birmingham

BIRMINGHAM LABOUR’S ELECTION PLEDGES

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TECH CITY

We’ll bring science and industry together to boost jobs of the future with a new University Enterprise Zone at the city’s heart.

A CITY OF APPRENTICES

We’ll create a Birmingham Apprenticeship Agency by bringing businesses and colleges together to double the number of apprentices over the next 18 months.

A LIVING WAGE CITY

We’ll work to get 10,000 more Brummies off the minimum wage of £6.31 and on  to a living wage of at least £7.65.

TACKLING CHILD POVERTY

We’ll create a Birmingham Child Poverty Commission to help the city’s schools, social care, health services and employers break the poverty that blights the lives of a third of our children.

TACKLING DRUG USE AND CRIME

We will always put victims first and tackle anti-social behaviour.  We will campaign to put police back on the beat.  Thousands are blighted by drug addiction and the crime that feeds it.  We will work with the NHS and the police, in a fighting partnership, to clean up addicts and take out their suppliers.

QUALITY HOMES

We’ll build 70,000 more houses over two decades and tackle rogue landlords to improve the quality of rented homes.

LEISURE AND OPEN SPACES

We’ll replace old leisure facilities with a £36m investment in leisure centres and work with residents to manage parks and open spaces.

STANDING UP FOR YOU IN EUROPE

Only Labour will protect rights at work such as 4 weeks paid holiday and time-off for Mums and Dads when their children are born.  The Tories and UKIP want to end these rights.

LABOUR’S ELECTION MESSAGE

Labour has got Birmingham moving again. More businesses opened their doors here, last year, than anywhere else outside London. We won more investment than anywhere else with the biggest Enterprise Zone in Britain. Our Youth Jobs Fund is getting young people back to work. Specialist school teaching is starting to give young people the skills they need for work. Now we want to go further: ¦ investing in jobs of the future; ¦ boosting apprenticeships; ¦ stepping up the fight for a Living Wage and the fight against child poverty; ¦ investing in new leisure centres and green spaces; ¦ driving out crime and drugs; ¦ building more homes for local people and driving out rogue landlords. This Tory-Lib Dem government has got it in for us. They’ve cut Birmingham’s budget twice as hard as the UK average – while giving Britain’s millionaires a tax cut. Only Labour is campaigning for energy bills to be frozen until 2017, free childcare for 25 hours a week for 3-4 year olds, a 10p rate of tax for the low-paid and a small firms business rate cut. Only Labour can make the difference; for Birmingham and for Britain.

While the Tories obsess over Europe, ordinary people struggle

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Since the county council elections nearly two weeks ago and the supposed inexorable rise of UKIP, the Conservative Party has been occupied with an old enemy: Europe. The Queen’s Speech, much to the dismay of Tory backbenchers, contained nothing concerning a referendum on British membership of the European Union. Worried about the UKIP ‘threat’ to their seats, Tory MPs, including, unbelievably, cabinet ministers, have been falling over themselves to condemn the EU, call for a referendum and let David Cameron know just how strongly they feel about an issue that is, truthfully, way down the list of priorities for the vast majority of voters. Instead of showing leadership of his party, Cameron is performing his own tribute act to John Major and following it. Except whereas John Major tried to face down the ‘b*stards’ in his own party that sought to undermine him over Europe, Cameron acquiesces to their every demand and indulges their every whim.

A strong leader would not only attempt to assert some kind of control over his party, but also remind them that there are rather more important things at stake. The Queen’s Speech did nothing to help ordinary people who are struggling and nothing to improve our economic situation. U-turns on welfare reforms or tax cuts for the richest would have been welcome as people across the country struggle to make ends meet as a result of these damaging policies that have been implemented over the last month, yet they remain in place. There is still no coherent plan from the government for jobs and growth, more vital than ever as the rate of unemployment increased again today for the second month running, and at the current rate the government will not have eliminated the deficit for another 422 years. This is what the Tories should be agitating over – instead they are only concerned with going back to the 90s and fighting among themselves over Europe. Ed Miliband has rightly said that we should concentrate on the big issues facing people rather than argue over a referendum; Labour, once again, is fighting the corner of ordinary people while the Tories show just how out of touch they really are.

