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This week I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, in doing so pledging my commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people today.

Saturday 27th January will mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

Local Events

In the lead up to and on Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. The theme for this year’s commemorations is ‘The power of words’.

Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people from Sheffield and across the country to reflect on the tragic events of the Holocaust. Sheffield will hold a commemoration on Thursday 25th January, 5 30-7pm in the Winter Gardens.

As the Holocaust moves from living history, to just history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the victims and also pay tribute to the survivors. I would encourage my constituents to show their support for such an important day.”

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I hope you are well. As usual, I am resuming my e-newsletters to you with updates about the work I am doing in the constituency and in Westminster to represent my constituents of Brightside and Hillsborough.

As always, I continue to hold regular surgeries to hear about constituency matters affecting you and if you have any issues you would like to bring to my attention please do not hesitate to email me at gill.furniss.mp@parliament.uk.

 

Carillion’s Collapse: a badge of the Government’s failed ideology.  

This week saw the shocking collapse of Carillion, one of the biggest services company in the UK.

It has been clear for months that Carillion has been in difficulty but the Government continued to hand over contracts to the company even after profits warnings were issued.

Labour calls on the Government to bring these crucial public sector contracts back in-house in order to protect Carillion’s 20,000 employees, supply chain companies, pension holders and British taxpayers.

Read Shadow Business Minister, Rebecca Long Bailey’s piece on Corrillians collapse:  https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2018/01/carillion-issued-3-profit-warnings-so-why-was-it-still-getting-government

Carillion has a base in Sheffield employing some 250 people, so I understand some of you may be directly affected by their collapse. I asked the Cabinet Office Minister a question in the House of Commons relating to these jobs. Whilst I was given some assurance that in the short term this office would remain as it is, unfortunately, there was no such reassurance for the long-term of the Sheffield office.

There is a website set up to provide information for anyone affected – see http://www.pwc.co.uk/carillion  and a dedicated helpline – 0800 063 9282.

Please call The Pension Advisory Service (TPAS) on 0300 123 1047 for free and impartial guidance if you are worried the Corillian collapse will affect your pension.

 

NHS Winter Crisis

This winter has seen one of the worst NHS crises’ on record.

More than 75,000 patients, including many elderly and frail, were stuck in the back of ambulances for over 30 minutes in the winter cold this December and January. A&Es were forced to turn patients away 150 times, elective operations have been cancelled until mid-January, and sanctions on mixed sex wards have been suspended.

Despite the best efforts of all NHS staff working flat out at what is an extremely difficult time, the Government continues to starve the NHS of resources: district nurses have been cut; walk-in centres have been closed; 15,000 beds have been cut; and the NHS remains understaffed and overstretched.

I believe the Government is entirely out of touch with the reality of the NHS winter crisis. Many hospitals have reported 100% bed occupancy rates, yet on Monday the Government said that there were “seats to sit on” if beds were not available. Placing sick patients in chairs because of acute bed shortages is clearly not acceptable, yet hospitals cannot cope and are being forced into these intolerable situations.

With 100,000 vacancies across the NHS, alongside the biggest financial squeeze in its history, patients are paying the price for Ministers’ neglect of the NHS this winter. As the NHS enters its 70th year, the Government must explain why it has allowed underfunding and cuts to health and social care to continue.

End Car Parking Charges

Vulnerable patients and hardworking staff should not have to top up hospitals to make up for Tory underfunding in our NHS. This week, I raised the issue of NHS car parking charges, urging the Government to properly fund the NHS so that patients and staff don’t have to top up the gap in NHS funding.

Read the full article here: https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/sheffield-mps-call-for-free-hospital-parking-in-row-over-charges-1-8948023

Holocaust Memorial Day

This week I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, in doing so pledging my commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people today.

Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people from Brightside and Hillsborough and across the country to reflect on the tragic events of the Holocaust. As the Holocaust moves from living history, to just history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the victims and also pay tribute to the survivors. I would encourage my constituents to show their support for such an important day.

