I want to begin by thanking the Burnley Express team for allowing me a slightly extended column this week to cover recent events at home and from the Labour Conference in Liverpool where I am at the time of writing. More about this later.
Last week whilst the Prime Minister continued her battle to achieve a settlement with the EU, so far without any success, I agreed to speak with the BBC in Burnley on the subject of Brexit. For four days the BBC filmed here, discussing views on Brexit and showing the world ( yes it went out on BBC World too) that Burnley is a great place to live, work and do business. Overall there was a clear message that people just want the Government to get on with Brexit not least because we all need to see an end to the uncertainty that has now dragged on for over two years. We urgently need to know the terms of leaving so that we can ensure that there is no disruption to services or business.
Speaking of disruption of service, the Office of Rail and Road this week published their report on the summer rail chaos concluding that Northern Rail, Network Rail and the Department of Transport were all to blame. Most importantly they said what I have been saying from the outset is that no one took charge. The Transport Secretary has failed in his responsibilities and commuters have paid the price for his incompetence and dereliction of duty. It is clear he must go. Overall the situation with our railways is totally unsatisfactory as anyone who regularly travels by train will testify: trains are often dirty, frequently unreliable and always expensive. It really is time to put the interests of service users before those of private share holders.
On last week I spent a day out on patrol with a police response unit in Burnley. This gave me an opportunity to see for myself some of the challenges that police officers deal with on a daily basis. Not only does the force fulfil its traditional crime fighting role but cutbacks in other services have meant that officers are regularly called on to offer support to the mentally ill and to victims of domestic violence as well as coping with significant funding reductions in their own service. I was impressed by the dedication and professionalism of the officers that I met and I would like to thank everyone at Burnley Police station for the welcome I received and most importantly for the work they do every day on our behalf.
Still on the theme of public service, I attended the Annual General Meeting of East Lancashire’s Hospital Trust. After listening to the report I was left feeling as I often am how much I love our NHS – expert care, life saving treatments, compassion and dedication and all free at the point of delivery. Of course everything is far from perfect: underfunding, increased demand and creeping privatisation are taking their toll but for all this it is still the jewel in the crown and I think we have the extraordinary dedication of the NHS staff to thank for this.
On Thursday I was pleased to visit another great Burnley company: Moorhouse’s brewery. I was surprised to hear that this Burnley based Brewery is still a family owned company and a proud brewer of fine quality cask ale including the well known ‘Pendle brews “ The beer industry is not without its challenges and the growth of micro breweries, changing lifestyles and Government taxes all impact heavily. At Moorhouse’s it is clear that there is a real will to innovate to keep pace with modern developments whilst maintaining traditional high standards. I enjoyed my tour of the brewery and I’m grateful to brewer, Jordan Hamer for sharing some of his expertise.
On Saturday I was pleased to hold my advice surgery at the United Reform Church on Bethesda Street alongside amidst the Macmillan Coffee Morning There was a lovely atmosphere in the packed church hall and as ever I am grateful to the Reverend Liz Jewett for her warm welcome.
Moving on to the Labour Party Conference, anyone who has ever attended will tell you that political conferences are exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. The days begin with breakfast meetings and can run through until late evening but it is important to make the most of every minute. This is an opportunity to share ideas and listen to the views not just of party members but those of the charity sector, professionals and unions who also attend in great numbers. As Shadow Health Minister for Community Health, I have had the chance to speak with the Royal College of GPs, representatives from the Royal College of Nursing, Pharmaceutical and biotech research teams and industries as well as many members of the public, living with health conditions which, with the right investment, could have been prevented. These conversations are invaluable in helping to formulate policy going forward and I am grateful for the opportunity. When the meetings end there is of course time to catch up with old friends and make new ones and I must say that Liverpool has made us feel extremely welcome!
I am returning to Burnley after 4 days at conference more determined than ever to work towards a country which treats its citizens fairly and equally wherever they live and whatever their social and financial standing.
If you need my assistance with any matter please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the constituency office on 01282 425744. My constituency office at 8 Keirby Walk, Burnley is open to the public from 10am-4pm weekdays (half days on Tuesday) where my staff will do their very best to help you and pass on to me the issues which you raise.