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Right to Learn

Nick Forces Debate on Threat to Local Cadet Forces

Nick used a Commons debate last week to stand up for popular school cadet schemes in Walker and Heaton which could be under threat because of policy changes made by the Government.

Nick visiting the local TA Centre in Walker

He said: “Involvement in cadet units and work on the associated BTEC teaches participants the ethos of public service, as well as beneficial life skills, such as discipline and organisation. Not every pupil encounters those virtues outside the school environment.” But he added, there were continuing problems for teachers wishing to back the cadets.

Mr Brown, who has been a school governor in Walker since 1980, said: “Resources are restricted. The school has to prioritise and it has to prioritise those courses that count towards its evaluation, yet the uniformed public services qualification work is doing so well for the school.”

The Defence Minister who replied for the Government said he agreed the Department for Education should give the cadet course credit for its hard work.

He said: “In the Ministry of Defence, we recognise that a BTEC in public services can be life-changing for some young people, with it either being the only qualification they receive or the additional qualification that allows them to fulfil their ambitions.

The Evening Chronicle lent their support to Nick’s campaign today.

Nick writes to Newcastle City Council over Budget Proposals

Nick has today written to the City Treasurer regarding Newcastle City Council’s three year budget proposal, acknowledging the difficult funding decisions that are being considered and stressing the unfair distribution of cuts to local government by the Tory-Lib Dem Government.

In his letter, Nick has stressed the need to ensure people can fully understand and interpret the Council’s figures and has asked a number of questions, for the purposes of clarity.

Nick’s letter to the City Treasurer can be read here

Joint-Newcastle MPs’ Statement on Council Funding

Nick with Catherine McKinnell speaking to Equity Union members at the Live Theatre

Dan Jarvis, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Culture, has come to Newcastle to see for himself the impact of central Government public expenditure cuts on local arts and libraries provision.

Overshadowing Newcastle’s present difficulties is the unfair distribution of the cuts burden by the Government. Newcastle is facing funding cuts of £218 per head. The national average cut is £134 and Tory Councils like Wokingham lose just £27. The difference is striking. The much higher demand in Newcastle for services such as adult social care and looked after children puts the Council budget under even greater pressure. The Government ignores this fact.

As the City’s MPs, we are committed to speaking up for Newcastle in Parliament and to continuing to make the case to the Government for a fairer deal for our City. If the Government’s cuts were distributed fairly across the country the Council would not be forced to cut local services so drastically.

None of us want to see essential services being lost and our city’s cultural reputation damaged. We want to work with all residents to make sure the Council’s budget consultation is meaningful and that everyone who feels strongly about this has the chance to make their views heard.

By engaging constructively with the Council on the details of the proposals we must all work together to find a way through for arts venues and libraries, as well as for other essential public services, so that Newcastle remains the vibrant, attractive city that it is. Our challenge is to do this in the face of the unfair cuts imposed by the Government, and we pledge to work together to this end.

Nick Brown MP, Newcastle upon Tyne East

Chi Onwurah MP, Newcastle upon Tyne Central

Catherine McKinnell MP, Newcastle upon Tyne North

Nick Welcomes Health Funding Settlement for the North East

Nick meeting Dr Peter Carter and Professor Kath McCourt of the Royal College of Nursing

Newcastle East MP Nick Brown has welcomed the announcement that NHS chiefs have rejected a controversial new formula for health funding which could have meant a 15% cut to the region’s health budget.

Last year Conservative Health Ministers suggested that community health funding should be allocated according to age rather than deprivation. The proposal to change the formula came as budgets were passed from the old Primary Care Trusts to the new Clinical Care Commissioning Groups.

A study by the University of Durham said that the move could see a 14% cut to Newcastle‘s budget, and a 15% cut for the North East region as a whole. Nick Brown MP tabled a motion in Parliament to fight the move, with support from almost 60 other MPs from around the country.

