Archive | June, 2011

No-one’s a winner from day of strike action

No-one’s a winner from day of strike action

Toby Perkins, Labour Member of Parliament for Chesterfield says only dialogue will bring about a fairer deal for teachers and uninterrupted schooling in the public sector pension row.

Today, many schools across Chesterfield are closed due to strike action by hundreds of National Union of Teachers (NUT) and Association for Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) members.

Whilst describing the decision to strike as ‘a mistake’, Perkins warned that the Government’s ‘gung ho’ approach to public sector pension reform will cause unnecessary chaos for schoolchildren and parents as talks between Michael Gove and unions continue to fall short of finding a solution.

While the Government has bewildered many across the UK with half baked plans for parents to step in and take over for the duration of the one day strike. Mr. Perkins has called on the Government to think again about the immediate 3% rise in pension contributions for teachers, emphasizing the need to consider a more long-term plan, while advising the unions that strike action may backfire as parents scramble for day time supervision as a result of the strikes.

The NUT believes that the rise in pension contributions could lead to some teachers paying up to £100 a month more. Michael Gove and his team have so far maintained a hard line, in yet another squeeze of middle incomes and the obvious disruption to children’s education.

Lord Hutton had provided a report for the government into public sector provision in which he had exploded the myth that government pensions were ‘gold- plated’. The average public sector pension is around £6,500 a year. The approach of the Tory led coalition stands apart from Labour’s previous approach in government entirely.

In Government Labour took tough decisions to put public sector pensions on a sustainable footing.

We limited increases in the normal pension age (NPA) for the uniformed services and mostly focussed the age increase for new entrants to schemes.

  • This saw the NPA move from 60 to 65
  • This system spreads the cost of any future unexpected increases in contributions more equally between employer and employees than previously. The costs are shared up to a cap, but above the cap, they are borne by just employees.
  • This would have saved £1bn by 2012-13 and £13 billion over the next 50 years.

We limited taxpayer liability and shared the risk resulting from population growth, through the ‘cap and share’ rules

We also changed accrual rates for many of the reformed public sector pension schemes, especially for new entrants.

Most importantly, we took all of these steps through a partnership with those in the public sector who participated in negotiations to reach a fair and strong outcome.

Whilst we think that the Hutton report can provide a starting point for negotiations, it is clearly wrong that the government placed a 3% surcharge on pensions prior to the Hutton report even being concluded, showing bad faith, and setting out on a confrontational path from the outset.

Mr. Perkins, the Shadow Minister for Children and Families commented:-

“Strike action must always be a last resort, and I feel that public sympathy for the case of the teachers will be eroded by the sense that these strikes are premature.

The right to withdraw Labour is a precious one and should always be used responsibly, public opinion really matters.

However, the apparent relish with which the Secretary of State for Education and the Prime Minister are approaching this crisis creates the distinct impression that they are more interested in the political angle than in delivering a fair deal for public sector workers.

The government appears to be spoiling for a fight with the teaching profession, so vital to the education and aspirations of the next generation, which will only mean all parties will inevitably lose out. As well as causing avoidable chaos for thousands of parents in my constituency, the Government’s proposals lack empathy and a long term vision. This is an unacceptable situation and I urge Michael Gove and the unions to stop posturing and get working on finding a solution”.

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Advantage, Chesterfield! MP Toby Perkins takes part in World Record at Chesterfield Tennis Club

Advantage, Chesterfield! MP Toby Perkins takes part in World Record at Chesterfield Tennis Club

‘Anything they can do at SW19, we can do better’ was the message sent from Chesterfield Tennis Club last Sunday as the world record for the number of people simultaneously bouncing a tennis ball on a racket was shattered much to the delight of participants and spectators.

An impressive 393 people took part at the Hawksley Avenue based club, with Labour Member of Parliament Toby Perkins MP acting as the official adjudicator to ensure that the club could successfully claim to have created their own bit of history.

The evidence of the record will now be submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records and the achievement is formally recognized.

The successful record attempt by a huge range of people from young children to senior citizens was part of a wider day of activities at Chesterfield Tennis Club, with a barbeque and other tennis related exercises for people of all age groups. The day ended with the celebrations of those who had helped make history, but for many it was also an opportunity to develop an interest in the sport and to undertake lessons.

Mr. Perkins, who is a keen sportsman himself said:-

“I am sure the whole town will join me in congratulating Chesterfield Tennis Club on getting into the Guinness Book of Records. I hope this event encourages all kinds of people to get involved in sport of whatever kind across our town. From tennis to cricket, from rugby to fishing, sport is a fantastic way of keeping fit and if this world record can provide an inspiration to our young people then it will prove to be so much more than just a piece of history.”

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New Organic Kitchen hoping to add nutritional value to town’s economy

Monday 27th June saw the official opening of the Organic Kitchen Café in Theatre Yard, a new establishment trading with foods exclusively grown without the use of artificial pesticides. Toby Perkins, Labour Member of Parliament for Chesterfield, in opening the café, expressed his support for new and unique businesses opening in Chesterfield at a time of economic difficulty.

Paula Wilson, the owner of Organic Kitchen, which already has a delicatessen, a shop selling honeys and jams, and even a laundry service, bought the business in February and is determined to continue to champion organically grown goods in the town and supporting local farmers. Mr. Perkins, a supporter of healthy eating campaigns since becoming a Borough Councillor in 2003, reiterated the importance of supporting local producers and emphasized the benefits of consuming fresh fruit and vegetables as part of a healthy lifestyle.

