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REPORTING BACK: Faith Forum - Friday 23rd March

Thank you once again to everyone who took the time to attend my Faith Forum event at Holy Trinity Church. For those of you who were able to make it but also those who couldn’t attend, I hope this report back is helpful.

Faith groups in Blackpool have a longstanding history of working with communities across the town. So I was pleased to see representatives from the various different faiths for what I felt was a very informative discussion with some practical ideas for moving forward.

I want to also show my gratitude to Reverend Tracy Charnock for allowing us to hold the event at Holy Trinity. As Tracy said to me afterwards: “The conversations flowed as we shared stories of how we live out our faith in serving our communities.”

Group A

The first group looked at the rise in the usage of food banks which they were right to point out is a “national scandal”. It was felt by those in the group that the rise in their usage can be largely pointed at the Government’s changes to the benefits system. This is something I am seeing every week in my constituency casework and it is heart-breaking to hear some of the very distressing circumstances individuals and families are finding themselves in. The group felt funding and powers should be devolved to councils to administer benefits as they understood the issues in their local areas better, as opposed to it being controlled centrally in Whitehall.

Linked to this the group also spoke about whether or not a Universal Basic Income (UBI) was one solution to addressing some of the monetary shortfalls people were finding themselves in. UBI is the idea that everyone gets an income regardless of whether they are working or not. The group said whilst the idea was good in theory, they were unsure about how it would practically work and be administered. With the problems we have seen around the administration of Universal Credit, I can understand why some may have concerns about this.

Finally they discussed corporation tax and whether it should be higher or not. The current rate is at 20%, but they felt it should be higher so more money could be invested in vital public services. More broadly on the issue of taxation it was felt a lot more needed to be done by the Government to tackle those exploiting loopholes in the system, but also a need for greater transparency within the tax system. This is something the organisation Christians on the Left have discussed in the “Patriots Pay Tax” campaign. You can read more about the campaign by visiting http://www.christiansontheleft.org.uk/patriotspaytax .

Group B

The second group discussed how we could help get more people into work. As the Shadow Minister for Apprenticeships I was pleased to hear them stress the importance of getting more people into work via this route. Apprenticeships can be a great pathway into fulltime work because when they are done right, it enables you to earn and learn. They also spoke about how the experience of being unemployed can have a negative impact on the self-esteem of an individual. They felt more needed to be done by the DWP and the Job Centre staff to support and show more compassion and understanding to the individuals finding themselves in this situation.

Charities and voluntary groups can also play a crucial role in helping people get their lives back on track. But many of these groups are finding themselves with one hand tied behind their backs. Cuts to local authority budgets from government austerity has seen grants to voluntary organisations dry up. Local groups such as Streetlife and Young at Heart do an excellent job in helping some of Blackpool’s most vulnerable people in different ways, but it is a job they will struggle to do with less resources and other pots of funding being available to them.

Finally they looked at the issue of access to finance and credit, and whether or not there needed to be more morality by the companies supplying it. They said there did, citing the example of loan sharks who for too long have been ripping off people on very low incomes. They said this needed to change, but this could only be done with tougher action and policies from the Government.

Group C

The final group talked a lot about the importance of cooperation between different groups – citing the written agreement between Blackpool Council and faith groups across the town. You can read the agreement in full at http://www.faithandsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/blackpool-faith-partnership-agreement.pdf .

One very practical example they highlighted was the work being done by students at Cardinal Newman Sixth Form to help older members of the community with computer and broader digital skills.

They also made the point that local services and amenities had to be reflected in the needs of the local area. Blackpool has a higher average age than other towns so older people who might not be as confident as some of their younger peers with technology, still need access to more traditional services such as their local high street banks.

Lastly they felt faith groups needed to do more to reach out to individuals or groups of people in their communities. Regardless of whether they were religious or not, they said religious groups should be far more proactive in attending and getting involved in other local community activities. They said groups of all faiths needed to “transmit what we desire” in order to better help people.

