Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Collective switching: Ready to Switch? Leicester

Last week I launched a new council initiative to help residents get a better deal for their energy supplies.

People are worried about rising energy bills and I think the council should be helping people save money. I have been working to develop this initiative for a couple of months or so with the council's Home Energy Team, which also provides advice and help to improve energy efficiency for households in the city.

Ready to Switch is an independent scheme where residents can save money on their gas and electricity bills by collectively switching their energy provider. Households already struggling to pay their energy bills could get cheaper bills, which could in turn help them to avoid fuel poverty.

Similar schemes running in other parts of the country have helped more than 21,000 people save an average of £131 on their annual energy bills. One local scheme, in Nottingham, saved an average of £225 per household.

Launching Ready to Switch? Leicester 

In total, energy schemes like Ready to Switch have saved consumers £2.7million to date.

The Ready to Switch scheme will be open to anyone, including people with low credit scores or those who use pre-payment cards.

People whose heating is provided by district heating schemes can also use the scheme to change their electricity provider. Residents on district heating schemes have their gas provided as part of their tenancy agreement.

Registering is easy. Individual households sign up to the scheme, either online or by telephone. Once registered, households are grouped together and, every quarter, energy suppliers submit their best price for the group as a whole. The more people who sign up, the more likely suppliers are to give an additional discount.

To register, people will need their current energy bill to hand. Individuals will be sent their offer of a new energy price by the energy company, and the bill payer can then decide to change supplier or not.

Find out more at www.leicester.gov.uk/switching

Monday, 11 November 2013


This weekend I joined campaign teams in Leicester and Loughborough for Labour's #FreezeThatBill campaign day.

Find out more about the campaign here.

Ready to take the #FreezeThatBill campaign into
Loughborough Market Place.

With the campaign team in Loughborough including
Shadow Cabinet Member Vernon Coaker MP who joined us.

#FreezeThatBill campaign team in Leicester.

Monday, 4 November 2013

200 days to go | These elections matter

Today is 200 days until voters go to the polls for the 2014 European Parliament elections.

These elections matter. We need to elect more Labour MEPs across the UK to fight for a better deal for our regions and the UK in these difficult times. Labour MEPs, led by Glenis Willmott, have done an excellent job since 2009. The European Parliamentary Labour Party was reduced in number at the 2009 elections – we lost a third of our MEPs – but has not been reduced in its impact in Brussels.

Labour MEPs have led the campaign for a European Youth Guarantee to tackle the youth jobs crisis and give hope to young people across the EU. Our MEPs have been making the argument for a progressive and fairer Europe, built on jobs and growth.

As we move towards next May’s elections we need to be setting out the progressive case for Britain’s future in a reformed Europe. We will not be arguing to defend the status quo in Europe. We accept the EU needs to change, in response to the global challenges we face today but also to better reflect our values and priorities.

The European Parliament elections next May have an important political context for Labour. We should not overlook this. It makes these European elections arguably more important than some previous electoral cycles in Europe and it means we have to win well next year.

Momentum matters in politics. The European elections next May will be held less than a year before the 2015 General Election. The European elections are a key milestone on the journey towards 2015.

These are the first set of European elections Labour has fought as the national opposition party since 1994. That is a political generation ago. We all know what tends to happen to the vote share of the governing party(ies) at European elections. We saw our vote decline at each cycle of European elections after 1997; in 1999, 2004 and 2009. We have to make sure next year’s elections inflict real and lasting damage on the Conservatives and Lib Dems poll numbers, and that we take on UKIP. It is crucial that we challenge UKIP’s arguments at every opportunity.

The results of these elections will, for a period of time, help set the political landscape. This will be at an important time in the electoral cycle. It is crucial that Labour does well on 22 May 2014. The results will be the subject of comment pieces and political punditry as we approach next summer and the final party conference before 2015.

We need to win next May and win well. To make sure we do well next May we have to set out and win the progressive argument for Europe.

