Tagged: Jude Kirton-Darling

Pressure on North East foodbanks could be eased by £22m EU fund, politicians tell PM

North East politicians are calling for government to tap into a £22m EU fund to ease pressure on foodbanks.

David Cameron has been criticised for allegedly failing to take the money over fears it reveals the UK’s dependency on the EU and weakens his position going into a potential in/out referendum in 2017.

However the Conservative Party have said they are not missing out on EU cash and have £2.9m to spend, and they – not Europe – will decide where it goes.

Labour MEPs have now written an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him to lift his block on support for the country’s most vulnerable people for what they consider is solely for ‘ideological reasons’.

The European Aid to the Most Deprived Fund is worth £2.5bn, and is available to all EU member countries to dip into to help people who are most in need. Foodbanks would have been able to apply for funding from the pot. However David Cameron decided to opt out of the scheme in 2013, which Labour members believe could have eventually totalled £22m for the UK between 2014 and 2020.

The Government has previously said it believes individual member states are best positioned to deliver social programmes for the poor through regional or local authorities. They’ve said they will take their Most Deprived Fund subsidy (£2.9m) and deduct it from their ‘structural fund’, the cash pot they would prefer to see money delivered through.

The North East’s two Labour MEPs, Jude Kirton Darling and Paul Brannen have said in their joint letter to David Cameron that he should ‘remove opposition’ to support for foodbanks. The letter has also been signed by leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes,  and leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig.

Jude Kirton Darling, MEP, said:

“People are under intense financial pressure at the moment and many people will have used food banks this year. 

“As the weather turns colder and people face increased heating bills we feel now is the time for the Government to remove its opposition to support for food banks.”

Paul Brannen MEP added that as well as accepting more money from the EU, in the medium term he would like to see food bank use decline through an increased minimum wage, less use of zero hour contracts and a youth job guarantee for young people.

A Conservative party spokesperson, said:

“We aren’t losing money – any funding the UK receives from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will be taken off our structural fund allocation.

“Instead we will use our structural funds to support local initiatives to train and support disadvantaged people into work. We have not yet decided how the €3.5m euro pot (£2.9m) will be spent – food aid is just one of the options for spending the money.”

> So nothing will happen this side of the General Election. Probably not after it, either.

In 2013, British MEPs alongside two other member states formed a blocking minority which meant the initial European-wide fund was spilt into two, with one fund for ‘material assistance’, which would have seen the UK receiving food and items like sleeping bags directly, and another for ‘immaterial assistance’ which could go towards the budgets of social programmes.

Britain chose to draw down only on the second fund ‘immaterial assistance’, and while it accepted a share of £2.9m – the same as the smallest EU member Malta with a population of just 450,000 – neighbouring country France accepted has taken its full €443m allowance.

The letter to Mr Cameron written by the pair, said:

“We feel now is the time to remove your opposition to support for food banks.

“We understand your opposition to the European Union but the fact is that the money is available and should be used as there is clear and desperate need. It is wrong to block support for the most vulnerable people for ideological reasons.

“You have claimed that support for food banks should be a national decision, yet the decision of your government is to not support food banks at all. We do not believe that is right.”

The Government announced in October that it plans to use some of the UK share of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived to provide additional support for school breakfast clubs in England. Under the plans, which will be led by the Department for Education, this money would be allocated to schools with particularly high rates of disadvantage, as measured by free-school meal eligibility. This still needs to be agreed by the EU Commission.

Figures from by the Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks, show that between April and September 2014, over 25,000 people were helped by the charity’s Gateshead, Newcastle East and Newcastle West End food banks alone.

That breaks down to 4,289 a month – more than treble the 1,316 people per month in Newcastle and Gateshead who accessed a foodbank in the nine month period between April 2013 and December 2013.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 22 Jan 2015

Government slammed over decision to reject EU hand-out while folk go hungry

The North’s poor are going hungry after the Government rejected a £22m food fund from Europe, it is claimed today by the region’s Labour MEPs.

