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31 Jan 2018

Austerity impacts women unfairly; the government must be held to account


Today I'm at the Unite Women's Conference. I moved this motion which was carried unanimously.

Demand for Gender Impact Audit of Government Tax and Spending Policies.

This conference is concerned that 86% of the burden of government austerity policies since 2010 has fallen on women.

Conference notes that the latest research carried out by the House of Commons Library reveals that this figure has remained unchanged for the last 2 years.

Conference further notes that women are paying a huge price for this failed government policy.

Conference resolves to campaign to to highlight this issue from within Unite, the TUC and the Labour Party.

Conference instructs the Women's National Committee to urge the Executive Council to call on the Labour  Party NEC members to demand a gender impact audit of government tax and spending policies since 2010.

My speech:

Chair, Sisters

Since austerity was imposed upon us by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010 86% of the burden has fallen on women.

Research has shown that the cost to women since 2010 is £79 billion compared to £13 billion borne by men.

We are more likely to use, and work in, the public services that have been cut and been subject to pay freezes. We are more likely to be in receipt of the benefits and tax credits that have been frozen and cut.

Women are more likely to fill that gaps left by austerity by caring, often for free, for children and older people at the detriment to our employment and earnings and let's not forget that women, on average, still earn less than men.

The implementation of Universal Credit is hitting women the hardest. More women than men claim universal credit and  Lone parents of which 90% are women are expected to be on average £2,380 a year worse off.  This year we saw women unable to provide Christmas meals for their families when Universal credit was implemented just before Christmas

Women have also born the brunt of cuts to child tax credit which now will only be paid for the first two children. If you are a low income working family you will get nothing to help if you have more than two children. The government is aiming to find £1.2 billion through this cut while turning a blind eye to tax evasion by some of the highest earning companies in the world.

Inadequate investment in  childcare prevents women, especially single mothers, from entering the labour market. Childcare in the UK is the most expensive in Europe and women often find the money they earn wiped out by childcare costs. The government is doing too little to change this.

Its current pledge of 30 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 years olds is not enough. It's only available in term time - just 38 weeks a year. Both parents must be in work to receive this free childcare but who can take 14 weeks of a year to plug the gap?

It's also the case that Government funding to childcare settings does not cover costs so they are asking parents to make top up payments for food, nappies and trips. In Reading, we're I live, a local primary school had to write to parents to contribute a pound per pupil per school day to close its budget gap because of negative changes to the schools funding formula. More expense for working parents and women.

Finally we’ve heard from WASPI women who have lost thousands in state pensions to save the Conservative government money so from the cradle to the grave women have been unfairly impacted by austerity.

So sisters I am asking you to support this motion for a campaign to raise awareness of thisdiscrimination within Unite, the TUC and Labour Party.

As the womens conference we will be asking that the Labour Party NEC demand a gender impact audit of government tax and spending policies.

And finally as women we will be asking that the government be held to account for its destructive austerity programme that hurts our sisters the most. 

Conference I move.

10 Jan 2018

Policing Our Neighbourhoods - My Meeting with Superintendent Gilmour

In October Thames Valley Police and the Police & Crime Commissioner did a presentation on activity in the Thames Valley and Reading area and there were some worrying statistics around drug crime.

You can see the papers and watch the meeting here.  My questions and response were reported in the papers.  I was concerned about daylight drug dealing in Battle ward.  Several residents had reported this to me and felt their calls to the police were not being responded to.

“My residents are extremely concerned about drugs in their area.
“You can now see people dealing drugs on the streets - in broad daylight it’s no longer a hidden activity, it’s happening on a daily basis.
“What can people do to make sure daylight drug dealing is a thing of the past in Reading?"

So Superintendent Gilmour and I promised to meet up.

Our meeting last week was a very productive one.  First off I made it clear I understood police budgets are being cut and that the police are under a lot of pressure, just as council budgets are being cut.  These cuts are all part of the Conservative government's austerity programme, something I believe is damaging lives and communities across the country. 

He told me how the neighbourhood teams are being realigned with borough wards and how they are taking pro-active action against crimes.  I asked that the results of this action be better communicated - criminals are being caught but we don't always get to hear about it.

He stressed that is it vital that incidents are reported to either 999 in an emergency or 101.  It's these reports and the intelligence they contain that helps the police allocate resources.  You may not have an officer call round but you will be helping highlight an issue in your area.

We have arranged to hold a series of events in Battle ward so residents can have their concerns heard.  I will be at all of them.  So we are going to:
  • Hold a World Cafe at Battle Library.  We will have tea and cake and discuss three or so 'hot topics'.  Tel me what they should be.
  • Get the bus! We will borrow a Reading Buses bus, park it somewhere in Battle ward and hold a Have Your Say meeting where you can pop along to chat to me or the police about your concerns. 
  • Hold street surgeries.  These are always popular.  We pick a date, time and a couple of streets and come to you.  You will have a notice popped through your door a few days before which you display in your window if you want us to call by.  Tell me which streets we should visit.
We didn't just discuss Battle ward.  I've been contacted by residents across Reading West about crimes ranging from anti-social behaviour, dangerous scooter riding and car break ins.

