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When George Osborne was the Chancellor for the Conservatives, he outlined a plan to cut Inheritance Tax to the point where a couple could receive a £1million home without paying anything.

The current Conservative Chancellor, Philip Hammond, did nothing to cancel this in the recent Spring Budget so, starting next month, the threshold for Inheritance Tax will rise from its current £325,000 per person to £500,000 by 2020.

This change is expected to cost the Treasury £1billion by 2021. This is money that could be invested in our long term future; transport, the NHS, early years education. Instead the cut will likely benefit 0.04% of people in England.

New research revealed by my colleague, Rachel Reeves MP, shows that this tax cut will strengthen the North-South divide. Money that could have helped address inequalities across the country will now be concentrated in a small number of households in London and the South East.

In 2015-16, of the 100 constituencies with the highest number of property sales over £650,000 (the current Inheritance Tax threshold for a couple) 96 are in London or the South-East.

The average sold price in Bolton North East was £125,000. We ranked 430 out of 573 constituencies in England and Wales with just 0.7% of homes sold for over £650k.

We should be looking to end the North-South divide, not cutting services in Bolton to give more money to the wealthiest families in London.

This policy once again shows that this Conservative Government have their priorities wrong. There so many better ways to improve our economy and raise living standards.

Inheritance Tax - A cut for the South

  When George Osborne was the Chancellor for the Conservatives, he outlined a plan to cut Inheritance Tax to the point where a couple could receive a £1million home without...

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This afternoon Parliament will discuss the ongoing problem of fuel poverty.

Four million households across the UK, including 4679 households here in Bolton North East, cannot afford to heat their homes properly.

Living in a cold home can have a hugely detrimental impact on people’s physical and mental health. It is estimated that the effects of cold homes costs the NHS £1.6 billion each year. No one in Bolton or anywhere else deserves to live in a damp and mouldy home.

The standard of our housing is central to this problem. Poorer families often find themselves in homes that are not well insulated and cost more to heat. Fuel poor households in the North West typically need to pay £352 more each year than their more affluent neighbours to sustain a warm home.

I was proud of the progress that the last Labour Government made in this area. Investment in insulation and boiler upgrade schemes helped so many families and this work should have been built on. Instead the Conservatives have ended much of the support that was available and made it much harder for people to access. The funding for insulation has been cut by 80%.

Labour continue to call for investment in energy efficient homes as a priority for infrastructure investment. It would create skilled jobs, improve public health, aid efforts to combat climate change, and put more money into the pockets of families who need it the most. It is a smart investment in our future.

Cold_Homes_Week_cropped_2.jpgSupporting Cold Homes Week 2015 in Parliament

 

No more cold homes

  This afternoon Parliament will discuss the ongoing problem of fuel poverty. Four million households across the UK, including 4679 households here in Bolton North East, cannot afford to heat...

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Labour has a proud history of standing up for workers’ rights and using the powers of Government to protect those rights in law.

I am proud to live in a country where people have a minimum wage, paid holidays, maternity and paternity leave, and time off when you are ill.

These are things many of us take for granted, but they were hard fought for over many years. Before I got into politics I remember negotiating with my employer at a local factory to provide a sick pay scheme, to prevent people having to literally work until they dropped.

A lot has changed since then, but new types of employment are putting those rights at risk. Just in the last few days there have been reports of workers being fined £150 a day for being ill. We must address the problem of false self-employment in the so-called “gig economy” and ensure basic rights for workers are not eroded.


What is false self-employment?

There are two broad classifications of work. If you are self-employed you own your own business. If you’re an employee then you work for someone else and they have additional responsibilities towards you as their employee.

False self-employment occurs when you are treated as a contractor even though you have little or no freedom. You are an employee of the company in all but name. It is used by some employers to evade taxes and take on workers without having to respect employment rights and entitlements.

Workers engaged in false self-employment miss out on rights such as:

•Paid sick leave

•Holiday pay

•Overtime rates

•Redundancy pay

•Travel allowances

•Pension contributions

•National Insurance contributions

•Employment protections

This is not a new problem. It has been prominent in the construction industry and I am proud of the work Labour has done in the past to try and address this. Unfortunately it is becoming a bigger issue across different types of work as new technologies allow for new models of employment.