David Cameron has been criticised for allegedly failing to take the money, which could directly go to foodbanks in the region, over fears it reveals the UK’s dependency on the EU and weakens his position.

However the Conservative Party have dismissed Labour’s claims, saying people are not missing out on the EU cash and have £2.9m to spend.

Labour MEPs have now written an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him to lift his block on support for the country’s most vulnerable people for what they consider is solely for ‘ideological reasons’.

The European Aid to the Most Deprived Fund is worth £2.5bn, and is available to all EU member countries to dip into to help people who are most in need.

Foodbanks in the North East would have been able to apply for funding from the pot.

However David Cameron decided to opt out of the scheme in 2013, which Labour members believe could have eventually totalled £22m for the UK between 2014 and 2020.

The Government has previously said it believes individual member states are best positioned to deliver social programmes for the poor through regional or local authorities. They’ve said they will take their Most Deprived Fund subsidy (£2.9m) and deduct it from their ‘structural fund’, the cash pot they would prefer to see money delivered through.

Today North East’s two Labour MEPs, Jude Kirton Darling and Paul Brannen have said in their joint letter to David Cameron that he should ‘remove opposition’ to support for foodbanks.

The letter has also been signed by leader of Newcastle City Council Nick Forbes and leader of Durham County Council Simon Henig.

Jude Kirton Darling, MEP, said:

“People are under intense financial pressure at the moment and many people will have used food banks this year.

“As the weather turns colder and people face increased heating bills and Christmas approaches we feel now is the time for the Government to remove its opposition to support for food banks.”

Paul Brannen MEP added that as well as accepting more money from the EU, he would like to see food bank use decline through an increased minimum wage, less use of zero hour contracts and a youth job guarantee for young people.

A Conservative party spokesperson, said:

“We aren’t losing money – any funding the UK receives from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will be taken off our structural fund allocation.

“Instead we will use our structural funds to support local initiatives to train and support disadvantaged people into work. We have not yet decided how the €3.5m euro pot (£2.9m) will be spent – food aid is just one of the options for spending the money.”

In 2013, British MEPs alongside two other member states formed a blocking minority which meant the initial European-wide fund was spilt into two, with one fund for ‘material assistance’, which would have seen the UK receiving food and items like sleeping bags directly, and another for ‘immaterial assistance’ which could go towards the budgets of social programmes.

Britain chose to draw down only on the second fund ‘immaterial assistance’, and while it accepted a share of £2.9m, the same as the smallest EU member Malta with a population of just 450,000, neighbouring country France accepted has taken its full €443m allowance.

The letter to Mr Cameron written by the pair, said:

“We feel now is the time to remove your opposition to support for food banks.

“We understand your opposition to the European Union but the fact is that the money is available and should be used as there is clear and desperate need. It is wrong to block support for the most vulnerable people for ideological reasons.

“You have claimed that support for food banks should be a national decision, yet the decision of your government is to not support food banks at all. We do not believe that is right.”

The Government announced in October that it plans to use the UK share of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived to provide additional support for school breakfast clubs in England.

Under the plans, which will be led by the Department for Education, this money would be allocated to schools with particularly high rates of disadvantage, as measured by free-school meal eligibility. This still needs to be agreed by the EU Commission.

Source –  Sunday Sun,  21 Dec 2014

North East Euro election results

The full results for the North East:

Labour Party – 221,988

•UKIP – 177,660

Conservatives – 107,733

•Liberal Democrats – 36,093

•Green Party – 31,605

An Independence from Europe – 13,934

BNP – 10,360

English Democrats – 9,279

Labour won 2 seats, UKIP finally win something – 1 seat.

Conservatives and Lib Dems both lose 1 seat.

Tory Martin Callanan lost his seat. Callanan, who was also chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament, was the only MEP standing for reelection in the region, Labour’s Stephen Hughes and the Lib Dems’ Fiona Hall had both decided to stand down – in Ms Hall’s case probably a very wise decision – The Lib Dem vote collapsed from 103,644 in 2009 to just 31,605.

