Tagged: Emma Lewell-Buck

‘Safe seat days are over’ says Labour’s candidate for South Shields

The Labour candidate for South Shields has spoken of her ambition to become a minister in a future Labour government.

Emma Lewell-Buck says she is not taking her re-election for granted as she heads into the final week of the general election campaign.

She was elected town MP after a by-election in 2013 and says she is fighting the campaign this time round on what she has achieved in the two years since.

Mrs Lewell-Buck also admits that Labour can no longer take South Shields for granted as a “safe seat”.

 She said:
“It’s not 1997 anymore. The world’s a different place. There are that many different parties now and you are losing that ‘I’ve always voted Labour so I will again’ approach.

“People are questioning more, which I think is a good thing because I love having a good debate with people. We have knocked on doors where people say they have always voted Labour but are now saying they’re not sure, they’re having a serious think about it. I have never taken it for granted and I never will, even if I am successful next Thursday. It’s about respecting your constituents.”

In the past two years Mrs Lewell-Buck’s office has dealt with almost 5,000 pieces of casework for constituents, on issues ranging from housing and immigration to international affairs.

The MP has also been a vocal figure in the House of Commons, where she has one of the highest records for speaking.

She is also proud of the jobs fair she has held in the town and the campaigns she has backed in Parliament, including her part in helping change the law around child sexual grooming which will make it compulsory for an individual to be arrested after one offence of contacting a child for sex.

And Mrs Lewell-Buck is also unapologetic about her long-term political ambitions.

She said: “I got into politics to make a difference and, yes, you can make a huge difference as a backbencher but if you become a minister or a secretary of state the ability to make a difference becomes even stronger and I didn’t come into this not to make a difference.

“This campaign has been just as busy as in 2013 but it has had less of a frantic feel about it. In by-elections it’s all hands to the deck and you have people coming from all over the country to help out.

“This time it has been the constituency Labour Party and core supporters coming out and pounding the streets.

“It’s been nicer talking to voters this time round because you’ve got that record. You have been in two years and people recognise you, so instead of having to introduce myself they’ll say, ‘oh, it’s our Emma, lovely to see you’ and have a chat about something I have done in Parliament. This is very much my campaign.”

The other candidates in South Shields are: Lisa Nightingale (Independent), Robert Oliver (Conservative), Gita Gordon (Liberal Democrat), Norman Dennis (UKIP), Shirley Ford (Green Party).

Source – Shields Gazette, 29 Apr 2015

South Tyneside General Election Candidates

SOUTH SHIELDS   currently held by Emma Lewell-Buck (Lab)

Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour),

Gita Gordon (Liberal Democrat),

Shirley Ford (Green Party),

Lisa Nightingale (Independent),

Robert Oliver (Conservative)

Norman Dennis (Ukip).

 

JARROW  – currently held by Stephen Hepburn (Lab)

Stephen Hepburn (Labour),

Stan Collins (Liberal Democrat),

Norman Hall (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition),

Nick Mason (Conservative),

Steve Harrison (Ukip),

David Herbert (Green Party).

Green candidate predicts surge for her party in South Tyneside

A Green surge is predicted in South Tyneside at the general and local elections in May as the party confirmed it was putting up candidates in every borough ward for the very first time.

 Shirley Ford, who lives in South Shields, was the Green Party candidate in the town at the 2010 General Election.

On that occasion she attracted 762 votes – 2.1 per cent of the poll, finishing a distant fifth behind the victor, Labour’s David Miliband.

But the political climate has changed dramatically in the five years since.

 Her party in particular has seen a surge of popularity and Mrs Ford believes she has every chance of polling in double figures on Thursday, May 7.

The administrative assistant at Marine Park Primary School in South Shields is also convinced that the candidates set to represent the party across all 18 wards in the borough are the most diverse.

She said:

“We are going to have a full slate of candidates. I can confirm that.

“We’ve been delighted at the interest generated and the number people who have come forward, many for the first time.