Conclusion

Once again thank you for taking the time to participate and come together for this event. I will take on board what was said and but also the sense of anger felt by many at the way some of our vulnerable have been treated under this Government. I will also continue to bang the drum for Blackpool for a fairer share of funding so the council and voluntary groups are able to continue supporting those in most need across the town.

You can keep in touch with my activities and campaigns via my Facebook (Gordon Marsden – Blackpool), Twitter (@GordonMarsden) or on my website at www.gordonmarsden.com .

Kind regards

Gordon Marsden - Member of Parliament for Blackpool South

REPORTING BACK: Faith Forum - Friday 23rd March

REPORTING BACK: Faith Forum - Friday 23rd March Thank you once again to everyone who took the time to attend my Faith Forum event at Holy Trinity Church. For those...

Gordon has warned that schools across Blackpool South face continuing cuts from Government policy after Education Secretary Damian Hinds failed yesterday to repeat a previous guarantee in Parliament that no school would see its funding cut.

Gordon, who is also a Shadow Education Minister, was on the front bench as, in a debate called by Labour on school funding, his colleague Angela Rayner laid into the Government for breaking their General Election pledges to give a real cash increase per pupil under the National Funding formula.

Speaking afterwards Gordon said: “The latest data from the teaching unions' School Cuts website indicates 13 out of the 18 schools across Blackpool South have had their budgets cut - despite the Tories previous pledge to protect school budgets at last year’s election. Given the Education Secretary's repeated dodging in yesterday's debate our requests to repeat that guarantee, that means that between 2015 and 2020 local parents can expect to see almost £500,000 is expected to be lost in school funding from across Blackpool South.

He added: “Teachers across Blackpool have every reason to be worried about the continuing cuts they are experiencing in school budgets and resources. Data collected on the School Cuts website shows that St Nicholas school (pictured) in the south of my constituency stands to lose £75,470 between 2015 and 2020 - that works out at a £192 cut per pupil. Near the town centre St Kentigern’s school is expected to lose £26,584, which works out at a £128 cut per pupil. Despite admitting that school funding is “tight”, Theresa May's ministers have not come good on the concerns of teaching staff or parents. They claim they’ve increased overall funding, but when you look at the figures per pupil for most of our schools, it's quite clear they’ve had a significant cut.

“The independent Institute of Fiscal Studies [IFS], however, has stated that the Government claims are simply not accurate, and the UK Statistics Authority has rebuked the Education Secretary for his inaccuracy. The Government also continue to ignore the fact that schools could face a cut of up to 1.5% under the current funding formula rules.

“After three years of severe cuts to most schools across Blackpool South, Labour’s motion offered the Tory Government a chance to put things right, ensuring every school receives a cash increase in per pupil funding. We need that action to avoid the continued haemorrhaging of teaching staff, who are leaving in record numbers, but also for all the pupils in Blackpool South suffering as a result of the current situation, along with parents having to be asked to contribute extras for school activities that should be covered but aren't as a result of these school cuts.

“If the Government doesn't respond quickly, our hard won Opportunity Area status in Blackpool, which our schools, pupils and parents desperately need will come with one hand tied behind its back. I hope to be meeting the Education Secretary shortly to discuss the Opportunity Area initiatives and to reiterate our specific reasons for needing fairer funding.”

You can find out more about the impact of school cuts in Blackpool by clicking here

Blackpool schools face continuing cuts says Gordon after Tories fail on pledge for increased school funding

Gordon has warned that schools across Blackpool South face continuing cuts from Government policy after Education Secretary Damian Hinds failed yesterday to repeat a previous guarantee in Parliament that no...

Gordon is to hold one of his regular advice surgeries this Friday (20th April).

This will take place from 3.30pm to 5.00pm at his constituency office at 304 Highfield Road, Blackpool, FY4 3JX.

Appointments are required and can be made by either calling 01253 344143 or emailing gordonmarsdenmp@parliament.uk

Gordon's next Advice Surgery - Friday 20th April

Gordon is to hold one of his regular advice surgeries this Friday (20th April). This will take place from 3.30pm to 5.00pm at his constituency office at 304 Highfield Road,...