It is also important we make clear the direct link between the argument on Europe and the everyday concerns of people in our communities. Ed Miliband is setting the agenda on the living standards debate and that has to be central to the campaign next May.

Our organisation will be key to securing a good set of results next May. Thanks to Ian McNichol and his team we have parliamentary candidates selected in key battleground seats and organisers in place. This is a real advantage and 2014 has to be treated as an important dress rehearsal and test for this organisational capability. This is particularly the case for refining our GOTV operations and postal vote campaigning.

We need to be working hard across the country between now and next May. Campaign teams and European candidates are already hard at work because these elections matter. These are not just ‘another’ set of European elections. I know we can do well next May. We can strengthen our voice in Europe by electing more Labour MEPs across the country. The campaign can be a real boost on our route map towards 2015.

With 200 days to go, let’s get to it.

Twitter @Rory_Palmer
Facebook www.facebook.com/RoryPalmerLabour

East Midlands European Candidates:
Rory Palmer; Linda Woodings; Glenis Willmott MEP;
Nicki Brooks; Khalid Hadadi.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Blog: campaign update

It is now less than seven months until European polling day. 

Over the summer and now into the autumn the East Midlands European candidates have been visiting CLPs across the region and campaigning with our MPs, parliamentary candidates, councillors and local campaign teams.

It has been a busy couple of months or so over the summer, here's a brief rundown of the some of the highlights:

I was pleased to join our parliamentary candidate Matthew O'Callaghan and colleagues in Loughborough Labour Party for their annual garden party. The party in Loughborough have notched up some important council by-eleciton wins recently.

With Glenis Willmott MEP, I also attended the Earls Barton Labour Party garden party (although it was moved indoors due to rain). This event welcomed members from Kettering and Wellingborough CLPs.

In September I joined European candidates from across the country at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. It was good to meet with candidates from other regions to discuss the campaign. I also had the opportunity to meet with colleagues from Labour's sister parties from across the world including Tunisia, Burma, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

I spoke at the Labour Movement for Europe campaign rally on the first day of Conference. This was a good event with a clear determination from across the Labour movement to win well next May.

Speaking at the Labour Movement for Europe Campaign
Rally at Labour Party Conference in Brighton.
Glenis Willmott, East Midlands MEP and Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party addressed Conference. You can read the speech here.

A number of policy announcements were made at Conference by Ed Miliband and the Shadow Cabinet on issues like the bedroom tax, childcare and housing. You can find more information on the Labour Party website.

In early October I set out my thoughts on Britain's future in Europe and the Labour vision for Europe at the Wellingborough Labour Party Supper Club. I will publish the key arguments in my speech as an article. I was honoured to have been invited to speak at the Supper Club, previous speakers over the years have included Neil Kinnock, Peter Mandelson, Mo Mowlam, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.
Thank you again to members in Wellingborough for an enjoyable evening.

It was good to speak at the Leicester University Labour Students reception. Like Labour Clubs in other parts of the region, Leicester is an active and campaigning club. Labour Students and Young Labour are campaigning across the region ahead of next year's elections and 2015.

Addressing Leicester Labour Students reception.
I chaired a discussion on the Labour Party reform proposals in North West Leicestershire which was attended by Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls MP. This weekend I spoke at a fringe event hosted by Progress at the Labour in Leicester Conference. At the event I set out the importance of the 2014 European campaign as a key milestone towards 2015 and our efforts to secure a Labour majority. 

Chairing a discussion on party reform with
Ed Balls in Coalville, North West Leicestershire.

I also want to congratulate the Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidates selected over the summer; Leonie Mathers (Sherwood); Nick Palmer (Broxtowe); Kevin Gillott (Amber Valley);Catherine Atkinson (Erewash) and Jamie McMahon (North West Leicestershire). It was also good to see promotions for East Midlands MPs in the Westminster re-shuffle recently with a number of our MPs getting promotions. The region is well represented in the Shadow Cabinet and front bench with Chris Leslie, Vernon Coaker, Lilian Greenwood, Gloria De Piero, Liz Kendall, Jon Ashworth, Toby Perkins and Andy Sawford. I was also pleased to see Willy Bach join the Shadow Foreign Office team in the House of Lords.

