Archive | November, 2014

Toby Perkins MP with trainee guide dog Quiver and Kevin Rowney in Chesterfield town centre

Chesterfield MP on blindfold walk to raise awareness of ‘street clutter’

Toby Perkins MP with trainee guide dog Quiver and Kevin Rowney in Chesterfield town centre

Toby Perkins MP with trainee guide dog Quiver and Kevin Rowney in Chesterfield town centre

Local MP Toby Perkins has undertaken a blindfold walk around Chesterfield town centre, with trainee guide dog Quiver and qualified Guide Dogs Mobility Instructor Kevin Rowney, to raise awareness of the risks of street clutter.

Mr Perkins donned the blindfold on Friday 7 November, to gain a greater understanding of how everyday pavement objects can be hazardous for people who are visually impaired. Overhanging branches, uneven pavements, shop A-frame advertising boards, wheelie bins and cars parked on pavements can be dangerous for someone with a sight impairment, as they can force someone out on to the road and into oncoming traffic.  

Toby’s guide dog walk started from his Chesterfield office, headed into town, around the market and into the shopping precinct. During the experience he wore a blindfold and a variety of simulation specs, which replicate how different eye conditions can affect a person’s vision.

Toby said: “Despite knowing the area it was very disorientating to wear the simulation specs and I felt quite vulnerable once I had the blindfold on. Although I felt confident with the support and assistance of the guide dog it amazed me how many diversions we had to take to avoid obstacles. By simply leaving the pavements clear it could make a nicer and safer environment for everyone.”

Kelly France, engagement officer for Guide Dogs, added: “It’s great that MP Toby Perkins has helped to highlight some of the issues addressed by the Guide Dogs’ Street Ahead campaign. The campaign champions the right for everyone to be able to move freely along the street.

“Street clutter is a real problem for people with a visual impairment, as 97% of people who are blind or partially sighted regularly encounter problems with pavement obstacles, such as shop advertising boards or pavement café furniture.

“Poorly parked vehicles that block some or the entire pavement cause problems for many pedestrians. It can force people who are blind or partially sighted, parents with pushchairs, wheelchair users, and many others, to walk on the road and into the path of oncoming traffic.”

For more information on Guide Dogs Streets Ahead campaign please visit http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/supportus/campaigns/streets-ahead. Also you can follow Guide Dogs on Twitter: @guidedogsNMT (www.twitter.com/guidedogsNMT), and like them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/GuideDogsNottinghamMT.

 

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Toby Perkins MP with Young Enterprise winners from Brookfield Community School

Student team “Amplify” lead the way with innovation for Young Enterprise

Toby Perkins MP with Young Enterprise winners from Brookfield Community School

Toby Perkins MP with Young Enterprise winners from Brookfield Community School

A team of students from Brookfield Community School have won a competition supported by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and Young Enterprise. The Start Challenge is an initiative designed to inspire young people, developing relevant employability and life skills, attitudes and knowledge through engagement with business people.

“Amplify” created the idea of a social network site for musicians of all ages and abilities, who want to collaborate and their music to be heard. The team came up with the idea of an user-friendly app and website which would be free to download and sign up to.

The all female team of 13 to 14 year old won through from an event held in Derby last summer where the students were shown, through practical activities, what is involved in putting together a real business, developing a product and then building a marketing plan around an idea. Students received support and guidance from small business owners.

At the regional final held at Donington Park, students from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire presented to business owners and Amplify impressed the judges both with the innovative thinking and their presentation.

Local MP, Toby Perkins, presented the students, Lilly Beards, Emily Wagstaffe, Emily Corker, Katie Bargh and Kirsty Barnett with the winners trophies and certificates at the school.

Toby said “I was delighted to present “Amplify” with their awards and to hear of the creativity and commercial initiative that went into producing an app that is not only a brilliant idea, but has such commercial potential.  It is extremely important that young people learn about the word of business and I commend the work done by Brookfield School to support this initiative”

I look forward to hearing how the project develops over the next couple of months, and maybe even having a go myself!”

Paul Thompson, Young Enterprise Area Manager for the East Midlands, said: “This programme along with our others inspire young people to discover why the skills for work are the skills for life. From our alumni we know enterprise education through learning by doing is the answer to employers’ needs and young people’s futures.

