49% of children in Harrow West are in families receiving tax credits!

Tax credits

Yesterday I voted for the fourth time against the Government’s plans to cut tax credits. These cuts will hit more than 3 million families by an average of £1,300 a year. In Harrow West, 5,200 working families with children receive tax credits, and 49% of all children in Harrow West are in families that receive tax credits.

The Government has said that other changes to the minimum wage and income tax will make up for the loss of tax credits, but the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has stated that this is “arithmetically impossible”. These cuts will affect many working families. For example, a single parent working full-time on the minimum wage as a hospital cleaner will find themselves £1,500 worse off, whilst a family with two children with one person working as a bricklayer will lose £2,400.

During a debate on national TV before the last election, David Cameron promised that he would not cut tax credits, and there is still time for the Government to change its mind on these cuts before they are due to be implemented in April 2016. Earlier this week the House of Lords voted against these cuts, and George Osborne has now promised to “lessen the impact” of the cuts, but it is not yet clear what he will do. On Wednesday, the Prime Minister was asked six times in Parliament whether he would promise that no one would lose out from the tax credit cuts, but on all six occasions he did not do so.

I have been contacted by a number of constituents who are extremely worried about the impact of these cuts on their families’ budget, and will continue to call on the Government not to go ahead with these cuts

Harrow’s Police

The Metropolitan Police cut £600million from its budget in the last five years, and is faced with having to cut a further £800million during this Parliament. Earlier this month, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe admitted that these cuts would mean that up to 8,000 police officers could be lost and said he is, “genuinely worr[ied] about the safety of London.”

We have already lost more than 70 PCSO’s in Harrow in the last five years and I am extremely concerned about the potential impact of a significant loss of police officers. The Met also sold off nearly 200 buildings in the last five years, and are looking to sell off a further 400, which would leave them with an estate of around 100 buildings.

I have submitted a number of Freedom of Information requests to try and find out what the cuts will mean for Harrow’s Police Stations and officer numbers. Bernard Hogan-Howe has also said that it is possible that borough-based policing may have to end

I’ve raised concerns about these cuts in Parliament and will continue to do so 

Junior doctors

Thousands of junior doctors marched through Central London this month to protest against the changes the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, wants to make to their contracts. I have been contacted by a number of junior doctors in Harrow who work exceptionally hard in our NHS, and are concerned about what the changes mean for them, and the impact that the changes to their hours will have on patient safety such as at our local hospital, Northwick Park.

The proposed contract removes safeguards that are currently in place that prevent hospitals from routinely forcing junior doctors to work more than their contracted hours, and cuts pay for doctors working antisocial hours in the evenings and weekends

The Government has said that the changes to the contract are necessary to introduce seven day working in the NHS,but the doctors who have contacted me about this issue have told me that they already routinely work at weekends, and the Government has not brought forward a plan of how they will pay for other staff such as hospital porters, nurses and anaesthetists to work at the weekends too.

I hope that the Government listens to the concerns of junior doctors, and I will continue to urge both sides to return to negotiations to attempt to resolve this dispute.

Military Credit Union

I am proud to be Chair of the Co-operative Party which was formed in 1917 to work to build a society where wealth and power were shared. We made a formal agreement with the Labour Party in 1927 to enable MP’s such as myself, to stand as both Labour and Co-op Party candidates.

I have been leading the Co-op Party’s campaign in Parliament over the last three years for a credit union for our armed forces personnel and their families. Credit unions are run by their members, with some paying their savings in, and others taking out loans. All of the profits stay within the local community, and this link and common bond between members means credit unions can often lend money to those who are unable to access credit elsewhere.

There is growing evidence that armed forces personnel are increasingly experiencing financial difficulty, with many resorting to taking out very expensive payday loans offered by the likes of Forces Loans, which claims to be the number one lender to the military and whose loans have an APR of 3,551% or QuickQuid which charges 1,362% on its loans.

I am delighted that our case that more needed to be done to make it easier for our armed forces personnel to access affordable credit was accepted. Victoria Cross hero Johnson Beharry became the first serving soldier to take out a loan earlier this month, and the new military credit union service was formally launched at the Royal British Legion’s Head Office on 15th October.

Giving license-fee payers more of a say over the BBC

The BBC has been heavily criticised in recent years for excessive severance pay for executives, and for the governance failings that were exposed by the Jimmy Savile scandal. But I worry that the current Government are using these criticisms to attack the independence of the BBC like never before.

The constitutional basis for the BBC is the Royal Charter, which is due for renewal next year. The Government held a consultation this month on the future of the BBC, as part of this process. As part of this consultation, the Co-op Party are submitting a proposal calling for the BBC to be mutualised. Under our plans, licence fee payers would be given the right to elect trustees to the BBC Trust, helping to free the BBC from political bullying whilst ensuring senior management figures face more rigorous accountability.

As a public service, the BBC should be far more accountable to license fee payers, and safe from political direction. The current appointed trustees would be replaced with trustees elected by the country’s 25m license fee payers. They would be joined on the Council by representatives of BBC staff and other stakeholders, and a limited number of government-nominated members. This model would ensure that all key interests are given a democratic voice in the future direction of the BBC and ensure that license fee payers have a direct, guaranteed say over its priorities.

You can sign the petition to support these changes to the BBC here.

If you’d like to get in touch with me about any of the issues raised here – or anything else – please email me at gareth.thomas.mp@parliament.uk or call my office on 0207 219 4243.