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Bridget_Philipson_MP_outside_sunderland_Magistrates_Court_web.jpgAfter years of campaigning for a new Sunderland Centre for Justice, Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, and Julie Elliott, Labour Member of Parliament for Sunderland Central, have secured a pledge from Courts and Justice Minister Sir Oliver Heald that the Ministry of Justice is ‘actively working on the issue and will have a clear direction by the end of March next year’.

The Minister issued the pledge during a meeting with the two Sunderland MPs on 29 November 2016 – a meeting that only took place thanks to the dogged campaigning by Ms Phillipson. Over the last six years, Bridget has tabled over 30 written and oral parliamentary questions on the courts rebuild to the Ministry of Justice.[1] After years of deflection from successive ministers, Justice Secretary Liz Truss finally promised Bridget a meeting with the Courts Minister during Justice Questions on 1 November 2016.[2] Despite this, Ms Phillipson was forced to table a further written parliamentary question to press the Ministry to make the necessary arrangements.[3] 

Bridget and Julie have been campaigning on this issue since the Houghton Magistrates Court was closed in 2011 on the understanding that a new modern courts complex was to be built in Sunderland. Despite spending £2million of taxpayer money buying land and drawing up plans for a new Sunderland Centre for Justice at Farringdon Row, to date no decision has yet been taken on the rebuild. 

Constituents in Houghton and Sunderland South and Sunderland Central currently only have access to the crumbling Sunderland Magistrates Court, which is over 100 years old and no longer fit for purpose.

Speaking after the meeting with Sir Oliver Heald on 29 November 2016, Bridget Phillipson MP said:

“I am delighted that progress is finally being made on the new Sunderland Centre for Justice after so much delay. The Courts Minister confirmed to Julie Elliott MP and I that his Department is actively working on this issue and will have a clear direction by the end of March 2017.

“I know that many people in my constituency and the Sunderland area will be pleased to hear the government issue this timetable commitment. The current court facilities in the city are simply not fit for either crime victims or court staff.

“The people of Sunderland deserve better, which is why Julie Elliott and I have campaigned so hard over the last six years for the new courts complex that we so desperately need.

“I hope that the Ministry of Justice will now make a swift decision on the rebuild before the March deadline.

“However, constituents should be assured that we will continue to campaign on this issue to ensure that the government does not try to dodge or delay this decision again. 


[1] List of Parliamentary Questions tabled by Bridget Phillipson MP on Sunderland courts, 2010-2015

[2] Bridget Phillipson MP to Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, Hansard, House of Commons, Volume 616, Justice Questions – Topical Questions, 1 November 2016. 

[3] Hansard, House of Commons, ‘Courts: Sunderland: Written Question – 53242’, answered on 21 November 2016.

[4] 'Government decision on Sunderland Court Complex to be made by end of March', Sunderland Echo, 1 December 2016.

Sunderland MPs secure timetable commitment from government on courts rebuild

After years of campaigning for a new Sunderland Centre for Justice, Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, and Julie Elliott, Labour Member of Parliament for...

Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, has reacted with alarm to the publication of a new report by the End Child Poverty Coalition showing that almost a third of children in the north east are living in poverty. According to the Coalition – a group of charities, faith groups and unions – there are now more than 3.5million children living in such conditions across the UK.[1]

Whilst child poverty exists in every part of the country, the north east suffers from particularly high levels, including 29% of children in Sunderland, 33% in Newcastle, and 37% in Middlesbrough.[2] The figures for Bridget’s constituency of Houghton and Sunderland South were only marginally better, with over a third of children in Sandhill ward living in poverty after housing costs were taken into account. Overall, more than 5,000 children in her constituency are classed as in poverty according to the methodology applied by the End Child Poverty Coalition.[3]

In February 2016, the Institute for Fiscal Studies published projections showing that child poverty will rise from 2.3m (2011-12) to 3.6m by 2020 on the statutory Before Housing Costs measure.[4] The End Child Poverty Coalition is warning that if the benefits freeze remains in place until the end of the decade, low income families will find it increasingly hard to pay for the same basic essentials as prices rise. At the same time, recent cuts to in-work support under Universal Credit will further penalise low income working families – pushing more working families below the poverty line.

End Child Poverty is calling on the Government to end the freeze on children’s benefits and to reverse the sharp cuts being introduced to in-work benefits under Universal Credit.

Reacting to the publication of the figures, Bridget Phillipson said:
“This new report by End Child Poverty Coalition makes deeply worrying reading.

“I am alarmed by figures showing that almost one in three children in the north east are currently living in poverty, including thousands in my constituency of Houghton and Sunderland South.

“This is clearly a growing problem in the region, particularly in its three biggest cities.

“The reforms to the benefits system introduced by the Conservatives over the last six years, including the freeze on benefits, cuts to the work allowance and the replacement of tax credits with Universal Credit, have had a very damaging impact upon levels child poverty across the country.

“Despite confirmation from the Office for Budget Responsibility last month that people will be worse off on Universal Credit than on tax credits, the government is still pressing ahead with the roll-out of this failed scheme.[5]

“That is why I support calls by the End Child Poverty Coalition for the Chancellor to reverse his predecessor’s cuts to the benefit system and take action on child poverty.”

