The nightmare of the Tory Budget plans

Following the Budget announcements Labour has prepared anew analysis of Tory spending plans which takes into account their planned welfare reductions and promised tax cuts.

This shows that in the next three years the Tories are planning cuts to vital public services in communities like Blackburnwhich are deeper than any year of the last parliament. As a result over the next three years cuts to public services will be almost twice the level of the last three years.

The people of Britain and the citizens of Blackburn need a better plan. Labour will get the deficit down in a more sensible and balanced way. And we have a fully-funded plan to save our NHS and transform it for the future.

Labour’s plan means 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs and cancer tests guaranteed within one week. And we’ll pay for it by closing tax loopholes and a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million.

After five years of David Cameron, our health service is going backwards. Our NHS just can’t afford these extreme and risky Tory cuts. And after their broken promises on the NHS in this Parliament nobody will trust what the Tories say about the NHS.

There is a better way – the Labour way - that’s an approach that stands up for the many and not just the few.

Kate Hollern: Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees

Labour’s plan to cut tuition fees – five things you need to know:

1. Raising tuition fees to £9,000 has been bad for students and bad for taxpayers

The decision by the Tories and Lib Dems to increase tuition fees to £9,000 means that the average student will now graduate with £44,000 of debt. That’s bad for them, because they have tens of thousands of pounds of debt hanging over them for decades – but it’s bad for the taxpayer too, because almost three quarters of students will never pay their loan back in full, and the cost of writing it off has to be met by the Government. In fact, government forecasts show that the current student fee system is set to add £281 billion to the national debt by 2030-31.

2. Labour’s plan will be fairer to students and taxpayers

Cutting tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 will reduce average graduate debt by nearly £9,000. And because our plan is fully funded, it means £40 billion less government debt by 2030-31, or over £10 billion less government debt over the next Parliament. We will also help students from lower and middle-income families by increasing student grants by £400, so that the full grant goes up from around £3,400 to around £3,800. More than half of students will benefit. We will pay for the grant increase by asking the highest earning graduates to pay more: increasing the interest rate on the loan from 3 to 4 per cent for those earning over £41,000. This will make the overall system of repayment fairer, but all students will be better off overall as a result of our plan – with less debt, and less to repay.

3. Students who are currently in their first year at university will benefit from Labour’s plan

We will cut fees to £6,000 from September 2016. That means that students who are now in their first year at university will see their fees capped at £6,000 in their third year. Students who start university this autumn will see their fees capped at £6,000 from their second year onwards. And students who start in 2016 will see their fees capped at £6,000 from the start.

4. Universities will not lose out

Our plan is fully funded, so we will increase the teaching grant universities receive by the same amount that their fee income from English students falls – around £2.7 billion.

5. Labour’s plan is fully funded by restricting Pension Tax Relief for those on the highest incomes

At the moment, people with incomes over £150,000 get tax relief on pension contributions at a rate of 45 per cent – more than twice that of basic rate taxpayers. This means that although they are only the top 1 per cent of taxpayers, they receive 7 per cent of all Pension Tax Relief. So we will make the system fairer by restricting Pension Tax Relief by £2.9 billion for those on the highest incomes. We will reduce the rate of relief for those with incomes of over £150,000 to 20 per cent – the same as basic rate taxpayers. And we will reduce the annual and lifetime allowances to cap the amount that people can put into their pensions tax free: £30,000 a year, or £1 million across a lifetime. This is far more than most people can ever afford to put into their pension pots.

Kate Hollern: Labour’s plan to reform the banking sector

Labour has today published its plans to reform the banking sector so that it better supports growing businesses, economic growth and rising living standards in areas like Blackburn who have suffered from lack of investment under the present Coalition Government and a banking sector uninterested in helping businesses and often caught ripping off consumers    

Too often in recent years our banks have fallen far short of the standards expected of them. After so many scandals we need major reforms and long-term cultural change to restore trust and ensure our banks start working for consumers and businesses again.  

