A big thank you and Seasons Greetings to Veronica Bennett, Peter Maguire and Ben Murphy who work in my constituency office. We have many thousands of enquiries each month and the staff who work for me do the bulk of the work in responding to your requests for help and in speaking to residents either on the phone or when we knock on doors asking if there is anything we can do to help. Kath, who works in Westminster supports me in parliament and we also rely on dozens of volunteers around the constituency with our work. Before I was elected, I knocked on a lot of doors and delivered a lot of leaflets to keep people informed. The Labour Action Team of volunteers has carried on this work all year round and we go out in all weathers, visiting people in their homes, writing to people about issues like the protection of the green belt and urban green space and making sure that we help where we can.
My office works closely with the excellent Labour Councillors in Crosby, Formby, Maghull, Aintree and Melling and the Labour Town Councillors in Maghull. Councillors do a great job representing their areas and face the almost impossible task of managing the council finances after unprecedented cuts from central government. My Labour colleagues are doing their best in very difficult circumstances and deserve credit for trying to protect services such as children’s centres and services for vulnerable elderly people with little or no money to spare. Our volunteers and councillors do a tremendous amount in their spare time including keeping in touch with residents during the evenings and weekends so that we can represent you as well as possible.
There are 10 parishes in Sefton Central, each with councillors who give their time to serving the community. It is a good opportunity to remember the work they do and to thank them and all volunteers who help their communities throughout the year.
The Council for Mortgage Lenders 2012 forecast shows a predicted rise of 22 per cent in repossessions from 37,000 this year to 45,000 next year. Homeowners across the country in fear of losing their home will not be surprised by this report from the Council Mortgage for Lenders. The independent report says this is a result of rapidly rising unemployment and a squeeze on family incomes.
For too many it will be a bleak Christmas in fear of losing their homes, in court trying to save their home or on the streets having failed to do so. It is these people that are paying the price of this Government’s failing economic policies.
Labour's five point plan for jobs and growth shows a different way. Getting the economy moving and people back to work is the surest way to help families stay in their homes, get the deficit down and put Britain on the right course for the future. I hope that the government will take on board what Labour is proposing to help those families who face difficulties at this time.
The government has announced a strategy on increasing the participation of 16-24 year olds in learning and employment. Grand plans are all very well, but they will be of little comfort to the million young people out of work and unable to find a job. We have to do far more to bridge the gap between education and the world of work if we are to build an economy that fulfils Britain’s promise and can pay its way in the world. But this Tory-led Government is only making things more difficult for young people with short-sighted decisions to axe the Future Jobs Fund, scrap EMAs, treble tuition fees, get rid of face-to-face careers advice and cut funding for youth services like mentoring. It is utterly out of touch with the real needs of Britain.
Labour’s plan for jobs and growth would help 100,000 young people back into work. I urge the Government to bring forward investment in infrastructure like school buildings which would have the added benefit of creating new jobs in industries like construction.
The Government has not done enough to boost apprenticeships for young people at a time when youth unemployment is over one million. The rate of increase for both 16-18 and 19-24 apprenticeships has slowed compared with 2008/9 and 2009/10 and the head of the Government’s apprenticeship service has warned about a lack of apprenticeship places for school leavers. Labour has called on the Government to use its power as a consumer to reward companies offering apprenticeships for contracts above a £1m threshold
We should congratulate our hard working young pupils on another set of results that shows overall primary school results have improved yet again, with 3 per cent more children getting the required levels of English and Maths compared with 2007. This is the ‘Sure Start Generation’ that benefited from Labour’s investment in early years.
However, the real measure of a successful school is not raw test results but the progress that children make from all abilities. So while these are a fantastic set of results we need to do more to narrow the attainment gap between pupils from different backgrounds and who start from different levels.
The fact that only a quarter of low attainers at age 7 go on to meet the expected Level 4 in English or Maths when they leave primary school is not good enough. The Government must use the Pupil Premium as a lever to improve literacy and numeracy at primary schools, by issuing guidance on how best to use the resources, and measuring the impact of the funding.
The Government's cuts to children's centres, homework and breakfast clubs could make this gap even worse. And figures published by Labour this week reveal the Government’s actions have led to a near-halving in one-to-one reading support to help children who have fallen behind. We mustn’t let more children from the Sure Start generation fall behind.
We need to learn from the 570 schools across England as to why all their pupils achieved the required levels and spread best practice to the 1,310 that have fallen below the floor standards. A range of interventions is needed, depending on the best available evidence. The Government should have to encourage collaboration between schools to raise standards for all, not just impose pet-project solutions from Whitehall.
Many people will be working over Christmas including those in our fire, police and ambulance services. Remember too the nurses and care staff who will look after people in hospital and out in the community and those many people who face tough time this Christmas. I hope that you and your family have a great Christmas but we can all spare a thought for those less fortunate than us while we celebrate with family and friends.