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The Borough Council, Toby Perkins MP, Hardyal Dhindsa and various agencies, charities & businesses have joined together to discuss ways to tackle issues of homelessness and anti-social behaviour in Chesterfield town centre at a series of summit meetings.

GUEST BLOG: Cllr Helen Bagley, Cabinet Member for Homes & Customers, writes about Chesterfield Borough Council’s response to homelessness in the town

Hardly a week goes by without homelessness or rough sleeping hitting the national news.

While Chesterfield doesn’t have the same level of problems faced by some of the big cities and towns we do experience issues too – and one person homeless is one person too many.

The causes

Cllr Helen Bagley, Cabinet Member for Homes & Customers at Chesterfield Borough Council

Cllr Helen Bagley, Cabinet Member for Homes & Customers at Chesterfield Borough Council

The cause of this is a range of factors coming together. Some of the most common are drug or alcohol dependency, mental health issues or benefit changes, particularly the recent introduction of Universal Credit.

We also know that Chesterfield is attracting rough sleepers who see it as a safer option than being in some of the surrounding cities. The generosity of local people to give food, clothing and other items, combined with the lower risk of violence towards them means that some rough sleepers have specifically come to Chesterfield.

What complicates the situation further is that another group of people who are not actually homeless but are friends with people who are rough sleeping or themselves have drug or alcohol dependencies are often on the streets too.

The solutions

In the same way that there is no one cause, equally there is no one easy solution. That is why Chesterfield Borough Council is working together with all the other public bodies (eg police, Derbyshire County Council, NHS, probation), the voluntary sector and the business community to tackle all the issues as a whole.

This work is brought together through the Chesterfield town centre summits chaired by the Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa. The group’s work is focused on three linked areas:

  1. Enforcement: This focuses on tackling some of the anti-social behaviour that has been seen in Chesterfield town centre that is often associated with people who are, or appear to be, either homelessness or rough sleeping.

This area of work has already seen the police significantly increase their patrols and presence in the town centre. They have targeted some of the dealers who are supplying people on the streets with drugs, particularly the drugs that were previously known as ‘legal highs’.

As a council we have introduced a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) which gives the police and our enforcement officers powers to deal with some of the anti-social behaviour experienced in the town centre over recent months. PSPOs are not aimed at people who are homeless or rough sleeping but at dealing with people who are breaking the law and creating problems for the law-abiding majority.

  1. Treatment and support: This strand of the work recognises that the only effective long-term solution is to provide people who are on the streets with the support they need to get permanent accommodation or deal with the underlying issues that aggravate their situation.

By working together the various agencies can avoid duplication and identify any areas where support is not currently provided so that both can be addressed.


Chesterfield Borough Council also supports this work through its funding of voluntary agencies. We have a strong working relationship with Pathways and others who support the hard to reach homeless.

Within the council itself our homelessness prevention team works to provide accommodation for anyone who needs it. We are also a key player in the North Derbyshire Homelessness Forum that brings together a range of agencies who are working to prevent homelessness and support people who are rough sleeping.

  1. The final area of work is lobbying the Government to make them aware of the impact that welfare reforms are having on the streets of Chesterfield. While the group is not seeking to make political points the recent welfare reform changes have undoubtedly had a visible impact on this issue.

With the support of our MP Toby Perkins we are asking the Government to be aware of what is happening and make changes to their welfare policies to help provide more assistance to the people who need it.

More information about homelessness and the support the council is able to offer can be seen at www.chesterfield.gov.uk/homelessness

The Borough Council, Toby Perkins MP, Hardyal Dhindsa and various agencies, charities & businesses have joined together to discuss ways to tackle issues of homelessness and anti-social behaviour in Chesterfield town centre at a series of summit meetings.

The Borough Council, Toby Perkins MP, Hardyal Dhindsa and various agencies, charities & businesses have joined together to discuss ways to tackle issues of homelessness and anti-social behaviour in Chesterfield town centre at a series of summit meetings.