“Close to 12,000 young people have participated in our programmes this year so it’s a huge achievement for the girls to win this award and a credit to themselves and Brookfield Community School that they did it with innovation, confidence and maturity beyond their years.”

 

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Poppies

MP demands poppy display visits Chesterfield

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins has welcomed news that the Tower of London poppy display is to go on a national tour and demanded that Chesterfield is included on the list.

This weekend, the Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the centrepiece of the commemorative poppy displays housed at the Tower of London – Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red – would go on a national tour.

The designer of this display of – which contains over 888,000 blood red poppies in tribute to those who gave their lives in the Great War – is ceramicist Paul Cummins from Chesterfield.

PoppiesChesterfield’s MP, Toby Perkins, has therefore today written to the Prime Minister (read this letter here) to ask that the national tour includes a visit to Chesterfield, so those in the town were the idea was first conceived, can see for themselves.

Perkins explained: “As I saw this Remembrance Sunday, Chesterfield is very proud of our local service men and women.  We are also very proud of Paul Cummins, and the indispensable role he played in creating such a moving tribute at the Tower of London.  It would be entirely fitting if the national tour of this display included a visit to Chesterfield so local people can see for themselves what one of our own has created.  I hope the Prime Minister will do the right thing and ensure that the centrepiece visits Chesterfield.”

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DP - 1 July 14 p1

MPs snooze: Government loses

MPs snooze: Government loses

One of the Tory-led government’s key reforms to the insolvency regime was voted out of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill on Tuesday … and all because their MPs were not paying attention to the proceedings.

DP - 1 July 14 p1The government had proposed to abolish the right for creditors to request face-to-face meetings during corporate insolvencies through Clause 110 of the Bill.  Labour opposed this change, and tabled an amendment to preserve the right, and when this amendment voted on, none of the 11 government MPs on the committee remembered to shout “noe”, and it therefore passed unopposed.

Realising her mistake too late, the Minister responsible, Jo Swinson, told the Committee “when you snooze you lose”.

Toby Perkins, The Shadow Small Business Minister, who is leading for Labour on the Bill, said: “We thought this change could disempower creditors and undermine Britain’s world class insolvency regime, which saves hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs each year.  So I’m delighted the proposal has been defeated, even though I would have preferred to win on the power of our argument, than because the government MPs were too busy checking their iPhones to remember to vote.”

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Brookfield Young Enterprise Awards 2014 smaller version

Toby’s November e-Newsletter

Welcome to my latest periodic e-newsletter.  I hope this update gives you a flavour of some of my recent work in Westminster and back home in Chesterfield.  For more regular updates please follow me on Twitter (@tobyperkinsmp), add me as a friend on Facebook (facebook.com/toby.perkins1) or visit my website (tobyperkins.org.uk).

I hope you find this update of value.  If you would like to know my views on any other matter, or have any comments on any of the issues I discuss here, please feel free to get in touch.

Local Issues

Fighting for local services

  • Probation officers do an incredibly difficult and important job to reduce reoffending rates and rehabilitate offenders.  Yet some probation officers from Chesterfield have found themselves transferred out of the Probation Service and into a private company on a whim after their names were drawn out of a hat.  I raised the case of one local constituent who has worked for the Probation Service for 20 years and recently transferred, in the House of Commons, only for the Justice Secretary to call these claims “absolute nonsense” and pass me a note denying that this practice occurred (read more here, and view the evidence at the bottom of this page).  When finally confronted with the proof the government have admitted that this practice of drawing names from a hat occurred, but have still failed to apologise to the local worker for accusing her of making things up.  I will keep pressing them on this issue.
  • I recently took part in a debate on securing justice for coalfield communities, in places like Staveley and across the country, and you can read my contribution here.  I particularly tried to address the way law abiding mining communities were criminalised by the actions of the government.
  • I also used a Parliamentary question time to seek an update on the electrification of the Midland Mainline, in the light of a report suggesting delays to the project.  I was very disappointed that the Secretary of State for Transport did not respond to what was a serious and important question, but in my opinion merely gave a party political response.  You can judge this for yourself here.  I have written to the Minister to seek a more comprehensive and informative answer.

