The recent announcement of hundreds of job losses at Pilkington Cowley’s and Sperryn’s show that if there is a recovery happening, it certainly isn’t happening in St Helens South and Whiston. Where there are jobs being created, all too often they are insecure jobs on zero hours contracts and low pay or for part-time hours when full-time jobs are needed.
As council leader I helped to bring thousands of jobs to the area. Building on that experience, I will work across Whitehall, Westminster and within our Party to push for the development of a new industrial strategy and a plan to revitalise manufacturing. We need to get back to what we do best – making and producing. Such a strategy would create well paid jobs and training opportunities too.
Thousands of people and families are on housing waiting lists in our area. It should be a basic right for everyone to have a safe, decent roof over their heads - such a measure would help the economy, educational attainment and decrease rough sleeping and anti-social behaviour.
We have to be honest that successive governments have failed in this area. I want Labour to commit to a national house building programme that should start from the day we take office but I also want a Labour government to give councils the power to build houses for our own communities again.
We have some fantastic new hospital facilities in St Helens and Whiston, a product of years of work and Labour investment but now this government are set to sell our NHS to the highest bidder. I oppose the privatisation of any part of our NHS – when profit margin becomes a concern in our public service, something has to give. It’s not usually the profits.
I’m proud that Labour has committed to reversing the Health and Social Care Act but I want to see us go further.
No one should fear their old age. A National Care Service that runs alongside our NHS would be the biggest change in our society for a generation. No one should have to sell their homes to pay for old age and working families shouldn’t be pushed to breaking point by caring for their kids and their parents at the same time.
Over 5,000 young people across St Helens and Knowsley received Education Maintenance Allowance until the government scrapped the scheme entirely. 50,000 fewer young people nationally applied to higher education last year as the reality of £9,000 per year tuition fees sets in. And youth unemployment stands at almost 1 million with those who can’t find jobs being told to work for free or lose their benefits. I see now exactly what we saw here in the 1980s. Labour must have a concrete plan to help young people realise their potential and build the sort of future we would want them to have.
That means investing in education. We need high quality education from Sure Start to university – a good school for every community, further and higher education opportunities that aren’t restricted by your bank balance and vocational education that matches university in prestige, pay and life chances.
Most people I know don’t want the earth. They want a job that means they don’t struggle to get by and provides a decent standard of living for their families. They want their kids to do better than they’ve done and to be safe, happy and secure.
Labour can and must be the Party that delivers this.
We must make childcare affordable so families don’t have to make the calculation as to whether they are better off in work or out.
Public utility companies who rip-off consumers for shareholder profits must be held accountable – water, energy and transport are all essential, yet people are plunged into poverty by ever rising prices.
We spend billions of taxpayer money every year on tax credits – that’s subsidising global companies who can afford to pay a living wage but instead choose poverty pay. We should end corporate welfare and make sure a fair day’s work means a fair day’s pay.
Private landlords make billions each year and don’t always provide housing that is safe or decent. Building affordable homes is a better use of public money than paying rising private rents – especially when some of those landlords built their empires on Right to Buy.