Last week I had a special few hours visiting the YMCA Training Salford, to meet learners, apprentices and businesses, and take part in their awards ceremony. I was amazed by the dedication of all who were there not least the YMCA staff and Dawn Branningan, Salford YMCA’s manager who received a special award for her decades of dedication.
Salford YMCA works with some brilliant organisations to deliver apprenticeships in childcare and horticulture. I met staff and apprentices from Man Utd FC, Kids Planet Nurseries and Worsley Golf Club. What struck me was firstly how switched on and clever the apprentices were but also how the employers were Salford born and bred and wanted to invest in and bring the next Salford generation up the ladder behind them, this is how it should be.
Recently I was contacted by an inspiring constituent Kerry Wade, who loved where she lived and wanted to bring residents together so their voices could be heard and to work together for the common good of everyone.
After a little bit leafleting and a bit of door knocking along with my office, on March 10th I was pleased to attend the first resident’s group meeting of Irlam Square along with local Claremont Councillor Barbara Bentham. Irlam Square are a proud community who are wanting to work together to raise concerns, and find ways to improve the area they live, which is what community is all about! Residents groups are an amazing tool for communities to voice their concerns and improve areas, and I would encourage more and more groups across Salford to do the same.
Great to see the 'potential' Swansea Tidal Lagoon will bring to the UK manufacturing sector yesterday and giving it Labours full backing. The Government needs to get this going now, 84 suppliers/manufacturers already identified in the North West alone.
This Tidal Lagoon is the perfect project for a forward looking Industrial Strategy for Britain, creating a high quality product, requiring a skilled workforce and establishing a strong British based supply chain.
This Lagoon will harness cutting edge technology, three quarters of the manufacturing jobs will be high skilled and it needs 100,000 tonnes of steel. The Tidal Lagoon Power Company should be applauded not just for their entrepreneurial spirit, but also their focus on British built components.
The government has dithered long enough despite stating in the House of Commons that they would not drag their heels. Greg Clark who is in Cardiff today should ensure that the Welsh people get the prosperity they deserve, stop hesitating and get on with it.
Alan Whitehead, the Shadow Minister for Energy said:
The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is an important 'proof of concept' project for the much wider adoption of tidal lagoon power in the UK which can make a major contribution to our power requirements. Getting Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon underway unlocks huge potential for tidal in all parts of the country, which it's why it's so important the project is given the green light without further delay.
On March 8th, International Women’s day the Conservative Chancellor Phillip Hammond delivered a Budget which will hit many across Salford and Eccles hard.
It did not address the problems created by seven years of Tory failure. There was nothing to deal with the living standards crisis, it won’t solve the extreme state of emergency in our NHS and social care system, and it doesn’t do enough to build a fair economy for all.
It continues the unjust tax giveaways for those at the top, while hitting self-employed workers on low and middle earners for £2 billion.
And, after years of cuts disproportionately affecting women, this Budget also did nothing to address that inequality. Not a penny for the many women across Salford and Eccles affected by the increase in the state pension age.
Real pay is still lower than before the crash, the National Living Wage was revised down again, in 2020. It is forecast not to hit the £9 promised by the Tories, let alone match Labour’s plan for a £10 an hour Real Living Wage.
What is worse, six million people earn less than the living wage, and four million children are in poverty - two-thirds of them in households in which at least one parent works.
On Social care, the Tory announcement of £2bn over 3 years doesn’t provide social care with the funding it needs. The Government already cut £4.6bn in the last parliament and as the Kings Fund says we need at least a £2bn injection now to stabilise social not £2bn spread over three years.
On the NHS, there was no money to deal with the crisis facing hospitals. The Tories have promised a small amount of capital spend which doesn’t compensate for the fact that in the Autumn Statement last year they cut £1.2bn from capital.
There’s a shortfall of £5bn in NHS maintenance which hasn’t even been addressed.
Bizarrely what they also announced was capital spend for A&Es next winter. This is a nonsense as there aren’t even enough GPs in the system as it is, A&Es are in crisis and waiting lists are soaring. And there was no mention of mental health at all. This simply isn’t good enough!
The Government’s changes to National Insurance are staggeringly unfair. They are set to raise £2bn from self-employed low and middle earners, but with nothing to improve their conditions, nor anything to support those trying to set up and manage their own business. The whole point of lower NI for self employed people was because they did not receive the same benefits as employed people.
I agree completely with the comments made by the Federation of Small Businesses who stated yesterday that “this decision undermines the Government's own mission for the UK to be the best place to start and grow a business, and it drives up the cost of doing business.
What is worse is that the Conservative manifesto pledge was very clearly not to increase national insurance contributions full stop. This was on their election materials and could not have been clearer. They have broken this pledge.