We need much more action than this government has been prepared to take. So Labour has produced a banking reform paper which sets out how it will change rules on bonuses, increase competition and get more lending to small and medium-sized businesses.  

Labour will also extend to at least ten years the period bank bonuses can be clawed back in cases of misconduct.

As has been seen in recent days, wrongdoing can take years to uncover. The current proposals to claw back bonuses announced by the present Government are too weak and do not cover a long enough period of time. Labour will ensure people involved in misbehaviour and misconduct would have to give back their bonuses for at least a decade after they have been paid out.  

And Labour will establish a proper British Investment Bank to help growing businesses get the funding they need to expand and create jobs. Because it’s only when working people and businesses succeed that Britain succeeds too.

Reforming the banking sector is another example of Labour being prepared to stand up against strong interest groups; many who bank roll the Tories and have benefited from huge tax cuts for the well off.

Labour will stick up for many not the few.

Tory A&E crisis is proof they can’t be trusted with the NHS

For anyone who has recently attended the Accident and Emergency Department at Royal Blackburn it will come as no surprise that new figures published today show that A&Es in England have now missed the Government’s A&E target for 80 weeks in a row.  Despite this terrible state of affairs there is still no sign of a plan from David Cameron & his ministers that they will turn things around any time soon.

In Blackburn, as elsewhere, patients are waiting too long for ambulances and too long to be seen in A&E. Sadly, this Government’s focus is not on patient care but on PR , with hospitals seemingly under intense pressure to downplay problems for political and reputational reasons.

Less we forget, Ministers caused this crisis by making it harder to see a GP and cutting home care from vulnerable people. Their failure to act now is leaving thousands of patients exposed to too much risk. The Tory A&E crisis is proof they can’t be trusted with the NHS.

On the other hand, Labour’s 10-year plan for the NHS is a blueprint to raise standards of care and ensure the health service is sustainable in the 21st century. Labour will invest an extra £2.5 billion for more nurses, doctors, care workers and midwives, guarantee that you will not have to wait more than a week for a cancer test or 48 hours for a GP appointment, and repeal David Cameron’s NHS changes that put private profit before patient care.

When I met Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Minister recently he explained how Labour has set out a new plan for Britain’s future, a plan that works for ordinary families, rewarding the hard work they do and saving the NHS they rely on.

 Andy explained that the Tories can’t build a better future for working people because they stand up only for a privileged few. With the NHS going backwards and a recovery which works just for a few, working people can’t afford five more years of David Cameron.

 We also know that you can’t trust Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. They broke their promises after the last election and have been too weak to stand up to the Tories providing them with cover to introduce an expensive top down reorganisation and bringing in legislation that will open the NHS up to private US companies hell bent on making a quick buck

 And less we forget UKIP can’t stand for working people: they’re more Tory than the Tories, a party made up of Tory people, promoting Tory policies, bankrolled by Tory donors. Their ideas of an insurance system similar to that used in the US would signal the end of universal healthcare based on need and compassion.

The only Party that will protect the NHS and get A&E waiting times down is Labour.

Blackburn faring poorly in North/ South divide under the Tories

To confirm what we have been saying for months now, two statistical reports published this week on the North/South divide show how badly Blackburn is faring after nearly five years under a Tory led Government.

Whilst London and the South East are seeing improvement this is not the case in Blackburn that is failing to share in the economic recovery seen elsewhere.

The Centre for Cities says for every 12 jobs created since 2004, in southern cities, only one was created in cities elsewhere.

The report also shows that Blackburn is in the bottom ten for employment, 61st out of 64 for the lowest employment rate at just 63.4 per cent in 2012/2013, down 2.1 per cent on the previous 12 months.

The Centre for Cities report does contain a glimmer of hope in that business start-up’s in Blackburn, when compared with other city areas, has improved of late and we are in the top five when it comes to innovation (as measured by the number of new patents registered). However, these improvements have been achieved despite us have one of the lowest growth in the number of house start-ups and being in the bottom two city areas when it comes to superfast broadband.

