Kate Hollern: Gearing up for the General Election

In little more than four months’ time, Britain will have the chance to elect a new government. The outcome of the election will not only be critical for Britain but for people in Blackburn who have suffered under the cruel austerity policies of the Tories who are seeking to run the country over the next five years.

From where we live in Blackburn we know that something is deeply wrong in Britain. We have become a country of food banks and bank bonuses, of pay at the top still out of control but a cost of living crisis for everyone else, of tax cuts for millionaires but zero hours contracts for millions. We know that while we must deal with our country’s debts, there is more to a vision for the future than paying down the deficit. We know this election must not be about politicians, or who gets the keys to Number 10. Instead, it is about the chance to turn decisively away from a country run just for a privileged few – and turn towards something better.



As we approach the election the colours of our political opponents will vary more than usual but we will face the usual well-funded onslaught by the Tories supported by the vested interests that own the media.

However, we should focus on the fact that the choice for voters in May is still between two directions:

A bleak vision of Britain where spending on public services is dragged back to the 1930s and the recovery will only ever work for a few.



Or a brighter, Labour vision of Britain that rejects the notion that we cannot afford decent public services when money is tight or that low pay is the only way that we can compete in the world and says that our country only succeeds when working people succeed.


Over the next four months, the Labour Party in Blackburn will ensure Labour’s message reaches voters on every doorstep around the town knowing it will not be easy because people are feeling more cynical about politics than ever before.

We know that as usual we will be outspent by the Tories. We face new and dangerous opponents. But we will not be out-fought by anyone. 


We will set out our vision for a better Britain conversation by conversation, street by street, door by door, and the offer we present will provide concrete answers to people’s concerns.

Kate Hollern: Tackling fuel poverty under Labour

Tackling Fuel Poverty under Labour

In the past four years the average energy bill has gone up by a staggering £300 – that’s twice as fast as inflation and four times faster than wages. So it’s no surprise that millions of households now struggle to meet the cost of keeping their homes warm.

That’s why Ed Milliband at last year’s Labour Party Conference set out radical plans to freeze energy prices until 2017, saving the average household £120, and pledged to overhaul the energy market, with a tough new regulator to curb rip-off bills – which will go a long way to towards cutting prices and bringing fairness to the market.

But to keep bills down permanently we need to reduce the amount of energy we consume – and that’s why Labour have now declared war on cold homes with a comprehensive package of energy efficiency measures to keep homes warm.

Homes that lose most heat cost more to keep warm, and there is a strong correlation between a property’s energy efficiency rating and the likelihood of a household being in fuel poverty. Britain has some of the least energy efficient housing stock anywhere in Europe – and that means even consumers in colder countries with higher energy prices can have lower bills.

In Blackburn alone, there are currently 6,236 people living in fuel poverty, the highest percentage inLancashire which is an absolute disgrace and has to be urgently addressed.

Under Labour plans, households in fuel poverty – and those at most at risk of falling into it – would receive a ‘whole house’ energy efficiency retrofit – upgrading their energy rating to band C and cutting bills by an estimated £273 a year on average. This is a huge difference to the present system, where not all the funds raised for energy efficiency go to the most in need. In addition, rather than just install a particular measure in a home, we will for the first time be improving the whole property. This is how we will make serious inroads into fuel poverty.

For those in the rented sector, we will go further by working to ensure there is a decency standard to improve housing quality and cut energy bills by 2027.

In Government, Labour will act quickly to address the inequalities and profiteering within the energy market by reforming the market and introducing a price freeze. But we will also go further to keep bills low by cutting the amount of energy we use and therefore tackling the roots of fuel poverty in the years ahead.

 

Kate Hollern: A snapshot of Cameron’s NHS in Blackburn

A snapshot of Cameron’s NHS in Blackburn

I spent an hour and a half in Barbara Castle Health Centreyesterday waiting for treatment. As I sat in the busy waiting room a number of patients came over and said hello. The stories I heard from fellow patients were awful and put into context what is happening on the ground as a result of the Tories top-down re-organisation of the NHS.