There are few places where the effects of the government’s harmful policies are being felt as much as they are in Birmingham. As the Birmingham Mail reported this week, nearly 2,000 Birmingham residents have requested access to emergency housing funds, an increase of 50% on the previous year, as the effects of the dreadful bedroom tax start to be felt across the city. While the City Council is able to provide some help, thanks to the government, there will still be a massive shortfall and many people suffering from the bedroom tax will not get the help they need. The Council has also secured extra Council Tax Support funding, reducing the burden on the unemployed and people on low incomes, yet this only mitigates the misery imposed by the Tory-led government. In difficult times, Labour is doing whatever it can locally to help those in need and try to build a better city and a better country, while the Tories play games with each other over Europe, ignoring the everyday issues that people face.

There is a debate to be had over Europe, and the EU has much to offer us as a city and as a country. When there are so many other important issues at hand, however, this is not the time for the Tories to be indulging in their favourite past-time of Euroscepticism. Ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet. Birmingham residents will see a government that is not standing up  for them, not acting to improve their lives and not taking into account their fears and concerns, but a government that is distracted by UKIP and its own Eurosceptic backbenchers and is incapable of showing leadership. Labour is doing all it can to ensure a fair deal for Birmingham residents; the Tories appear as though they could not care less.

Why we need to talk about welfare

The true depth of the Tory policies that make the lives of those poorest, more wretched become clearer on a daily basis.

You will have seen my video highlighting the need to campaign for a fair deal for Birmingham, and within it, details touching upon those groups beginning to feel the real bite.

In ‘wake up and smell the roses‘ I reflect on research published by the Financial Times that uncovers the continuing divide between rich and poor, and the way in which the Tory led welfare reforms are impacting harder on the North than on the leafy suburbs in the South. We have seen this unfairness in the cut of £149 per person in Birmingham compared to just £19 in Berkshire.

Cameron’s outright attack on the poorer parts of society is vicious and vindictive, turning neighbour on neighbour and communities on communities. As an answer to the economical crisis it offers no credibility.

The right wing ideology being purported is dangerous and might easily play into the hands of fascist groups preying on the vulnerabilities of both those struggling to survive and those who feel others are getting more than they deserve.

The Telegraph today report that free school meals could soon be scrapped and people paid to look after elderly neighbours as councils take desperate measures to deliver a “tidal wave” of spending cuts. All councils face desperate decisions about the services that people value and rely on with the unfair cuts being imposed by central Government.

Hilary Wainwright writes for CLASS and argues that “we are facing government policies of such inhumanity that if they are allowed to be carried through, we will look back in years to come with deep horror and shame. From the attacks on disability benefits to the bedroom tax, these measures return us to the kind of society where poverty was blamed on the poor and gross inequality was accepted as an economic inevitability.”

The Myths of Welfare has just been released and as Wainwright argues, “it exposes the tall tales used to disguise the ideological dogma of government attempts to replace our welfare state with US-style residual ‘relief’  for the poor”… it is well worth a read and provides hard alternatives to the war on welfare that Cameron dictates.

Birmingham, as a result of Cameron’s welfare reforms are facing a total annual impact of £419m with the total annual impact on each working age adult being £607. Social housing tenants in Birmingham face cuts to housing allowances totalling £10.15m, reductions in tax credits of £92m, in disability benefits of £30m and to incapacity benefit of a whopping £92m.

We are not all in this together and never forget it.

Ed at the People’s Policy Forum in Brum

Watch Ed Miliband’s full speech to the People’s Policy Forum in Birmingham. To join the debate at http://www.yourbritain.org.uk