“Our candidates range from young people – students and apprentices – to people who are retired, from people working in health, in education and those working in environmental science.

“I’m not claiming we have the youngest candidate because I know Labour has a particularly young representative in Hebburn, but I can’t imagine any party has such a diverse range of candidates.”

Mrs Ford believes the Green input in a series of local issues has helped raise the party’s profile.

As an example she cited its intervention against Harton Technology College applying for academy status.

The Greens’ efforts to stage clean-ups in the town’s “rather unlovedReadhead Park and create a ‘friends of the park’ group there have also improved the public perception, Mrs Ford says.

She added:

“Attracting more than ten per cent of the vote is, I believe, a realistic goal.

“It was difficult in the past when we had only a handful of local candidates and a much smaller membership base and we were running a much less ambitious campaign.

“We had a great response at the Westoe by-election last October and that has continued since.

“Tony Bengtsson will once again be our candidate there and the reaction when knocking on doors has been very positive. There is no predicting this election. The opinion polls suggests there are many people undecided on how to cast their vote.

“There can be a Green surge and even if we don’t win a ward, second finishes would leave us in a very good position.

“It’s something we could build on in future campaigns.”

The other candidates standing in South Shields are: Gita Gordon (Liberal Democrat); Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour); Robert Oliver 
(Conservative); and Norman Dennis (UKIP).

Source – Shields Gazette, 13 Mar 2015

Soup kitchen charity’s £500,000 bid to help South Tyneside’s hungry and homeless

A charity which provides vital support to some of South Tyneside’s most vulnerable citizens is aiming to raise £500,000 to expand its services.

South Shields-based Hospitality and Hope, now based at the former Hampden Street Day Centre in South Shields, runs food banks and soup kitchens across the town.

Now it has moved into the former Duncans pet shop at Chichester after the North East’s Willan Trust bought the building and rented it to the charity at a peppercorn rent.

The aim is to create a community cafe on the bottom floor of the building which would be open to the public.

And the upstairs is to be converted to provide supported living for five adult males.

It’s a hugely ambitious project with the revamp work needed and first year running costs expected to cost £500,000.

Fortunately, Hospitality and Hope volunteers had already started fundraising before the charitable trust purchased the building on its behalf, and is “well on its way” to its target.

But Amelia Luffram, project co-ordinator with the charity, has still called on the borough’s business community to rally in support.

She said:

“It is really two separate projects. The supported living upstairs will definitely be open before the end of the year but there is an awful lot of work to do in the cafe as the pet shop has been closed for several years.

“We will be continuing our fundraising and are planning one big fundraising event in the future. Meanwhile, it would be great if building companies were able to donate stuff in kind that we could use to carry out the refit, and when the community café is open we could give those companies recognition, perhaps in the form of plaque.

“We’d also love to hear from any businesses that can provide beds, fridges and freezers for the supported living accommodation.”

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, a staunch supporter of Hospitality and Hope, was on hand when John Duncan handed over the keys to the former pet shop recently.

Also in attendance was the Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Fay Cunningham, who said:

“In these difficult economic times, Hospitality and Hope provide a much-needed service for South Tyneside communities.

“It is sad to see so many people living in crisis, but it is heartening to see the level of support offered by volunteers and partner organisations who are committed to helping others.”

Thanks have been passed on to the charity’s patron, Sir David Chapman, for his support.

If you can help the charity, e-mail hosp.hope@live.co.uk

Source – Shields Gazette, 18 Feb 2015

Can UKIP and the Green party win in the North East?

The forthcoming general election has been described as one of the most unpredictable in generations.

And with the polls revealing Labour and the Conservatives to be neck-and-neck, the result could depend on how well the so-called minor parties perform.

For some time now this has largely meant UKIP which has enjoyed a level of success in the North.

Now it also means the Green party which has seen its membership surge of late reportedly to a higher level than that of UKIP.