Posted in Blog, Featured, UncategorizedComments Off on GUEST BLOG: Cllr Helen Bagley, Cabinet Member for Homes & Customers, writes about Chesterfield Borough Council’s response to homelessness in the town

Toby on a visit to New Beetwell Street Bus Station last year to discuss the homelessness issues in Chesterfield

How we’re tackling rough sleeping and antisocial behaviour in Chesterfield

Chesterfield is an attractive market town, but in recent months, visitors to our town have been alarmed by the amount of rough sleeping and street drinking that now diminishes that attractiveness.

This was brought into particular focus this Christmas when David Fuller, a homeless man, died in an abandoned property in Brampton.

I am writing this to lay out the issues that have led to this alarming development and the steps I, and others, are taking both to reduce rough sleeping and support the people involved.

We are seeing rough sleeping levels in Chesterfield that would previously have been expected only in a city centre location, and also experiencing increased street drinking and substance misuse that has also created antisocial behaviour.

I am regularly contacted by constituents concerned about the unacceptable behaviour they’re seeing in town, as well as dozens of emails from people wanting to help the genuine rough sleepers who are at great risk on the streets this winter. Why is it happening?

Chesterfield is by no means unique in suffering like this. A report published by the public spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, at the end of last year, showed that since 2010/11 rough sleeping has increased 134%, and the number of homeless households forced into temporary accommodation was up 60%. The report is clear that one of the driving forces behind the increase in homelessness are the Government’s welfare reforms.

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit no longer cover the rent and Council Tax bills, which means that many people on benefits fall into arrears and are evicted from their properties.

In addition the bedroom tax caused significant rent arrears, the sanctions regime leaves people who have nothing without a weekly subsistence income and the lack of stable work means that many people’s work patterns see them falling behind on their payments.

We are currently in the longest period of static wage growth in history just when property prices continue to rise due to the lack of new affordable housing being built.

A time when Welfare Policy is leading to increased poverty and desperation is also the worst possible time to drastically cut Local Government spending, because this funding has led to the closure of homeless hostels, and cuts to funding for the charities providing homelessness prevention, and Council tenancy support services.

These cause of these social problems all reside in Westminster and are a direct result of deliberate Government policies. As Chesterfield’s representative it is my job to argue and to vote against the policies that cause this, which I am doing.

But whilst the cause may lie in Westminster the problem is ours to deal with. The cost of trying to deal with homelessness is costing local government around £1.1bn a year, at a time when the Government are continuing to slash hundreds of millions from council budgets.

Why Chesterfield?

Whilst this is a national issue with national causes, conversations that I have had, both with local homeless people and with Police and Homeless charities has identified a number of reasons why Chesterfield has seen such a noticeable increase.

Firstly, Chesterfield has a higher amount of social and Council housing than most towns of a similar size, and so the numbers affected by issues like the bedroom tax are greater.

Secondly, whilst Chesterfield’s population is around 100,000, the town centre acts as the focal point for people across a much wider section of North Derbyshire.

Thirdly, homeless people have travelled here from many larger cities due to it being both safer and the wider network of charitable support that is here than many other areas.

We also lack adequate hostel services, and the Borough Council are now looking at introducing a night shelter.

There are also clearly people who are not homeless, as such, but spend time with street sleepers, and so the numbers hanging around on the streets during the day are greater than the number sleeping rough at night.

So what are we doing locally?

Whilst many people understand why Government policy has led us to this appalling situation, they rightly expect us to take action locally.

We are adopting a multi-agency approach locally to ensure that everyone with expertise and the ability to contribute is involved in addressing the issue in Chesterfield.

One of the most important things I am doing is helping individual constituents who find themselves homeless or at the risk of homelessness.

  • I have supported homeless families living in B&Bs or other temporary accommodation to secure council housing.
  • I am helping constituents who find themselves in rent arrears to try to address these before they become homeless.
  • My office supports people every day with getting benefits back in place, accessing appropriate debt advice and liaising with landlords to try to give tenants more time before eviction proceedings are instigated.
  • I am also helping constituents to access emergency accommodation. For example, just before Christmas my office ensured two homeless men, who were sleeping in a tent during sub-zero temperatures, secured a place at a night shelter in Derby.
  • In another case, we arranged for the Council to provide a house to a family that had been evicted and had rent outstanding rent arrears, and also arranged for temporary accommodation in the period leading up to their new Council house being ready to move into.
  • I have also supported lots of constituents with their applications for housing, to ensure they are rehoused as quickly as possible.