The next few months will be busy. Thank you to everyone who has joined us on the doorsteps already. I am looking forward to campaigning in more parts of the region in the next few weeks and months. Finally, Glenis Willmott will be hosting her annual European Forum for Labour Party members on 23 November. I look forward to seeing members from across the region there.

Twitter: @Rory_Palmer

Freeze that Bill

I'm backing Ed Miliband's energy price freeze campaign.

Back the campaign here: http://action.labour.org.uk/page/s/energy-calculator

I will be setting out my thoughts on the energy market reforms we need in the coming week.

Plain English

Earlier this year I called for a clearer commitment to using Plain English in council and official public notices.

Many of these notices are written in a way which is baffling, often leaving the public unclear as to the intention and purpose of the notices.

In August I said:
'I think people get really annoyed and frustrated by it.'
'They are often impenetrable and in antiquated language nobody uses.'
'We might as well be putting them out in Latin, for the good they are doing.'
'If we have to put these orders up, we should have an explanation in plain English. That could be done with very little effort or expense.'
'This is not a problem isolated to Leicester City Council – it affects all authorities – but it is something we can deal with easily.'
The Leicester Mercury covered this here: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Public-baffled-jargon-council-public-notices/story-19659063-detail/story.html  

The Mercury's Editorial also backed my call: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Mercury-opinion-Ban-jargon-public-documents/story-19667331-detail/story.html

All public bodies and legislatures should use Plain English including councils, public agencies, national parliaments and the European Parliament.

World Mental Health Day | Leicester Mercury column

Column for the Leicester Mercury for World Mental Health Day.

Thursday this week is World Mental Health Day. This is an important and timely occasion to consider the city’s approach to mental health.

Good mental health is as important as good physical health and this should be a guiding principle of all those organisations providing health services in Leicester. In recent years we have seen improvements in the NHS approach to mental health but there is much more to do. Much of what the NHS does for mental health problems does not share the same limelight as services for physical illness.

This has to change. There remains an urgent need to push mental health services beyond their historic Cinderella status in the NHS. There are two reasons why this is vital. First, because anyone accessing services for mental health problem deserves nothing but the best. I want mental health services in our NHS and in Leicester to be the best. This should not just be an expectation but our challenge to organisations providing services.

The second reason is that we need to shift perceptions and understanding of mental health in society. There remains a stubborn stigma around mental illness. Take the recent examples of two major supermarket chains selling ‘Mental Patient’ and ‘Psycho Ward’ fancy dress costumes. These offensive products led to a public backlash and both costumes were withdrawn from sale and the supermarket companies made donations to mental health charities.

This example illustrates the challenge we still face in tackling stigma and securing a more positive, mature and understanding approach to mental health in society. It remains too easy for some to slip back into clumsy language and a view of mental illness that is of a bygone era.

I am determined that here in Leicester we work to be a city that challenges stigma, properly understands mental health and has an ambitious approach to better mental health and wellbeing. Improving mental health is one of five key priorities set out in the city’s joint health and wellbeing strategy which was agreed and adopted by partners, including the city council, in April this year.

The city’s health and wellbeing board will work with partners including the city council, GPs, hospital trusts, voluntary groups and patients to make this happen. Mental health services in Leicester need to meet the expectations of patients and the whole community.

Challenging stigma and improving levels of understanding and awareness of mental illness requires a collective effort across different organisations. World Mental Health Day is a useful opportunity to reflect on the importance of this task but to also to reaffirm our commitment and determination to address it.

This column was first appeared in the Leicester Mercury, 10 October 2013.