Archive | December, 2014

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A victory for Pub Goers!

On Tuesday 18 November, Labour MPs voted to protect local publicans from the predatory practices of large pub owning companies (known as pubcos) by backing a new cross-party clause to the Small Business Bill.

Following a report into the industry by the cross-party BIS Select Committee in 2010, Labour have campaigned alongside a broad coalition of groups in the industry – including the Federation of Small Businesses, the Forum of Private Business, CAMRA, FairPint and the GMB and UNITE trade unions – to call for greater protection for community pubs.

The government brought some provisions to regulate pubcos in the Small Business Bill, but these fell some way short of the BIS Select Committee’s recommendations.  Labour therefore supported a cross-party clause to strengthen the Bill.  The government opposed this change but were defeated by 284 votes to 259.

Toby Perkins, the Shadow Pubs Minister, explains the background to the vote below.

***

00015_brynphot_toby_perkins_mp_IMG_7287“It was my pleasure to lead the debate in Parliament in favour of New Clause 2 of the Small Business Bill, which would introduce a market rent only option (also known as the mandatory free of tie option) for tenants of the large pub companies.

The member of the Cabinet responsible, Vince Cable, argued against it, the government whipped their MPs to vote against it, and the timing of the vote was even moved at the last minute in an attempt to confuse proceedings.  But despite all this enough MPs did the right thing and New Clause 2 was passed by 284 votes to 259.

I have used my position to call for a mandatory market rent only option of this kind for four years and I have even brought the issue to a parliamentary vote on three previous occasions.  On each of these the government chose to stand up for the big pub owning companies, rather than struggling landlords, by voting down my proposals.  So I am glad that they’ve finally got the comeuppance and been defeated in the Chamber this week.

Under the original Bill, licencees would merely have the right to ask their pub company to show them how much their rent would be under a free of tie scheme.  This was problematic as all the information would be held by the pubcos, all the calculations crunched by their accountants and all the final estimates would be made by them – and then even if they revealed that the landlord would be better of free-of-tie they would have had no legal right to demand this option.

The government’s own response to a consultation on a statutory code, printed in June, concluded that a mandatory free of tie option: “is popular with many tenant groups and might arguably offer the simplest way of ensuring a tied tenant is no worse off than a free of tie tenant” – but for reasons known only to themselves they decided not to pursue this.

So whilst the tied model will work for some landlords, for others there are clearly issues.  CAMRA’s research indicates that the majority (57%) of pub company licensees report earning less than £10,000 a year, this compares with just 25% of free of tie lessees.

Last year I carried out a survey of pubs in Chesterfield, and the results I got backed up the national evidence that tied pubs are struggling:

  • 57% of tied-tenants who responded to the Chesterfield Pubs Survey cited PubCos increasing the price of beer disproportionately to cost as one of the most serious negative influences on their businesses,
  • 43% of tied-tenants claimed to have already sought a renegotiation of the terms of their tenant’s agreement,
  • 96% of the pubs which returned the Chesterfield Local Publicans Survey saw a drop in profits during the last year, but crucially tied and managed pubs saw their profits drop to a greater degree than free-houses.

New Clause 2 puts the right principles back into the Bill.  It delivers a mandatory free of tie option (also known as the market rent only, or MRO, option) which allows publicans to buy their beer on the open market.  The BIS Select Committee concluded that this was the only way to ensure that landlords would be no worse off than if they were free-of-tie as it would force pubcos to offer tied tenants the best deals.  I agree and so was proud to support this clause and delighted that it passed.

You can be assured that I will continue to follow this issue closely and will be calling on ministers to act immediately to ensure there is a proper statutory code with a mandatory free-of-tie option to protect local pubs.  They must not be allowed to ignore the will of the House of Commons.

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Toby finally gets answer on Midland Mainline electrification

Toby finally gets answer on Midland Mainline electrification

Last month, Toby 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.

Toby explains: “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.”

Readers can judge this for themselves here.

Toby therefore wrote to the Minister responsible asking for proper clarification.  This has finally arrived and confirms that the project is on still on target and electric services to Sheffield, via Chesterfield, should be in place by the end of 2020.

You can read this letter here.

Toby said: “People in Chesterfield can be assured that I will continue to monitor the situation and hold the government to their promises.”

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Toby with firefighters

Tory-led Government’s pension changes could put firefighters’ lives at risk

Latest blog from Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield

The way Ministers in the Tory-led Government have handled firefighters’ pensions has been deeply irresponsible. They have presided over 48 separate periods of strike action by firefighters in England since September 2013 and, after more than three years of dispute, they have failed to negotiate a fair and sustainable solution.

