MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
Here’s my most recent Ham and High Column on Policing in Haringey
Policing in Haringey is undergoing major changes. This all started last year, when the Conservative Mayor of London announced that changes would be made to policing in Haringey and across the city.
In the current economic climate, changes have to be made to make policing more efficient and cost effective. But from day one, the Lib Dems were clear that any changes should not have a negative impact on public access to the police.
Police front counters, for instance, are vital local services – allowing victims to go and report crimes face to face, in a safe and secure environment. We all hope that we will never have to visit one, but it is certainly reassuring to know they’re there.
So, when the Mayor mentioned that front counters might be closed and replaced with contact points, we started expressing our concern and asking questions.
Straight away, Lib Dem London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon asked the Mayor for a guarantee that there would be no time gap between a front counter closing and new contact point opening.
The Mayor gave this guarantee, and went on to say that no front counter would be lost without an ‘equivalent or indeed better’ replacement – open for the same number of hours.
During the consultation period, the Haringey Lib Dems and I called on the Mayor to keep to his word.
You can imagine our disappointment and anger when the Mayor announced his final plans, which include the closure of Muswell Hill volunteer counter. This would leave a huge chunk of the borough without proper access to front counter services.
Yes – changes had to be made, but not like this.
In response, I have launched a petition, calling on the Mayor to retain a local base for the Safer Neighbourhood Team on, or near, Muswell Hill Broadway with an accessible front counter for the public to report crimes.
Hundreds have signed already, and residents can add their names here: http://bit.ly/MuswellHillPolice
After launching the petition, I met with Haringey’s new Borough Commander – Victor Olisa. I was very pleased to hear that he had contacted the volunteers and is keen to keep a police presence in Muswell Hill. But Haringey Police need help finding a new location for the service – as the Met will be selling the building it currently operates from.
So, Haringey Police are willing to keep the volunteer counter service, but only if a suitable location can be found. Please contact me if you have any ideas for a suitable location for a front counter service in or around Muswell Hill.
We also saved this very front counter once before. With enough support from residents and Haringey Police, we can do the same again.
This year, Parliament is hosting the ‘Kids Count Inspiration Awards.’ MPs have been asked to nominate an inspirational young person or community group that deserve to be recognised for their contribution to our communities.
We have some amazing groups and individuals in Haringey, and it will be difficult to pick which one to nominate! I have some ideas in mind, but I would like your views too.
Please don’t hesitate to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to suggest someone to nominate.
The awards will take place on the 24th June in Parliament. Nominations close of 15th May – so let me know asap!
Here are the two categories in more detail:
1) Best contribution by a community group
CRITERIA. Recognising a community group who by example, track record and commitment have signalled that responsibility lies within their own community to protect and foster the well-being and development of young people.
2) Most Inspirational Young Person
CRITERIA. Recognising an individual young person, who has inspired others by their personal dedication, personality, enthusiasm, resilience, flair and commitment to one, or a number of issues affecting the lives of young people.
After months of opposing any changes at all to the Whittington Hospital, it seems some Labour members have finally realised that campaigning against any changes to the hospital will do more harm than good. See this tweet from Labour Cllr Martin Klute, for instance.
When the Whittington Board announced that it would be making changes to the hospital in January, everyone was shocked. Politicians across the Borough all agreed that the Hospital’s communications strategy had been appalling.
But then, we disagreed. A good summary of the disagreements between the Lib Dem and Labour approach can be found in the news here, with a further explanation below.
From the outset – the local Lib Dems and I knew that, despite their appalling communications, the Whittington Board members were trying to make changes to secure the long term future of the Hospital.
In order for the Whittington to be successful in their Foundation Trust application, the Board needed to make plans for change. They include selling off derelict buildings so that money can be reinvested in A&E and maternity. It also includes reducing beds in non-urgent wards, so that care can be transferred to the community.
Without making these changes, the Board would have been unsuccessful in securing Foundation Trust Status. This would have led to a takeover of the hospital, a loss of services, and loss of local control.
That’s why the Lib Dems and I did not oppose all changes out right. Unlike others, we would not oppose all changes to the Hospital for quick political gain.
Instead, we called for no loss of hospital services as a result of the changes, and for a full public consultation.
We had numerous meetings with the board and called a public meeting so residents could have their say. In response to our 2,700 signature strong petition, we received these assurances.
We continue to ask tough questions about the future of integrated care. We have continued our petition to ensure the Board engages with the public and keeps its word about services.
Labour, however, campaigned against any change or sale of land. They used the opportunity to try and blame the Government for what was happening, and score political points, despite the hospital’s plans having nothing to do with the Government.
During a separate public meeting, David Lammy MP spoke of how any changes would be the death knell for the Whittington. In fact, the opposite is true.
