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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.

Bridget_Philipson_MP_outside_sunderland_Magistrates_Court_web.jpgBridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, has challenged the Courts Minister to explain to the people of Sunderland why the city’s dilapidated magistrates court is the best they should expect from the Tory Government.

At Justice Questions on 31 October 2017, Bridget outlined the poor state of the existing buildings at Sunderland Magistrates Court, and called upon the minister to visit Sunderland to explain the government’s failure to replace them. The minister dodged the request and made no indication that work on a new courts estate would get the green light any time soon.

Bridget and her Labour colleague Julie Elliott, Member of Parliament for Sunderland Central, have been campaigning for a new Sunderland Centre for Justice since Houghton Magistrates Court was closed in 2011 on the understanding that a modern courts complex was to be built in the city.

After meeting with Mr Raab earlier this month, Ms Phillipson and Ms Elliott received a letter on 21 October in which the minister confirmed that no decision had been taken on whether to incorporate a court estate into the proposed Public Sector Hub on the new Vaux site.

The minister instead indicated that HM Courts & Tribunals Service will commence work to refurbish the existing court buildings in an attempt to bring them up to modern security, safety and accessibility standards.

This means more money will be spent on a building that is over one hundred years old, has very poor accessibility, and is constructed in a way that means plaintiffs have to walk past defendants on the way into the courtroom.

To date £2million of taxpayer money has already been spent buying land and drawing up plans, with this latest delay likely to incur further costs to the public purse.

Speaking after Justice Questions, Bridget said:

“After seven years of dither and delay over the future of the crumbling Sunderland Magistrates Court, today I asked the Courts Minister to explain to the people of Sunderland why they don’t deserve better from the Ministry of Justice. 

“It’s simply not right that local people have to rely on a court that is over a century old, has very poor accessibility, and is inadequate for both victims and staff alike.

“Dominic Raab is the fifth minister with whom I have raised this issue in seven years. Like his predecessors, he has dodged every opportunity to demonstrate that the government is serious about building a new Centre for Justice in our city.

“In fact, the letter he sent to my colleague Julie Elliott and I last week suggests that this project has been ditched altogether, even though millions have already been spent on plans for the site.

“I know local people will be disappointed with this news, but I want to assure them that we will not give up and will keep fighting for a courts complex fit for the twenty-first century.”

Julie Elliott MP said:

“Bridget and I have been campaigning for a new court in Sunderland for the last seven years, but we have been thwarted at every turn by a government that clearly doesn’t care about improving access to justice in our city.

“It simply beggars belief that the current Courts Minister wants to waste more money on patching up the existing court buildings rather than starting work on a new purpose-built Centre for Justice.

“The government has already wasted millions on drawing up plans and buying land for that purpose. After years of ducking our questions over the future of the site, it now seems to be abandoning that option altogether.

“The people of Sunderland deserve better than this, which is why I echo Bridget’s call for the minister to come to our city and explain the government’s failure in person.

“I am very disappointed that the minister declined the offer and made no indication that Sunderland will ever get the new court buildings we were promised.

“It’s just another example of how this Tory government is failing our city and the wider region.”

Click here to read Bridget's question in Hansard, or here to watch on Parliament Live TV.

To read the letter from Dominic Raab MP to Bridget Phillipson MP and Julie Elliott MP, follow this link.

Bridget Phillipson MP challenges Courts Minister to visit Sunderland as courts row rumbles on

Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, has challenged the Courts Minister to explain to the people of Sunderland why the city’s dilapidated magistrates court is...


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