But now NHS Commissioning Chief Ian Dalton has confirmed that he has rejected the new formula, proposed by the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation.

Speaking to Health Service Journal, Dalton said the new formula, drawn up under the demands of former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, would have “moved resources from areas where people sadly have worse health outcomes to those where people have much better outcomes.”

Nick Brown MP said: “This is a welcome move. NHS chiefs have confirmed what we have been saying all along – that Andrew Lansley’s plan to allocate health budgets according to age would see money taken away from those who need it most.

“The plan was put forward for political reasons – as cover for shifting funds from the north of the country to the south. It is good news that NHS chiefs have refused to go along with it. If only we had a similar institution to defend a fair local government allocation formula.”

Newcastle City Council Funding Debated in Parliament

Nick putting the case for Newcastle in the Parliamentary debate

With Newcastle City Council’s budget facing unprecedented cuts and cost pressures amounting to £100 million over the next three years, Nick recently raised the issue in a debate in the House of Commons.

The Adjournment Debate, which took place on the 8th January, was an opportunity for Newcastle’s MPs to raise the unfair distribution of cuts to local councils throughout the country and to highlight the difficult decisions the Council is considering.

Nick spoke about how areas like Newcastle had a much larger cut per head than more affluent areas, despite Newcastle having higher demands on services it legally has to provide, such as adult and children’s social care.

Nick spoke about how valued services like Sure Start and the City’s cultural heritage are being risked as the scale of the cuts means no area can be spared funding reductions.

Nick has called for the Government to establish an independent body to determine Councils funding arrangements, saying “As a matter of urgency, the Government should review the way the funding formula distributes the cuts burden across different local authorities”.

The full debate in the House of Commons can be read here

Communications Data Bill

The Report published by the Joint Committee

Throughout the Autumn Nick has sat on the Joint Committee of MPs and Lords which has been studying the Government’s Draft Communications Data Bill.

As the Committee publishes its full report today, Nick has set out the findings of the Committee in a piece for today’s Independent.

Nick said: ““The issues that the Bill attempts to deal with are real enough, but the Bill itself is not fit for purpose. The figures seem to have been plucked out of thin air. It is reasonable to accept that this Bill will catch criminals but to wonder if the budget could be better spent. Without any evidence to support the Home Office’s costings it is impossible to weigh that decision.

“The Tories and the Lib Dems are trying to push through legislation which both parties shrilly opposed in 2009. The Home Secretary hasn’t found the answers to overcome the objections that persuaded the then Labour Government not to proceed with similar legislation.

“If the Home Secretary is right that criminals are going free because this legislation hasn’t passed yet, then it is her responsibility to urgently work with the industry to put together a Bill that will actually do what it sets out to, and that will address people’s legitimate concerns about their personal privacy. The present draft Bill isn’t it.”

You can find more information about the work of the Joint Committee, which since July has taken evidence on the draft legislation from the Home Secretary and her officials, civil liberties groups, industry representatives and technical experts, on the Parliament website here.

TUC March for “A Future That Works”

Nick on the TUC March

Nick Brown joined tens of thousands of people from across the UK in London this weekend to take part in A Future That Works – the march and rally organised by the TUC to protest against the government’s austerity policies and to call for an alternative economic strategy that puts jobs, growth and people first.

Labour Party Conference Report 2012

Nick speaking at the fringe event on reducing tuition fees.

At this year’s Party Conference Newcastle East CLP held a fringe event entitled “How do we bring down student tuition fees”. The event, organised together with the Smith Institute, was well attended, with Newcastle East members, students and trade unions all in attendance.

Manchester Central by-election candidate Lucy Powell spoke about the challenges facing young people in Manchester under this Government. Former Universities Secretary John Denham MP spoke about the Labour Party’s plan to reduce fees to £6000 by reversing the Government’s bank tax cut. And Nick Brown spoke about Newcastle East’s proposal to fund a further reduction with the saving made by the non-renewal of Trident.