Alongside supporting individual constituents, I work specifically across the Town to support those who support the homeless.

  • I have provided documentation to support letters for grant applications made by Pathways, which have helped them secure thousands of pounds in additional funding.
  • I also joined with Framework Housing Association and Pathways with their sofa push event in Queen’s Park, which has helped raise awareness of the ‘sofa-surfing’ problem in Chesterfield, as well as raising funds for the vital work done by both charities. I wrote to the Prime Minister in the summer to highlight my constituents’ concerns about increasing homelessness and to urge the Government to provide additional funds in the Autumn Budget to help local authorities to tackle rough sleeping.

I also wrote to the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions asking him to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit due to the heightened risk of rent arrears and eviction for UC claimants. I continue to attend summit meetings arranged by Derbyshire’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa. The meetings have brought together representatives from Chesterfield Borough Council, Derbyshire County Council, Derbyshire Constabulary, local businesses, homelessness support charities, health & treatment services and other agencies, to create a proactive approach to tackling rough sleeping, antisocial behaviour, street drinking and drug abuse. The majority of homeless people are victims of circumstances, and our priority will always be to ensure that everything is done to try and get people to engage with support and advice, to help them address their issues. However, for those who will not engage with offers of support the police and council officers will have powers to issue fines which could potentially lead to prosecutions.

The Council’s new Public Space Protection Orders aim to stop the behaviours we have seen in the town that are causing disruption and concern. The new powers allow police to confiscate alcohol and prevent people loitering near cash machines and shop doorways begging, allow Police to issue fixed penalty notices for urinating or defecating in public and stop people setting up tents in inappropriate areas. These new powers are about ensuring genuinely homeless people are being encouraged to engage with support, whilst helping the police and council officers to take action against those who won’t engage with help.

When I went down to Beetwell Street myself to talk to people in sleeping bags in the area, there were people who despite being offered Council flats, felt they were better off on the streets. They had been evicted before and weren’t wanting to be housed.

The Council does have one bedroom flats for rent, but that doesn’t resolve the issues with the Welfare policies that I referred to earlier.

The voluntary sector are also playing a massive role in trying to address homelessness in Chesterfield. Two church groups have set up homeless accommodation services in Chesterfield (unfortunately one has had to close temporarily due to a fire) as well as providing soup kitchens, counselling, benefits and other support in Chesterfield, we are well served with charities, church groups and voluntary organisations working with the council and police to help homeless people engage with support and move towards permanent housing and more stable lives, but the barriers that face them are substantial. I expect that there are more challenges to come with the roll-out of Universal Credit and further reductions in council funding. Because Universal Credit is paid to claimants and not to their landlords, I expect arrears and evictions to increase but I can assure you that in Chesterfield we are doing all we can to weather the storm. What we need now is the Government to wake up to the homelessness crisis they have created and to provide people and councils with the resources they need to ensure homelessness reduces to the levels it was before they came to power in 2010.

Toby on a visit to New Beetwell Street Bus Station last year to discuss the homelessness issues in Chesterfield

Toby on a visit to New Beetwell Street Bus Station last year to discuss the homelessness issues in Chesterfield

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Chesterfield FC Takeover Response

Over the course of the last three to four months, Chesterfield FC secretary Ashley Carson and others have been updating me on a possible takeover of Chesterfield FC. That takeover appears to have broken down irrevocably. I am aware that there has been some distrust of the updates being provided by the Club on this subject so I have, with the assistance of the club, done some investigations to provide a third-party oversight of what has occurred.

Chesterfield FC is absolutely crucial to the health of the town and I don’t underestimate the threat that the club’s current League position poses to the success of the club and the town. Therefore, I wanted to provide clarity to fans about the history of this aborted deal.

In addition to being shown the documents that demonstrate that two offers were made (one rejected, and one, in principle accepted). I have also seen the responses from the club, and the final email concluding that the deal would not go ahead. I have also spoken to the potential buyer and got their perspective as to why the deal did not go through.