Some Labour politicians, such as Islington Council leader Catherine West, continue to oppose any changes, despite the growing realisation that change is necessary to protect the hospital. However, some Labour councillors have now come out against the Labour position.
I hope in time Labour will see sense and follow our example, fighting to keep local services not derelict buildings.
So, while Labour tries to get its house in order and find a coherent position – the local Lib Dems and I will stick to our original and clear position: That during this period of change, the Whittington should continue to engage with the public, and ensure that no local services are lost.
The personal allowance is the amount you can earn before being taxed. When Liberal Democrats came into power in 2010 this was just £6,475.
Increasing the tax-free personal allowance is the Liberal Democrats’ flagship policy. We have fought hard for this and secured it.
Since we’ve been in Government, millions of low and middle income earners are now paying £600 less tax per year.
The tax-free allowance will rise again next year to £10,000, fulfilling a commitment from the front page of the Liberal Democrats’ 2010 General Election manifesto and resulting in a total tax cut of £700.
By this point, 86,500 ordinary working people in Haringey will have received the £700 a year tax cut, and 7,520 of the Borough’s low or part-time earners will have been lifted out of paying Income Tax altogether.
Earlier, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander summed it up very well:
“If you get paid today, take a moment to compare your pay slip to last month’s. You’ll see that Liberal Democrats have cut your taxes.
“It has taken the Liberal Democrats being in Government to deliver the largest programme of tax cuts for working people for a generation.
“The Liberal Democrats are the only party that will radically cut taxes for people on low and middle incomes to build a stronger economy and a fairer society so that everyone can get on in life.”
Here’s a blog from me on World Malaria Day. You can also read it on the Huffington Post website.
Malaria affects over half the world’s population, with a child dying every minute from the disease. In the worst-affected countries malaria has a devastating impact on health systems and economies. When faced with these stark facts it can often seem like there’s no hope.
But amongst the gloom there are genuine signs that we may finally be winning the battle against malaria. Across the world malaria is on the decline. Over the past decade governments, NGOs and multilaterals like the UN and World Bank have come together to fight the disease, while national governments in the worst-hit countries made real progress in delivering malaria control programmes. This global coalition had an enormous impact. By 2010, 145 million bed nets – the simple, cheap yet hugely effective defence against malarial mosquitoes – were being delivered to sub-Saharan Africa. The amount of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) – the most effective pharmaceutical treatment for malaria sufferers – jumped from just 11 million in 2005 to 278 million in 2011. In just one country, Mozambique, DFID’s support for anti-malaria spraying has seen a dramatic reduction in deaths and hospital admissions of at least 40%.
The effect of these efforts can be summarised in just two hugely important statistics. Between 2000 and 2010 global malaria mortality rates dropped by 26%, saving over a million lives. Behind these statistics lies hundreds of thousands of families free from pain and suffering. Free from having to mourn the death of a child. Free to get a job and work themselves out of poverty without having to worry about another bout of fever.
Yet there is a danger that this anti-malaria coalition is fragmenting. Global funding for malaria is levelling off and is in danger of falling in the coming years, threatening the reversal of a decade of progress. The international community needs to sustain its support to make sure the gains made do not go to waste. This must be matched by increased commitments from the governments of high-burden countries.
We are doing our bit. I’m in the Democratic Republic of Congo this week, one of the worst-affected countries in the world. Here malaria is responsible for a third of all deaths and 97% of people live in high risk areas. Children under five experience an average of between six to ten episodes of malaria per year. That’s why today, on World Malaria Day, I am announcing a major new UK anti-malaria programme that will protect around six million people in the DRC from the disease and result in approximately 2.5 million fewer episodes of malaria amongst children under five every year.
The UK will not stand on the sidelines while millions suffer from this entirely preventable and treatable disease. It’s time for the international community to come together yet again and keep up their commitments. We need another decade of action against malaria. The prize could be another million lives saved.
Here’s my second blog from my ministerial visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo:
Kasai Occidental, a landlocked province in DRC, seems cut off from the world. I flew into Kananga, its capital, this morning on one of the two flights a week. We flew over the railway, but didn’t catch a glimpse of the train that runs once a month, give or take. Potholed road access isn’t an inviting option. It’s little wonder that the business leaders I met with later identified transport as one of their biggest problems. Kananga, a city of around one million people, seems an island.
And this landlocked island has its problems. Conflict in the East of DRC has been making the headlines, but on some measures the situation here is worse. Malnutrition levels are high, in a malnourished country (all the harder to understand when the soil is fertile); conflict has been partly to blame. There is a lack of basic services like electricity and water, gender violence is all too common, the literacy rate for young women is around 35%, and lack of formal employment the norm.
So, where do you start? There is no easy answer, when each problem demands your attention and all are in some way connected. DFID is already investing in health, including the ASSP launched on Monday, which will work in many parts of Kasai Occidental to provide access to much-needed primary healthcare; and in police training, in a country where policing is not adequate to keep people safe.