Later that evening Nick spoke to another full house at the CND fringe meeting at the Arora Hotel, sharing a platform with other MPs including Jeremy Corbyn and Katy Clark.

Nick attended a fringe meeting on renewable energy and was able to speak to Labour Shadow Ministers about the importance of the sector to Newcastle.

Nick met National Police Federation Chair Paul McKeever to discuss the importance of the upcoming Police Commissioner elections and the Tories’ dangerous attitude to frontline police.

A successful Northern Night on the Monday was hosted this year by North MP Catherine McKinnell. Amongst others, Nick met with new General Secretary Iain McNicol and our next Parliamentary candidate for Redcar Anna Turley. And Nick caught up with Central MP Chi Onwurah to lend his support to her new campaign around the use of empty homes.

Nick Brown congratulates winners of Unionlearn workplace learning awards

Nick with DWP and HMRC Unionlearn staff

Nick Brown today presented awards to Tyneside staff from the DWP and HMRC in recognition of their commitment and achievements in workplace learning.

11 PCS union workplaces across the whole of the North East and Cumbria are to receive the Unionlearn Quality Award for their IAG (information, advice and guidance) provision in the workplace.

The Unionlearn Quality Award is a kitemark awarded to organisations that are committed to working with trade unions and can demonstrate that unions and union learners are considered in the design, development and delivery of courses and programmes. 

Nick Brown, MP for Newcastle East said: ““Self-reliance, a respect for education and a hunger for learning and knowledge amongst working people were founding themes of the early trade union movement and the Labour Party. To find this same energy and commitment channelled today through the Unionlearn programmes is really encouraging. These projects are tremendous value for everyone involved and I congratulate the regional TUC and the staff at Benton Park View and Tyneview Park for their latest achievement.”

Kevin Rowan, Regional Secretary of the TUC and Unionlearn Regional Manager said: “Good information, advice and guidance is central to the development of workplace learning. It is what ensures learners find the course/route best suited to them; start at the right level; and study at a time and place that’s most convenient – getting all of that right leads to learners achieving and having the most positive experience possible. It’s fantastic that workplaces like HMRC in the region can offer this professional – and now kitemarked service free and in-house for the benefit of members and colleagues alike.”

 

Concerns About Job Losses Following Government’s Health Changes

Nick at the recent opening of the Benfield Park Heathcare Centre in Walkergate

Nick Brown has spoken of his concern after plans emerged of potential job losses amongst community health staff throughout the North East of England. The Newcastle Journal today revealed that more than 1000 primary health care staff could face redundancy as a result of the Government’s controversial NHS reorganisation.

As part of the Health and Social Care Act, which came into force earlier this year, all PCTs will cease to exist from April 1 next year. They will then be replaced by GP-led clinical commissioning groups.

Although it is expected that many staff will be transferred to the new organisations, there is no legal requirement for the commissioning groups to use the support services or staff from the PCTs.

Nick Brown, Newcastle East MP said: “This news seems to mean that all 1,300 primary healthcare jobs in the north of the region are at risk.

“I don’t see how that many jobs can go without starting to have a serious effect on patient care. It is likely that some staff will be rehired by the new commissioning authorities, making the redundancies both unnecessary and expensive for the taxpayer.

“Threatening wholesale redundancies will cost a lot more, cause a great deal of uncertainty and above all put at risk the service received by patients.”

Nick has also been leading the campaign against Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s latest plan to change the deprivation levels are taken into account when calculating local health budgets. The Health Secretary suggested he wanted the formula weighted towards old age instead.

This proposal is cynical, politically motivated and unethical. It would have the obvious and damaging effect of cutting funding for poorer areas. If the deprivation weighting were removed entirely the North East would see a cut of some 15%, or £265 per head. Nick’s motion speaking against the matter in Parliament now has more than 50 MPs signed up in support.