Today I publish my One Nation – One Oldham East and Saddleworth top 10 priorities and details about how I intend to tackle some of the constituency’s most pressing issues.
These priorities are the culmination of months of work, including a residents’ household survey and holding several round table discussions with local organisations and community groups, which has enabled me to establish the top ten priorities people think we should be concentrating our limited resources on.
My most recent residents’ newsletter, which is being distributed over the next few weeks, will give details of my One Nation – One Oldham East and Saddleworth priorities and, most crucially, what I intend to do to keep those issues at the top of my agenda.
The subject areas covered by the priorities are; Economy and business; Employment; Health and social care; Education and training; Crime and community safety; Housing and the environment; Transport.
My One Nation – One Oldham East and Saddleworth top ten priorities are:
1. ‘Be Fair – Pay on Time’
The economy depends on our small businesses so I will continue my campaign, which was inspired by a Saddleworth constituent who told me about a very large, well known company that wasn’t paying him on time, to get large companies to do the right thing and pay small businesses on time. This is hurting SMEs locally and across the country.
I have already held a parliament inquiry to identify measures to prevent and address the issues of late payments. I’ll be publishing the inquiries recommendations in the summer and I’ll work with businesses, Government, Trades and business organisations to implement them.
2. Fair Funding for Small Businesses
Access to finance, whether for cash flow purposes or for business expansion, is probably the biggest issue facing small businesses.
I will work with Oldham Council, Oldham Business Leadership Group, Oldham Chamber and other partners to develop alternative, local funding schemes for local small businesses, including ‘funding circles’ or peer to peer lending.
3. Oldham Fairness Commission
Inequalities persist across Oldham. But many of these inequalities are not fixed or inevitable. A fairer, more equal societies benefits us all.
I will convene and chair the Oldham Fairness Commission (OFC) with partners from across the public, private and voluntary sectors which will identify and address the causes of inequalities in education, employment and income, and will define action to address these issues through our partners and beyond.
4. Time & Skills Exchange
Unemployment or underemployment is an issue for many people in the constituency, particularly young people and people without qualifications. Having no job often means money is short, but time is available. A ‘Timebank’ is a way of exchanging time and skills in one area, for example, painting and decorating, or cooking a meal for someone without any financial transaction. Time is the currency. But ‘Timebanking’ also attaches value to skills that the market tends not to, like caring.
I will work to develop and extend ‘Timebanking’ in Oldham with the Hollinwood Timebank which is already doing great work.
5. A Dementia-friendly Oldham
We are an ageing society. In 2010 over 2,300 people in Oldham were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, but it is estimated that this is only half of the actual number. By 2020 this number will have increased by 20%.
I will work with Oldham Council, NHS Oldham, the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, carers’ groups and others to build a dementia-friendly Oldham, raising awareness and developing best practice across the borough and will include shops and businesses.
6. NHS Check Oldham
The NHS is more than an organisation that plans and provides healthcare. It represents the values of our society. Although we must always seek to improve the quality of care, the 2012 Health & Social Care Act involving the £3bn top-down reorganisation and the focus on competition, is putting immense strain on NHS patients and staff.
I will publish quarterly reports identifying how the NHS in Oldham is doing on a range of areas including waiting times, and the privatisation of NHS services.
7. Oldham’s Car Club
A good transport system and infrastructure is essential for economic growth and jobs, as well as providing access to shops, family and friends, and for leisure purposes.
Car Clubs provide accessible, affordable, low carbon alternatives to traditional car use for residents, employers and tourists. So I will work with Oldham Council to deliver Oldham’s Car Club providing enhanced connectivity and flexibility for the people who live, work and visit Oldham.
8. Fair Train Fares
Trans-Pennine rail fares vary widely depending on where you purchase them. Standard tickets from Greenfield to Leeds can be nearly three times as expensive as tickets from Marsden to Leeds, which is only one stop further down.
This is just one example. So I will investigate the scale of these differences in pricing and lobby for fairer train fares.
9. Tackling Rogue Landlords
The quality of private rented accommodation in the constituency is very variable. Nationally more than a third of homes are not up to decent standard and 15% lack minimal heat in winter and this is reflected in Oldham. In addition the fees charged in the private rented sector can leave many tenants considerably disadvantaged.
I will work to support Oldham Council’s proposals for a Borough-wide Private Sector Landlord Licensing Scheme, rooting out and striking off rogue landlords.
10. Tackling Violence and Sexual Exploitation
Domestic violence and sexual exploitation against women and girls happens across the country and in all communities. Each week two women die at the hands of their current or former partners and three more commit suicide. It is unacceptable and must be stopped.
I will work with Oldham Council, GM Police, Women’s Aid and other partners to raise awareness with young people about the issues, providing support for women who have been affected and appropriate response from the Criminal Justice system.