Gordon has said Labour’s new plans to fund free bus travel for under 25s will open up further opportunities to tens of thousands of young people across Blackpool.

The next Labour Government will give funding to councils like Blackpool, who already run Blackpool Transport. The policy will benefit approximately over 32,000 young people (5 to 24-years-old) across the town and save them up to £1,000 a year. It will be funded by using money ring-fenced from Vehicle Excise Duty.

Gordon, said: “This is a great policy for young people which will open up further opportunities to over 32,000 young people across Blackpool. We are nearly double the UK average for youth unemployment in Blackpool South, so I know how important affordable and accessible bus travel can be in supporting people to find and access high skilled jobs and training. As Labour’s Shadow Skills Minister this is something I have also been consistently pushing in Parliament over the last few years.”

As well as applying to existing municipal companies like Blackpool Transport, the policy will also support and incentivise other local authorities to set up their own public owned bus companies. In 2016 Blackpool Transport made £1.38 million, £1 million of which was returned as a dividend to the council.

Gordon, also a former Shadow Bus Minister, added: “For too long private bus companies have run services for profit and not for people. We have shown we can do it differently in Blackpool with our very successful municipal bus company - providing good quality services, which meet the needs of local people, and also make a profit to benefit council tax payers.”

In 2016 Gordon launched his Cleaner, Greener Blackpool Campaign at the Solaris Centre, where he spoke about the importance of public transport in reducing the carbon footprint.

He said: “Public transport and particularly buses are vital for easing congestion around the town, especially during the high season, for residents but also for the millions of visitors we have come to visit. Buses also bring a lot of environmental benefits such as reducing air pollution and carbon emissions, which is really important in working towards a cleaner, greener Blackpool.”

 

 

Free bus travel for under 25s will “open up further opportunities” to thousands of young people in Blackpool says Gordon

Gordon has said Labour’s new plans to fund free bus travel for under 25s will open up further opportunities to tens of thousands of young people across Blackpool. The next...

Gordon has accused the Tories of putting public safety at risk with almost 800 (799) Police Officers and a further 162 PCSOs cut across Lancashire since 2010.

He said: “Blackpool is a unique town with millions of visitors coming here all year round. Lancashire Police has received no extra resources to help with that, leaving them at breaking point. The Tories are not just failing visitors to the town, but the safety of residents and the thousands of small businesses.

“In addition the failure of the home office properly to fund community policing or the costs of the fracking operation, which continue to be borne by Lancashire Police, is threatening community safety at a time of continued vigilance on terrorism.”

“Labour will put an extra 10,000 bobbies on the beat across the country so they can protect you and stand up for the safety of residents and visitors.”

 

Gordon accuses Tories of putting community safety at risk with cuts to Lancashire Police

Gordon has accused the Tories of putting public safety at risk with almost 800 (799) Police Officers and a further 162 PCSOs cut across Lancashire since 2010. He said: “Blackpool...

Gordon has hailed the launch of Labour's plans for a new National Education Service, covering from early years to lifelong learning, as a "game changer that will help transform life chances for families and people across Blackpool and Lancashire".

Speaking after Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner launched the party's NES Charter with 10 key principles and a three month consultation, Gordon, who as Shadow Skills and Higher Education Minister, has been part of the team nationally drawing up the proposals, said: "This is the start of a hugely exciting and positive process which I am proud to be part of- an initiative which in its scope and vision is similar to that with which a Labour Government launched its all-encompassing "cradle to grave" NHS in 1948.

"It will be especially relevant to us in Blackpool, where eight years of Tory and Tory-led Governments have seen funding for our Sure Starts and Children's Centres cut by them, while parents struggle still to access affordable childcare. We have huge retention and recruitment crises for teachers and funding services in our schools and Tory Government policies have, tripled tuition fees for students going on to higher education as well as scrapping grants for those at colleges.

