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Bridget_Phillipson_MP_Inspector_Tony_Carty_Coffee_Morning_15-09-2017.jpegOn Friday 15 September 2017, Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, held the latest in her series of constituency coffee mornings at Grindon Church Community Project.

Bridget was joined on this occasion by the Northumbria Police Neighbourhood Inspector for Sunderland South and West, Inspector Tony Carty, who updated local residents on the work that the police are doing to fight crime and anti-social behaviour in the Grindon area.

Inspector Carty also briefed residents on the impact that funding cuts have had on local policing. Northumbria Police have had funding cuts of 23% since 2010, the highest level 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 damaging cuts, Inspector Carty reassured those present that the police are doing all they can to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in the local area. He explained that recent changes in how crimes are recorded has meant that all low-level public order offences are now classed as crimes. However, burglaries and thefts in Grindon remain at a low level, as does vehicle crime.

As far as anti-social behaviour is concerned, the biggest problems remains motorbike disorder. Inspector Carty urged local residents to report such disorder as soon as they saw it so that action can be taken. That particular issue aside, youth anti-social behaviour in the Grindon area is under control.

The remainder of the event was dedicated to discussing other local issues and Bridget’s work in Parliament, including recent votes on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and general Labour Party policy.

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. The next coffee morning will be held at the Hetton Centre at 10.30am on Friday 10 November 2017.

Bridget Phillipson MP holds coffee morning in Grindon

On Friday 15 September 2017, Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, held the latest in her series of constituency coffee mornings at Grindon Church Community...

Bridget_Phillipson_-_Member_of_Parliament_for_Houghton_and_Sunderland_So....jpgIn last month’s column, I highlighted the hypocrisy of a Prime Minister who claimed there was no magic money tree for our vital public services but suddenly discovered an extra billion pounds for Northern Ireland to keep her in Downing Street. The cynical Tory-DUP deal revealed the sham of austerity: there is money available if the government wants to spend it.


Public spending is all about priorities, and it’s clear that this government has got them all wrong. Extra funding for cash-strapped public services is always welcome – whether in Northern Ireland or anywhere else in the UK – but resources should be allocated on need, not political expediency.

This week brought further evidence that ministers are making up their spending plans as they go along, when Education Secretary Justine Greening announced that schools in England would receive an additional £1.3 billion in funding over the next two years.

Nobody was fooled by this poorly-disguised attempt to head off a backbench rebellion over the unfair changes to the new national funding formula, which would have imposed a per-pupil funding cut on 93% of schools in England and every school in our area.

The Education Secretary attempted to present this as new money, but it will actually come from other parts of the education budget – including from capital funding used to invest in crumbling schools.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul is never a sensible policy strategy, and it’s hard to see where some of the proposed savings will come from after so many years of austerity.

As someone who campaigned for years to get Hetton School rebuilt, I fail to see how cutting more money from the capital budget for schools buildings and repairs can be a good idea – especially given recent fears over fire safety in schools following the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Even with this additional funding, schools will still struggle to make the £3 billion in efficiency savings that the National Audit Office estimates are required by 2019-20 to absorb growing pupil numbers and increased cost pressures from wages, pensions and National Insurance contributions.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies is also clear that school budgets will have declined in real terms by 4.6% between 2015 and 2020 regardless of this announcement, so it’s no wonder that headteachers are begging for extra cash, cutting vital teaching support staff and dropping subjects.

Despite the recent general election result, the Tories clearly still haven’t learnt that parents have had enough of cuts to schools and the services that support them. It’s high time the government changed course and recognised the importance of education in giving our children the best possible start in life.

This article was first published in the Sunderland Echo on 20 July 2017. You can read the original version here.

Bridget Phillipson MP: Government fooling no one with latest announcement on schools funding

In last month’s column, I highlighted the hypocrisy of a Prime Minister who claimed there was no magic money tree for our vital public services but suddenly discovered an extra...

Bridget_Phillipson_MP_visiting_Lakeside_towers_with_Gentoo_14_July_2017_web.pngOn Friday 14 July 2017, Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, visited Lakeside Towers to discuss fire safety with members of the Lakeside Residents Association (LRA) following the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in London last month.

Bridget met with Ozzie Braithwaite, Chair of the LRA and local residents to discuss the measures that housing association Gentoo have taken since the fire to ensure the Lakeside Towers are safe for residents. She was accompanied by staff members from Gentoo and Chris Lane, a Station Manager in Sunderland from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

The residents expressed their thanks for the support and reassurance that they have received from Gentoo since the fire at Grenfell Tower. Bridget also witnessed a demonstration of the fire alarm system in Aberdeen Tower to understand the robust processes and procedures that Gentoo have in place to protect their buildings from the risk of fire.

All fire alarms in Gentoo’s traditional high-rise blocks are linked to its concierge service and to Sunderland City Council’s Alarm Receiving Centre. The concierge has full remote access to fire alarm systems in all blocks, which enables them to clearly identify the source of an alarm. The concierge has 90 seconds to communicate with the resident to identify the cause of the alarm. After 90 seconds, the activation is automatically related to Sunderland City Council’s Alarm Receiving Centre, which then automatically notifies TWFRS.

In the event of a fire alarm activation, all doors on the entry system unlock, allowing access for firefighters and evacuating residents. Fire alarms are located in individual dwellings and communal areas and are tested regularly. Gentoo and TWFRS also carry out fire risk assessment checks on each high-rise building once a year.

Gentoo manage 23 high-rise tower blocks, of which 20 have some form of cladding and insulation. Last month, CEO John Craggs assured residents that none of the high-rise blocks owned by Gentoo have the same cladding and insulation as appears to have been on Grenfell Tower. He also confirmed that the contractors and sub-contractors referred to in the tragedy have not been used within Gentoo.

However, following testing by the Building Research Establishment on samples of cladding panels, Gentoo took the precaution of removing cladding from five high-rise blocks in the St Peter’s area of Sunderland. None of the Lakeside Towers buildings were affected.

Speaking after the visit, Bridget Phillipson MP said:

“It was very helpful to visit the towers at Lakeside today to speak to residents face to face and hear their concerns about fire safety following the dreadful blaze at Grenfell Tower last month.

“I was pleased that they felt so reassured by the help and support that Gentoo and Tyne and Wear Fire Rescue Service have offered since the fire.

“I was also very impressed to witness the fire alarm system in one of the towers first hand. It’s clear that Gentoo have robust procedures in place to mitigate against the risk of fire, and that staff are doing everything they can to make residents feel safe.

“The fire at Grenfell Tower was a national tragedy that should never happen again. We all need to learn lessons from this terrible event, and I hope that the public and police inquiries get to the root of what went wrong. 

“We certainly need to know as soon as possible whether the existing statutory and regulatory requirements on fire safety are fit for purpose.

“It may also be the case that all flats in high-rise buildings have to be fitted with sprinkler systems. 

“If so, the government should spare no expense in giving housing associations like Gentoo the resources they need to carry out this work.

“We must do everything possible to make every high-rise building in the country safe from fire.”

 

Bridget Phillipson MP visits Lakeside Towers to discuss fire safety with residents

On Friday 14 July 2017, Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, visited Lakeside Towers to discuss fire safety with members of the Lakeside Residents Association...


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