Sunday, 10 September 2017

About this site

This blog covers the period until December 2014 and includes the 2014 European Parliament election campaign and my work as Leicester's Deputy City Mayor.

I will be launching a new site in the autumn.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Eyres Monsell Christmas card competition - Merry Christmas!

Over the past week or so my colleague Councillor Virginia Cleaver and I have been delivering our Christmas card across Eyres Monsell.

This year we organised a competition with local schools for pupils to design our card.

Rolleston Primary School pupil Hayan Omar (age 6) created the winning design. Two runners up were also selected; Jodi Bullen (age 10) of Eyres MonsellPrimary School and Aoife Sweeney (age 8) of also of Rolleston Primary School. Over 100 entries were received for the councillor’s competition.

Printing of the cards has been supported by Clockwise, Leicester and Leicestershire’s local credit union. Clockwise offers safe savings, affordable loans and friendly banking. Credit unions are a socially responsible alternative to payday loan companies and other finance providers. Clockwise also offers people support with household finances and budget planning, recognising that more and more people are seeing a squeeze on their household budgets. As a credit union, Clockwise is owned by its members and is a not-for-profit co-operative.

All of the entries were really good and captured the festive spirit. The winning design and runners-up are excellent and the pupils should be very proud of their work. We wanted to showcase and celebrate the talent of local school children on our Christmas card this year and the end result looks fantastic. I want to thank all the pupils who entered and our local primary schools for taking part in the competition.”

We are also grateful to Clockwise Credit Union for their support of our Christmas card competition. Credit unions like Clockwise do a really important job providing finance products that are fair and ethical and offer alternatives to payday loans. Encouraging fair finance and tackling household debt is an important priority for us.

The winning design by Hayan Omar, aged 6.

The runners-up, Jodi Bullen & Aoife Sweeney.

Leicester Mercury coverage of our
Eyres Monsell Christmas card competition.

Happy Chanukah

On Sunday I was invited to address the annual Menorah Lighting and Chanukah celebration at the Town Hall. The text of my remarks is below. Thank you to Rabbi Shmuli Pink for inviting me to address this important event. Best wishes to everyone celebrating Chanukah. 

Remarks at Leicester Communal Chanukah Lighting, Town Hall, Sunday 21 December 2014

This is always a wonderful event to be at. It is absolutely appropriate and fitting that Chanukah is celebrated here in the City’s Council Chamber.

I think it is fitting for two reasons.

Firstly, it gives us an important opportunity to recognise and immense and important contribution that the Jewish community has made, and does make, to Leicester.

Going back to the Nineteenth Century and spanning business and industry; academia and education; science, the arts and culture; and of course politics and civic life. It’s a contribution that continues to this day and that important history should be rightly recognised – and is – when we tell the story of Leicester.

The second reason I think it is appropriate and fitting that we celebrate Chanukah here in the Council Chamber is because it provides a timely reminder that we are a proud city of many faiths.

We often reflect on our diversity as a city.
We are proud to be a city where different communities celebrate together, as we do this evening.

A city where communities work together to make a positive impact.

A city where in times of grief, we mourn together; as we did this week following the horrific events in Pakistan.

We know our diversity as a city is a great strength. 

At times some seek to paint a picture of Leicester that does not reflect what we know of our city.

Often from the outside and from distance, some will manufacture a picture of Leicester that is contorted and which misunderstands – often deliberately – what our city is about.

We know that from our history and from our life today as a vibrant, multicultural city we draw strength and resilience.

And we also know that at times when we see differences of opinion – and it would ne na├»ve to suggest there are not occasions when there are differences of opinion – that never, ever compromises this city’s commitment to tolerance and respect and our steadfast rejection of prejudice and discrimination.

Today in Leicester, as in other towns and cities, we see a paradox.

On the one hand we see challenges that should not exist; rising levels of food poverty; families struggling to get by, worrying whether they can buy Christmas presents for their kids.

But on the other hand, in response to those challenges we see the best qualities of our city.

I think about the volunteers I met recently at the St Martins House foodbank; working hard to make sure those in need of help, got help. And making sure the foodbank shelves were stocked for the Christmas period.

Or the fantastic team behind the annual Toys on the Table appeal, making sure kids get a Christmas present when otherwise they might not.

Or the many workplaces, including the City Council, that support the Leicestershire Cares Winter Coat Drive; making sure those in need get a warm coat for the harsh, winter weather.

Or the volunteers I met this week in my own ward, Eyres Monsell; organising the lunch club and putting on a brilliant Christmas dinner for elderly residents. 

