September 15, 2010

Connaught.jpg

Last week's devastating news about the collapse of Connaught is an out and out tragedy for not just the 300 people who have been made redundant, but also their families who will now struggle to make ends meet.

That's 300 families, many from right here in Sefton Central.

 

Since the news broke that Connaught was on the verge of collapsing, I have been working with construction workers' union Ucatt, One Vision and the workers themselves in an attempt to find a solution to this.

 

After speaking to all parties here in Sefton Central, as well as Shadow Housing Minister John Healey, I am cautiously confident that we will be able to find a way of saving as many of these jobs as possible.

 

And that One Vision tenants will not experience any change in the level of service they receive. One tenant in Maghull told me what a good job the maintenance staff have done for her over the years. She really wants those staff to get their jobs back to continue to look after her, a sentiment which many will support.

 

This week I have written directly to Minister of State for Housing Grant Shapps asking:

What government contracts have been cancelled since May 2010 which were due to be fulfilled by Connaught?

What lessons have been learned by the government about housing maintenance contracts for housing associations in the wake of the collapse?

What support will be available to tenants of housing associations which are affected by the collapse?

Will the government support housing associations and councils to bring maintenance contracts in house where such contracts were let to Connaught?

What provision will the government make to support staff who have been laid off in the wake of the collapse of Connaught?

 

I will obviously keep you informed of the answers I receive.

 

The other issue which is causing concern this week came after Vince Cable's announcement on Friday that the government is planning to privatise Royal Mail.

 

Royal Mail is an institution. The service it provides ensures that everyone in the country can benefit from a comprehensive postal service. The local post office is at the heart of every community in the land. Many people, especially older people value the service which they receive. Sometimes you can’t put a price on services which people rely on. In my view, this is one of those cases.

 

Royal Mail needs investment and modernisation to cope with increased use of the internet and falling mail volumes.

 

Clause 3 of Labour’s Postal Services Bill stated that Royal Mail “must at all times be publicly owned”. In the future this would have meant that any moves to privatise the Royal Mail would require further legislation.

 

I don’t believe that a post office which has to answer to shareholders will continue to look after the people who rely on it for support in our towns and villages.