A separate report by economic analysts The Lankelly Chase Foundation is also disappointing as it reveals Blackburn with Darwen borough has the 16th highest proportion of residents suffering multiple disadvantage and deprivation.

It comes as no surprise that 25% of the 25 local authorities reporting the highest level of problems caused by a combination of homelessness, substance abuse and contact with the criminal justice system, high levels of poverty and social isolation, and mental health problems are in the North West. This region has suffered the most since 2010 when the Tory led coalition Government withdrew support for areas like Blackburn where deprivation and poverty is at its most acute.

The Lankelly Chase Foundation calls “for far-reaching changes and a co-ordinated approach” to address multiple disadvantage from government, local authorities and the voluntary sector; a plea unlikely to be heeded by David Cameron and George Osborne whose record show they are only interested in looking after the City chums and vested interests such as the Power Companies and the Media.

The situation so starkly revealed by these reports has been worsened as a result of the Tory Governments policies. For the Tories to introduce austerity in the way they have done by imposing deep and lasting cuts which impact unfairly on northern cities like Blackburn is nothing short of a disgrace.

George Osborne’s decision to wait until the four year in office before making his so called Northern Power House Speech was clear evidence of the Tories being out of touch and also a sign of their panic as the General Election approaches.

On the other hand a Labour Government will cut the deficit by building a strong economic foundation and by balancing the books. It has pledged to fundamentally address the North/South divide by moving resources out of London and boosting decentralised funding to the tune of £30 billion. Such an approach will go some way to addressing the unfairness that is hindering the economic success for Blackburn and why it is vital we elect a Labour Government in May.

Kate Hollern:Standing up for Britain’s young people

The future of the country depends on young people and the outcome of the General Election in May will determine what kind of future young people have.

This Government has betrayed young people, lied to them and let them down but Labour is determined that the next generation does better than the last.

That is why the Labour Party and Ed Milliband have launched a conversation with young people about what their priorities are for the next government. “Shape your future” gives young people up and down the country the opportunity to talk about Labour’s Young Britain manifesto.

The General Election comes down to a choice about which Government runs the country and who they run it for. We need to ask whether we want a country which works for all young people, or just the few at the top in our society. Your future job, your education, your home, your future depend on who wins this election.

A Labour government would tax the bank bonuses and put our young people back to work.

It would guarantee a job for young people who have been out of work for a year or more.

It will improve the quality of work available for young people by raising the minimum wage and supporting a Living Wage.

It’s also not just about work but about education. Labour believes a country can only succeed when opportunities are for all of our young people. That’s why the educational priority for the next Labour government will be apprenticeships and a revolution in vocational education.

A Labour government will make sure that as many young people leaving school are able to do apprenticeships as currently go to university. But we also want to do more for students heading to university, who leave at the end burdened down with debt. And unlike Nick Clegg and the Liberals we will keep our promises.

This election will also decide how easy it will be for the next generation to find a home of their own to rent or to buy. For the first time, Labour will give those renting the security that they need. And Labour will stop letting agents charging tenants, saving young people as much as £500 when they rent. In addition, a Labour government will also stop housing developers hoarding land, and force them to build 200,000 homes a year.

Elections are about choices and in so far as young people are concerned only Labour has thought long and hard how a future Government needs to focus on the needs of the next generation.

Kate Hollern: Why voting Labour in May will make a difference


Over the next 100 days as we approach the General Election Labour 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 concernsin Blackburn and beyond.

