Archive | July, 2014

Toby joins campaigners to hand in a petition with over 100,000 signatures against Land Registry privatisation.

Toby’s Summer Update

As we approach the summer I thought you might be interested in reading about some of my recent work in Chesterfield and Westminster.  I hope you find it of interest.

Working for safer communities

  • Probation officers do an incredibly difficult and important job to reduce reoffending rates and rehabilitate offenders.  Community safety depends on their work.  So I was shocked to meet a probation officer from Chesterfield, who despite 20 years of loyal service, was transferred to a private company after her name was plucked out of a hat!  I have raised this issue directly in Parliament with the Tory Minister responsible (read more here) and was extremely disappointed that he dismissed the story as “absolute nonsense” (read more here) despite the fact that he signed of the guidance which created the system of job transfer by lottery (read more here).  I will continue to fight for my constituent on this cause.

Labour’s Toby Perkins MP & Cllr Sharon Blank (left) with local trader Bridget Jones. The trio are fighting to rid our streets of ‘legal highs’.

  • No one should be frightened to walk to work or support their local high street stores.  But traders on Knifesmithgate have said that so called ‘legal highs’ are creating a no-go zone.  Shops such as Reefer in the town centre have been mocking the law by acquiring and distributing new chemical substances quicker than Parliament can act to ban them.  I think it is time for government to give greater powers to local authorities and local police to rid our high streets of this blight.  Just as they can deal with anti-social tenants, so they should also have the power to curb the activities of anti-social retailers. I’ll keep the fight going.  I therefore called a debate in Parliament this month to call for just this change.  You can watch the debate here, read a transcript here and read my article for Politics Home on the subject here.
  • On 7 July, in the House of Commons, I raised the issue of missing Home Office files which may provide vital evidence of child abuse, with the Home Secretary, Theresa May.  You can read the exchange here.

Fighting for public services

  • Alongside Unions, Small Business and other organisation, I have been fighting the Tory-led government’s plans to privatise the 150 year old Land Registry.  This campaign scored a great success on 14 July when Ministers announced that they would not be bringing forward privatisation plans in this Parliament.  You can read how we did it here and see more photos of the evidence session I hosted in Parliament on this issue here.
Toby joins campaigners to hand in a petition with over 100,000 signatures against Land Registry privatisation.

Toby joins campaigners to hand in a petition with over 100,000 signatures against Land Registry privatisation.

  • Under the Tory-led government the NHS is under pressure. Nowhere has this been more true than at Rectory Road Surgery in Staveley.  This is why I have organised two packed public meetings where local people were able to put their concerns directly to bosses at NHS England (read more here).  Unfortunately, plans for a new provider to take over were thwarted by new Competition regulations and the GP shortage, which blocked a new provider (read more here, my comment at the bottom).
  • This summer marks the 66th anniversary of our NHS.  The NHS is the Labour Party’s greatest achievement and the staff who work in it are its greatest resource. For 66 years the doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, cleaners and porters have kept our hospitals running, cared for us from cradle to grave and made ours the best and most enviable healthcare system in the world.  This is why I recently met with staff to listen to concerns about their pay and working conditions (read more here).

Backing small businesses and jobs

  • To help young people become work ready and able to find jobs, and to ensure that businesses are able to recruit the skills they need, I believe it is really important that we help more people from the world of business become school governors.  This is why I recently launched a new policy on behalf of the Labour Party provide new opportunities for business people from local communities to contribute and get involved, developing stronger links between schools and local business and enterprise, as well as bringing new expertise and helping drive knowledge and understanding of enterprise within schools and foster pathways to enterprise as a career.  You can read more about these plan by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom.
  • On 10 June 2014, I gave a speech to The Entrepreneur’s Network policy think tank on the subject of “What Small Businesses Can Expect from a Labour Government”.  You can read it in full here.
  • As many of you will know from previous update I have led the campaign in Parliament for a statutory code to give local pubs the protection they need and to ensure landlords get a fair deal.  Despite voting against the proposals three times in Parliament in as many years, the government announcement in June they would finally be introducing such a code.  You can read my thoughts on this u-turn here.

Boosting local growth and housing

  • In June I revealed new figures which demonstrate how new house building in Chesterfield has fallen to just one third of the national average.  This far behind the figures needed to keep up with projected demand and marks the 5th quarter of decline in a row.  That’s why Labour has committed to getting 200,000 homes a year built by 2020 and to introduce tough new ‘use it or lose it’ powers to prevent companies sitting on land while waiting for the price to rise.  You can read the figures in detail here.
  • To grow our economy from the bottom up we need to devolve more money and responsibility to the local level.  You can read my blog on this plan here.
  • Earlier in July I asked a question in the house about boosting local growth deals for the area.  You can read more here.