The new Fire Minister offered firefighters warm words and raised their hopes when she first took up the post, only to cease negotiations and put down essentially the same offer that her predecessor in the role proposed in June 2013.

Toby with firefightersLabour cannot support the pension regulations for England because they are built on an assumption of a dangerously low aerobic fitness measure for firefighters. The Williams Review, which the Government itself commissioned, states that the aerobic fitness measure the Government is basing their plans on means “the risk of sudden catastrophic cardiac events increases… with a risk of sudden death particularly while undergoing high levels of physical exertion”. This flawed fitness standard would put firefighters needlessly at risk and fail to protect the public.

If a more robust fitness standard is implemented it would mean that the assumptions on which the Government’s pension regulations are based would no longer be valid.

The result would be that a number of firefighters who try to maintain fitness would be unable to meet these operational standards into their late 50s through no fault of their own.

The Government’s firefighter’s pension regulations are not fit for purpose and Labour opposed them.

Over 270 MPs have now signed a ‘prayer’ against the regulations, and under pressure from Labour, the Government granted a full debate and vote on the floor of the House on Monday 15th December, at which I voted against these regulations.

Importantly, these regulations are not the only configuration possible within the amount of money that the Treasury has set aside for the scheme, which we support. Devolved Governments are negotiating fairer alternative proposals within these financial limits and have averted strike action. In England, Ministers in DCLG have failed to do so. Firefighters risk their lives to save ours and they deserve better than this.

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NEN Speech

National Enterprise Network Annual Conference

On Friday 5 December 2014, Toby attend the National Enterprise Network’s Annual Conference which this year was held at the British Library.  You can read the remarks he gave below:

***

Many thanks for that kind introduction.  It’s fantastic to be here today to be with people who do so much to support entrepreneurs at all stages of their journey.

I know of the great work that National Enterprise Network members do in providing independent and impartial advice, training and mentoring to new and emerging businesses.  Your impressive work has undoubtedly saved many businesses and jobs and your collective contribution to the economy is huge.  So I wanted to first say a big THANK YOU for the difference you make.

I am particularly appreciative of this vital support you provide because in many ways I still think of myself as more of a businessman than a politician.  Before 2010 I could even have been described as a human being.

NEN SpeechAfter leaving behind a less than auspicious academic career, I took on a telesales job and continued to work in the private sector for my entire career up to 2010.  I eventually set up the third of my own small businesses in the Sportswear business, supplying and importing bespoke Rugby kit to Clubs, universities and schools and through an internet business, Club Rugby.

Alongside this work I was also involved in a social enterprise.  Based in the area of Chesterfield I previously represented as a Borough Councillor, the Families First Children’s Nursery was a cooperative formed with investment from the last Labour Government.  Serving an area with significant deprivation, the nursery has overseen a dramatic improvement in Early Years Education.

So supporting and promoting entrepreneurs and small businesses is always at the heart of my approach to politics … and I can assure everyone here that entrepreneurs are central to the vision of One Nation Labour too.

Labour is clear that we want to see more people starting, leading and working in business across all parts of Britain, spurring private sector growth – and we have been energetically pursuing this goal: we’ve set up an entrepreneurs’ network – NG: Next Generation – to support and showcase the best of British innovation, new business ideas and inspirational business leaders. We helped establish Small Business Saturday, which saw £500m of spending driven into the pockets of small firms last year. Through our future candidates programme, we’ve actively encouraged those with business backgrounds to stand for election. We have entrepreneurs standing for Labour in key seats such as Victoria Groulef in Reading, James Frifth in Bury, and Kate Godfrey in Stafford.

Key planks of Labour’s policy development process have been led by business people such as our Small Business Taskforce; Jaguar Land Rover’s Executive Director Mike Wright leading a review on strengthening manufacturing supply chains; and Sir George Cox’s on tackling short termism. And we’ve engaged with thousands of businesses and business organisations across the country on our policies.

So we are clear that in order to tackle the economic problems our country still faces we need a private sector led recovery for all.

Business support has a vital role to play.  Strong support is crucial at every stage of an entrepreneur’s lifecycle – from helping them to set up, to giving them the tools to succeed, or at a more basic level letting them know early if their business plan is simply not viable.