Superintendent Gilmour assured me that these events are available to any community is Reading so even if you're not a Battle resident you can contact me, or your local ward councillors, with a suggestion about the location of future events.  I can be contacted on cllrsarahhacker@virginmedia.com or sarah.hacker@reading.gov.uk as well as on social media.


We had a few minutes spare at the end of a very productive meeting so we took part in an exercise Superintendent Gilmour does pretty much everyday - decide on the priority of police activities.  It was quite difficult.  Do you prioritise staff training over catching burglers?  Here's what I had decided on after 5 minutes.  I could have done with a lot longer!


I fully appreciate the hard work our police force undertake to keep us all safe however budget cuts are reducing the preventative work they can do.  Remember, these cuts are being made by a Conservative government.  It is reported that Thames Valley Police are to see a further £22 million cut from their budgets over the next three years with a reduction of 59 police officer roles.  This needs to be reviewed and the police properly funded as our communities deserve better!



3 Jan 2018

Our NHS is in crisis - the Tories are failing it!

You can't move today for headlines shouting about how our NHS is struggling this winter.  It's not because the staff don't care, it's obvious they are all working extremely hard!  In Reading the Royal Berkshire hospital is asking staff to do extra shifts to ensure patients get the help and treatment they need.

From Twitter @RBNHSFT

This month tens of thousands of non-emergency operations are being cancelled which can be distressing to those waiting for them.   A&E units are under huge pressure because people are simply ill.  They are being asked to go to their local GP but getting appointments is getting harder and harder.  A £4.5 billion cut to social care funding has also heaped pressure on our health services.

Simon Stevens, the NHS chief executive told the Conservative government the NHS needed an extra £4 billion in 2018 however the chancellor Philip Hammond only allocated £1.6 billion.  The government did allocated an extra £350 million for the NHS but this is clearly woefully inadequate.

According to Theresa May, the Conservative Prime Minister, "The NHS has been better prepared for this winter than ever before". Well, Ms May, you've obviously not done enough.  It is very clear the NHS is not safe under the Conservatives. 

Here's is what the Labour Party will do for the NHS when it forms a government: 


 

2 Jan 2018

Save the date! Reading Pride 2018

The date of the 2018 Reading Pride has been announced!  If you want to come to the best (in my opinion) free Pride then pop:

Saturday 1 September 2018

In your diary.  Reading Pride is about equality and celebrating our LGBT+ community and I am very proud to be a patron since 2016.  It is a fun, family friendly event with community stalls,food, music and dancing.  Will Pride 2018 be even bigger than last years record smashing event?  I hope so!  Stay up to date by following them on social media or by bookmarking their website: Reading Pride

Here are a few photos from last year's event so you have an idea what's in store. 



 

22 Nov 2017

The Budget - a lost opportunity to improve lives

I've just seen the budget.  I'm not sure what I was expecting - certainly not an end to austerity, despite it being clear it's failed.  I was hoping to see the government had listened and understood that living standards are being squeezed and people are struggling. I was wrong.

Forecasts for growth have been down graded from 2% to 1.5%. Pay continues to stagnate and public sector workers still face a pay cap. People are struggling to make ends meet and the budget has done little to lighten their load.  Food bank use continues to grow with ReadiFood delivering 135 parcels a weekFood prices are rising as are energy costs, rents and house prices.

Stamp duty is being scrapped for first time buyers purchasing properties up to £300,000.  That's all very well but you have to be able to afford to buy the house first, have the salary to back up a mortgage plus be able to save a deposit. According to RightMove the average terraced property sold for £314,479.  Property ownership is now out of reach for many and rents, on average £1,079 for a two bed property in Reading, are also becoming unaffordable.

We face another winter where people will be faced with the choice of eating or heating.  This is nothing new, the government have not been taken by surprise. 

Some money has been thrown at the NHS.  There's £350m to address pressures in winter 2017/2018 but that won't go far when you take into account how far it's to be spread and additional pressures caused by cuts to council social care budgets and a GP service stretched to the limit.

Schools gets nothing extra in their budgets.  There is money available for secondary schools and collages for pupils taking maths at higher levels but nothing for the primary schools who have already resorted to asking parents for money to plug their budget gaps. The government really is just papering over the already deep cracks they have created.

The future really does look bleak under the Conservative government.  After 7 1/2 years of austerity it's still very much pain with little gain for the average family.

We need a change of government if we really want to see living standards improve, properly affordable housing, a well funded NHS and school budgets that provide a good quality and varied education for our children.  

We need a Labour MP in Reading West who stands up for every community, regardless of its prosperity.  

We need hope.



See Jeremy Corbyn's response to this shambles of a budget here:  Jeremy Corbyn Budget 2017 response

What would Labour do instead?  Find out here: Manifesto