It is clear that there was an interest in buying the club by investors, that there was an agreement struck on the overall amount the club was to be sold for. It appears that there was some mutual scepticism between the buyer and the club, and that the buyer had reservations about the payment schedule being outlined, although they didn’t come back and negotiate further to alter that payment schedule, nor were the two parties very far apart on the subject of the payment schedule.

I believe that alongside the potential unease about the payment schedule, and the mutual scepticism, that the downturn in results in December which saw relegation from the Football League become more of a possibility that it looked at the time of the initial offer, was another factor that prevented the relatively small gap between the two sides to be bridged or negotiated.

There was no communication achieved between the two parties from the offer acceptance to the offer collapsing, which I think is revealing of the lack of certainty that both sides felt in the likely success of the negotiations.

I have entered into this rather unusual role of verifier of the facts of the case in order to provide clarity that fans deserve. Fans will have their own view as to how things have been handled and the wider history of how the club have fallen so far, so rapidly. From my point of view, the investigations I have made and having spoken to both sides, I think what I had been told about the negotiations over the last few months was basically true from the club’s standpoint.

There has been further speculation about alternative bidders. I am of the view that the Football Club needs to be run by people who want to be there, and thus, it is in the interests of the club to be sold as soon as practicably possible to people who have the long term health of the club at heart, but there are many more Football clubs for sale than there are people wanting and able to buy them. The club is definitely for sale.

In the meantime it falls to those who currently own it to do all they can to preserve the Club’s League status, and there have been a good number of new arrivals to try and achieve that. Whilst entirely understanding the fans desire for news, I would urge the Club to ensure that the public focus is on improving results on the pitch and that announcements about any takeover are made once things have reached a tangible stage and not before. I agree with Mr Carson that this episode has been distracting and unsettling and hope that any future negotiations that can be achieved for the good of the club can be completed, as quickly and quietly as possible.

Finally, I would say, in Football, owners, players, Managers and Directors come and go, the only constant is the fans. The Football League status of the club is one of the most crucial issues facing the town right now, and everyone uniting behind the team for the next 15 games will be absolutely vital. I know how grateful everyone at the club has been of the vocal support that the team have had in recent games, and I hope that this update provides the clarity that fans sought, I will answer any questions that I can without breaching confidences, but I believe that the pertinent facts that I am aware of are all included in this blog.

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Evelina is currently doing work experience one afternoon a week in Toby’s constituency office

GUEST BLOG: Evelina Griniute, sixth form student at St Mary’s Catholic High School, gives her views on the impact of automation on the workforce for the next generation

In a world of astounding technological advances, where only a few years are required for previous technology to become viewed as outdated, automation and the development of AI are leading to questions: am I at risk of being replaced by a robot? Will my next taxi be a self-driving car? Should I start campaigning for a universal base income to guard against an ‘automation apocalypse’?

A report released by Citibank collaborating with the university of Oxford in February 2016 found it probable that computer capital would replace 35% of jobs in the UK, and we are lucky when the prodigious proportion of 77% of jobs in China are considered. The most vulnerable have been labelled across many industries and surprisingly, they are not the low-skilled workers in manual jobs as opposed to the highly-qualified white-collar employees, but those with the most routinely work. An example is offered in the field of radiology, where Enlitic’s computer system is 50% better at classifying malignant tumours from CT scans than the most specialised radiologists and has a false-negative rate of zero compared to a human’s 7%. In light of this, Andrew Ng – a highly trained radiologist – has claimed he is at a greater risk of replacement than his executive assistant due to the extensive variety in her role. Alongside radiologists, the most susceptible to ‘technological unemployment’ have been identified as loan officers, information clerks, receptionists, taxi drivers, legal assistants, security guards and fast food cooks, all due to the fact their jobs are routine enough to be completed by AI. Alternatively, employment requiring creativity, social perception and manipulation are deemed the most secure, involving choreographers, make-up artists, mental health workers, surgeons, lawyers and primary school teachers.