The approach of the current government is to leave business support to the market.  This has an advantage, in allowing some excellent practice to develop.  However, it also has a major disadvantage in that the extent of this practice is far from universal.  This in effect leads to a situation where those regions and industries which are already the best networked and integrated are then able to access the best support, and those which most need an additional helping hand cannot find the support they need.

For example, on business lending, data published jointly by the British Bankers’ Association and the Council for Mortgage Lenders has revealed the unequal nature of bank lending in each region.

As ever, London and the South faired best.  £2,647 was lent to businesses per head of population in London, the most successful region, closely followed by the South West were £2,082 was lent per head of population.  This is double what was lent to business per head of population in the North East region (£1,182) and East Midlands (£1,211).

Now, I would argue that it is the responsibility of a One Nation government to address this imbalance, but unfortunately government lending schemes have only exacerbated the problem.

The first £50m lent under the government’s flagship “Start-up Loans” scheme benefited 10,000 companies.  However, this money was not distributed evenly.  44% of this went to London and the South East whilst just 5% went to the North East.

Entrepreneurs in areas with a huge potential for growth are crying out for support but are finding that unless you live in an area which is already coping with the recession better than most the government’s door is shut to them.

The same pattern can be seen in the case of business mentoring.  The government’s MentorsMe programme was designed to overcome the abolition of Business Links by matching a generation of mentors to burgeoning businesses.

But demand has lagged far behind supply.  Just 17% of those contacting MentorsMe do so in order to find a mentor, while 67% wanted to become a mentor.  Those who are already connected to government and to other businesses are more likely to take part in these schemes.  This was not helped by the fact that the first meeting of mentors was held not in Middlesborough, Milton Keynes or Margate, but in BIS HQ in Whitehall.

So I do believe there is a role to ensure access to high quality support.  This does not mean for a moment that government should be producing all of this support and that civil servants should be telling business people how to operate in the private sector.  But government has a real responsibility to deliver quality and universal business support in the same way it would health or education.

This is one of the motivations behind Labour’s commitment to create a British Small Business Administration.  Currently, none of the fifteen civil servants reporting directly to the BIS permanent secretary is responsible for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

By contrast, the head of the US Small Business Administration – a team at the heart of the US government that promotes the interests of small businesses across government – reports directly to the President and 45% of US Federal procurement spend is mandated to go to US small businesses.

To catch up with our competitors and to ensure that the next Labour government is the best customer it can be to our small businesses we will establish our own Small Business Administration at the heart of government, something organisations like the Federation of Small Businesses have long campaigned for.

But we know that support alone is not enough.  The money also needs to be there to back it up.  Entrepreneurs who want to start out, or to grow their small business consistently tell me that their biggest barrier is the reluctance of banks to lend.  Recent figures from the Bank of England show that in the last quarter lending to small business has fallen by £900m

Rather than continuing to tinker around the edges of this problem, Labour’s solution is truly transformative.  Around 90% of the UK’s five million small businesses are locked into just five big banks, who lend on roughly the same criteria. It’s not uncommon to hear about entrepreneurs rejected by each of these in turn.

By contrast, our prime European competitor, Germany, actually increased lending during the global downturn.

They achieved this because of the existence of Sparkassen.  These are commercial banks, but they are also established with state backing.  They return a profit to shareholders but are confined to a specified region and have a legal responsibility to promote local economic growth.

When I visited Germany I was struck by the pride and faith ordinary savers, businesses and entrepreneurs have in their Sparkassen.  They talk about these banks in the same terms a British person might talk about the NHS or the BBC.

It was also apparent as soon as you step into a local branch that these are banks run on a different basis from many closer to home.  I met local bank managers who are intimately attuned to their local economies and have the autonomy and the authority to lend significant sums to entrepreneurs whom they feel will succeed in their town, community or region.

Of course the Sparkassen have a long tradition in Germany and are ingrained into its federal structure.  It would be impossible to exactly replicate the model in this country.

But its key principles – permanency through state backing; a core duty to support growth and innovation within a defined geographic area; and professionalism with real banking experts that understand their local customers and communities – could be transferred to a British context.  Examples such as the Bank of Salford, which lends to businesses and consumers within the City of Salford, highlight the potential of this transformative model.

A working group, dominated not by politicians, but by those with real experience in the field, are currently taking this forward on our behalf.

Likewise, the next Labour government has a clear plan to tackle the scourge of later payments, which are a barrier to business survival and growth.  The latest figures published by BACs reveal how big a problem late payments have become:

  • Britain’s small businesses now carry a burden of £39.4 billion in overdue payment they are owed;
  • Sixty per cent of Britain’s small businesses report that late payment is a problem with the average small business waiting for £38,186 in overdue payments;
  • One in four companies spend over 10 hours a week chasing late payments.
  • Over 2,500 firms a year go bust simply because they have not received monies owed to them.