Support for local families & children

  • Childcare costs in the East Midlands up 4.4% since 2010.  I recently wrote this piece about how the next Labour government could help.
  • Opening the Ashgate Croft Gym

    Opening the Ashgate Croft Gym

    Far too many young people with disabilities do not participate in enough physical exercise to stay healthy.  It is really important that provide them and their families with the facilities to stay fit.  This is why I was delighted to open a new outdoor gym at Ashgate Croft School.  The outdoor gym is for young people aged 11 – 19 all of whom have learning disabilities (Autism, Severe and Moderate Learning Difficulties) and is made up of 6 items designed to build imagination, fitness and wellbeing into play (read more here).

  • Hady Lane Primary School have faced ongoing problems with flooding on the path that leads to the school.  This is a longstanding issue that has been affecting parents and pupils for several years and they are quite rightly fed up with it, which is why I visited the site the see the problem for myself and arranged for the appropriate authorities from the Council to come along too.  The Council are obviously cash strapped in this era of central government cuts but we are working to find a feasible and affordable solution (read more here).

Toby and the SpireAside from an annual family holiday, I will be working out of my Chesterfield office over the parliamentary summer recess and will still be holding regular advice surgeries. 

Simply call 01246 386286 to book an appointment.

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Toby Perkins MP with Mr Donald and Heidi

Summer Holiday ruin averted as MP steps in

 

Toby Perkins MP with Mr Donald and Heidi

Toby Perkins MP with Mr Donald and Heidi

A local family who were within days of cancelling their holiday due to passport delays, have urged other local people in the same position to contact their MP.

 The Donald family from Brimington will soon be jetting off on a long awaited break thanks to the swift action of the MP.

 Having applied in plenty of time to renew their passports and for a new passport for 5 year old Heidi, the family waited months with no response from the Passport Office.  A worried Mr Donald made numerous calls in an attempt to chivvy along the process, without any glimmer of hope that the passports would arrive in time.

 Finally in frustration, Mr Donald contacted the MPs office who immediately took up the case.  Within 4 days the family received a call from the passport office and the following day their passports arrived by courier.

 Mr Donald said “I was about to cancel the whole holiday when my mother-in-law suggested calling the MP.  Five days later we had the passports in our hands and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

 Toby said “While the government argues about the causes of the passport crisis, the reality for families is that long planned and hard earned getaways are being put at severe risk by this shambles.  The comments of Government Ministers so far have betrayed a shocking lack of concern and indifference to the nightmare facing holiday makers. 

 “I don’t want anyone to miss their holiday, so please get in touch if you have a passport concern and I will do what I can to help”

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Harlow

Did Chris Grayling mislead the House when he dismissed Chesterfield resident’s claims?

This article was originally published on Politics.co.uk – you can read in context here

New evidence has emerged that Chris Grayling misled the Commons when he denied that a lottery system had been used to move probation staff to private firms.

Earlier this month the justice secretary told MPs the allegation was “absolute nonsense”.

HarlowLabour MP Toby Perkins later told the justice secretary he would raise the issue as a point of order if he did not correct the record.

Grayling wrote back by hand, saying: “You can raise it all you like. Selection was notdone by drawing names from a hat.”

But new prisons minister Andrew Selous has now admitted the allegations were true and that staff were moved from the probation service into private firms by random lottery.

In a parliamentary answer to shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan, Selous said allocations were done via an “automatic assignment process” and failing that a “local evidence-based assignment criteria”.

But he then admitted that the allocations had been done by lottery where other methods had not worked.

“In those few situations where neither process led to allocation, and only in the case of administrative support staff, then the guidance allowed for agreement on transfer to be reached on the basis of a random assignment process,” he wrote.

“This was designed to ensure that staff in similar circumstances had an equal opportunity to be assigned to either of the new organisations.”

Despite insisting that the method had only been used in a “few situations”, Selous was unable to provide information about how many probation trusts had been forced to use the method.

“We do not hold figures relating to the number of trusts which made use of a random assignment method or how many staff were affected,” he said.

The admission raises the prospect that Grayling knowingly lied to the Commons, but even if he was unaware of the lottery system it suggests he is categorically denying allegations before he has the information necesary to do so.

“The government have been found out,” Khan told Politics.co.uk.