Initially, this information seems alarming, socially destructive and immoral. We may accept that progress is inevitable and the pursuit of higher productivity will force humanity to further develop technologies that are infinitely more capable of tasks than humans, but that does not constitute the moral arguments against AI. What does employing a robot over a human being signal about a person’s worth? Is a world of extensive unemployment and minimal salaries due to an oversupply of labour worth the increased economic growth? Should we really have the right to tell a person they cannot strive for a certain vocation, despite obvious talent, because a robot is more efficient?

However, before panicking over mass redundancy and becoming incensed over the imminent reduction of employment opportunities, it is important to consider the opposing side of the argument.

Evelina is currently doing work experience one afternoon a week in Toby’s constituency office

Evelina is currently doing work experience one afternoon a week in Toby’s constituency office

Most people, especially the younger generation, welcome and embrace technology into their everyday lives. Generally, we consider it to be fascinating, helpful and enhancing of productivity and quality of life. Some direct attention to the fact that the same threat appeared during the industrial revolution and worries mirroring those we have today never became realised. AI is also more likely to increase the amount of available jobs instead of deplete options, especially in the field of technology, and one could even consider Amazon: they use machines to maintain low prices, meaning the company can continue to grow which in turn creates more jobs.

Ultimately, while the rapid development of technology can be overwhelming and make the future appear uncertain, preparation for a time when job advertisements have the label ‘Humans need not apply’ is somewhat excessive and unwarranted. All evidence suggests technology complements our work, making it easier and more efficient to the point where some jobs are unimaginable without it. As a student with the prospects of university hanging heavily over my head, I would not base my decisions of a possible career on how likely it is to become automated. Instead, embracing technology and its benefits as supplements to employment appears the most sensible course of action.

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Lilly is currently doing work experience one afternoon a week in Toby's constituency office

GUEST BLOG: Lilly Beards, sixth form student at Brookfield Community School, gives her views on the ‘Votes at 16’ campaign

On Friday November 3rd, Labour MP Jim McMahon will introduce his Private Members’ Bill – aiming to lower voting age in UK elections and referendums to 16 – into Parliament.

I’ve been a follower of the Votes At 16 campaign since 2014, when voting age was lowered for the Scottish independence referendum. Surveys and interviews suggest that young people and MPs alike agree that lowering the voting age for the referendum hugely increased Scottish young people’s interest and engagement in politics, as they were finally being given the opportunity to have their say in a vote that would hugely affect them.

This is why I believe 16- and 17-year-olds should be given the vote; issues voted on in elections and referendums will affect their lives directly. For example, a prominent topic in the 2017 general election was tuition fees, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn vowing to scrap tuition fees for both current and future university students. To me, it seems ridiculous that 16- and 17- year olds, an age bracket that alteration of tuition fees and other educational topics hugely affect, were not allowed to vote to help determine the outcome of the election.

The average government term in the UK is 3 years and 10 months, and can be up to 5 years; this means that, most likely, 16-17 year olds will have become adult members of society in the midst of a governmental term, but will not have had the opportunity to choose which party will dictate their early adult years; this is unfair, surely?

A common argument for not lowering the voting age is that 16- and 17-year-olds aren’t “educated” enough to vote knowledgeably and sensibly; surely, then, the government should be taking steps to bring better political education into our schools.

Before September of this year, when I started my A-Level in Government & Politics, I had received little to no education in school regarding anything to do with current affairs or how the UK’s political and voting systems work. I had PSHE lessons once a week, which followed a hugely ineffective specification and did not teach anything of transferrable use, especially not regarding the world of politics. It is my strong belief that, in order to combat the Conservative Party’s supposed belief that young people are not socio-politically aware enough to vote in elections and referendums, political education should be improved and made compulsory, in order to prepare them for voting at a younger age; this would be both beneficial to young people, who can have a say in their future, but also to the country as a whole – equipping the country’s citizens with a wider political knowledge can do nothing but good.

