This morning I was at Northfield Station to speak to rail users who are fed up by yet another increase in the price of fares on our railways.
Commuters told me of their frustration and anger as they have watched train fares surge as their wages have stagnated.
At the start of 2018, the Government and private train companies increased the price of rail fares by an average of 3.4%. This is the biggest annual increase in five years and fares have already gone up by 32% since the Conservatives entered Government in 2010.
The Government are failing to stand up for rail passengers. Labour would bring our railways into public ownership to make sure that passengers are put at the heart of decision-making on our railways and to provide the investment that our railways desperately needs.
This week is Road Safety Week, an invaluable initiative for keeping our roads as safe as possible, organised by the road safety charity Brake.
As part of Road Safety Week, I took part in an event organised by Vision Express and Brake to try out a simulator that replicates the impact of glaucoma on a driver’s field of vision in order to highlight the importance of regular eye testing for road safety.
Deterioration of eye sight can be gradual and often people won’t realise that their vision has deteriorated over time – in fact 40% of your vision can be lost without you even noticing.
Regular eye tests help to pick up changes in sight to ensure that problems can be treated to help prevent a deterioration in eye sight. Across the UK, over 2 million people are living with sight loss, 50% of which is preventable and could be addressed through regular eye check-ups.
It is a similar case for glaucoma, the single biggest preventable cause of sight loss – half of people living with glaucoma are undiagnosed – yet this could immediately be detected by an eye test.
Eye tests really do safe lives. Road crashes caused by poor driver vision are estimated to cause 2,900 casualties in the UK a year.
Every person killed or injured on our roads is one too many. We all have a responsibility to identify what more we can do to make the vision of zero deaths and serious injuries on our roads a reality.
Over 1.5 million licence holders have never had an eye test and all drivers have a responsibility to ensure that they regularly get their eyes tested.
The NHS recommend that you should get your eyes tested every two years, and more often if advised. Not only does an eye test check whether you need glasses, it can also identify a number of underlying health conditions, and makes our road safer for everyone.
You can find out more about road safety week here – http://www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk/
This week is Living Wage Week and the Living Wage Foundation announced that the UK Voluntary Living Wage is to rise to £8.75 per hour for those working outside of London.
The Voluntary Living Wage is independently calculated from research into what people in the UK need to get by. Unlike the Government’s re-branding of the National Minimum Wage to the National Living Wage – which is £7.50 per hour – it reflects the real cost of living taking into account th…ings like accommodation, travel and a reasonable diet.
The rise in the Voluntary Living Wage will mean a pay rise for thousands of workers in our city. It is great that more and more employers in our city have chosen to go beyond the Government’s legal minimum and pay a real Living Wage.
When work pays we all benefit – living standards rise, inequality reduces and productivity increases.
But too many people in Northfield are still not paid a salary that is enough to get by.
Northfield has historically been one of ‘Living Wage Blackspots’ when it comes to the amount of people earning below the living wage. Recent research by the Living Wage Foundation found that in Northfield almost 30% of workers, 9000 in total, still get paid less than last year’s Voluntary Living Wage of £8.45 per hour. In the West Midlands a quarter of workers still earn below this wage and across the country 5.5 million are still paid less than the real Living Wage.
It is a scandal that almost a third of working people in Northfield are not still being paid enough to provide properly for themselves and their families. These figures reinforce that in-work poverty is real and it means far too many working people in this area are struggling to make ends meet.
You can find out more about living wage week here – https://www.livingwage.org.uk/living-wage-week
I have added my name to a letter drafted by Labour’s Shadow Sports Minister, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, calling on the Football Association to fill empty seats at England matches with free tickets for schoolchildren.
Wembley Stadium had 28,000 empty seats during the last England match and there are many schools in Northfield that would welcome the chance to offer young people the opportunity to be at Wembley to see England play. For games where the FA expects or knows that there will be a large number of empty seats, these should be given to schools.
Birmingham Northfield MP Richard Burden has called for Birmingham City Council to rethink proposals published today following its Early Years Health and Wellbeing Review. Under the review Birmingham City Council proposes to contract out children’s centre services to a consortium of the Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Barnardo’s Spurgeons children’s charity and St Paul’s Community Trust. The City Council say the plan will better integrate health visiting and children’s centre services, but it will see a number of children’s centres de-registered by the Council.
Mr Burden said today:
Government cuts are hitting children’s centres and other Sure Start initiatives all over the country. A third of all the UK’s sure start centres have been lost since 2010. Birmingham has lost £17m from its own early years budget. Nobody should be under any illusions that the responsibility of cuts to children’s centres in Birmingham lies anywhere other than, at root, with the Conservative Government. That is why, together with other Labour MPs and the City Council, I will continue to demand that ministers change course.
But that does not let the City Council off the hook with what they are proposing here. In my constituency and several others they still appear not to have addressed most of the consultation responses they received over the summer from parents and from people who actually deliver early years services.
Looking at the position in my constituency, I am pleased the Council have told me that they will retain Wychall and Frankley Plus Children’s Centres as hubs for early years services, and that they have modified an earlier proposal to close Merrishaw Children’s Centre. Elsewhere in the constituency, however, it is far from clear what kind of support will be there for families. In an area of high deprivation like Kings Norton’s three estates, that is a real concern. In Weoley Castle, meanwhile, the City Council is planning to de-commission the well-established and highly regarded Children’s Centre only to then suggest running slimmed down services from two venues next door.
This remains a top-down reorganisation with far too many questions unanswered and precious little information about how its authors actually expect it to work.
Mr Burden has written to Council Leader Ian Ward urging that the City’s Cabinet withhold approval of the new arrangements unless and until the serious questions that have been raised are answered.