“It is disgraceful that the government have sneaked out this answer to my parliamentary question on the last day before summer recess. This shows the lengths ministers are prepared to go to cover up their mistakes and bury their cock ups.

“They’ve finally admitted that probation staff were allocated randomly. They can dress up it up how they like but staff have been chosen for the new system by the toss of a coin which was flatly denied by Chris Grayling in the House of Commons.

“This admission was snuck out on the last day before a six-week recess so Chris Grayling can’t now be summoned to the Commons to explain and apologise for his previous answer,” he added.

“He needs to apologise publicly, to the House of Commons and to those public servants who have been treated with disdain. More worryingly it could mean the wrong sort of staff are now supervising serious and violent offenders as they were chosen at random rather than their specific expertise and experience.

“This is yet another illustration of the chaos at the heart of the Ministry of Justice – it is hardly surprising that it took the PM so long to appoint a new probation minister as no-one wanted the job given the mess the justice secretary has given them to clear up”

The revelation will increase concerns that the justice secretary is intent on raming through the privatisation programme regardless of the consequences.

An email chain seen by Politics.co.uk earlier this month showed a member of staff at a probation trust informing an employee with 20 years experience that he was selected for one of the new Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) by random lottery.

“Can you please advise me on the criteria of how the PSOs [parole officers] were selected between CRC and NPS [National Probation Trust],” the parole officer wrote.

“I have heard a disturbing rumour that names were placed in a hat, hopefully this was not the case.”

The support manager wrote back: “There was a random selection process and employee numbers were used to select between NPS and CRC.

“Employee numbers were drawn out of a hat by a panel of three.”

Perkins branded the method “a shambolic conclusion to a worrying process”.

Probation staff have long argued that the privatisation of the service was being conducted in a shambolic way which would put members of the public at risk.

The Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) own internal risk assessment warned of an 80% risk of “an unacceptable drop in operational performance”.

But Grayling is keen to force through the contracts before 2015 so that they cannot be easily cancelled by Khan if Labour gets into power.

Reports about chaos in probation are starting to seriously concern experts, who fear sex offenders and other potentially dangerous individuals could slip through the cracks of a fragmented system.

Analysts are particularly concerned about the way that separate commercial operations will limit probations staffs’ access to information on people who fall under the jurisdiction of a different company.

Whereas probation staff could previously check the IT system for information on a given individual, certain elements of the individual’s track will now be blocked off to them because it is under contract with a separate firm.

A damning justice committee report last January raised serious concerns about programme design and definition of outcome, programme costings and transition planning.

Previously, there were 35 local probation trusts handling the risk-assessment and case management of former prisoners, all of them ultimately answerable to the MoJ.

Under the new scheme, the trusts will be replaced by 21 ‘community rehabilitation companies’ (CRCs), which will be responsible for supervising people on community sentences and on release from prison.

The 21 firms will only handle low-and-medium-risk individuals, with the new National Probation Service (NPS) handling high risk cases.

Experts warn this dual system will lead to offenders falling between the cracks, create confusion around accountability and present a higher risk of inefficiency.

The companies will be paid on the basis of how many people do not go on to re-offend, although there are concerns that it is impossible to isolate the causal link to why offenders go on the straight and narrow.

Most prisoners have a mixture of difficulties, such as low literacy levels, mental disorders, broken family connections and employability.

To make the contracts potentially profitable, firms have been handed very large quantities of cases, with large payments being front loaded to cover the additional costs of supervising all prisoners subject to short prison sentences.

The MoJ has failed to provide thorough information about the expected costs of the programme, any anticipated savings, likely reductions in reoffending or estimates about impacts on the future cost of the system.

Khan has demanded that the £6 billion contracts are not signed late in the parliament and that they include a break clause which would allow a new government to walk away from them.

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BIS Protest 2

BLOG: How the government u-turned on Land Registry privatisation

The plan

Earlier this year, the government opened a consultation on proposals to split the Land Registry into a very small Office of the Chief Land Registrar (OCLR) – which would remain part of the civil service – and a service delivery vehicle that would undertake the vast majority of the Land Registry’s work, and which would be open to privatisation.

BIS Protest 2Labour have consistently told the Tory-led government that we see no compelling case for the privatisation of a government agency which returned a surplus of £98.8m to the Treasury last year.

Currently the Land Registry is reducing fees to consumers, individuals and businesses who buy and sell property has a 98% satisfaction rating from customers; and has increased the electronic delivery of services.

After the botched sell off of the Royal Mail, I believe the public have little appetite for the selloff of another important agency – which we all use when we buy or sell our home – as evidenced by the 100,000 signatures against the idea on a 38 Degrees petition.