"Tory Governments have also decimated the budget in England for adult education, which is hampering older learners across Lancashire, including those who need to retrain and reskill themselves. Blackpool with some of the worst unemployment and underemployed/ low skills in the UK, desperately needs the 'New Deal' which our National Education Service will bring.

"We will be consulting widely over the next three months across the country on the 10 core principles that will underpin Labour's NES - which will be, as the NHS became, a central driver for fairness and equality. The NES will work closely with Labour's plans for health, sustainability and industrial policies. We will build opportunities, second chances and bridges for people at every stage of their lives - in contrast to the silos, indifferences and endless barriers, austerity and cuts which people have experienced under the Tories since 2010. 

"I am particularly proud to be taking forward our plans for skills, Apprenticeships, lifelong learning and for students at our excellent local colleges and universities across Lancashire. We will build on our 2017 manifesto pledges on tuition fees, restoring maintenance grants and educational maintenance grants to expand social mobility and equal chances for everyone.

"I am especially glad, as a former Open University tutor for nearly 20 years, that on top of moving towards learning being free at the point of use, we will be using the NES to bring forward strategies to cover both the very specific and more general skills for learners young and older. These will address our real economic needs locally over the next 10 -15 years, not the stop gap, shoestring actions of May's Tory ministers. 

"We want to see a Commission to align Further and Higher Education skills as part of our NES - and ambitious plans to reverse the decline in adult learning as a central part of that project. We will be consulting widely on the ten principles of the NES, locally and nationally, which I will be closely involved with.

"As well as our own party members, that process will include students , families , the trade unions and third sector, local employers and councils , colleges , universities and skills providers. All of them have a stake in our getting things right for a future Labour Government to implement the NES vision."

Draft Charter

1. Education has intrinsic value in giving all people access to the common body of knowledge we share, and practical value in allowing all to participate fully in our society. These principles shall guide the National Education Service.

2. The National Education Service shall provide education that is free at the point of use, available universally and throughout life.

3. The National Education Service provides education for the public good and all providers within the National Education Service shall be bound by the principles of this charter.

4. High quality education is essential to a strong and inclusive society and economy, so the National Education Service shall work alongside the health, sustainability, and industrial policies set by democratically elected government.

5. Every child, and adult, matters, so the National Education Service will be committed to tackling all barriers to learning, and providing high-quality education for all.

6. All areas of skill and learning deserve respect; the National Education Service will provide all forms of education, integrating academic, technical and other forms of learning within and outside of educational institutions, and treating all with equal respect.

7.Educational excellence is best achieved through collaboration and the National Education Service will be structured to encourage and enhance cooperation across boundaries and sectors.

8. The National Education Service shall be accountable to the public, communities, and parents and children that it serves. Schools, colleges, and other public institutions within the National Education Service should be rooted in their communities, with parents and communities empowered, via appropriate democratic means, to influence change where it is needed and ensure that the education system meets their needs. The appropriate democratic authority will set, monitor and allocate resources, ensuring that they meet the rights, roles, and responsibilities of individuals and institutions.

9. The National Education Service aspires to the highest standards of excellence and professionalism. Educators and all other staff will be valued as highly-skilled professionals, and appropriate accountability will be balanced against giving genuine freedom of judgement and innovation.

10. The National Education Service shall draw on evidence and international best practice, and provide appropriate professional development and training. The National Education Service must have the utmost regard to the well-being of learners and educators, and its policies and practices, particularly regarding workload, assessment, and inspection, will support the emotional, social and physical well-being of students and staff.

Gordon Hails Launch of Labour's National Education Service Plans - Game Changer for Life Changes

Gordon has hailed the launch of Labour's plans for a new National Education Service, covering from early years to lifelong learning, as a "game changer that will help transform life...

Gordon has met with local faith leaders for an exchange of ideas and discussion about how they can better reach out to their communities.

He held his faith forum event at Holy Trinity Church in South Shore with Reverend Tracy Charnock. Over 20 attendees from various different faiths participated in the event. They were put into three different groups and each explored and discussed three different issues including the usage of food banks, universal credit and social isolation.