On business rates, the relief set out is welcome but it contains glaring ommissions and simply does not go far enough. I urge the Government to conisder carefully Labour's five point plan on business rates which promised to set up an Emergency Relief Fund, undo Tory restrictions on the appeals process, bring forward the shift from RPI to CPI indexation, and remove new cat 1, 2 and 4 plant and machinery from valuations, as well as a fundamental rethink of business rates in the longer term.
Today the Government must rise to Labour’s challenge by taking action to defuse the ticking time bomb of business rates and bringing forward additional transitional relief for small and medium sized firms.
The budget also highlighted yet again the fact that productivity growth has been stagnating for years. Yet from infrastructure to R&D, Britain languishes well below OECD averages for the amount of GDP reinvested in our economy. Our transport networks are inadequate, especially outside London, and our digital infrastructure remains patchy, with too many businesses still unable to access superfast broadband or 4G.
Without a big push in R&D, Britain will struggle to remain competitive outside Europe. Yet with interest rates for government are currently close to all-time lows, the economic case for this budget to include a major programme of government investment in infrastructure and research was overwhelming. Its just a shame the Government does not have increasing prouctivity at the top of its agenda.
This was quite simply a budget built on unfairness.
If the Government was serious about fairness and serious about letting cities like Salford prosper they would tackle unfairness head on, rebalance, support industry and invest in our economy…….but yesterdays budget suggests to me that they really could not care less.
Today sees the implementation of the Trade Union Act
This is the most unnecessary and anti-democratic assault on the rights of working people in a generation.
For a Government elected by just a quarter of eligible voters to impose a 40% threshold on public sector workers taking industrial action is a shameless example of double standards.
As all working people know, the decision to take industrial action is never taken lightly. But working people’s rights need to be protected.
This will save our economy just 0.00002% of GDP, showing that the economic case for this is rubbish. The most effective way of boosting wages and people's living standards is through them taking collective action in their trade union.
This Act will perpetuate the chronic low pay in our economy which costs us all through lower taxes and a higher bill for in-work benefits.
The Government’s much-anticipated industrial strategy Green Paper has attracted a range of criticisms in the month since it was published. But the most telling reaction was positive.
The Green Paper was billed as radical new direction in how we manage our economy. But, as Allister Heath, deputy editor of The Telegraph and arch free-market fundamentalist, gleefully declared:
“The Government’s “industrial strategy” Green Paper is little more than show business, with a sprinkling of activity: it’s glitzy, talks the talk, but will change almost nothing when it comes to the Government’s relationship to the economy”.
Beneath the fanfare, the Green Paper was more a patchwork of initiatives than a strategy - and modest initiatives at that. There is no better reflection of its limitations than the two near-crises that have shaken British industry in the last week - the proposed sale of Vauxhall to Peugeot PSA and Kraft-Heinz’s attempted takeover of Unilever. What was striking about each is that - even if it had been in delivery stage rather than still a Green Paper - the Government’s industrial strategy would have made no difference.
Discussions over the sale of General Motors’ European business, including Vauxhall in the UK, has exposed the vulnerability of Britain’s world-leading automotive industry in the wake of Brexit. The industry’s supply chain relies heavily on imports, whose cost has increased substantially as the value of the pound has fallen. And uncertainty about our future trading relationship with the EU is putting access to the industry’s biggest market in doubt.
But nothing in the Green Paper will address either of these problems. Reshoring is back in vogue, with 1 in 6 manufacturers bringing some production back to the UK. But decades of off-shoring in pursuit of cheap labour won’t be reversed spontaneously.
The £268bn spent each year by the public sector is one of the most powerful tools Governments have to shape supply chains, yet the Green Paper makes no mention of using procurement in this way. And market access is secondary to belligerent posturing in the Government’s Brexit negotiation strategy, which amounts to a high-stakes game of chicken with our economic future. If the Government carries out its threat to turn Britain into a tax haven, our car-makers will pay a heavy price.
Even more galling for Vauxhall’s 4,500 strong workforce, the Vauxhall crisis has made apparent how ill-protected they are compared to their French and German counterparts. The French Government’s 14% stake in PSA led analysts to conclude that French workers would be spared any job losses driven through by PSA CEO and notorious cost-cutter, Carlos Taveres. Meanwhile, German newspapers have reported that PSA had promised to keep all four German plants open. It would be foolish to underestimate the role that the much greater protections against dismissal afforded German workers played in this decision - if Greg Clark really wants to fight Britain’s corner, why doesn’t he make it harder to sack British workers?