Those are just some of many examples where people of all faiths and none step forward to help; to make their contribution to make our communities and city what it is today.

A city that typifies the very best qualities of modern Britain.

Chanukah teaches us the power of dedication, of resolve and of resilience.

These are qualities we see enacted each and every day in our city.

Qualities that bind our communities together, that give us cause to reflect and cause to be both proud and grateful for what Leicester is as a city today.

Rabbi Pink, I want to thank you for your strength of leadership and everyone involved in again organising this wonderful Chanukah celebration.

It’s an event which we look forward to and which is firmly and rightly established in the city’s calendar.

This event gives us opportunity to reflect on the great strengths of our city and it’s communities.

I want to acknowledge this evening the many people, the hundreds of volunteers who make a difference, who step forward to do their bit every day in our city. Thousands of small actions that collectively make a big difference to our city, an immensely valuable and positive difference.

This reminds me of one particular Chanukah message: a little light expels a lot of darkness.

In that spirit, I wish you all and everyone celebrating, a very happy and peaceful Chanukah.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Better Together

The Leicester Mercury asked two Leicester political figures to make the case for 'Yes' and 'No' ahead of tomorrow's referendum. Professor Colin Copus represented the 'Yes' side and I made the case for a 'No' vote in Scotland. I hope we see a 'No' vote in the referendum. I firmly believe we are better and stronger together.

You can read the Leicester Mercury feature here.

I am also pleased that last week Leicester Town Hall joined public buildings across England, including 10 Downing Street, in flying the Saltire flag as a demonstration of our solidarity and commitment to the Union.

The photos below show my colleague Assistant Mayor Vi Dempster and I raising the Saltire and Union flags at the Town Hall.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

My challenge to FA: free England tickets for school kids to help fill Wembley

I am calling on the Football Association to do more to fill Wembley for England friendlies and get more kids watching international football.
 Following last week's match against Norway in front of a crowd of just over 40,000, leaving the national stadium half empty I have written to FA Chairman Greg Dyke asking that he makes tickets available for free for school children in Leicester, and other towns and cities across the country. 

My letter to FA Chairman Greg Dyke can be read below.

I am also appealing to local businesses to sponsor the transport costs to help local schools.  

England's manager Roy Hodgson has even admitted that it is likely England will play in front of small crowds in the Euro 2016 qualification campaign, telling the BBC:

"We'll find it hard to bring attendances back to very high levels because the opponents we're playing won't excite the public."  

It is absurd when we see England playing at Wembley with vast areas of the stadium empty. There are fans across the country who would love to see England play but ticket and transport costs to Wembley make this difficult.

For matches with a likely low attendance the FA should make tickets available for free to help encourage the next generation of England supporters and to promote the game. 

I have challenged the FA to make 1000 free tickets available for school kids in Leicester for the next England match with a likely low attendance, and I am confident we will be able to get local businesses prepared to sponsor the transport costs. I am sure we have local businesses who will want to back this initiative and do their bit to help local schools and give local young people the chance to see England play at Wembley. 

I want kids in Eyres Monsell, Highfields, Saffron and from across Leicester to have the chance to see England play at Wembley. Seeing the national team play in the national stadium will be a great experience. This can help boost aspiration and encourage wider interest in football and sport. 

Sometimes the FA is accused of caring more about corporate sponsorship and big money in football than ordinary fans. This would be a great way to show that is not the case. I am sure England's players would prefer to play in Wembley stadium when it is full, let's have Leicester's school kids given the chance to help create a good atmosphere for an England match in the future.

Leicester Mercury article on this can be read here.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

999 CALL for NHS: Leicester rally: the campaign must go on

Thank you to everyone who attended the 999 CALL for NHS rally in Leicester's Town Hall Square last weekend. We were able to give a warm welcome to the marchers as they arrived in the city.

The rally gave us the opportunity to show our opposition to the government's destruction of our NHS and to redouble our efforts to campaign and fight for the NHS we believe in.

To coincide with the march arriving in Leicester, the Leicester Mercury printed an open letter signed by MPs, the City Mayor, Councillors, Parliamentary Candidates, members of the Campaign Against NHS Privatisation, trade union activists and Labour Party members.

The symbolic march from Jarrow to London concludes this Saturday in London. The marchers are an inspiration to everyone who cares about our NHS and who is involved in campaigns to save our health service. I was proud to speak at Saturday's rally in Leicester and to welcome the 'Darlo Mums' and fellow marchers to the city.