One case in point was Jean who is 75, riddled with arthritis, needs her leg dressing twice a week after hurting it months ago. She has to carry the dressings to the Health Centre and struggles due to the arthritis in her hands.  She used to have a district nurse call at her home but it was stopped and she was told she had to make her own way to the Health Centre, at £ 7 for taxi’s each time she is struggling.

I asked her why the home visits stopped. She told me that sherecently had to open a bank account so got a taxi to town. When she told the nurse that she had been in town she was told that if she could get to town she could get to the Health Centre. Surely this is wrong, for a lady who has worked hard all her life to be treated this way. I am sure the stress emotionally and physically cannot be good for her.

There was another lady, with both legs heavily bandaged and on two walking sticks, she was obviously in a lot of pain. She had a similar story, only she had to go to her father when he died. Subsequently she was told that she obviously was not housebound so could get to the health centre. She says not only was it expensive to get to the health centre but also very painful.

 

I am organising an event at King Georges Hall in November and inviting older people for a cup of tea, cake and some entertainment. The idea is to tackle social isolation and help people have some enjoyment and make friends they have yet to meet. I am now worried that I will be encouraging people into a situation that could cause them to lose medical services they currently receive.

Surely people should be helped to leave their home occasionally and not be worried they will lose support they need.

 

Kate Hollern:Now is the time for fairness in the Middle East

Now is the time for fairness in the Middle East

If you believe in a two state solution in the Middle East we need to support the recognition of a Palestinian state. If you want the UK to recognise the state of Palestine, then vote for Labour at the next General Election. This isn’t a mere pitch for votes but a factual statement that has become all the more obvious in recent weeks.

On 13th October, British MPs got the first opportunity in five years to discuss Palestinian statehood. The debate was significant not just because it came in the aftermath of the horrific attacks on Gaza this summer, and after Swedenbecame the first major European country to recognise Palestine, but because MPs were able to vote that the UKGovernment should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as part of a two state solution.

In 2012 the Tory-led government shamefully abstained at the UN General Assembly where countries overwhelmingly voted to give Palestine a non-member observer status. As theShadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said at the time: “Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given, but a right to be recognised.”

This view is shared by Ed Milliband who called on Israel to recognise the Palestinian right to statehood in his first speech after being elected leader in 2010. He also said he would “strain every sinew” to push for the Gaza blockade to be lifted. So the landmark vote gave Labour an opportunity to hold the government to account for its unwillingness to adequately condemn Israel for the slaughter of hundreds ofPalestinian civilians just a few months ago.

If Britain fully recognises Palestine, it would spur other major countries across Europe to do the same. The EU could then act as a broker for peace in the Israel-Palestine dispute with much more legitimacy. It would also send an important signal that democratic and peaceful political process is important and can deliver without resorting to violence.

Britain needs to take leadership in the Israel-Palestine conflict because the United States has failed to do so. And if we don’t, then we give legitimacy to extremists who say Palestinians can only achieve justice through violence. The rise of ISIS illustrates this point to brutal effect.

Although the recent parliamentary vote was largely symbolic, the Labour Party used the opportunity to send a signal to the world and provide the necessary leadership to end the grave injustice in the Middle East. From the reaction within Israel it was a significant move and a sign that it is time we stated unequivocally that Britain is also on the verge of recognising Palestinian statehood.

Kate Hollern:The truth is that working people cannot afford five more years of David Cameron.

 

 

Listening to David Cameron  last Wednesday you might be left with the impression that the economy has been fixed and that life is getting easier for most people. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth

Under the Tories and Liberals working people are £1,600 a year worse off. Just think about it – when did you last get a pay-rise? The Tories are now trying to con people into another five years of misery by unfunded pie in the sky pre-election tax cuts promised for six years time..

David Cameron in 2008 said “You can’t talk about tax reduction unless you can show how it is paid for, the public aren’t stupid”. But’s that’s exactly what he did on  Wednesday.

These “tax cuts” are an unfunded spending commitment of over £7billion, hardly spare cash.

How are the Tories going to pay for it?  We can only assume that they will yet again hit the poorest hardest, we are sure to see yet further attacks on public services, Fire, Police Health and Councils.