Steel

Last week, the Taxation (Cross Border Trade Bill) made it’s way through its Second Reading in Parliament. However, the Bill offers no protection to our steel industry against Chinese dumping which was at the heart of the steel crisis which shook the sector only a few year ago. We will keep pressing the Government to ensure that effective trade defences are in place post-Brexit to protect our steel industry from aggressive steel dumping.

In other steel related news, last week there was an incident at Scunthorpe steelworks. I spoke to trade union officials who reassured me that there were no injuries or great damage – but I was reminded by the often dangerous conditions our steelworkers can find themselves in.
For further details, http://www.scunthorpetelegraph.co.uk/news/scunthorpe-news/emergency-services-called-incident-scunthorpe-1039235#ICID=sharebar_twitter

 

WE ARE LIONS-play about the Grunwick Dispute at the Lantern Theatre.

 

You can see all information here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/FEFKKK

 

In the news…
We’ve had very worrying news about the NHS Winter Crisis and Doctors are saying that we have people dying in hospital corridors.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/11/nhs-patients-dying-in-hospital-corridors-doctors-tell-theresa-may
Locally, thousands of Sheffield children could lose access to Free School meals due to Universal credit.
https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/thousands-of-sheffield-children-could-miss-out-on-free-school-meals-1-8941746
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Happy New Year to all my constituents and I hope you have had a good break. My office will be open again to deal with all your casework queries from next Monday, 8th of January. However, you can always get in touch at any point here.

2018 will be a difficult year for our country and City but I will keep working hard for you both here and at Westminster to achieve an economy that works for ordinary people and fight for an outcome in the Brexit negotiations that protects jobs and workers’ rights.

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Today is Postal Workers Day when we thank our local posties for their hard work and dedication in collecting, sorting and delivering post during the busiest period of the year.

Under the Tories, our Posties have faced worsening pay and conditions. Over the past four years, the Post Office has been implementing a series of significant cost-cutting measures with closures, franchising, job losses and cuts to staff terms and conditions.

Meanwhile, there is an ongoing dispute going on between the Royal Mail and CWU Postal Workers who are fighting for better pay and conditions. Indeed, since the privatisation of the Royal Mail in 2013, 12,000 jobs have been lost, a fifth of its mail centres have closed and over 50 of its delivery offices have shut with more due to follow. Meanwhile, they have paid some £700m in dividend to its private shareholders.

Labour will always back our posties. We will halt the managed decline overseen by the Tories and stop the cuts of our Post Offices in our towns and cities. We will also renationalise the Royal Mail, which was sold at below market price by the Tories in 2013, so that profits are put back into the business again to the benefit of workers and consumers, not private shareholders.’’

I have written an article about Postal Workers Day for the Huffington Post. You can read it here.

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I visited Margetson Post Office in Parson Cross today to meet the sub-postmaster and her staff in the run-up to Christmas. Margetson is a fantastic Post Office and well worth visiting not only for postal services but a great selection of cards, gifts and even shoes!

I used to use the Post Office regularly when I worked around the corner and it was great to see staff that used to serve me in a bright vibrant new space.

I also talked to the staff about the basic banking services they offer and how customers found these very valuable. Labour are committed to exploring a Post Office bank to give everyone local access to a full range of services.

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I received no answer from Minister George Eustice MP on whether the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has undertaken an impact assessment of Brexit on food prices and whether the Government will release any such report. It is an astounding that there is lack of clarity on such crucial issues that will affect my constituents in Brightside & Hillsborough.

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YEMEN

On Monday, the Minister for the Middle East made a statement on the
humanitarian and political situation in Yemen, and the implications of the
conflict there for regional security.

Twenty-one million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance and seven million are one step away from famine. Yemen imports 90% of its food andthree quarters of that comes via the ports at Hodeidah and Salif.