241 out of 261 Labour MPs support the Votes At 16 campaign, a movement founded in 2003 in the hope that the franchise would be expanded to young people in the UK aged 16 and 17. Whilst a 14-year battle without success seems quite a long time, it’s important to note that it took 41 years since the 1928 Representation of the People Act – in which it was stated that all eligible citizens over 21 could vote – that the voting age was lowered to 18, in 1969. In today’s era of powerful social media lobbying, campaigning, and e-petitions, however, it is easy to imagine that it would not take as long to lower voting age to 16; it is only a matter of expanding political education, awareness, and responsibility to the young people who are the near-future of the UK. Friday November 3rd could be the catalyst for change in the journey to lowering the voting age in the UK to 16.

Lilly is currently doing work experience one afternoon a week in Toby's constituency office

Lilly is currently doing work experience one afternoon a week in Toby’s constituency office

 

 

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EU UK Flags

Vote on Article 50

The article that I have sent to this week’s Derbyshire Times in response to an enquiry about how I will vote on Article 50 ratification

This weekend’s deliberations ahead of the vote that will take place on whether to trigger Article 50 have been amongst the most tortured I have faced in my time as an MP.

To many, the issue is a straight-forward one. Britain voted to Leave the EU (as did Chesterfield) and the invoking of Article 50 is the parliamentary ratification of that vote. As a democrat, whilst being disappointed by the outcome, I respect it, and accept that Britain must get on with negotiating our exit from the EU.

However, accepting that Britain will leave the EU is not the same as accepting that Theresa May, an unelected Prime Minister who voted Remain, is the only arbiter of the terms under which we will leave. I am horrified that she appears complacent about the impact that leaving the EU single market will have on our economy, and the speed with which she appears willing to jump into bed with Donald Trump’s dangerous and divisive vision of Anglo American relations.

The image of our PM holding hands with the President, moments before he invoked an arbitrary order to ban Muslim refugees from seven countries, is an image that will haunt those who feel proud of Britain’s historic role in fighting the rise of Nationalist extremists, and promoting international co-operation.

Meanwhile, the vote will take place before she has produced the White paper which outlines her government’s approach to getting the best deal for Britain. I also feel she missed a trick by agreeing to trigger Article 50 without insisting that Britain could start negotiating with non-EU countries alongside our EU talks which will reduce the strength of our hand in those negotiations.

However, despite my many misgivings about the approach that the Government is taking, it would be disingenuous for me to overlook the extent to which last June’s referendum was a rejection of the ‘political establishment’ view. In that context, I feel the argument that says that we must allow those negotiations to begin in line with the outcome of that vote is a compelling one. Whilst I will vote for amendments that seek to protect our National Health Service and safeguard our economy, I will support the Government’s desire to invoke Article 50 at this week’s 2nd Reading vote.

I will also be fighting Chesterfield’s corner throughout. Leave campaigners promised that there would be more money not less for our vital public services and regeneration projects, I will be insisting those promises are honoured. None of us can be certain what the future holds, but my fight is to retain what is dear too us, not to fight the outcome of a campaign that is already over.

So I will vote to honour the referendum outcome this week, but Theresa MAY be sure, there’ll be no blank cheque on her vision of Brexit from me.

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Toby in Chez

Toby Perkins MP reiterates: “there is no proposal to merge Chesterfield into Sheffield”

Many of my constituents have contacted me concerning Chesterfield being included in the Sheffield City Region Mayoral Regeneration proposal. I would like to explain what exactly is proposed and why I suspect that supporting this proposal is in Chesterfield’s best interests. The fact that I believe it may be in the best interests of the town doesn’t mean that I am not willing to listen to representations that disagree with that, but I believe that there has been a deliberate intention to mislead people and so I would like to hear views from more of my constituents once they have read this blog.

Firstly, THERE IS NO PROPOSAL TO MERGE CHESTERFIELD INTO SHEFFIELD; NO PLAN FOR SHEFFIELD CITY COUNCIL TO PROVIDE ANY SERVICES IN CHESTERFIELD; NO PLAN TO MOVE INTO SOUTH YORKSHIRE – Sorry for shouting, but it is simply untrue to suggest (as the Derbyshire County Labour Group leaflet implied) that the proposals are a merger or will lead to Chesterfield ‘falling under’ Sheffield.

