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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...

Bridget_Phillipson_MP_meeting_with_school_nurses_14_July_2017.JPGOn Friday 13th July, Bridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South met School Nurse Week campaigners at her constituency office in Houghton-le-Spring to offer her support for the campaign and to discuss the vital role school nurses play in helping pupils to lead a healthy life from early years.

School Nurse Week (10th-14th July) is organised by the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA) section of the Unite trade union. Campaigners aim to raise the awareness of the importance of school nurses’ work in bridging the gap between education, health and home for better health outcomes, and to promote the idea of “Healthy Schools”.

Commenting on the meeting, Bridget Phillipson MP said:

“I fully support the School Nurse Week campaign and I'm grateful to the school nurses from our area who are raising public awareness of how integral their work is to the overall health and wellbeing of children and young people. This morning, I met Rachel Allen and Victoria Gray, discussing their work as school nurses.

“Despite their crucial role in improving health outcomes for pupils, school nurses are often overlooked in debates on education or health. Under the current climate of ever deepening budget cuts to local authorities and the NHS, school nurses are increasingly stretched.

“School nurses are trained to have the skills to safeguard pupil’s wellbeing, support pupils with medical conditions, and promote healthy lifestyles. It would be damaging for the public health of our country if children and their families don't receive the support they need.

“I'm behind the campaign and I hope more school nurses’ voices can be heard.”

###ENDS###

Bridget Phillipson MP: School nurses are integral to pupils’ health and wellbeing

On Friday 13th July, Bridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South met School Nurse Week campaigners at her constituency office in Houghton-le-Spring to offer her support for...


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