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Bridget_Phillipson_MP_Houghton_and_Sunderland_South.jpgNext week, we will see whether the Tories can match their rhetoric about building a country that works for everyone, as the Chancellor presents his Autumn Budget to Parliament. 

Given their woeful track record over the last seven years - consistently missing their own economic targets, failing to invest in our vital public services, and presiding over a recovery based on insecure jobs and stagnating wages - I for one will not be surprised to see more of the same.

This approach simply won’t do at a time when urgent action is required to kickstart our economy, and to relieve the unprecedented strain on schools, hospitals and police forces throughout the country.

I’ve argued before that Tory polices will lead to a lost economic decade in our country. Growth remains stubbornly low, while the last decade has seen wages rise at their slowest rate since the early 1800s. While the number of people out of work has decreased nationally, our region has failed to benefit in the same way, as the north east has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

I fear the government’s failure to put our economy on a sound footing will only add to the pressure.

Take the NHS – one year on from a severe winter crisis, the warning signals are flashing once again. Recent figures show waiting times for both A&E and operations are spiralling out of control. The Chief Executive of the NHS has expressed his concern that the government is massively underfunding our health service.

The outlook for schools is hardly better. The vast majority face real-terms budget cuts despite the government’s new National Funding Formula. This will do nothing to improve our children’s life chances, at a time when class sizes are ballooning and teachers are already overstretched and under-resourced.

It’s clear the Tories have lost the economic argument, and the Chancellor must use this Budget to chart a different course. We need investment in infrastructure and education, in order to drive up productivity, and to create more high-skilled, well-paid jobs.

The chaos caused by the bungling incompetence of government ministers in recent weeks clearly show they have taken their eyes off the ball. Next week’s Budget will reveal whether the Tories are in any way serious about unleashing the economic potential that exists in regions such as ours.

To read this article in the Sunderland Echo, click here

Bridget Phillipson MP: Autumn Budget must chart a different course

Next week, we will see whether the Tories can match their rhetoric about building a country that works for everyone, as the Chancellor presents his Autumn Budget to Parliament. 

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On Friday 10 November, Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, held her fourteenth constituency coffee morning at the Hetton Centre.

Bridget was joined by over fifty local residents, who were able to raise their concerns about crime and anti-social behaviour with PC Phil Dixon. Other officers in attendance, including PC Kristina Martin, and PCSOs Martyn Richardson and Stephanie Anderson, addressed some of the specific points raised by attendees.

PC Dixon updated residents on recent trends in crime and anti-social behaviour, and the action that is being taken to deal with this.

It was clear there is particular concern about motorbike disorder, and anti-social behaviour in Houghton and Hetton town centres. Officers stressed that there are steps the public can take in order to help the police catch those responsible. If someone in your neighbourhood has recently acquired a motorbike or off-road bike and you're aware it's being used improperly, you can contact the police in confidence to let them know. Officers highlighted the positive action that has been taken thanks to public assistance on this matter, with bikes involved in certain incidents being confiscated.

We also discussed the challenges presented by government cuts to frontline policing. These cuts have been more acute in the north east, as Northumbria Police has had its funding reduced more than any other police force in England and Wales. As a result, the force has cut 900 officers and 200 Police Community Support Officers over the last seven years.

Despite these pressures, all officers present stressed that the police are fully committed to tackling crime and anti-social behaviour locally, and urged residents to report disorder as soon as it occurs, so that action can be taken. This can also be done anonymously.

Other issues raised related to local planning, including the recent consultation on Sunderland City Council’s draft Core Strategy and Development Plan.

If you would like to read more on the points discussed during this coffee morning, or would be interested in attending a future event, please email Bridget at bridget.phillipson.mp@parliament.uk with your contact details.

Bridget Phillipson MP holds coffee morning in Hetton

On Friday 10 November, Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, held her fourteenth constituency coffee morning at the Hetton Centre.

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No child in 21st-century Britain should grow up in poverty. Poverty damages childhoods, damages life chances and, in turn, damages us all.

Yet the number of children living in relative poverty has risen to 4 million, and research published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) last week projects that it will rise by more than a million more by 2021–22. Every nation and region will experience this increase. Whatever happened to Theresa May’s promise to build “a country that works for everyone”?

Whilst it’s unsurprising that Brexit dominates the political agenda, ministers are showing a wilful heartlessness when it comes to poverty. Sunderland voted to leave the EU last year, but the people that I speak with on doorsteps in my constituency are more interested in talking about the immediate challenges they face in making ends meet rather than the abstract fantasies of a Tory hard Brexit.

Poverty to them is no statistical abstraction, but the lived experience of an economy that works for a few rather than for everyone. Tackling child poverty, and indeed many of the challenges our country faces, will become harder unless the government negotiates a good Brexit deal, or at least a transitional period to soften the blow. But that’s not to say that ministers are powerless to take action now, or that they can hide from their responsibility for where we are today.

Universal credit was meant to be the answer. It was supposed to help people into work, simplify the benefits system and reduce the number of children growing up in poverty. Instead, life is getting tougher for many families and universal credit is only making matters worse. So bad in fact that the Department for Work and Pensions has quietly abandoned its estimates of how many children universal credit will lift out of poverty.

That’s why at last week’s PMQs, I urged the prime minister to acknowledge the rise in child poverty and asked whether she seriously believed that universal credit would help to bring that number down. Unfortunately, it was clear from her response that she has yet to grasp the extent of the damage this system will cause in communities across the country. As it is currently constructed, universal credit will create, not cut, child poverty, yet the Conservative government seems determined to plough ahead regardless.

For decades, our shameful record on child poverty stained our country and caused lasting social and economic damage. Too many children were denied the decent start in life that they deserved. When children grow up poor, that damage is felt far beyond the family home. We all lose out through the wider costs placed on society. The huge progress that was made in tackling that injustice during the last Labour governments is being squandered, as the IFS expects child poverty rates to rise above their 1996 peak.

The IFS figures make for grim reading for anyone who cares about our children’s future and the future direction of our country. It is shocking that in one of the richest countries in the world, almost one in four children in my constituency are having their life chances blighted by avoidable poverty.

That’s why I believe we need action to tackle low pay and in-work poverty, an ambitious childcare strategy and a social security system with proper support to help parents back into work. Government can be a force for good, and government policy choices once worked to end the historic shame of child poverty in the UK. They can and must do so again.

This article first appeared in The Times Red Box on 6 November 2017. Click here to read it on The Times website (paywall).

Bridget Phillipson MP: Ministers are showing wilful heartlessness over poverty

No child in 21st-century Britain should grow up in poverty. Poverty damages childhoods, damages life chances and, in turn, damages us all.


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