Secondly, the government had a proposal for devolution of powers to local areas in their manifesto. The majority of powers they are devolving will come from Central government (from Whitehall) not from Chesterfield or Derbyshire. The new Mayors they are creating will be responsible for public transport, key transport routes (major ‘A’ Roads) and strategic planning. The combined authority will be responsible for skills, the 30 year/ £30 Million investment fund employment support and business support.

Derbyshire County Council will still provide schools, adult social services, child social services, youth services, highways, waste management and many other things.

The Mayor will also be responsible for preparing a strategic planning framework, but crucially the leader of Chesterfield Borough Council and other Council leaders will have a veto to prevent any unwanted developments in our area.

Ultimately, like it or not, the policy to put Mayoral City regions at the heart of regeneration is a Government policy that was included in the Tory Party election manifesto. The choice that faces us locally is twofold. Firstly, whether we should look to access the new funding that is available £484million over the next 5 years in the case of Sheffield City Region) or leave responsibility for these policy areas with unelected bureaucrats in Whitehall; and secondly if we accept that we want our local area to benefit from extra spending, then which deal should Chesterfield attempt to be a part of.

On the first question there is very little disagreement. The principle of devolution is pretty widely accepted and will mean that we get to have a vote on the person who is responsible for providing the above services. It will mean more independence and more money for our area at a time when economic regeneration of the North is crucial. On the question of whether these should be provided by a directly elected Mayor or be devolved to Councils, the government was quite clear, the powers were only available if a Mayor was elected.

Interestingly, none of this would be different if we had followed the County Council’s preferred proposal for a Mayor of Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire, I don’t believe there is any real disagreement over the powers that the Mayor of Sheffield City Region would wield or the Mayor of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

That then brought us to the second question. Which deal?  I’ll start by providing some background and history, Chesterfield became a part of the Sheffield City Region (SCR)in 2008 and following the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships has been a member of both the Sheffield City Region and Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire (D2N2) LEP since then. This made sense as it recognised Chesterfield’s role and co-dependence with both the East Midlands and South Yorkshire economies. Chesterfield Borough Council would have been happy to continue to enjoy a seat at both tables, but following the Conservatives’ General Election victory, the Government have said that local voters can only vote for one Mayor, whilst remaining non-constituent parts of a second area.

Whatever shape emerges to the new geographies, Chesterfield will continue to play a role in both areas, however, since the inception of LEPs I have to say that whilst the Sheffield City Region LEP has enjoyed considerable success and has worked constructively with ‘2nd tier’ authorities like Chesterfield, the D2N2 one has been considerably less effective and been mired in petty disagreements that have often prevented it from focussing on delivering. Initially Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Derby City and Nottingham City wanted to shut out all the 2nd tier authorities like Chesterfield.  Ultimately they allowed one representative for all 9 Derbyshire 2nd tier authorities. By contrast Chesterfield had a seat at the table of SCR from day one.

It is because of this greater success, that whilst the Sheffield City region deal is likely to be signed off this year, 5 other Derbyshire Councils have also rejected the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire deal and so in actual fact there will be no D2N2 deal before 2020 at the earliest. I attended a dinner recently at which the Tory Business Minister was advocating Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire joining with Leicestershire. For all the talk of decisions getting made in Sheffield we have a great deal more in common with Sheffield than Leicester or Nottinghamshire.

So the Borough Council were left with a choice between advocating that Chesterfield residents get a vote on a Mayor that would cover South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire or sign up to a deal that doesn’t exist and probably see the extra money remain in Whitehall whilst our near neighbours were getting on with regeneration that we could urgently use.

It is important to reiterate that the proposal that we are looking at will be the creation of a new Mayor to cover the area, which will be elected every four years and will have to convince us every four years that he or she has delivered for our area and has plans to do so again. 

Some people have raised the issue of Sheffield potholes. Road maintenance for almost all roads (except major A roads, which will pass to the Mayor not Sheffield City Council) will remain the responsibility of Derbyshire County Council.