We are seeing growing waiting lists; NHS staff under pressure with reducing budgets; people struggling to get a GP appointment; the A&E crisis and a crisis in mental health services. We need the NHS to move forward on the values that built it. An NHS more concerned with compassion than competition law, more concerned about care than competition and an NHS that will always be about patients and not profit.

Frontline NHS staff continue to do an excellent job and they must be allowed to get on with the jobs they love and the jobs they joined the NHS to do. Cameron and Clegg's NHS reorganisation is without any mandate and is about ideology not improving the health service.

The campaign must go on to defend and save our NHS.

The letter and full list of signatories can be read here.
Follow the 999 CALL for NHS march via their website here.

Speaking at the Leicester rally. Photo; Will Johnston.

Letter of support printed in the Leicester Mercury.

Friday, 29 August 2014

999 CALL for NHS | Letter of support

To welcome the 999 CALL for NHS march to Leicester on Saturday (30th August) Labour MPs, Councillors, members, supporters and campaigners from Leicester and Leicestershire have published a letter of support.

The 'Darlo Mums' are marching symbolically from Jarrow to London and are attracting strong support in towns and cities along their march. On Saturday the march will set off from Loughborough and will arrive in Leicester at around 4:30pm. The following day the march will depart for Market Harborough.

A rally will be held in Town Hall Square at 5:15pm on Saturday to welcome the marchers. If you care about our NHS and want to voice your opposition to the governments destruction of our health service please come along. 

You can read the full text of the letter and list of signatories here.

It has been signed by over 100 people including Leicester's Labour MPs Jon Ashworth, Liz Kendall and Keith Vaz; City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby; Deputy City Mayor Rory Palmer; Labour Parliamentary Candidates for constituencies in Leicestershire Matthew O'Callaghan, Jamie McMahon, Amanda Hack, Sundip Meghani & Sean Kelly-Walsh; East Midlands Labour MEP Glenis Willmott; Labour City and County Councillors; representatives of local Labour Constituency Parties; trade union activists; members of the local Campaign Against NHS Privatisation; and many more.

More letters added to the letter of support, which can be read here.
Leicester Mercury coverage of the rally in Town Hall Square can be read here.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Leicester Pride 2014

I am looking forward to this year’s Leicester Pride, which is always an excellent event. I want to congratulate the Pride Committee for their hard work and determination in organising this year’s event. Pride is a powerful and vibrant illustration of Leicester’s diversity and the strength we draw as a city from that diversity. Pride also serves as an important reminder of the importance of the continuing campaigns for equality here and in other parts of the world. I send my best wishes to everyone attending this year’s Leicester Pride.

Opening Leicester Pride 2012

Morally wrong to make patients pay for hospital parking

Article for LabourList.
Over the Bank Holiday weekend the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was trumpeting his new ‘ground rules’ to address rip-off hospital car parking. Any action to curb extortionate car parking prices at hospitals should be welcomed. However, reading these new ‘principles’ it appears they are not enforceable.
My assumption was confirmed when the Department of Health answered a tweet from me by stating that NHS Trusts will be held accountable to local people and organisations that represent them e.g. HealthWatch. This confirms that the new guidelines amount to little more than a press release. It seems that hospital trusts will be free to continue charging high prices for parking.
It is morally wrong for patients with chronic conditions attending hospital for treatment sometimes on a daily basis, and visitors, to be worrying about paying for parking. The NHS was built on the basis of treatment free at the point of access. Car parking costs contradict this and should be stopped. With many NHS trusts contracting out car parking services this is yet another example of profit over patients.
When patients have to worry about paying for parking when they attend for their treatment or when families struggle to visit loved ones in hospital because of parking charges something has gone badly wrong in our health service. The coalition government abandoned Labour’s plans to phase out hospital parking charges in 2010.
Hospital car parking prices have gone up at one in four hospitals under the Tory-led Government. Jeremey Hunt’s Bank Holiday press release does nothing to address this. We need action not words. I want to see legislation introduced to ban rip-off hospital parking and to introduce free parking at NHS hospitals for patients and visitors.
A future Labour government should act on day one to end rip-off hospital parking and set out plans to end parking charges at NHS hospitals.
This article first appeared on LabourList, 27 August 2014.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Election Day

Thank you to everyone who has helped the East Midlands Labour campaign.

Today is Polling Day. Please remember to vote, and encourage your family, friends and colleagues to vote Labour today.

Every vote will make a difference. 

Find out more about Labour's plans to tackle the cost of living crisis here.
Labour's manifesto for the European elections is here.

Please tweet your support through the day #labourdoorstep #EP2014 #forthemany #IVotedLabourBecause...