So will either of them manage to win seats here or perhaps gain sufficient votes to affect the final outcome?

Political expert Dr Martin Farr of Newcastle University said Labour was most at threat from the rise of UKIP while the Greens posed a threat particularly to the Lib Dems.

Dr Farr also said the support in the North East had given UKIP a certain amount of credibility.

“Before it had been portrayed as the party of disgruntled Tories, the anti-immigration party.

“But the North East is Labour’s heartland and immigration isn’t as big an issue here as it is, say, in the North West.

“The issue here is about representation which many former Labour voters don’t think they are getting from the party.

“Meanwhile UKIP can say what it likes at the moment as it is a party untarnished by being in Government.

“What it is offering is what Labour used to offer – clarity and certainty.”

This could explain why UKIP has enjoyed notable electoral successes up here recently.

At present it has a North East MEP, Jonathan Arnott, and four local councillors, two in South Tyneside and two in Hartlepool.

 

At the 2013 South Shields by-election following David Miliband’s resignation, UKIP’s Richard Elvin came second to Labour’s Emma Lewell Buck winning 24% of the vote, with the Tories and Lib Dems a distant thrid and fourth.

And, if the UK didn’t have a first past the post electoral system, it could have many more representatives.

In the May 2014 local elections at Newcastle City Council, having never contested a ward before, UKIP put up candidates in 19 and nine came second in the vote.

Its overall share of the vote was 9,231 or 13.5%, ahead of the Conservatives although trailing Labour and the Lib Dems.

Meanwhile at Sunderland City Council, UKIP put up five candidates in 2012 and although none won, it got some notable numbers in Hetton in particular with 1,363 where their candidate came a close second.

In 2014 it was unlucky not to win any seats despite gaining 16,951 votes in total, a 24.3% share. Of the 23 wards it contested it came 2nd in 16 of them.

Even as we approach the general election it is still making inroads. Last month the Mayor of Bishop Auckland, Coun Colin Race, quit the Labour Party and joined UKIP.

As for the Greens, Dr Farr said:

“There has been a huge surge in support because the Lib Dem support has collapsed and they are also attracting people from the left of Labour who are fed up with austerity.

“There isn’t a Syriza type party (the left wing anti-austerity party in Greece which formed the last Government there) in the UK.

“The Green party is basically still a pressure group without fully formed policies on all the issues. It’s leader was embarrassed recently in a TV interview because of this.”

However he said in time, using the success it has had at local level in places like Brighton, it could achieve credibility at a national level.

This might mean any electoral success it enjoys in the region by be more limited than UKIP which, in the public’s eye, is a bit more of an established party.

Overall Dr Farr said he wasn’t expecting many surprises at the May general election.

He said: “I think in most of the North East, the majorities are such that the numbers they attract won’t be enough to win seats.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 07 Feb 2015

Food poverty under spotlight in South Tyneside

Measures needed to tackle food poverty across Britain are being scrutinised in South Tyneside today.

Members of an all-party Parliamentary inquiry team, including South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, visited the town’s Churches Together Key Project, at St Mary’s Centre, last summer as part of a fact-finding exercise.

The team also held a discussion session at St Jude’s Church Hall at Rekendyke, South Shields, and visited the New Hope Food Bank, in the town’s Robinson Street.

They heard poignant personal accounts from young borough people forced to rely on food banks to survive, and they were told that more than 1,680 people in South Tyneside had visited food banks in 2013.

Everything the team learned in the borough has helped inform the recommendations they made to the Government on the extent of hunger across the country and the actions needed to address it.

Today Mrs Lewell-Buck and the Rt Rev Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow, are among those meeting at South Shields Town Hall to discuss the findings of the hard-hitting report.

The report identifies a clear link between the use of food banks and tougher restrictions on access to benefits.

> Like it wasn’t always obvious ?

It insists that, contrary to Government claims, food banks have spread because of greater need.

Among a raft of recommendations, the report calls for bigger food banks to distribute more free food and advise people on how to claim benefits and make ends meet.

