It is a privilege to have served as Member of Parliament for Sefton Central for seven years.
I live here with my family, my wife runs a business here, and our children go to school locally. I am proud to call this area home. Our communities of Crosby, Thornton, Hightown, Formby, Ince Blundell, Maghull, Lydiate, Melling and Aintree are great places to live and work. I have been proud to work with our fantastic residents' groups, councillors and parish councils on the issues that matter to us.
We have faced challenges with health services, being badly let down by Conservative and Lib Dem governments on NHS and social care cuts. Across Crosby, Thornton, Hightown, Formby and Maghull, one private health firm in particular threatened our GP practices. Residents and parish councils worked hard to find a solution, and over several months I kept up correspondence with NHS England and government ministers until - finally - NHS England cancelled the contract.
Our pharmacies are now under threat, with proposed 50% funding cuts for some of the important work they do in the community, particularly for the elderly. I have campaigned with pharmacists, their staff and with residents to try to secure the future of these vital services.
When I was elected back in 2010 I promised to fight for the Thornton Relief Road, to ease traffic that affects people right across the constituency. We secured the £20 million funding, even though the Conservative and Lib Dem government threatened to axe the project altogether.
This year, with Switch Island junction causing a traffic accident every other week, I lobbied hard for more funding - including standing up in the House of Commons to challenge the Conservative minister. I'm pleased to say that £3 million has now been allocated to starting the project to improve safety at this dangerous junction.
Getting a fair deal for smaller businesses is a top priority for me, and not just because I am Labour's business spokesman. I ran a business for fifteen years, and my wife still runs a company. I launched a national campaign called Pay Up! focusing on late payments to small businesses by their bigger clients. It causes 50,000 business deaths each year at a cost of billions to the economy - and it affects small businesses right across Sefton.
I have campaigned hard to boost our high streets. Crosby, Formby, Maghull and Aintree have innovative small business owners, but too often the investment isn't put into town centres, business rates are too high, and larger high street chains block independent retailers from our town and village centres. I was heavily involved in the campaign to stop Sainsbury's taking over Crosby village with their superstore, and am now equally involved in trying to support retailers and investors to make Crosby the vibrant village it can be.
Because of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government's 'Developers' Charter', councils across the UK found themselves forced to give up precious greenspace and greenbelt land to developers - and normally, they wanted to build housing that isn't suitable for young local people, families starting out, and older residents who want to downsize but stay in the community. On behalf of the residents of Sefton Central I spoke on the issue of protecting our greenbelt more than any other MP in the country.
I want to keep standing up for my community of Sefton Central, locally and in Parliament. I have a record of success for this community, and there’s still so much to fight for.
The Conservatives say they may put up VAT. They say they may cut pensions. They have already tried to hike national insurance for the self employed. They are still trying to sell our NHS to the highest bidder. Here in Sefton, Conservative cuts to schools will take £518 from every school child, and cost us 477 teachers. If the Conservatives keep cutting social care for our elderly and vulnerable, Merseyside NHS faces a £900m budget black hole.
A few days ago I stood up in Westminster, and I asked the Conservative Leader of the House of Commons a simple question: “What have the people of Sefton Central done to deserve such appalling treatment?”
Sefton Central has a choice on June 8th. The Conservatives want a race to the bottom fuelled by low pay, higher taxes for working people, and cuts to pensions, social care and our NHS. I want to champion our values - Labour values: protection for our elderly and our health services. Investment in housing, transport and businesses to build a high-wage economy. And investment in schools and skills, to secure the future of the next generation.