Following an attempted missile attack on the Saudi capital Riyadh by Houthi rebels on 4 November, the Saudi-led coalition temporarily closed Yemen’s ports. This was to strengthen the UN-mandated arms embargo amid reports that Iran has provided the Houthis with ballistic missiles.

I unequivocally condemn the missile firing and understand the Saudis’ anger over it.  However, the strengthened blockade risks making an already dire humanitarian situation even worse, as supplies of food,medicine and other humanitarian goods have ground to a halt. Water and sewerage systems in major cities have also stopped operating because of a lack of fuel.

The Minister expressed deep concern about the situation in Yemen and called on all parties to ensure immediate access for commercial and humanitarian supplies through land, air andsea ports. However, as the crisis in Yemen keeps getting worse, I believe we need urgent action, rather than yet more good intentions from the Government.

In my view, if the Government cannot show its influence with the Saudis by persuading them that ports should be opened up to humanitarian supplies then it is time for a change of approach. I believe it should suspend the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, pending the outcome of an independent, international UN-led investigation of potential violations of international humanitarian law on both sides of the conflict. The Government should be taking appropriate action to bring this conflict to a peaceful, negotiated resolution.

BUDGET 2017: a Tory Government out of touch with reality 

Wednesday’s Budget offered nothing to tackle the issues that matter most to people in Brightside and Hillsborough.
Crucially, there was no increase in spending for our vital public services. The Chancellor provided no extra funding for mental health services facing higher demands; no mention of how to cope with the social care crisis; and not a word about helping our struggling police services which since 2010 has seen a 36% cut in funding in South Yorkshire.

With our NHS struggling to cope in the coming winter months, the Budget did not provide near enough the levels of funding so that our NHS has the resources it needs to provide an excellent service within the waiting time targets. NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens has said £4bn is necessary immediately to sustain the levels of demand – yesterday’s announcement did not come close to this.

While the Chancellor cracked jokes with his fellow Tories, the Budget was unraveling the dire reality about the state of our economy: lower projected growth, faltering productivity, lower wages and rising debts. This is the record of Tory austerity.

There was a lack of energy and real direction in this Budget. It is clear only a Labour Government will provide the investment needed to support our public sector and get our economy growing sufficiently.

The Chancellor has not done near enough to stop the misery that the current rollout of Universal Credit is causing.

The Government are still offering a desperate choice to those moving on to Universal Credit– wait 5 weeks to receive support or take a Government loan, going further into debt to make ends meet.

Labour is calling on the Government to pause and fix UC. In particular, we are calling on the Government to:

i.          Reduce the six-week wait for payment, so that it lines up with the way people are paid, with all applicants to receive fortnightly payments if they so choose.

ii.         Ensure everyone has the opportunity to have their rent paid directly to the landlord, to stop the spate of pre-emptive eviction notices that we are now seeing.

iii.        Allow households to have split payments instead of just one going predominantly to the male, so setting back women’s financial autonomy.

iv.        Change the monthly assessment for self-employed workers to a yearly one, to account for volatile working patterns.

v.         Restore the work allowances slashed from UC in 2015.. Hammond should also end the freeze in social security payments, and ensure all children are supported through UC, not just the first two.

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Today’s Budget offered nothing to tackle the issues that matter most to people in Brightside and Hillsborough. There was no increase in spending for mental health services facing higher demands; no mention of how to cope with the social care crisis; and not a word about helping our struggling police services which since 2010 has seen a 36% cut in funding in South Yorkshire.

With our NHS struggling to cope in the coming winter months, today’s Budget did not provide near enough the levels of funding so that our NHS has the resources it needs to provide an excellent service within the waiting time targets.

 

The Budget was clear however about the state of our economy: lower projected growth, faltering productivity, lower wages and rising debts. This is the record of Tory austerity.

Overall, I am disappointed by the lack of energy and direction of this Budget. It is clear only a Labour Government will provide the investment needed to support our public sector and get our economy growing sufficiently.

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