The only thing we have learnt for sure this week from the Tories is that they’re going to cut tax credits for millions of hard working people. This announcement on Monday means that a one earner family with two children on £25,000 a year will lose £495 by 2017/18.

So while working families see their incomes decrease, Wednesday’s announcements means that the Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister will see their incomes increase by 2020/21. And let’s not forget that the richest one per cent will keep a £3billion tax cut. This doesn’t look like “we’re all in this together” to me.

And if there is one decision taken by the Tories that tells us all we need to know about their priorities and who they stand for, then their tax cut for millionaires is it.

Labour will balance the books as soon as possible in the next Parliament, but we will make fairer choices. A Labour Government would cut taxes for millions on middle and low incomes with a lower 10p starting rate of tax and reintroduce a top rate of 50p for those earning over £150,000.

The truth is that the Tories will never build a better future for working people because they stand up only for a privileged few.

The truth is that working people cannot afford five more years of David Cameron.

 

Kate Hollern:A few snippets from the Liberal Conference

 

Nick Clegg says a Tory majority next year would see Britaindiminished and divided. Vince Cable says the Tories are planning punitive and unnecessary cuts to the working poor that go far beyond what is needed to cut the deficit. Both accept that the freeze on benefits would hit  millions of poorly paid working families.

Workers would fear for their jobs because Conservatives would allow bosses to “ fire them at will” while young and old would suffer time and time again  as Osborne  takes his axe to the welfare budget with no regard for the impact on people’s lives.

Schools would be run in the interest of profit for shareholders rather than the life chances of pupils

But, wait a minute. Are these the same Liberal Democrats who have supported the  Tories in implementing unfair cuts for the last four years?  Remember the Tories don’t have a majority in Parliament and every action that they have taken has needed Liberal Democrat support to become law. And now, with a  General Election round the corner, the Liberals start attacking the Tories because  their proposals are unfair. What hypocrisy!!

You can’t believe a word that Clegg and his cronies say!

The only way to avoid the scary predictions of Tory policies after 2015 is to vote Labour.

 

Kate Hollern:Lib Dem’s broken promises!

Where does Nick Clegg think we have all been over the last four years as he has kept in power one of the most ruthless right-wing government’s that has been relentless in attacking working families and those in society unable to defend themselves!

Today he is due to attack his Tory coalition partners and ask the public to trust him – but the truth is that he has backed the Tories all the way, and broken the promises he made at the last election. You can’t trust Nick Clegg, and you can’t trust the Lib Dems.

They broke their promises.
• They promised to scrap tuition fees and then trebled them.
• They promised not to increase VAT, warned against a “Tory VAT bombshell”, but then voted through a VAT rise on everyday working families.
• They promised a fair tax system with the wealthiest paying more, but they cut taxes for millionaires while most families are worse off.
• They promised to be on the side of working people, but working people are £1,600 a year worse off since the Lib Dems joined the Tories in government.

Any promises they make now and in the run up to the General Election are worthless and should be ignored.

Open letter to Blackburn Rovers owners Venky’s

 

Dear Mrs Desai

As the civic leader for the area most connected to your football club, I am sure you will not be surprised that I have growing concerns about the reports that I am getting of the chaos that is currently surrounding Blackburn Rovers.

I speak for all at the Council, including those who support other teams, in recognising how important the Rovers is to the town and its people. When the team won the Premier League in 1995 it gave the town an enormous feel good factor and raised the profile of the area both nationally and internationally and benefited the local economy. Continuation in the Premier League has benefited businesses and local employment enormously.

I am therefore concerned to hear both in the papers and in the media that the club, which used to be one of the best run in the country, appears to have very few senior executives running the club in Blackburn on a day to day basis. This accounts for much of the frustration that has been repeatedly expressed by the fans (not just the ones calling for the manager to be sacked), the clubs commercial sponsors and recently the Sports Correspondent of the local Lancashire Telegraph newspaper.

I am sure you are aware of these matters and may be taking steps to address them. However, for whatever reason there appears to serious communication problems between the club and its stakeholders which are fuelling the frustration that people are feeling.