A series of voluntary initiatives have failed to bring about the culture change required so Labour’s new approach will lift the onus on small firms to pursue large business customers to pay interest and create a reporting regime that will force late payers to self report and automatically pay interest to their suppliers in the event of late payments.

We would ensure that the largest companies in Britain complete a quarterly report – in the same manner as a VAT return – listing all of their late payments to smaller suppliers.  Where companies have paid late they will be required to pay interest of 8% APR above the Bank of England base rate to the supplier or face fines of up to £10,000.  Small business currently have the right to claim interest, but just 10% of businesses report even considering taking this option despite 22% of businesses having ended a business relationship with a customer because of continued late payment.

Unfortunately small businesses are often reluctant to report issues of late payment as they rely on the custom of the large businesses for their very existence.  Our approach crucially shifted this balance so that large businesses will pay on time or face automatic sanctions.

This plan is ready to go.  I tabled an amendment to the Small Business Bill last month to deliver the change now.  Unfortunately the government voted it but I am more determined than ever to get into government to see it through.

These ideas sit alongside Labour’s plans to cut business rates for small businesses and freeze energy prices to put money back into small business coffers.  But such measures can only help those who have already been bitten by the enterprise bug.

I believe it is also a crucial task for government to create an environment where an entrepreneurial career path is accessible and normal.  Previous efforts to improve social mobility have perhaps overly focused on the professions, when entrepreneurialism can also be a great path to prosperity.

This is why Labour’s Waltham Forest Council is pioneering a scheme which places an entrepreneur or business owner on the board of governors at each local school.  These aren’t just another governor but have a specific entrepreneurial remit to ensure that pupils are exposed to this exciting career path early in life.  The national Labour Party is encouraging more Councils to roll out such a scheme across the country and our commitment to give parents of primary school children guaranteed access to childcare from 8am-6pm is partly aimed at helping people from all backgrounds to find the space to pursue entrepreneurial projects.

I hope the broad overview I have just provided has been helpful and you can see that we have a suite of active policies to support small businesses at every stage of their development.

As innovators and challengers of tired orthodoxies I see entrepreneurs as Labour’s natural allies.  I hope the broad overview I have just provided has been helpful and you can see that we have a suite of active policies to support small businesses at every stage of their development.

I have no doubt Labour is fulfilling Ed Miliband’s vision to become the Party of enterprise and small business and would be delighted to discuss any of the ideas I have just touched upon in greater detail.  Thank you very much for listening.

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Toby Perkins MP with year group winners from Brimington Junior School, along with the winning design, and the Chair of Governors, Headteacher and representatives from sponsors Weightron Bilanciai and NAPIT

Winning design announced in local MPs Christmas card competition

Toby Perkins MP with year group winners from Brimington Junior School, along with the winning design, and the Chair of Governors, Headteacher and representatives from sponsors Weightron Bilanciai and NAPIT

Toby Perkins MP with year group winners from Brimington Junior School, along with the winning design, and the Chair of Governors, Headteacher and representatives from sponsors Weightron Bilanciai and NAPIT

Children from a Chesterfield school have been busy with paint, glue and glitter following a challenge set by local MP Toby Perkins to design his Christmas Card for 2014.

Toby sends Christmas Cards to over 3000 people, business and organisations across Chesterfield and Staveley, to other MPs and even as far a-field as the Prime Minister and the Queen!

Toby congratulated winning artist Charlotte Morgan, year 6, commenting that her design looked like the Crooked Spire and Big Ben and so was a perfect card for an MP from Chesterfield.

Toby Perkins said “I am always amazed at the imagination and talent shown by young people, and Brimington Junior School pupils did not disappoint.  It was a tough task choosing the winning design, and once again it shows me how lucky we are in Chesterfield to have so many talented children and committed teachers.

My thanks to Brimington Junior School for hosting the competition and to our generous sponsors Weightron Bilanciai, NAPIT and CCS Media”.

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Springwell College students from the School Council with Toby as part of their Do Democracy event

Springwell Community College students Do Democracy

Springwell College students from the School Council with Toby as part of their Do Democracy event

Springwell College students from the School Council with Toby as part of their Do Democracy event

Toby Perkins MP joined Springwell Community College ‘School Matters’ school council members and the Antibullying team for a discussion on the importance of democracy, as part of #ParliamentWeek and #DoDemocracy.