Chair of End Child Poverty Sam Royston said:
“As the Prime Minister has rightly recognised, this is not a country that works for everyone. In every community, there are children being denied the happy childhoods and the good start in life other children take for granted. Our children are now twice as likely to be poor as our pensioners.

“Many families who are just about managing today, won’t be managing tomorrow if Universal Credit leaves them with fewer pounds in their pocket, and if rising costs of living means their money doesn’t stretch as far as it used to.

“We urge the Chancellor to reverse the significant cuts to Universal Credit targeted at working families and, at the very least, shield children’s benefits from inflation.”


[1] The End Child Poverty Coalition is made up of nearly 100 organisations from civic society including children’s charities, child welfare organisations, social justice groups, faith groups, trade unions and others. Its national report on child poverty, which revealed that 28.5% children in the north east are living in poverty, can be found alongside an interactive map here.

[2] The figures are estimates of child poverty in different areas, calculated using HMRC data and the Labour Force Survey. These estimates aren’t directly comparable with the 'households below average income' figure of 3.9 million children in poverty in the UK, due to different methodologies and rounding. An explanatory note of how these estimates are produced is available here.

[3] The local data has been produced to correspond as closely as possible to the measure of low income used by the government in its regional and national data. However, direct comparisons between the two data sets should not be made.

[4] IFS projections for child poverty can be found here (table B.2). 

[5] See page 26 of the Office for Budget Responsibility's October 2016 Welfare Trends Report.

Bridget Phillipson MP alarmed by new child poverty figures in north east

Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, has reacted with alarm to the publication of a new report by the End Child Poverty Coalition showing that...

Bridget_Phillipson_MP_Westminster_Hall_debate_transport_in_the_north_east_23_Nov_2016_17.28.42.pngOn 23 November 2016, Bridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, held a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament to press for a fairer funding deal for transport in the north east.[1]

Bridget opened the well-attended debate by emphasizing the large discrepancy in investment funding from central government for transport in the region.

Government figures show that central spending on transport in the region has dropped by almost 20% over the last decade, with the result that the north east accounted for only 2.8% of overall UK spend last year.[2] This means that while London receives £1,900 a head of population for transport projects, the north east only receives £300.[3]

With almost one in three people in Houghton and Sunderland South entirely reliant on local bus services to get around,[4] Bridget called upon the government to accept House of Lords amendments to the Bus Services Bill that will allow non-mayoral transport authorities such as Nexus in the north east to introduce London-style franchising of bus services. This would enable Nexus to integrate fares and routes so that taxpayer subsidies for buses are used to improve services instead of to increase operating profits.

She also pressed the government to allocate Nexus the funding necessary to upgrade the Tyne and Wear Metro, which has suffered from growing reliability and performance issues in recent months due to its ageing fleet, and to extend Metro-style services across Wearside, including to Doxford International Business Park, and to other parts of the north east.

Responding for the government, Andrew Jones, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, made no specific comment on the House of Lords amendments to the Bus Services Bill, raising hopes that transport authorities like Nexus will be allowed to apply for bus franchising powers from the Transport Secretary.

However, the minister refused to indicate when his Department would make a decision on the business case put forward by Nexus for the expansion and extension of the Metro, even though Nexus needs an urgent decision if it is to meet its investment targets.

Speaking after the debate, Bridget Phillipson MP said:

“I was delighted that so many colleagues from the north east attended my Westminster Hall debate and joined me in pressing the government for a fairer funding deal for our region on transport, a better bus service for Tyne and Wear, and for greater investment in the Metro and regional roads and rail.

“I am particularly concerned about the state of local bus services in our region. Over the past six years, thousands of local people have contacted me to express their deep dissatisfaction about the cost of fares and the level of service being provided by private bus companies.

“That’s why I asked the Transport Minister to accept House of Lords amendments to the Buses Bill, which will allow transport authorities like Nexus to introduce franchising of bus services and put passengers ahead of profits.

“This debate was not about asking for special treatment for the north east. Big ticket projects such as HS2 demonstrate that significant money is available from Whitehall for transport projects.

“Yet despite the soaring rhetoric of the government’s so-called Northern Powerhouse initiative, just £573million was spent on transport across the whole north east last year. When you compare that figure to the £27-£32 billion that has been earmarked for Crossrail 2 in London alone, it’s clear our region is getting a raw deal.

“This is deeply unfair. If the Government is as serious about rebalancing the UK economy away from London as it claims, ministers need to act now and give the north east the funding it needs.”

### ENDS ###


[1] To read a transcript of the debate, click here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-11-23/debates/8FA6A85F-6A0F-4359-B8A8-98EE4F777C12/TransportNorth-East

To watch the debate, click here: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/8e5dbcce-f5a1-478a-9b96-199bd2dd4db1?in=16:26:07&out=17:29:57

[2] Source: HM Treasury statistics on transport spending by region: http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CDP-2016-0216

[3] Source: http://www.ippr.org/news-and-media/press-releases/transport-secretary-urged-to-close-1-600-per-person-london-north-spending-gap

[4] Source: Department for Transport statistics on household car ownership by region and Rural-Urban Classification: England, 2002/03 and 2014/15: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/550726/nts9902.xls

*For more information please email bridget.phillipson.mp@parliament.uk

Bridget Phillipson MP holds debate in Parliament to call for more transport funding for the north east

On 23 November 2016, Bridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, held a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament to press for a fairer funding deal for transport...

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