Newly-elected Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling said: “It is a fantastic night for Labour.

“We have knocked the leader of the Tories out of the European Parliament – an extremely corrosive politician who has upset a lot of people.”

Her new colleague Paul Brannen claimed it was a “major victory for Labour” as they had not just seen off Mr Callanan but “defeated the Liberal Democrats resoundingly”.

Ukip were the big spenders heading into the North East elections, with the party the only of the main four to spend money on billboard advertising in the region. Electoral Commission records also show their winner  Jonathan Arnott contributing more than £8,000 of his own funds to the campaign… a sum which no doubt he will now proceed to enthusiastically recoup in expenses.

Turnout for the European elections was 31%, with Middlesbrough’s 24% the lowest and Gateshead’s 35% the highest.

North East Paramedics hold crisis talks over Government cuts

Paramedics will today hold crisis talks as the North East Ambulance Service reveals the full extent of Government cuts.

Ambulance staff will meet at a seminar to ask just who cares for the carers, and what can be done to force NHS bosses to better fund them.

The service will warn that Government-ordered 20% budget cuts mean patients are sometimes waiting more than two hours for a vehicle, while rapid response staff are waiting five hours in a patient’s home with the patient waiting for transport.

In a damning list of support failings set to go to NHS chiefs, the service will warn that: staff morale is at an all-time low; assaults on staff have shot up; paramedics are spending hours in A&E waiting for a bed for patients.

Union leaders say the service is having to call in volunteers from St John’s Ambulance to help out even o n some emergency calls.

Just last week it was reported home patients in the North East are being forced to wait up to six hours for an ambulance despite guidelines saying paramedics should arrive within 30 minutes.

One patient had to wait more than three hours after the emergency was categorised as ‘red2’, which is potentially life-threatening and has a target time of eight minutes.

Figures obtained by The Journal from a Freedom of Information request showed that the North East Ambulance Service failed to meet their target response times on 10 separate occasions in a 12-month period.

Staff at the meeting in Durham today will discuss what to do about growing work pressures. They say that late finishes appear now to be nearly every shift, there are late meal breaks, if any at all, and will warn that crews are regularly facing angry families when arriving on a job knowing that the patient had been waiting for a while.

Paramedics will hear from North East Labour MEP candidate Jude Kirton-Darling, who will warn that a Conservative victory in elections this May could see EU working limits scrapped, making the situation worse.

Joel Byers, Unison’s North East Ambulance Service staff secretary, said: “Government cuts have forced ambulance trusts to cut 20% of their budget year on year but stating patient care should not be affected. This is an impossible task as the majority of our budget is for frontline services.

“The Commissioners are reluctant to pay extra money on a long-term basis to enable North East Ambulance Service to recruit more vitally needed staff. However, workloads have increased year on year with no extra resources except for the use of Private Ambulance Companies. The use of Private Ambulance Companies, First Responders and Police Cars is evidence in itself that there is a lack of resource in frontline staff.

“Every department from frontline, support services and HQ staff are undergoing restructures which are potentially putting staff at risk.

“The extra pressure being applied by the cuts is not just having emotional impact on staff but also a physical impact on staff in terms of assaults and injuries at work.

“For example the number of North East Ambulance Staff that have either suffered an injury at work or been assaulted has risen 590 in 2009 to 916 in 2013.

“With the ongoing pressure being placed on staff we expect the number to increase considerably in 2014.”

Last night he was backed by Ms Kirton-Darling, who said: “Ambulance workers in the North East have told me over the last few months they have experienced growing pressure as their working conditions deteriorate.

“Vital rest periods, set out in the European working time directive are there to ensure ambulance staff are able to operate safely and effectively on our behalf.

“Who in their right mind would want an ambulance worker dealing with a matter of life and death after a 12-hour shift without rest?

“The North East Ambulance Service must ensure decent rest periods and limit working time, otherwise I fear the service could face its own emergency soon with the public and workforce potentially put at risk.”

Source – Newcastle Journal  29 Jan 2014