Toby said “It is vitally important that young people learn about Democracy and access to power, if we are to maintain a democratic political system in this country.   This initiative is a great opportunity for young people to get what is important to them on the political agenda”

Parliament Week encourages young people to learn about how the decisions which determine the sort of society we live in are made be it at local, regional or national level, and how they can access and influences those decision. 

“Springwell Community College has an active and impressive anti-bullying agenda, and so unsurprisingly many of the issues the students felt keenly about were around Antisocial behaviour and bullying.  Raising the issue of Arts Funding for Schools as well as ideas to combat youth under-employment demonstrates to me how important it is that the decision makers like MPs listen to the voices of our younger generation. 

Ann Foxley-Johnson, Anti-Bullying Lead at SCC said ‘It was an empowering session giving our students the opportunity to share their views and opinions with our local member of Parliament. At Springwell , we believe in developing our students voice so they can have a valuable role in our society. The students thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and have taken many ideas from Toby which they intend to follow up on and share with the whole College.’

Toby said “If you don’t tell us, we don’t know and as young people at the moment don’t have a vote, their voices are often left out of political discussion.  I would encourage all young people to get involved raising the key issues are to you via twitter or Facebook using the #DoDemocracy or @parliament_week.  Democracy needs all of us at the table”.

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Toby Perkins MP, centre, talks to Andrew Madin, left, and Freda Arnold, right, during his visit to the Royal Mail's Chesterfield Delivery Office

Local MP delivers Christmas cheer to postal workers in Staveley and Chesterfield

Toby Perkins MP, centre, talks to Andrew Madin, left, and Freda Arnold, right, during his visit to the Royal Mail's Chesterfield Delivery Office

Toby Perkins MP, centre, talks to Andrew Madin, left, and Freda Arnold, right, during his visit to the Royal Mail’s Chesterfield Delivery Office

Toby Perkins MP has visited Royal Mail’s Chesterfield and Staveley delivery offices to pass on Christmas wishes and encouragement to postmen and women at their busiest time of year.

Mr Perkins was shown around the Chesterfield office by Delivery Office Manager, Anthony Power, and the Staveley office by manager Michele Thompson. He also met the postmen and women who are working hard sorting and delivering mail in the run-up to Christmas.

Mr Perkins said: “It was great to meet postmen and women at the Chesterfield and Staveley delivery offices and see first-hand just how much effort they put into delivering for people at this time of year.

“Our postal workers do such an important job at this time of year and help to deliver Christmas for many people and families in our area. I would like to thank them for their efforts and wish them all the best over the busy festive period.”

Michele Thompson, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager at Staveley, commented: “Our postmen and women are working extremely hard to deliver Christmas cards, letters and parcels to people across Staveley. We are grateful that Toby visited the office to see our operation and to support the team during our busiest time of year.

“We’d like to remind our customers to post early so that friends and family have longer to enjoy their Christmas greetings.”

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The Save the Crispin Campaign was ultimately successful

Local pub saved from brink of closure

The Save the Crispin Campaign was ultimately successful

The Save the Crispin Campaign was ultimately successful

Chesterfield MP Toby hailed a united effort as he shared the news that the community campaign to save the Crispin public house from being closed and turned into a Tesco superstore had been successful.

Tesco phoned the Chesterfield MP to confirm that the Crispin Pub on Ashgate Road was no longer to be included in their plans for redevelopment as a Local store.

Local campaigners and community activists have long objected to the plans stating that the pub was a vital community asset and actually doing well despite the downturn in trade in pubs nationally.

Toby had had several meetings with Tesco to discuss their plans and to ensure that the voices of the local community were taken into account in any redevelopment of the site. 

Said Toby “The Crispin is clearly not only well loved but well used by people who live in the local area, and I am delighted that the community’s campaign which has had local drinkers, residents, shopkeepers and Councillors working together has won through.

I was determined to ensure Tesco listened to the real concerns of people most affected by any change, and to give them their due, in the end, they have done.”

“Pubs can be the heart of a community and the respect people held for the Crispin was obvious from the strong reaction of local residents to the proposal to sell the site to the supermarket chain.  This has been a long fought battle, one that looked lost on a number of occasions but one that remains a testament to the strength of public spirit, once people work together to achieve a common aim”.

“I hope now that Enterprise Inns work with the community in any proposals for the Crispin, and look forward to many a pint in the years to come”.

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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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