Toby House of Commons

Standing up for local schools

  • I recently spoke in a parliamentary debate about infant school class sizes and raised the cases of local schools including Hollingwood, Hasland and Abercrombie.  You can read my speech here.
  • Brookfield Young Enterprise Awards 2014 smaller versionI have also been contacted by many local parents who have expressed their concerns about the academisation process at Inkersall Primary School.  I have taken these concerns up directly with the Secretary of State for Education as you can read about here.
  • On a more positive note, last week I got the opportunity to present a Federation of Small Businesses Young Enterprise Award to a team from Brookfield Community School who fought off competition from across the East Midlands to pick up the prize.  Congratulations to the “Amplify” team!  I also have recently visited Brimington Junior School as part of the “Democracy Week” campaign, and to promote the importance of democracy to young people.  Read more here.

Putting Chesterfield first

  • I have been working hard with local campaigners to improve the GP services at the Rectory Road Surgery in Staveley.  Unfortunately, we were not able to secure a new operator for the facilities (read more here) but I am encouraged that the most recent inspection noted signs of improvement and will continue to monitor the process.
  • Small Business SaturdayMany people in Chesterfield are deeply concerned about the future of the much-loved Crispin Pub on Ashgate Road.  This pub is profitable but the company who owns the building are keen to sell off to Tesco to make a quick buck.  Most recently I met with Tesco to discuss this.  I will be putting out a survey about the value of the pub to the community and Tesco have promised to take note of this, so if you are local to the Crispin please send it back when it arrives.
  • I will once again be playing my part in the Small Business Saturday campaign this year.  Last year’s event was hugely successful, I visited 25 local small businesses on the day (see here) and I know that thousands of extra pounds were spent in local independent stores on the day.  This year’s Small Business Saturday will take place on 6 December.  So I hope everyone in Chesterfield thinks about how they can support local small businesses on the day.  If you’re a business and want to sign up, download a pack here. A tour bus travelling across the country to promote the day will be stopping in the market square on Monday 24 November at 10am, I hope to see you there!

 

National Issues

Delivering change for small businesses

  • Insolvency specialists have estimated that 1 in 5 business failures are simply down to bills being paid late rather than a failed business model.  So I believe it is a key responsibility of policy makers to tackle this problem of late payment and have been working on a policy which would ensure that small businesses are automatically paid interest when their large customers pay late.  You can read more about the policy here and, if you are a subscriber, can view the coverage The Times gave my idea here.  I brought it to a vote in Parliament on 21 October (read my blog on the day of the vote here) but unfortunately it was rejected by the government.  However, I am delighted that the Labour Party are supporting my proposals and have announced that they will introduce them if Labour win the election in May.
  • Shadow Pubs MinisterAs regular readers of this update will know, I have long campaigned for stronger regulation to protect local pub licencees from the predatory practices of the dominant pub companies.  I was therefore pleased that after 4 years the government finally caved in to this campaign and have agreed to introduce new laws to protect publicans, and blogged about it here.  However, I do have some concerns about the way these proposals have been brought in.  I raised these concerns directly with the Secretary of State at the dispatch box in the House of Commons, an exchange you can read here.
  • Over the last couple of months I have been sitting on the Committee which analyses every clause of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill currently passing through Parliament.  My aim in this has been to strengthen protections for small local businesses and workers.  In particular I was pleased that we stopped the government imposing extra burdens on small family brewers when they should be focussing on the biggest pub owning companies, and also stopped a clause which would have watered down Britain’s world class insolvency regime, which has saved many hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs.

Supporting important causes

  • Coffee Morning - Toby Perkins and Natascha EngelLast month I attended Labour Party Conference in Manchester.  Amongst the important debates and speeches I had the opportunity to play in the traditional MPs vs The Press charity football match, which this year supported Breast Cancer Care.  Unfortunately, as you can read here I once again suffered at the hands of the press.
  • Like many others across Chesterfield, I also took my turn at the ice bucket challenge and donated to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.  See the pictures here.
  • I also recently attended two charity events in Westminster in support of cancer charities, firstly the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning with MacMillan Cancer, and secondly a campaign event with Breakthrough which called for a fair price for life-extending breast cancer drugs.