Others have raised the fact that due to North East Derbyshire and Bolsover signing up to the now non-existent D2N2 deal the area is not contiguous. I agree that this is a big disappointment, it means that their residents will have decisions made about their area without getting a say in it. The voice of the North Midlands would be much stronger in the Combined Authority area if North East Derbyshire and Bolsover agreed to join Chesterfield and Bassetlaw. However regardless of who is around the table, the Mayor will have to win votes from voters in all areas and thus far, as with the recent £5.3Million grant award from SCR for our Northern Gateway project, the LEP and Combined Authority has been very supportive of the many different proposals that have come forward from Chesterfield.

Much of the talk about this proposal suggests that there is a pool of money and we simply need to decide who gets to spend it. That is not the case, Whilst Sheffield City Region look set to win this vital extra investment for their area, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire have been unable to negotiate a deal and so there will be no extra money for those areas before 2020. Even after that I suspect that the financial needs of the Sheffield City Region will be greater than the East Midlands one, and so it is likely that there will be more money to fight for in the Sheffield City Region area than in the East Midlands one.

Toby in ChezFinally, I would like to address the obvious opposition to this proposal from Derbyshire County Council and the disappointing spectacle of the open dispute that clearly now exists between Chesterfield and Derbyshire. I believe that both Chesterfield and Derbyshire have been excellent Councils over the years, they have continued to deliver their services in very difficult circumstances in recent years and it is sad to see this public dispute.

But whilst I recognise the frustration and concern that Derbyshire feel about this development, I am concerned that they are using emotive language and the politics of identity in their arguments against what is a pragmatic proposal about Chesterfield’s best interests,  that will not in any way alter our status as a town in Derbyshire.

I want to reiterate there is NO PROSPECT of Chesterfield becoming a part of Sheffield or South Yorkshire. No prospect of Sheffield City Council providing services to Chesterfield or responsibility for our roads.

I recognise that Anne Western, the Derbyshire County Council leader, is worried that it will be a step towards a unitary North Derbyshire Council and a move away from Derbyshire County Council. That would be a far more significant step and I can honestly say it has never been discussed by me, nor am I aware of any interest in setting up such an authority. But to prevent money coming in to our area, which is what turning our back on the Sheffield City Region proposal would do, would be a retrograde step, our residents and our economy must always remain more important than the institutions that are there to serve them.

If you would like to share your views with me on the proposals, please email me at toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk

 

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Toby with work experience student, Evelina Griniute

GUEST BLOG: Evelina Griniute, student at St. Mary’s Catholic High School, gives her view on the EU Referendum result

My name is Evelina and I am currently completing my work experience placement at the Toby Perkins’ Constituency Office. I am a Year 10 student at St. Mary’s Catholic High School who studies Geography, History, German and Latin, in addition to my mandatory subjects, as humanities and languages are what I find most interesting. I have always held an interest in politics, enjoying nothing more than researching political topics and debating them with friends and family. Seeing the impacts that decisions have on people is fascinating from my point of view and this is also where my aptitude for humanities most likely stems from and which caused me to consider doing my work experience placement in an MP’s office. As a young person whose future will be greatly affected by Britain’s choice to leave the EU, I am intrigued to explore the impacts the decision will have on my generation and the opinions of young people around the UK on the subject.

My personal opinion is that Britain should have remained in the EU though, unfortunately, I was not old enough to vote. The way I see it is that while the EU has its faults, we are stronger within it and it is easier to fix the problem from within than run away from it completely. The EU offers the security and feeling of unity that 78% of young people said they would miss as well as all the trade benefits that allow European countries to compete with top global producers such as China and the US. We were comfortable as we were and Brexit has caused an unnecessary panic.

Most voters aged 18-24 shared this view, with 72% voting to remain. It is disappointing to know that young people who wanted Brexit the least have to live with the consequences for the longest. It results in more

Toby with work experience student, Evelina Griniute

Toby with work experience student, Evelina Griniute, in the constituency office

expensive and harder to attain places at European universities, decreased opportunities to work abroad in EU countries under the same terms and more difficult travel around Europe which is problematic for those who wish to take gap years and so on . A weaker economy with a weaker pound sterling also means young graduates who have just begun work, and are therefore receiving less money, will be stretched even further.

The votes however, are what they are and now people will handle the situation as best as they can. I remain optimistic that Britain will emerge through the uncertainty.

 

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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 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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