And it recommends a rise in the minimum wage and the provision of free school meals during school holidays for poorer children.

The report says:

“We do not believe food banks should take the place of statutory welfare provision in this country, but our evidence suggests there is a strong desire for longer-term interaction between food banks and vulnerable households, and an eagerness for these relationships to become embedded within local communities so they can help people overcome the deep-seated causes of hunger.”

Mrs Lewell-Buck said:

“We’ve had a great response to our report, and we’ve managed to get the Government to accept that some aspects of the benefits system aren’t working and are causing a lot of hardship.

“I think the Government’s priority needs to be dealing with low-paid and insecure work, as well as the harsh way benefit sanctions are being imposed.

> Yes, we all think so too. So are you actually going to do something about it ? Will your party, if they win the general election ?

“The group’s work doesn’t stop with the report, however. This is an ongoing mission to put an end to food poverty, and that is why I am holding today’s meeting to discuss the next steps for the group and for Shields.”

The Government is now considering the findings of the inquiry team.

A Government spokesman said:

“This report is a serious contribution to an important debate, with many good ideas, and recognising that the reasons behind demands for emergency food assistance are complex and frequently overlapping.

“As a country, we have enough food to go around, and we agree that it is wrong that anyone should go hungry at the same time as surplus food is going to waste.

“There is a moral argument, as well as a sustainability one, to ensure we make the best use of resources.”

SOME OF THE REPORT’S 77 RECOMMENDATIONS:

–  The Government should provide support for 12 pilot projects across the UK to draw together voluntary and public expertise to eliminate hunger.

– All supermarkets should follow the example of Tesco and add 30 per cent to any food given by its shoppers to food banks.

> Bought by shoppers in Tesco.  It might look a bit more magnaminous if they just gave something without those kind of strings ?

– Local authorities should work with food organisations to free up land for food production, retail and storage.

> But don’t we have all those things already ? Surely the problem facing people using foodbanks is that we have plenty of food, but not the money to buy it ?

– Credit unions accounts’ should be made eligible for receipt of Universal Credit to encourage use among low-income households.

– Local authorities should begin collecting information on whether landlords in receipt of housing benefit are providing basic cooking facilities for their tenants.

– The Government should reform the benefits system so it can deliver payments within five working days.

> I’m sure it could right now… if it wanted to.

– The Department of Work and Pensions ought to simplify access to hardship payments.

 > And it could do that right now too… if, of course, it wanted to…
Source –  Shields Gazette,  06 Feb 2015

Bumpy start for UKIP as they bid for South Shields votes

THE UK Independence Party’s (UKIP) general election campaign has got off to a bumpy start in South Tyneside amid claim and counter-claim.

The party has issued a statement saying former councillor Steve Harrison has been removed from his position as chairman of the South Tyneside branch, because of a “failure to comply with internal party rules”.

That has been rejected by Mr Harrison, who says he stood down to concentrate on his campaign as UKIP’s Parliamentary candidate for the Jarrow Constituency at May’s general election.

The party was on a crest of a political wave back in May 2013 when its candidate in the South Shields Parliamentary by-election, Richard Elvin, polled almost 25 per cent of the vote in finishing second to Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck.

A month later, the party enjoyed a political coup when three borough councillors joined its ranks.

However, Coun George Elsom, for Cleadon Park, left the party within three months, admitting his decision to join the UKIP ranks a “mistake” and returning to the council chamber as an independent.

At last year’s May local elections, Mr Harrison, another defector, lost his seat in Fellgate and Hedworth, leaving his fellow ward member Coun Linda Hemmer as UKIP’s sole representative on the council.

The party’s fortunes changed again in October last year when Coun Norman Dennis snatched victory in the Westoe by-election, but the general election campaign has got off to a less than smooth start.

The party has confirmed that Coun Dennis has been selected as its Parliamentary candidate for South Shields, just months after his by-election triumph.