To that end I am inviting you and the other owners to meet with representatives of the Council together with any other interested parties that you feel would benefit from attendance. The purpose of the meeting would be to give all sides the opportunity to discuss the present problems being experienced at the Club. My wish would be to explore and agree better lines of communications between us and to get a better understanding of the approach that the owners intend to take to ensure the club goes forward. We would also be very happy to look at ways that the Council may be able to help in any way.

I am aware that you and your brothers are busy people but given the precarious position the club is now in a meeting at the earliest opportunity would be preferred.

As I and others in the Council are constantly being contacted about these issues I would appreciate a prompt response to this correspondence.

Yours sincerely

Cllr. Kate Hollern

Leader of the Council

Twelve months on

September 2010 seems a long time ago, and certainly allot of political water has gone under the bridge, since Labour assumed control of the Council.

During the last twelve months the Labour administration consolidated its position at the May elections and is proud of its record of listening to people and protecting front line services and the vulnerable where ever we have been able to.

The savage cuts that were announced earlier this year in budget are also now having an impact across all sectors and unemployment is continuing to rise across the area. We have however been able to make some difference by undertaking efficiency savings and cutting out wasteful spending planned by the previous Tories and Liberal administration.

For example, we are aware from the calls that we get that environmental issues such as grassing cutting, littering etc. are important to our residents. That is why earlier this year, despite suffering around £33m in our funding from Government; we have managed to find additional resources to deal with these services despite the financial difficulties the Council continues to face. This is helping make some improvements in the environment, but we all need to encourage everyone to get involved in keeping their neighbourhoods clean and taking pride in their local areas and communities.

In addition, we are aware of the frustration pot holes and poor road surfaces cause and have identified an extra £1m to undertake emergency repairs to the most damaged and important roads in the Borough.

Despite what we are doing locally we cannot get away from the impact that the Tory/ Liberal Democrat National Government policies are having on our town. An analysis of the changes being introduced by the Coalition Government shows they are having a enormous detrimental impact on Boroughs like ours. For example, the proposed localisation of Council Tax will have a disproportionate effect on authorities with high levels of deprivation. In addition, changes to a range of benefits has serious implications to the most vulnerable in society, particularly women and families, who are struggling to cope with increasing prices and facing hikes in their energy bills.

The next twelve months promise to be equally challenging as the last twelve but we promise to continue to do our best for the people who elected us and for all those who live in the Borough.

Reflections and challenges

It’s nearly three weeks since the local elections and though very busy sorting out forming an administration for the next twelve months, I’ve been able to reflect on the message that was sent to us by the electorate.

The last twelve months have been a traumatic time for the communities of Blackburn with Darwen; horrendous cuts in funding have been made, services have been threatened and job cuts have been made not only in the Council but elsewhere in the Health Service and education sectors and in private companies across the Borough.

In case we have forgotten, the outcome of last years General Election led to the formation of the Coalition Government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Unsurprisingly nowhere in either of the Liberal or Tories manifesto’s did it give the slightest hint that they were proposing to inflict pain and cuts on the most vulnerable in society, particularly in areas like ours, cutting vital grants and investment in housing, schools and across the key voluntary and charitable sectors.

On May 5th the electors had the chance to have their say on what has been going on both nationally and locally, where up to last September, the Tories and Liberals with support of the For Darwen Party, they had run the Council.

The election gave voters some clear choices here in Blackburn & Darwen. Did they, for example, want an administration that spent money recklessly on buying up vacant business properties and refurbishing the Town Hall whilst closing Leisure Centres and cutting community based services? Or did they want an administration that would stand up for them, listen to them and most of all protect their key services?

The response from the electorate was clear and unequivocal. They wanted Labour to run the Council and as consequence Labour now has 38 Councillors and a working majority of 12.

As Labour forms an administration for the next twelve months we are aware that things will not be easy. However we pledge the mandate the people of this Borough has given us will be used wisely and responsibly. As a result we intend to carry on the work we agreed to undertake when taking control last September and we will continue to work for the entire Borough not just the areas we represent.

We also promise to use our mandate to support the vulnerable and those who rely on Council Services and we will do our utmost to act as a buffer against the excessive attacks on our communities from the Tory led Coalition Government whose main interests remain. elsewhere.