Sham consultation

I also have strong concerns that the official consultation on this issue so far has not lived up to the high standards the public would expect from their government.

In a letter to a PCS union representative at the registry on 30 April 2014, Business Minister Michael Fallon stated that he would: “like to reiterate once again that the overall proposal is being considered against the option of remaining as is; and no decisions will be taken until all consultation responses have been considered.”

So I was alarmed that documents leaked to The Guardian newspaper appear to demonstrate that that just five days before this letter was written, senior civil servants had already discounted continuing with the status quo and were only discussing two options, both centred around privatisation of the service.

You can read more here.

The Leaked documents are minutes from a Land Registry board meeting in March.  At the meeting the board appointed a legal officer as company director and had engaged in detailed discussions about the pros and cons of two types of privatisation. The meeting did not consider the option of keeping the registry as a public asset.

Consultation event

In the face of these revelations I took strong action.  Firstly, I wrote to the Tory minister responsible to demand that the government start the whole process again under a new minister with an open mind.

More importantly, I arranged an alternative evidence session in parliament for MPs of all parties.  This ensured that those organisations who felt their voices had not been heard in the sham consultation – Unions, Local Government, Lawyers, and small businesses in the property search industry – were able to make their case directly to politicians about how privatisation of the Land Registry would be a disaster.

The pressure mounted by Labour, and this diverse coalition of groups appears to have had an effect as last Monday the government used a written ministerial statement to confirm they would now not be pursuing privatisation this side of the election.

I’m sure you will share my relief that that the Secretary of State who sold off the Royal Mail on the cheap, costing the tax payer hundreds of millions of pounds, won’t now be overseeing an immediate privatisation of the 150 year old Land Registry.

However, there is of course no room for complacency and we will continue to monitor the Infrastructure Bill, currently coming before Parliament, to ensure that the government do not attempt to sneak in last minute amendments which could facilitate a later privatisation.

I will also continue to fight for the election of a Labour government next year who will fight for strong public services and not see them as cash cows to be sold off to pay for the Tories economic failure.

By Toby Perkins MP

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Srebenica

Toby remembers Srebrenica genocide during book signing in Parliament

SrebenicaToby Perkins joined hundreds of fellow parliamentarians last week in signing the Remembering Srebrenica Book of Pledges.  He provided his personal comments in commemoration of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.

The book signing took place in the House of Commons and different locations across the UK during Remembering Srebrenica Memorial Week (6-13 July), and saw politicians from across the political spectrum pay tribute to the more than 8,000 victims, as well as honour those left behind and still dealing with the aftereffects of the genocide.

The commemorative book signing was one of many events to take place during the Memorial Week, which saw four survivors of the genocide meet with senior politicians and faith leaders. They also shared their experiences at three national events, and attended several of the 650 acts of remembrance held nationwide.

The UK leads the way in commemorating the genocide, following an EU resolution in 2009 designating the 11 July as Srebrenica Memorial day across the European Union. The charity Remembering Srebrenica organises events to raise awareness of the genocide – the worst atrocity on European soil since the Second World War – and highlights the impact that hatred and intolerance can have on society.

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Toby pointing

Perkins: Labour will help entrepreneurs become school governors

Sunday 13 July 2014

Perkins: Labour will help entrepreneurs become school governors

Labour will help more people from the world of business become school governors, Toby Perkins will say today.

Toby pointingThe next Labour government will help more councils follow the example of Labour-led local authorities such as Waltham Forest which has worked with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) on a scheme to encourage business people to join local schools as Enterprise Governors.

This approach will provide new opportunities for business people from local communities to contribute and get involved, developing stronger links between schools and local business and enterprise, as well as bringing new expertise and helping drive knowledge and understanding of enterprise within schools and foster pathways to enterprise as a career.

The FSB is also working with national charity School Governors One Stop Shop to encourage its members to become school governors.

The final report of Labour’s Small Business Task Force, led by small businesses and published last year, recommended normalising entrepreneurship as a career path and Andrew Adonis’s report published this week called for the fostering of closer links between schools and entrepreneurs.

The Waltham Forest scheme featured in the recent publication by Labour Councillors Business Network (LCBN), highlighting best practice from Labour Councils working alongside business across Britain.

Commenting, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Small Business Toby Perkins MP said:

“We need to see more people starting, leading and working in business. And a key part of fostering an entrepreneurial culture is by strengthening links between schools and local firms.

