Parliament returned from Recess at the beginning of September, following international instability and disturbing scenes in Syria and Northern Iraq. Events may be taking place hundreds of miles away, but we cannot pretend it is none of our business when so many British citizens are being drawn in. More must be done to stop the escalation of the conflict abroad, but also keep our country safe.
Bedroom tax vote
The bedroom tax has caused hardship and pain for so many families across Wearside. That's why last week I voted to support a Private Member's Bill that would be the first step towards scrapping it. An estimated 660,000 people across the country are worse off by on average £728 per year. Two thirds of those affected are disabled. The vast majority of those hit by the bedroom tax don't have the option of moving to smaller accommodation and are left in an impossible situation. In Parliament, we have consistently opposed the measure and called on the government to look at the facts and think again. It's unusual to find myself on the winning side of a vote in Parliament, but this time it happened and the Private Member's Bill will continue on its parliamentary journey. Whilst this vote will not abolish the bedroom tax, as I believe must happen, it is still a step in the right direction.
Ever since local magistrates first came to me with their concerns, I have been campaigning with Julie Elliott MP to urge the Ministry of Justice to press ahead with the long-promised new courts complex in Sunderland. Victims of crime, those who work in the justice system and our community as a whole deserve a building and facilities fit for the 21st century. When Houghton magistrates court closed, we were again promised the development of a Sunderland Centre for Justice. The Ministry of Justice has already spent nearly £2million preparing the scheme and buying the land. This week in the Commons, I asked the Minister to come and see for himself the state of the existing buildings but also so he could fully appreciate the impact that the new courts would have in the city centre. Unfortunately, the Minister refused to accept this invitation but I'll be keeping up the pressure on the government to take the right decision.
Future for Fairy Street
Last year, the Council agreed to carry out a feasibility study into the condition of Fairy Street and the surrounding area. Residents had been in touch with me about the condition of many of the properties, anti-social behaviour and fact that the situation was continuing to get worse. I'm pleased that by working together with residents, we have secured a package of measures to improve the area and I'm hopeful that local people will see changes.