With prices rising faster than wages, the last few years have been tough for public sector workers – including those in the NHS, who work incredibly hard, and often in challenging circumstances. It is a scandal that this Government went against the advice of the NHS Pay Review Body. George Osborne has broken his promise that there would be a 1% rise in public sector pay until 2015.
If the Government had not wasted £3 billion on an unnecessary top-down re-organisation that nobody wanted, the NHS would have be in a much better financial position than it was today. Instead, David Cameron’s costly reforms have resulted in six figure pay offs for thousands of senior managers and pay cuts for nurses.
Labour has pledged a new £2.5 billion fund to give NHS staff the time they need to care. And with 4.8 million workers in the country currently not being paid enough to get by, we are supporting the principle of a living wage too. Our NHS workers deserve to be properly rewarded for the vital work they do.
Today I will cast my vote in Parliament to support UK recognition of the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel.
The principle at stake here is a simple but key one for anyone seeking a just a durable solution to the conflict in the Middle East. Do we treat Israelis and Palestinians as equals or not? For Israelis, recognition of their state is something they have expected from the international community as a matter of right, not as a privilege. It is something they secured bilaterally from Britain over 65 years ago. And over 20 years have passed since the PLO, representing the people of Palestine as a whole, also formally recognised the state of Israel.
International recognition of Israel is not in doubt. Even so, successive Israeli governments still consider constant reaffirmation of recognition of Israel’s statehood to be fundamental. So fundamental, in fact, that they insist that they will only engage in peace talks with President Abbas’ PLO, which recognises Israel, not with any Palestinian faction such as Hamas which does not. “How,” ask senior Israeli politicians, “can you talk with people who do not recognise your right to exist?” For them, recognition of Israel is not something to come out of in negotiations, but a precondition on those even seeking a place at the table in the first place .
But when it comes to Palestinians, the equation changes.
Poor old George Osborne. His government’s privatisation of Royal Mail seems to be hitting his own department even harder than the rest of us. Can you imagine – a letter he sent from his office in the House of Commons to another MP’s office took no less than five days to arrive? And guess what? The office which did not receive the letter for so long was mine.
Thursday’s rejection by Birmingham City Council of Sainsburys’ plan to build a new store on the car park of the Navigation Inn in Kings Norton is a tribute to the efforts of local people and businesses. A plan by the Co-op to build a supermarket facing The Green has also been knocked back. Reports in the press suggest that the Co-op may come forward with a re-designed scheme.
Labour’s local team had backed local residents and businesses who had warned about traffic congestion, parking problems and hazards for local parents dropping off or picking up their children from the nearby King’s Norton Primary School. There were also warnings about the impact on Kings Norton Green as a local centre and on its popular monthly Farmers’ Market.
Ludicrous. A lottery. These are just some of the terms being used to describe the Government’s approach to roads maintenance, after the Public Accounts Committee issued a damning report into funding arrangements this week.
The all-party committee of MPs responsible for scrutinising public spending have concluded this Government’s stop-start approach to roads maintenance funding is wasting taxpayers’ money and failing to deliver better roads. Labour’s Chair of the Committee, Margaret Hodge, has hit out at a Government who cut road maintenance budgets by £1.2 billion upon entering office – only to sign last minute checks on nine separate occasions because the pothole problem has got out of control.