Vauxhall is not the only story to have shaken British industry in the last week. Kraft-Heinz’s attempted buy-out of Unilever stirred fears that the drip of foreign purchases of UK firms would become a flood, as overseas investors take advantage of the weak pound to buy up British companies on the cheap. Many noted the stark contrast between the business cultures of the two firms. While it is a stretch to describe Unilever as an underdog, Kraft-Heinz’s history of ruthlessly acquiring companies through leveraged buyouts, only to lay off workers in order to expand profit margins and pay out dividends gave a David and Goliath quality to its pursuit of Unilever, a company that puts investment, long-term growth at the centre of its business model.
In the end, it was the integrity of the Unilever management that saved the company (for now at least - Kraft-Heinz has sizeable resources and many anticipate a second approach). The Prime Minister ordered a review of Kraft-Heinz’s proposals, but if Kraft-Heinz break the resolve of Unilever’s board with a higher offer, existing law gives her no powers to intervene. This matters because the contrast between Kraft-Heinz and Unilever goes right to the heart of what an industrial strategy is about - to deliver an economy of Unilevers when the market fails to.
The Prime Minister has spoken favourably of strengthening the public interest grounds for intervening in corporate takeovers, but Chancellor Philip Hammond is fiercely opposed to the idea, and the complete absence of any mention of takeovers in green papers on either industrial strategy or corporate governance are a reminder of how isolated the Prime Minister is in her cabinet. But until the Government is prepared to use its policy levers to guide the economy in a strategic direction, it will lunge from crisis to crisis punctuated by proclamations of good will.
The remarkable response - well over a thousand at last count - to Labour’s industrial strategy consultation indicates widespread enthusiasm for a new direction. It is clear that we need an industrial strategy that seeks to avert the kind of crises we’ve seen this week.
This isn’t about state versus market, but about state and market - about the Government helping business to thrive and prosper on stable ground. It is also about going one step further and helping business to help society. As Alistair Heath is astute enough to realise, the Government’s Green Paper is not up to the job.
"The fantasy figures given to MPs about business rates increases by the previous Business Secretary show just how dismissive this Government is of the burdens on small businesses."
"The Government need to commit to transitional relief to businesses facing astronomical increases in their rates now – otherwise our high streets will be decimated. It’s time for the Chancellor to stop listening and start acting."
Downing Street has insisted Theresa May has full confidence in Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, as a swathe of Tory MPs waded into a row over business rates. Mr Javid and Treasury Chief Secretary David Gauke have been accused of misleading party colleagues over the impact of a business rate revaluation which will leave more than a quarter of companies facing higher bills.
Even former business minister Anna Soubry called for a fundamental rethink of the entire system, in which taxes are based on the rental value of a commercial property, tweeting business rates are unfair and should either be radically reformed or scrapped.
Mr Hammond stressed that the revaluation, which was set in motion under David Cameron administration, was the subject of a consultation exercise in which business organisations were involved.
I continue to receive cases and queries on cuts to local public services and I know how soul destroying it is for local Councillors and our Mayor at the moment.
The Government continues to press ahead with savage cuts but there is simply nothing left to cut! At the same time they appear to be offering sweetheart deals to councils such as Surrey!
This week I joined our Mayor Paul Dennett, Councillor John Merry Barbara Keeley and other key figures from Salford business to meet Communities and Local Government Minister MarcusJones. All there spoke very passionately about the human impact of cuts on Salford people and how it was also stopping our local economy from thriving.
I just hope he was listening…….
I was really pleased to help launch the Salford CAB Housing Question report at the Working Class Movement Library with Tom Together (Salford CAB) and Councillor Paul Longshaw (Lead Council Member for Housing)
The report was a really good reflection of how people in Salford are affected by a shattered housing market.
From the insecure conditions many face in private rented accommodation, to the increase in those who simply can't afford or get the support to get on the housing ladder, to the simple fact that government has not provided enough money for Salford to address its new social housing needs.
As one of the biggest issues I see every week in my surgeries it is time the Government took real action to address the housing crisis not just warm words.
Last week I saw the amazing work of the GM Law Centre and Asylum support and housing advice. Free legal advice open to all.
In the face of savage cuts to legal aid many are losing access to justice. We are seeing the creation of a system where only those who can pay can have access to legal advice and representation.
This is fundamentally wrong both morally and legally. There can be no scales of justice if one side is more heavily weighted than the other.
It is clear that the system must change but in the midst of all this turmoil and injustice GM Law Centre and Asylum Housing Support have just opened.
Offering free legal advice to anyone from Salford and wider Greater Manchester they are one of few voluntary services in GM dedicated to providing the legal representation to those who need it.
They are located on Princess rd, Mosside so please pop in if you need free legal advice on any issue and please support them going forward as they make the case for Government and local funding for a free legal advice services based in Salford and other localities across Greater Manchester.