The regional UKIP spokesman said:

“Steve Harrison was indeed removed as branch chairman of South Tyneside late in 2014 following a failure to comply with internal party rules.

“Mr Harrison had the right of appeal against this decision, but declined to exercise that right.

“The party’s membership locally continues to grow, and Coun Norman Dennis is an excellent candidate in an area where UKIP has high hopes, after gaining close to 25 per cent of the vote nearly two years ago in a Parliamentary by-election”.

Mr Harrison said:

“All branch committees have received a recommendation from the party chairman that any chairman or vice-chairman who has been adopted as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, should consider their position until after the general election in order to concentrate on their campaigns.

“After giving this careful thought, I realised the wisdom of this advice and have decided to announce at our branch meeting on Tuesday that I will be standing down as chairman of the South Tyneside branch, so that I can direct all my efforts into my Westminster campaign.”

Source –  Shields Gazette,  23 Jan 2015

Striking Gateshead Barbour workers to vote on new offer from company

Striking workers at a top clothing brand will today vote on whether to continue their walk-out after crunch talks.

Staff at Barbour are in the second week of industrial action in a dispute over contractual changes which would require employees to work more late nights and early mornings as part of a new two shift system.

But yesterday, Acas talks between union chiefs and the firm’s bosses were described as “constructive” and union members will be balloted on a new offer today.

A spokeswoman for Barbour said:

“Following constructive talks at Acas today, Barbour, which has been subject to industrial action by a number of its warehouse staff, has said progress has been made. Union members will be balloted on the offer.

“The need to implement a two shift system in the warehouses reflects the continued growth and expansion of the business.”

The company, which has its headquarters in Barbour House, South Shields, told employees about the shift changes in May last year, affecting three warehouses which employ 180 people.

 

The industrial action involves two warehouses, and of the 160 people employed in those, 65 are union members.

Workers first walked out for six days in December, before striking again from last Monday and holding a rally outside Barbour House.

Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown attended yesterday’s meeting, having called for staff not to be forced unfairly into working unsociable hours.

She said:

“We will hold a union meeting in the morning to discuss the company’s offer with members.

“Progress was made and this is positive, given that it was a difficult decision for our members to stand out in picket lines in the coldest temperatures of the winter.”

On Friday, local MPs Stephen Hepburn and Emma Lewell-Buck were invited to the Barbour headquarters to be briefed on the dispute and to help find a resolution.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  13 Jan 2015

South Shields MP ‘sets record straight’ over back-garden burials

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck today sought to “set the issue straight” over a statement she made in Parliament saying some grieving relatives were being forced to bury loved ones’ in their gardens.

The MP found herself buried beneath a barrage of criticism after making the suggestion when proposing her Funeral Services Bill last month.

Some critics claimed there was no evidence to back the assertion – and even funeral directors in her own constituency dismissed it,

But Mrs Lewell-Buck says the comment was taken out of context from the bill as a whole.

And she said her central aim, to highlight escalating funeral costs, had been lost amid the debate.

The Labour MP, who is to stand at the General Election in May, said there was also no suggestion in her speech that people in South Shields had buried relatives in their gardens.

She said:

“I really wanted to just set the issue straight because I feel I was misrepresented as the result of one small sentence.

“That one comment was picked up on and was the only issue focused on in the national and local press and in comments on the Internet.

“That’s why I felt the need to speak out because one sentence has been hijacked.”

In her letter  the MP writes:

“My Bill calls for a Government review of funeral affordability in the UK.

“It also proposes changes to improve the Funeral Payments system, and the creation of a ‘simple funeral’ where funeral directors would be required to provide information about the cost of a standard service to help people make a better-informed decision about the service they choose.

“A lot of the reports on the Bill focused on the issue of garden burials, and while that was only a very small part of my speech and such burials are not commonplace, it has created a national conversation about this emotive and taboo subject.

“I would also like to clarify that this Bill is national and at no stage in my speech did I say people in South Shields or even the North East have buried relatives in their gardens.”