Gordon said: “Faith groups in Blackpool have a longstanding history of working closely with communities across the town. I have recognised this during my years as the MP and have held a number of these events so I can respond to the issues that they raise, and the run to Easter this year was a particular opportune time to do this.

“We heard some very distressing stories about how local individuals and families, who through no fault of their own have found themselves struggling to make ends meet because of Government policies. This event was an important platform to look at practical ways in which faith groups can reach out to those in most need.

“We heard about the very good work being done by students at some local colleges to help elderly people with computers skills and using the internet. There were also calls for greater funding towards local voluntary groups so they could continue providing important services which reflected the needs of people in Blackpool.”

Reverend Tracy Charnock added: “It was a great honour and joy, for us at Holy Trinity, to welcome representatives of many different faith groups from across Blackpool. The conversations flowed as we shared stories of how we live out our faith in serving our communities. It became apparent that our faith groups - in their acts of charity - contribute immensely towards the well-being of so many people here.”

Last year faith representatives across the town signed a partnership with Blackpool Council to commit to working together. The partnership was inspired by Gordon’s last Faith Forum, where guest speaker Stephen Timms MP spoke about the “Covenant for Engagement” - a set of principles that would enable faith communities and local councils to work more effectively together in bettering their communities.

You can read more information about the Blackpool Faith Partnership at http://www.faithandsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/blackpool-faith-partnership-agreement.pdf

Gordon meets with Blackpool faith leaders for discussion event at Holy Trinity

Gordon has met with local faith leaders for an exchange of ideas and discussion about how they can better reach out to their communities. He held his faith forum event...

Gordon has teamed up with disability charity Leonard Cheshire to highlight their #MakeCareFair campaign for good quality social care and end the rushed 15 minute personal care visits.

He attended an event in Parliament where they told him over 12,000 people across the country were still receiving “flying” 15-minute personal care visits. Gordon said people in Blackpool were being deprived of dignified and compassionate care because of chronic underfunding by the Government on social care.

He said: “I was delighted to join Leonard Cheshire Disability in support of their #MakeCareFair campaign. I shared caring responsibilities for my mother so access to proper care is an issue I feel very strongly about. In Blackpool we have an older population and more people with disabilities than most other towns and cities.

“We have over 15,000 people aged over 65 in Blackpool South, and for those among that group who find that they progressively need care and support, there are a considerable number that live in single- person households and have no close family or friends nearby to support them. That means reliance on good quality, trained social carers is crucial. But all too often inadequate funding streams puts their dedicated contact time at risk.”

“This is a challenge for Adult Social Services in Blackpool to monitor and make sure that this does not become the norm. But this Government must live up to their responsibilities and take action over these flying visits.

“No one in Blackpool should have to experience rushed and undignified care. They rob too many people of their dignity but are a symptom of the chronic underfunding by Government in care. Trying to load all the responsibility onto local councils to make up that funding with increases in council tax is short- sighted and an abdication of Government responsibility.”

Gordon and Leonard Cheshire have consistently campaigned for an end to the rushed 15 minute personal care visits, as well as working together on other disability issues. Flying visits in England continue despite statutory guidance within the Care Act 2014, which came into force in April 2015 stating: “short home-care visits of 15 minutes or less are not appropriate for people who need support with intimate care needs.”

Neil Heslop, Leonard Cheshire’s Chief Executive added: ‘‘Inadequate flying visits are indicative of a care system in crisis and coupled with PIP shortcomings have rendered disabled people an increasingly embattled, beleaguered community, singled out for punitive measures. We will continue to campaign for the critical long term funding that is needed to transform the provision of care and improve the quality of thousands of lives.”

"Make Care Fare" and "End Scandal" of 15 minutes visits says Gordon

Gordon has teamed up with disability charity Leonard Cheshire to highlight their #MakeCareFair campaign for good quality social care and end the rushed 15 minute personal care visits. He attended...

