne to ‘bring councils back from the brink’

On the eve of the Chancellor’s budget speech, MPs representing some of the UK’s most impoverished councils gathered in Parliament to call on George Osborne to use his Budget speech to spread any benefits from an upturn in the economy beyond those areas in the South East, whose local economies are already improving.

The group of SIGOMA MPs*, all representing local authorities outside the prosperous South East, have joined together to demand an immediate stop to further cuts in their councils’ budgets, which have seen some services in many boroughs stripped to their bare essentials and the most vulnerable and poorest put under increased pressure to make ends meet.

During the Chancellor’s almost four years in office many SIGOMA councils have seen significant and annual cuts to their budgets, with some councils losing over 25% of funding. The burden of the cuts has been specifically targeted to those with the highest levels of spend without recognising that that spend relates directly to the areas with the greatest levels of need and poverty.

The divide between councils representing prosperous areas and those with less well-off economies has also widened further as the Government has allowed councils to keep more of their business rates. Meaning those prosperous authorities receive yet more funding as business rates increase on the back of the economic upturn, but those with more struggling economies are left further behind.

SIGOMA councils are calling for a full evaluation of the total impact of the funding cuts since 2010 and seek tore-establish the link between the costs of services and the funding Central Government provides to run them. They argue that revenue cuts since 2010, and a greater level of top slicing of the Revenue Support Grant has left many SIGOMA councils desolate in comparison to many South East authorities which have borne little of the brunt of the funding cuts.

I have made a number of contributions recent regarding local government finance and Liverpool. On March 5th I asked the Prime Minster:

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): First, the Government told northern councillors to stop doffing their caps in the hopes of a handout. Then, the High Court ruled that Government cuts in European funding for Liverpool and Sheffield were illegal. What does all this say about the Government?

 

The Prime Minister: Of course, Liverpool—the city that the hon. Lady represents—has huge funding needs, and I believe that the funding it gets reflects those needs. Spending in Liverpool for 2014 is £2,595 per dwelling.

Now, obviously, the needs of her constituency are much greater than the needs of my constituency, but that is a full £700 more per dwelling than is spent in my constituency. So I do not believe that the people of Liverpool are being short-changed. They are properly funded for the services that they need.

Here is my contribution from last month’s debate (12/2) on Local Government Finance:

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Local government is important to everyone. It is about improving people’s quality of life, developing potential, protecting the vulnerable and supporting communities. That is why the Government’s attacks on local services are so destructive. When the severest financial cuts are made on the poorest, that is grossly irresponsible. I listened with horror to what the Chairman of the Select Committee told us: the Government have now admitted that they are no longer concerned about protecting the vulnerable and are more interested in protecting the rich—that is outrageous.

 

It is completely unacceptable that Liverpool, which on the Government’s own figures is the most deprived local authority in the country, has suffered the deepest cuts yet again. Liverpool will suffer drastic cuts in spending power this year and it will suffer them again next year, with its funding slashed by another 5.4%—£32 million—which is the equivalent of £148 a household. By contrast, Surrey Heath is facing cuts of £73,000—a mere 0.1% cut. That is an indication of where the Government’s priorities lie. In real terms, Liverpool’s funding has been cut by 52% since 2010, and the figure is likely to reach 58% by 2016-17. As 76% of Liverpool’s finance for local services comes from central Government, in recognition of the city’s needs, the cut will be devastating.

 

I was appalled to hear the Minister state at the beginning of this debate that he regarded that support as a handout. I call it justice; it is about recognising need. He sees supporting deprived communities as giving a handout, which he is rapidly withdrawing. It is an absolute disgrace, and I am pleased that he has put that on the record in this debate today. The reality for Liverpool is that services such as nurseries, care for the under-fives, social care for the vulnerable, which includes 5,000 care packages, library, regeneration and youth services will all be at risk. Whatever spurious lines he tries to go down, the finger of blame will be pointed clearly at the Government who will be responsible.

 

I noted that the Minister attempted to divert this debate by talking about Liverpool’s reserves. Those reserves are held because they are legally required to be held, mainly on behalf of schools. Furthermore, despite the devastating blows to local services coming from this Government to the city of Liverpool, the council and its mayor are responsible people and they are determined to maintain the city’s finances in a prudent manner, and they will not deviate from that.

 

Andy Sawford: My hon. Friend makes an incredibly important point about Liverpool’s reserves, which we calculate are equivalent to one month’s operating costs for Liverpool council. That is a prudent level of reserves. Perhaps, it wants more reserves in order to have some sustainability given the context that she is powerfully describing.

 

Mrs Ellman: My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. Nothing that the Minister has said tonight can deviate from the reality that the Government are hitting hardest the poorest areas of the country. They describe the funding that they give as a handout, and they are shameless in their intention to continue hammering the poorest areas of the country. It is absolutely outrageous and absolutely unacceptable. Of course, the cuts in local government support to Liverpool are not the only blows being dealt to the city. For example, the hated bedroom tax is already affecting more than 11,000 Liverpool households, which are losing an average of £14 a week. That combined with the additional council tax charges that the poorest people are being required to pay means that a large number of people are now being asked to pay £16 a week more. That might not sound much to a millionaire or to people who are extremely wealthy, but for a poor person in work struggling to survive on a low wage and to maintain their family, this is an additional hammer blow, which is unacceptable and disgraceful. One consequence is increasing debt for vulnerable people, and that is something about which the Government should be concerned. Instead, they seem to have washed their hands of it and simply do not care.

 

I have described the current situation in Liverpool in relation to previous revenue support grant settlements and to what is going to happen in the coming two years. It is all credit to the city of Liverpool, its elected council and elected mayor, that the city is resilient. It is fighting hard to support jobs, back enterprise and bring investment to the city. For example, the mayor has already restored the cruise liner terminal. The council promotes investment worth millions of pounds. It is about to host the international festival for business on behalf of the United Kingdom. It is delivering apprenticeships and it has protected people from the impact of Government cuts. However, this settlement makes that task harder; indeed it might even make it impossible. The people of Liverpool know what is happening and who is to blame. Even at this late hour, I ask the Government to think again about the unfair cuts they are inflicting on the people of Liverpool and treat Liverpool citizens with the respect they deserve.

 

*SIGOMA (http://www.sigoma.gov.uk/) SIGOMA is the collective voice of urban areas representing most of the large towns and cities in the Northern, Midland and SouthCoast regions of England. SIGOMA’s membership compromises of 33 metropolitan districts and 12 major unitary councils with similar characteristics. The combined population of SIGOMA councils amounts to over a quarter of the population of England and its members account for over 25% of English local government expenditure.