It’s useful recapping that we’ve already set out many ways a Labour government would change Britain for the better:

•​an £8 minimum wage

•​an end to the exploitation of zero hours contracts

•​freezing energy bills until 2017

•​putting our young people back to work

•​paying down the deficit and doing it fairly

•​reforming our banks so they work for small businesses

•​cutting business rates

•​building 200,000 homes a year

•​scrapping the bedroom tax

•​controlling immigration fairly

•​tackling tax avoidance

•​hiring more doctors, nurses, midwives and carers

•​repealing the Health and Social Care Act and putting the right values back at the heart of our NHS

Britain needs a Labour Government and places like Blackburn can’t afford another five years of a Tory Government who unashamedly looks after the interests of the few to the detriment of the rest of us.

Phil Riley: George Osborne wants to take us back to the 1930s

The Autumn Statement is when the Chancellor of the Exchequer gives an indication of his long-term economic targets and, in the Autumn Statement released just before Christmas, George Osborne surprised some commentators by saying that his long term aim was to get spending by the state back to levels not seen since the 1930s. Now that’s an interesting target. After the great financial crash of 1929, a major economic depression gripped much of Europe and, indirectly, contributed to the Second World War. Amongst other events, the 1930s is famous for the Jarrow march when unemployed men from the North East of England marched to London to draw attention to their plight. It’s also the time when there was no National Health Service and families had to work out whether they could afford to pay for the doctor before asking for a visit.
The experiences of many ordinary people during that time led to the election of the Labour government in 1945 and to the establishment of what has become known as the welfare state set up to ensure that, when the nation enters a time of economic difficulty, hardship for the individuals and families hardest hit is softened to ensure that there is, at least, some food on the table and some warmth in the house. 
Anyone who has been watching the course of events over the last four years will have realised that the coalition government no longer believes that, in times of economic difficulty, hardship should be shared out. The Tories and the Liberal Democrats are quite content for the burden to fall hardest on particular groups whilst other sections of society continue to do very well. That’s why economic inequality is growing at a pace that worries everyone except the rich and their apologists in the government and that’s why bankers are still getting huge bonuses whilst pay rises for ordinary workers are almost non-existent and benefits are being cut.
And now, to cap it all, George Osborne tells us that, instead of the 1930s being a decade of shame, they represent an economic target! If you get the chance to talk to a Tory or a Liberal Democrat, ask them which features of the 1930s they would bring back to support the reduction in state spending so desired by the Chancellor – paying for the doctor, maybe? Soup kitchens for the unemployed? Even deeper cuts in benefits?

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.

Jack Straw: We need to get on track and campaign for extra rail links

THERE is less traffic on the roads today than there was eight years ago.

Few will believe me. But it’s true.

Across the country, total traffic (measured by ‘vehicle miles’) is down about two per cent in this period. But the regional differences are striking.

In the North West there’s been a three per cent reduction.

In London the drop has been almost nine per cent.

It’s so great that it’s really tangible. One main road between my London home and the Commons used often to be clogged up. Now there are many more people travelling along it by bus or bike than by car.

The reason? A virtuous circle has been created. Car commuting in central London has been discouraged by a £10.50 per day ‘Congestion Charge’. That money has gone on huge improvements to the bus service. London and the South East have taken the lion’s share of the billions of public spending on rail. In turn this investment has helped London’s economy grow faster than anywhere else in the UK.

Meanwhile, as I know from constituents’ complaints, and my own experience as a regular traveller on local services to Preston and Manchester, we in East Lancashire have to put up with less reliable, less frequent, often overcrowded services, and on thirty year old ‘Pacer’ trains – a Leyland bus body on a coal wagon chassis.

Improvements are in hand, it’s true. The Todmorden curve, to link Burnley direct to Manchester is already installed. Track doubling between Blackburn and Bolton should be completed by 2016, to allow for a regular half hour service all day.

But, despite these improvements, I worry that East Lancashire will be left behind. Elsewhere in the North West – Manchester/Bolton/Blackpool for example – electrification is already under way. There are still questions whether we’ll get additional trains (they won’t be new, for sure) to run extra services on our local lines.

My conclusion: we need to campaign now for electrification to be extended east from Preston to Colne, north from Bolton to Clitheroe. It would greatly help our economy – and cut those traffic jams.