Many people write to me about the cuts in Sefton and most of those writing to me say that the cuts are too far and too fast. I agree.
Take EMA, Education Maintenance Allowance of up to £30 per week. It is paid to many 16 to 19 year olds in full time education.
As John Marsden from Aintree told me, “EMA is to help students get to their place of study. It pays for books and other course equipment and for many it pays for lunch while away from home."
Many lower and middle income families will simply not be able to fill the financial gap scrapping EMA creates. Yet under the government's plans no new applications for EMA will be processed and people currently receiving EMA will only receive it until the end of the academic year.
I also had an email from the Principal of Hugh Baird College in Bootle. Ms Burford told me that at Hugh Baird College:
- 84% of 16-19 year olds receive EMAs, the loss of EMAs will most likely lead to a decrease in participation as it is our experience that the EMAs have become an essential part of the household income for low income families;
· 334 of these students will lose the EMA halfway through their two year course and therefore be at increased risk of dropping out before achieving their qualification;
· a change in the Local Authority’s policy on transport for young people to a means-tested model will put extra pressure on the College’s Learner Support Funds which are normally spend on general hardship, childcare, equipment and other learning expenses such as uniforms for the students’ courses as well as transport.
Thanks to Mr Marsden, Ms Burford and the many other people in Sefton who have written to me about EMA. Labour has an opposition day debate on EMA this week and I am hoping that Conservative and Lib Dem MPs will vote with us to oppose the cut in EMA.
Many people have written to me with their concerns about the government’s plans for health.
The NHS also faces big changes as the government plans to privatise the management and planning of health services. GPs will be asked to manage services or pay a private company to do it for them.
The Royal College of GPs, the British Medical Association (BMA) and trade unions say the upheaval is unnecessary. They say that the changes could be achieved with much smaller adjustments to the existing system of Primary Care Trusts.
The changes proposed by the government will cost many millions of pounds and come after David Cameron promised, “we will stop the top-down internal reorganisations of the NHS that have got in the way of patient care”.
He was right that there should not be more top-down reorganisation of the NHS. The trouble is, the current government plan is a top-down reorganisation of patient care, according to the Royal College of GPs and The British Medical Association.
I visited Crosby Coastguard station again to listen to government minister Mike Penning and Chief Executive Sir Alan Massey talking to staff about the plans to close the coastguard station.
The government has drawn up a plan which cuts the number of coastguard stations around the country. It emerged at the meeting that the plans had not been drawn up using the expertise of current frontline staff.
It is also clear that closing Crosby would make delays more likely as it would remove vital local knowledge. It seems clear to me that if the government is going to make big changes to services whether in health, the coastguard or elsewhere it really does need to listen to the very many experienced and committed staff who work in those services who have a pretty fair idea of what is needed to improve what they are doing.
The government needs to take stock, listen to staff and to the public and have a complete rethink on its approach to the cuts. Sadly, governments don’t always listen and the coalition government is in such a tearing hurry I fear they will make serious mistakes that will put people’s lives and health at risk.