Mrs Lewell-Buck said she was particularly eager to dismiss any inference that she had misled Parliament in any way.

She said:

“I am very proud to be a member of Parliament and would never do that. I was just eager to ensure that people did not get the wrong end of the stick and to make my position crystal clear.”

Source –  Shields Gazette,  09 Jan 2015

Jobcentre staff under pressure to strip claimants of benefits for no good reason, North East MPs claim

Ministers have refused to apologise after MPs from across the North East highlighted the “cruel and inhumane” treatment of benefit claimants in the region.

Officials such as Jobcentre staff had been encouraged to strip claimants of benefits for no good reason, MPs said.

In a Commons debate led by Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, MPs highlighted a series of wrong decisions and abuse of benefit claimants.

They included:

* Veterans injured in Afghanistan or Iraq stripped of benefits after they were told they were fit to work

* A Newcastle man stripped of benefits because he was accused of failing to seek work in the days after his father died

* A man in Bishop Auckland constituency who was a collecting a sick daughter from school and was accused of inventing a “fictional child”

 

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck said her constituents had been “humiliated” by job centre staff.

She said:

“Constituents of mine have been refused a private room to discuss intimate personal or medial issues … the general attitude of staff is confrontational and sometimes just downright rude.”

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said Jobcentre staff provided a valuable service and took their role seriously – but they were under pressure to “sanction” as many people as possible, suspending their benefits on the grounds that they had broken rules or failed to prove they were seeking work.

The debate, attended by Labour MPs from across the North East, followed long-running complaints that benefit claimants are being sanctioned for no good reason.

> Very long-running complaints… its a shame it takes a looming General Election to get Labour’s collective arse into gear, and also leads the cynical to wonder whether the situation will just revert after the election (whoever wins).

But Work Minister Esther McVey infuriated MPs by refusing to discuss whether the criteria for imposing sanctions were fair, despite repeated requests for her to address this topic.

She denied her department deliberately inflames talk of “scroungers”, saying: “I have never put forward a story like that and I never would.”

Ms Onwurah recalled that she was largely bought up by her mother in a single-parent family in Newcastle which depended on benefits.

She said: “I am so glad she did not have to face the sort of vilification and abuse that benefit claimants face now.

She added: “I want to know what this government is doing to prevent the demonisation of those who are now claiming benefits.”

> That’s easy – nothing. Why would they, it’s their policies that encouraged it in the first place.

What we want to know now is what Labour would do, should they win the next election.

Newcastle East MP Nick Brown said one constituent had been told to go to an office in Felling, Gateshead. He walked to the office – because he had no money to pay for public transport – where he was given a telephone number to call.

People with disabilities, but who were judged to be fit to work, were being trained for jobs it was very unlikely they would be able to do, he said.

> There must be more unemployed forklift drivers in the North East than anywhere.  Qualifications that are basically useless because the majority of jobs requiring a forklift licence also specify a period of experience in a real situation, not a poxy do-it-or-get-sanctioned course.

And, in Sunderland at least, they send qualified and experienced forklift drivers on these courses too… Southwick Jobcentre advisers in particular were notorious for that.

southwick jc letter

 

Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, said Jobcentre staff were under pressure to sanction claimants.

She said:

They work hard and are put under enormous pressure. Staffing levels have diminished dramatically since 2010.

“We hear anecdotally about the pressures of informal targets on sanctions – we all know they are in place – from people who are too frightened to say something, so they tell us off the record.”

> Ah… definitely an election looming. Julie Elliott is my MP, but failed to respond to a complaint against Jobcentre staff that I made a couple of years ago.  That’s not the way to win votes, Jules – electorates are for the full term of the parliament, not just a general election.

Mrs Lewell-Buck accused the Government of encouraging the public “to think of claimants as spongers or skivers, so that working people struggling to get by will blame the unemployed man or woman next door”.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 07 Jan 2015