And DFID is in the early stages of engaging with a new provincial government who appear committed to making things happen. The governor is credited with bringing electricity online – the six hours a day is a massive improvement on the zero hours previously. With the political will here to deliver for the population, perhaps Kasai Occidental can start to move in the right direction.
I’m currently in the DRC in my capacity as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development. Here is a blog following my meetings yesterday:
It is sometimes hard to comprehend the health statistics in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is a country where one fifth of children born do not reach their first birthday. And part of the story is that only one in four people have access to basic healthcare.
Here in Kinshasa yesterday, I sat alongside the DRC Minister of Health and formally launched DFID’s access to primary healthcare programme, “Accès aux Soins de Santé Primaires” (ASSP).
This major £182.9 million investment will improve access to primary healthcare for millions of Congolese. It will build clinics, provide equipment and medicines, improve management systems and train healthcare workers. For example, between now and 2015, it will ensure over 300,000 women give birth with the help of a trained attendant, and will provide 64,000 vaccinations a year to children. Importantly, it will work in close partnership with the government.
For these improvements to last, the government needs our help to take on more and more of the provision of healthcare. So I was heartened to hear the DRC Health Minister’s commitment to the ASSP programme and beyond. He faces huge challenges in building a healthy DRC. He will not face them alone.
I’m sure you have seen the news about the outbreak of measles in Wales. Though it’s many miles away, we know from past experience that these outbreaks can spread. And there’s certainly no harm in being prepared.
That’s why my Haringey Lib Dem colleague, Cllr David Winskill, started asking Haringey Council a few questions. David is the Haringey Lib Dem lead on Health – so was well placed to ask.
We asked the Council if they thought that the historic vaccination rate in Haringey has been adequate to prevent an outbreak in the borough. The Council said that Vaccination rates in Haringey have improved significantly in recent years reaching population coverage of 88-90% for MMR.
We asked if the situation in Haringey was monitored, and if is there are adequate supplies of vaccine if it is decided to offer them to the public. They Council said that all vaccines are now being procured centrally and there is an adequate supply of MMR vaccine.
The Council also said that Public Health England are closely monitoring the situation, though there is currently no evidence of measles spreading to the wider community in South Wales or indeed here.
So, we have asked for reassurance and have found out that vaccine stocks are adequate and that the situation is being monitored.
In the meantime – it seems sensible to remind people that the MMR vaccine is free on the NHS and is internationally recognised as the best and safest way to protect against measles, mumps and rubella.
You can read more information about measles and the vaccination here.
It was good to have a woman Prime Minister and Margaret Thatcher demonstrated conclusively that women are more than capable of doing the job.
Whatever people think of her policies – today is simply a day for respect. I wish her family strength and peace.
Here’s my latest Ham and High column. Also available in full on Lib Dem Voice.
Week after week, I meet local residents at my constituency advice surgeries. Many are working hard in full or part time jobs, but still struggling to make ends meet due to the current economic climate.
The unemployed and part timers often tell me they want to work more but also keep more of the money they earn.
The Lib Dems have known this for a long time. And from now, the amount you can earn before being taxed has risen to £9,440. That’s £600 less tax to pay for working people, since the Liberal Democrats entered Government in 2010.
Even better news – next year it will rise to £10,000 – meaning 25 million people across the UK will pay a total of £700 less Income Tax.
This announcement was made in the recent budget, one year sooner than had been expected.
In Haringey alone, an estimated 86,500 working people will benefit from the £700 tax reduction, and 7,520 local low and part-time earners will be lifted out of paying Income Tax all together.
Make no mistake; this would not be happening if it were not for the Liberal Democrats. This was so important to us we put it on the front page of our manifesto, argued for it in the coalition negotiations and are now delivering it in Government.
Labour failed to deliver this in 13 years in office, instead hitting low income workers by scrapping the 10p rate and pandering to bankers in the City of London. The Conservatives would not have delivered this on their own. Their priority at the last election was an inheritance tax cut for millionaires.
Low earners and part time workers keeping more of the money they earn is a key part of our plan to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life. That’s why securing these vital tax reductions for ordinary workers is so important.
In other news, families in Haringey – and across the UK – are to get greater financial support for childcare, thanks to a major new Government initiative.
The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced a £1bn boost to help parents with childcare costs. This could benefit around 10,972 families in Haringey – saving them £1,200 per child, per year.
Almost a quarter of employed mothers say they would like to work longer hours but can’t do so because of the cost of childcare.
Making sure all families – and mothers in particular – can afford to work has been an absolute priority for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats and I am delighted we are able to give parents this much needed help.
I know that these measures will not solve all the problems we face, but I hope these Lib Dem led initiatives go some way to helping individuals and families in Haringey and across the UK.