Gordon has put down an Early Day Motion in Parliament to recognise Notarianni’s 90 years in Blackpool producing and selling their famous ice cream.

The motion reads: "That this house congratulates, at the start of the Easter holiday season in Blackpool, Notarianni’s Ice Cream on their 90 years of production of their celebrated products, particularly their iconic vanilla ice cream; salutes the Vettese family, now in their fourth generation as a family business, in the best of tradition of Italian families who have brought a taste of fame and glory to both Blackpool’s residents and tourists; and celebrates all those Italian businesses and entrepreneurs who over the years have enriched our cultures and pleasures in the UK."

Gordon met up up the Vettese family last Friday for English Tourism Week, where they told him they were very excited for the start of the new season in Blackpool. Back in 2012 Gordon launched his "Back Blackpool's Businesses" campaign at Notarianni’s and was joined by many other local small business owners in the South Shore community. 

You can read more about Early Day Motions by visiting http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/edms/

Gordon puts down EDM in support of Notarianni’s Ice Cream

Gordon has put down an Early Day Motion in Parliament to recognise Notarianni’s 90 years in Blackpool producing and selling their famous ice cream. The motion reads: "That this house congratulates,...

Gordon has met and sat down with half a dozen young local Apprentices who are all pioneers on an innovative new scheme to support and mentor 11- 16 year olds in the town's schools.

They are part of Blackpool Council's HeadStart project, a Big Lottery funded multi-agency programme building resilience for those young people across Blackpool. In 2016, The Big Lottery Fund awarded Blackpool Council £10 million to support them in these areas over the next 5 years.

He chatted to them for nearly an hour about the projects they are involved with and their impressions and feedback from their work, which will deliver them a mix of Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications covering variously Children and social work as well as digital, creative and business admin skills. This includes an easy to read “Resilience Framework” which they have created to give young people practical ways about how they can make improvements to their everyday lives, including making them more effective learners and communicators. Video and online resources including some with the 11-16 year olds as presenters, via YouTube and other social media, are among the other materials the Apprentices have produced.

Gordon said: “It was really stimulating to have the time and opportunity to talk about their work, the satisfaction they were getting out of it, but also about the nature of learning and the sort of qualities their Apprenticeships were developing in them to the benefit of their future careers. It was great at the end of an action packed National Apprenticeship Week where I met Apprentices covering areas as diverse as catering, brewing, renewables and nuclear energy, as well as giving a keynote speech at the Semta Skills Awards and highlighting the benefits across the engineering sector, to see such promise and enthusiasm from other young Apprentices here in Blackpool.'

“We all know the challenges for young people here to develop their skills and self- confidence, particularly in parts of the town that can be very transient, with high levels of deprivation, often in poor housing conditions and sometimes unsettled family backgrounds. This can sometimes be a challenging and unsettling environment for young people to grow up in.

“This Headstart Apprenticeship programme offers a potential double benefit - giving the Apprentices themselves a varied and creative programme to qualify in, while helping empower hundreds of young people in Blackpool's schools, both in a group but also a one- to- one basis, with life skills for their future prospects and careers, and in conjunction with input from local charities such as MIND.

“I stressed to the Apprentices and the Headstart administrator from the Council that it was crucial this five year programme laid down firm principles and transferable skills and materials that can leave a lasting legacy for schools and organisations to carry on after the funding is finished. I’ll do what I can to continue encouraging young people like these to make a success of Headstart.”

Josh Thompson, one of the HeadStart apprentices said: “It was a fantastic experience to be able to meet our local MP and to generally care about and discuss what we were doing the context of National Apprenticeship Week. Something I shall never forget!”

James Woolaston, HeadStart’s Digital Apprentice added: “I am absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity. For my own personal development I believe it has allowed me to grow as a young professional, and I look forward to us all building this resilience revolution in Blackpool together.”

Gordon meets with HeadStart Apprentices for National Apprenticeship Week

Gordon has met and sat down with half a dozen young local Apprentices who are all pioneers on an innovative new scheme to support and mentor 11- 16 year olds...

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