 

International Issues

Resolving conflict in a dangerous world

  • PoppiesThis year we mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, and unfortunately issues of conflict still touch all of our lives.  In August I was proud to support the “lights out” campaign in commemoration of Europe’s darkest chapter.  You can read my thoughts on this campaign here.
  • I was as heartbroken as the many people from Chesterfield who contacted me about the situation in Gaza over the summer.  I believe parliament should have been recalled to debate the appalling escalation of conflict in Gaza and that David Cameron should have used Britain’s influence both publically and privately to urge a less damaging cause of action for Israel to pursue, and that following a lasting ceasefire, talks to deliver the long awaited two state solution with true independence for Palestine should be pursued with considerable urgency.  You can read more of my thoughts here.  To help move forward with this process I voted to recognise the state of Palestine at the historic debate in Parliament on 13 October.
  • I also faced my most agonising decision since I was first elected as an MP in 2010, as Parliament voted on whether to take action against the so-called “Islamic State”.  You can read my contribution to the debate here and my statement on my decision here.

I hope you have found this update interesting.  If you ever have any local issues where you think I can be of help just call 01246 386 286 to make an appointment to see me.

Best wishes,

Toby Perkins MP

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Toby and the Spire

Statement: Inkersall Primary School

Many parents have recently contacted me to protest against the forced academisation of Inkersall Primary School.

I completely understand their concerns that the process laid out was unclear, unhelpful and unaccountable.  Parents, teachers and governors did not get any real chance to have their say and rightly have no confidence that the decision was taken with their opinions in mind.

I can therefore confirm that I have written to Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, the Secretary of State for Education about this decision and the process attached to it. This letter focused on the following points:

  • That Inkersall only fell into special measures in February this year, and that this academisation seems to be a hasty reaction to the problem, particularly as the first inspection meeting since this time reported “improvement” at the school and a new head teacher was found and in post within 19 days.  Action seems to have been taken to address problems at the school but the government do not seem to want to give these any time to succeed.
  • I asked the Secretary of State to specifically list what discussions she has had with Derbyshire County Council (the local education authority) about this school and the steps they are taking to improve it.
  • I also asked her to specify the basis upon which she came to this conclusion and to list the evidence which indicates that this is the way forward.
  • More specifically, I asked why the principal of Spencer Academies Trust (the academy chain who wishes to take over Inkersall and expand into Derbyshire) is on the Interim Executive board running the school, when apparently no final decision on the academy provider has been made.  I stressed how this would suggest to many parents looking in from the outside that the transfer to Spencer is already a done deal.

I have also requested a direct meeting with Ms Morgan so I can explain the parents’ concerns to her face-to-face.

I will keep parents informed of the responses I receive, but unfortunately I believe the actions of this government over the last four years give a clear demonstration that they are not interested in listening to the concerns of parents about academisation.

Toby and the SpireLabour’s academy programme was aimed at schools which needed a fresh start – by directing new funds and new leadership to the schools in the country’s most deprived areas.  They were a pragmatic way of getting funds to those areas that urgently needed them.  But the views of local people were always taken into account and Labour’s academies always remained part of the Local Government family, with a line of elected accountability to the local authority.

The ConDem Government’s reforms removes this as schools no longer have to consult with the whole local community before converting as now school governors have the final say on whether or not a school should become an academy, a situation we have all seen to our cost in Inkersall.

I believe that this is too narrow a group to decide upon such a fundamental change, particularly as moving toward an academy can disenfranchise parents who can no longer complain to their local authority about their school.

Under Labour, funding for schools was allocated to local authorities through a formula taking into account local costs, needs and deprivation. This money was then dispersed by a local schools forum with some funding retained by the Council to pay for services provided to the schools.

Tory academies receive all of their existing per-pupil funding as well as their share of the local authority’s central funds which are currently retained to fund this central support. They are then able to decide individually whether to “purchase” these services from the local authority or not. This creates a two-tier system and is deeply unfair on pupils in schools which already perform less well than their neighbours.

More broadly, the absurd position we find ourselves in at the moment, whereby the only new schools which the Secretary of State will allow to open are free schools must come to an end.

The next Labour government is committed to lifting the ban (imposed by Michael Gove) on Local Education Authorities opening their own new school.  Local authorities in some areas across the country are facing a chronic shortage of school places.  They want to open new schools to resolve this but are not allowed and are therefore forced to simply wait around for someone to come along to set up a free school of their own.  Gove promised that free schools would fill gaps where need was most.  They have had exactly the opposite effect.

It is also clear from the highest performing school systems around the world that the quality of teaching and the status of the profession hold the key to success. Labour understands this, but David Cameron has presided over a downgrading of teaching, by allowing unqualified teachers into our classrooms and by talking down teachers as ‘the enemies of promise’.