After opening the café Mr. Perkins said:-

“I was delighted to be asked to open such an innovative and unique business in our town centre, and one which will provide good, quality food grown locally. Not only is Organic Kitchen swimming against the economic tide in this brave venture, I am delighted to welcome a business which is contributing to a healthier, local variety of products and I wish them all the best for the future”.

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MP hails public sector staff after hospital fire nightmare

MP hails public sector staff after hospital fire nightmare

Chesterfield Member of Parliament Toby Perkins MP paid tribute to the commitment, bravery and professionalism of the town’s public sector workers after the huge Royal Hospital fire on Saturday night.

After a tour of the main entrance areas crippled by the fire that started in the Newsagent on Saturday night, Mr Perkins saluted staff who had enable the hospital to be back providing full services within 24 hours of the huge fire starting.

Firefighters battled the huge blaze, and then Hospital staff came in on days off, and performed all sorts of tasks to get the hospital back up and running and providing a full service to out patients and Accident and Emergency cases by Monday morning.

After being shown the newsagent and other areas completely gutted by fire, Toby Perkins said: “It just shows the value of our public servants at their best. The fire has caused enormous damage, but the hard work, commitment and flexibility of Fire service, Police and NHS staff means that patients arriving for medical services today will receive their treatment as normal. I am told that whilst the ‘customer experience’ may be a bit more rudimentary than normal, the health care provided will be just as good as normal.”

On the fire itself, Mr Perkins said: “It appears that the fire shutters came down and enabled the blaze to be isolated and prevented it travelling too far, and the hospital are confident that their insurance cover will mean that there is no financial hardship to the trust.

Having seen first hand the twisted metal bent out of shape by a fire that is estimated to have touched 800 degree C at its core, it is amazing that the hospital is back up and running and serious injury or death were prevented.

I look forward to hearing if there are any further lessons the trust can learn from this major incident in their all party review meeting on Wednesday, and am thankful that the quick work and bravery of staff prevented a major incident turning into a tragedy.”

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Tough Justice: Chesterfield’s political leaders come together to slam cuts to legal aid

Tough Justice: Chesterfield’s political leaders come together to slam cuts to legal aid

Worker’s rights organizations and a leading Chesterfield law firm enlisted the help of Chesterfield’s political leaders last Friday in Chesterfield Market Square to demonstrate against the Government’s planned cuts to legal aid.

Toby Perkins, Member of Parliament for Chesterfield joined leaders of both Chesterfield Borough Council and North East Derbyshire District Council to sign a petition against the proposals before appearing to be gagged – highlighting the thousands of people across the area set to lose their legal voice in times of hardship.   

As experts warned against the effective withdrawal of legal advice for social welfare, housing, welfare benefits, debt, employment, education, clinical negligence and family breakdown many people face losing their right to access to justice.

Most worryingly, the cuts to legal aid will disproportionately impact upon individuals and families on low incomes, with many not being able to obtain legal representation in and out of the courtroom.

Labeled the ‘Justice for All Day of Action’, Chesterfield Law Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau and solicitors firm Eliott Mather also attended, as local organizations expressed dismay at the Government’s decision to withdraw £350 million from the legal aid budget which could affect half a million people nationwide.

After signing the petition Toby Perkins MP said:-

“People are willing to accept that times are tough, and that every area of spending has to be as efficient as possible, but the devastating scale of the withdrawal of legal aid funding is an attack on the right to legal advice and representation for thousands, of the most vulnerable in our area.

The CONDEM Government are implementing a policy whereby the right to legal representation will be entirely dependant on your ability to pay.

The government’s suggestion that advice agencies should pick up the tab will be greeted by a mirthless laugh by those very agencies awho are already struggling in the face of cuts to their budgets themselves.  These moves are grossly unfair and damage one of the most important cornerstones of our legal system”.

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Labour MPs slam Gove’s ‘complete mess’ as schools see maintenance budgets slashed

Labour MPs slam Gove’s ‘complete mess’ as schools see maintenance budgets slashed

Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, commenting ahead of the Government’s response to the James Review of Education Capital, said:

“Michael Gove has made a complete mess of the schools capital budget. He caved in to Treasury pressure at the spending review and accepted an appalling capital settlement for schools, twice as bad as the Government average. His decision-making over the scrapping of 700 Building Schools for the Future projects was described by a High Court judge as an ‘abuse of power’.

“The average secondary school has seen its budget for maintenance and repairs slashed by £86,000 this year, and the average primary school by £26,000. It makes a mockery of his claim to have found more resources for schools, and risks a return to the bad old days of the 1980s when children tried to learn in crumbling classrooms with equipment not up to the job.

“And as if this wasn’t bad enough, there is a complete lack of transparency over funding for his free school programme. With mainstream schools facing harsh cuts, he must set out details of free school funding so that local communities can judge whether this is the most effective use of scarce resources.”

Toby Perkins, Member of Parliament for Chesterfield and Shadow Minister for Education (Children and Families) added:-

“Under the previous Labour Government, within my constituency, we saw dramatic improvements in the quality of many school buildings and the resources available to students in the classroom. Michael Gove’s failure to ensure an adequate budget set aside for school maintenance will leave Chesterfield schools worried about the capital available to make essential upgrades to help improve the environment for local children to learn and study”.

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Welcome

I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries in Chesterfield and Staveley so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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