“Waltham Forest’s scheme has made a fantastic contribution, showing what a difference a trailblazing Labour council can make. The next Labour government will make it easier for local authorities to take forward similar plans.”

ENDS

Editor’s notes:

1. The report of Labour Councillors Business Network, which shares ideas, best practice and resources on business policy, which includes details of the Waltham Forest scheme, which enables a new school governor category of Enterprise Governor, sitting alongside others such as Parent Governor and Staff Governor, is online here:

http://www.tobyperkins.org.uk/website/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/LCBN-Report-2nd-Edition-20141.pdf

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Toby hands in a 38 Degrees petition to the government, with over 100,000 signatures opposing privatisation

Perkins comments of ConDem Land Registry U-Turn

Following the Tory-led Government’s announcement today that they are u-turning on their policy of privatising the 150 year old Land Registry, Toby Perkins MP, Labour’s Shadow Small Business Minister said:

“I’m delighted that the Secretary of State who sold off the Royal Mail on the cheap, costing the tax payer hundreds of millions of pounds, won’t now be bringing forward the privatisation of the 150 year old Land Registry. 

Toby hands in a 38 Degrees petition to the government, with over 100,000 signatures opposing privatisation

Toby hands in a 38 Degrees petition to the government, with over 100,000 signatures opposing privatisation

“Labour repeatedly told the Government that there was no compelling reason to privatise the registry which returned nearly £100m to the Treasury. Yet documents leaked to The Guardian demonstrate that as recently as May, the government were at an advanced stage of planning how to implement a privatisation. 

“This is why Labour organised an evidence session for all MPs so that those who would be hurt by privatisation – for example property lawyers, land registry staff & small businesses in the property search industry – could have their voices heard. It is under pressure from Labour and this diverse coalition the government have eventually buckled.”

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Toby with representatives from Unison, Kathy Farr, Frances Little and Lynn Booth

Chesterfield MP Marks 66th Birthday of NHS with Labour Promise to Protect Services and Staff

A delegation of Unison representatives visited Toby Perkins, MP for Chesterfield and Shadow Minister for Small Business, to mark the 66th birthday of the NHS and raise concerns about changes to NHS staff wages.

Toby said “The NHS is the Labour Party’s greatest achievement and the staff who work in it are its greatest resource. For 66 years the doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, cleaners and porters have kept our hospitals running, cared for us from cradle to grave and made ours the best and most enviable healthcare system in the world”.

Toby with representatives from Unison, Kathy Farr, Frances Little and Lynn Booth

Toby with representatives from Unison, Kathy Farr, Frances Little and Lynn Booth

The representatives from Unison were visiting MPs across the East Midlands as part of Unison’s ‘Day of Action’ and highlighted a series of their concerns. Frances Little, an Administrator at Walton Hospital and Chesterfield resident, told Toby, “The government said they would accept the recommendations of the independent pay review, which recommended a 1% rise for all NHS workers. But for workers like me at the bottom of my pay grade, I won’t be receiving any pay rise. My family are already struggling with rising food and energy bills”.

A report undertaken by the TUC shows that the average public sector worker is £2,245 worse off in real terms since 2010 and with government ministers confirming they will set public sector wage rises below inflation until at least 2018, Unison are worried that staff may begin to leave the NHS. A recent Unison survey of NHS nurses found that 50% of them worked through breaks or beyond their hours but 65% said they still did not have enough time with patients. The increased pressure on nurses due to cuts to staff numbers has seen a massive increase in work-related stress, which is then being exacerbated outside of work by falling wages and the increased cost of living.

Lynn Booth, Head of Staff Partnership for Derbyshire Community Health Services and Unison said, “Every nurse and health worker I know works extremely hard. We regularly work through lunch and stay late because we genuinely care about our patients. But the government are increasing our workload whilst again cutting our pay. The NHS is going to lose some of its best staff if this continues”

Toby finished by saying, “In these difficult economic times it is only right we have appropriate pay restraint in the public sector. But the 1% recommended by the independent review showed restraint and the government shouldn’t have reneged on the agreement. The cost of living crisis together with falling wages has had a massive detrimental effect on NHS workers and their families. The one birthday present the Labour party can give the NHS is our promise to repeal the Health & Social Care Act, remove the competition element from services and protect the staff who work within these services”.

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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.

Contact Toby

Tel: 01246 386286
Email: toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk
Post: 113 Saltergate, Chesterfield, S40 1NF

Surgeries

I hold regular surgeries for my constituents.
Please call 01246 386286 or email toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk to make a booking.

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