So, there is no doubt that Gove’s ideological experiment has utterly failed.  However, it would be irresponsible to close schools and disrupt children’s education because we didn’t like the model they were set up under.  So, a future Labour government would not force any free schools or academies set up since 2010 to close their doors.  This would be counter-productive.

However, if Labour are elected in May, the ConDem’s experiment will come to an end and no more free schools will be opened.  We will also take political meddling out of the equation and allow local communities a greater say on the future of their children’s education.

By Toby Perkins, Labour Member of Parliament for Chesterfield 

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Breast Cancer BT

Local MP demands a fair price for life-extending breast cancer drugs

MP for Chesterfield, Toby Perkins, has joined charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer in its call for fairer access to life-extending breast cancer drugs.

Concerns were raised at the charity’s annual Parliamentary Reception on the routine availability of, and inflated prices being set for, vital treatments that can offer women living with incurable breast cancer extra time with their loved ones, free from many of the side effects associated with traditional cancer therapies.

Following the event, Toby has committed to working with Breakthrough to ensure that all women in Chesterfield have access to the breast cancer drugs they need, raising this issue in parliament and prioritising the clear calls to action laid out as part of the first phase of the Demand a Fair Price campaign.

Breast Cancer BTA number of innovative new breast cancer drugs have been rejected for routine use on the NHS and are only available through the Cancer Drugs Fund, which the government introduced as a temporary measure. The Cancer Drugs Fund is only available to patients in England until 2016 and Breakthrough Breast Cancer for long-term reform of the drug pr4icing system, to give patients across the UK the certainty that they will be able to access the drugs they need at prices the NHS can afford.

 

Mr Perkins said: “I’m supporting Breakthrough Breast Cancer in their call for all political parties, including my own, to commit to solving the issues that currently exist around access to drugs in the UK. If there was an easy solution to this problem we would have it by now. This will come from negotiations and ongoing discussion with pharmaceutical companies, regulators and charities to create a new system which will ensure all cancer patients can access the drugs they need at a fair price to the NHS.

“We’ve come a long way in developing new and better drugs for breast cancer but to keep moving towards a future where women can live longer feeling well, spend less time in hospital with debilitating side effects and more time with their families, and keep working if they are able to, we need to find a way to guarantee access to the drugs that can make this possible.”

Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “We are determined to stop breast cancer for good, and making sure every woman receives the treatment she needs is the first step. In the last year alone, three promising drugs for secondary breast cancer have been rejected for routine use on the NHS due to their high cost.

“The Cancer Drugs Fund was only supposed to be a temporary solution and, while it should remain until a workable alternative is found, it is merely papering over the cracks of a system which is no longer fit for purpose.

“Innovative, effective drugs sitting on the shelf are of no use to anybody, least of all patients. Whilst there will be no quick fix solution to this problem, the pharmaceutical industry will need to get serious about its pricing and whoever forms the next government will need to get a grip on the problem and take action to resolve it.

“Until we have a sustainable, UK-wide system in place, the future availability of the treatments that regulators are being continually forced to reject will remain uncertain.”

Heather Lawrence, who has been living with secondary breast cancer since 2008, said: “The myth that women like me are all spending our days suffering and immobile getting more and more ill still endures despite the fact that it is no longer the case for many people.

“The formidable cost of new tailored treatments is a hurdle, but don’t forget that we are mothers, sisters, daughters; we run our households, we work and pay our bills, we are responsible for raising the next generation, we matter to a whole network of lives around us. When we die, the shockwaves radiate outwards, and every life in that network is touched for the worse leaving a tear in the fabric of our families and our communities.”

Three clear calls to action were laid out as part of the Demand a Fair Price campaign which in the short term is pushing for:

  • Commitment from all political parties to extend the Cancer Drugs Fund in England until the end of the next parliament
  • All political parties to commit within their manifestos to finding a long-term, UK wide solution to the problem of lack of routine access to life-extending drugs by the end of the next parliament, working with the pharmaceutical industry and patient groups
  • The Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies to introduce a similar system to the Cancer Drugs Fund to ensure that patients get access to the drugs they need

Breakthrough Breast Cancer want to change the story for every woman, for every family, for good and are committed to working closely with government, industry and stakeholders to develop and embed a new system of drug pricing and evaluation.

To help demand a fair price for life-extending drugs, take action now at www.breakthrough.org.uk/demandafairprice.

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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

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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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