The gig economy

The gig economy refers to employment where instead of receiving a regular wage from their employer workers get paid for the "gigs" they do, such as a food delivery or a car journey.

In theory this model should empower workers. You can have flexible hours, work when and how much you want to, receive an income from multiple sources, and balance work around other commitments in your life.

In practice though we have seen some employers take advantage of this by wrongly classifying workers as self-employed. They are not empowering workers, they are stripping away their security and their basic rights as employees.

There have been several high profile examples of these employment practices being questioned, including Hermes, Deliveroo, City Sprint and Uber. This business model continues to grow and will undoubtedly play a role in new emerging industries and the Government needs to take action now to stop workers falling into the false self-employment trap.

I have been questioning Government Ministers about false self-employment and I am pleased to see that they have launched a review to see how these issues can be addressed. I am concerned, however, that the main focus of the review is likely to be lost revenue for the Treasury, rather than the protection of workers’ rights.

I am keen to hear from any local residents who may have been affected by these issues.

Workers’ rights at risk

  Labour has a proud history of standing up for workers’ rights and using the powers of Government to protect those rights in law. I am proud to live in...

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When we speak about debt, the headlines are often dominated by our national debt and the fact that David Cameron increased it to £1.5 Trillion.

Discussions about our economy tend to focus on this government debt and as important as that is, we must not forget about personal debt held by people all across the country.

The latest data available shows that household debt is increasing faster than at any time since the financial crisis.

The total household debt held including mortgages in September 2016 was £1.5 Trillion.

When household debt is as high as government debt we have to treat it as an issue. We need a much broader discussion of the problems facing individuals and families if we are to avoid another financial crisis.

With so many people coping with household debt month to month it would not take much economic disruption to cause huge problems for thousands, if not millions, across the country.

An important example is credit card debt. The average household now owes £2,400 on credit cards. In a survey last year the Financial Conduct Authority found that more than 1.5 million people only made minimum repayments for three years in a row and that, at current repayment rates, five million credit cards may never be paid off.

Unexpected changes to interest rates; a rise in inflation; employment issues; any increase to the cost of living could push people from “just about managing” to serious financial difficulty.

What makes this worse is the fact that personal savings are at an all-time low.

Savings are our safety net. When there is a sudden change to your circumstances they give you the flexibility to make adjustments before everything falls apart. But for too many families this safety net has become a luxury they can no longer afford.

Figures released by the Money Advice Service show that 16.8 million working-age British people have less than £100 saved to cover them in an emergency.

In a survey by Munnypot, 45% per cent of people earning less than £20,000 said they simply had no spare money with which to make savings during any month in 2016.

As we approach the first full budget under the new Prime Minister now is the time to focus on these issues. We need a much broader discussion in our country about how we repair an economy built on minimal savings and high personal debt. This could well create the next financial crisis if the root causes are not addressed.

Household debt - a future financial crisis

When we speak about debt, the headlines are often dominated by our national debt and the fact that David Cameron increased it to £1.5 Trillion. Discussions about our economy tend...

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I recently visited the Royal Bolton Hospital to meet with the Chair and Chief Executive. I’ve often expressed my concerns about the NHS in my blog and this was a good opportunity to discuss the situation facing our local services.

We’ve seen cuts to social care, ambulances, pharmacies and community facilities like our NHS walk-in centre. Practically every service is struggling with staff shortages and patients are struggling to get a GP appointment. Our NHS is clearly under pressure at every level and this often cascades down to A&E, where we see huge waiting times.

I want to make it clear that I do not place the blame for these failings with the NHS itself. Everyone is working to the best of their ability to keep services running at the highest possible standard.

It is also unfair to blame patients. More and more we are seeing services trying to reduce demand by diverting patients elsewhere. This is creating an atmosphere where people feel they are being blamed for seeking the treatment they need. We have to look at why demand is not being met, not make people feel guilty for asking for help.

Responsibility for the issues we are seeing has to lie with the Government. Funding for the NHS has been inadequate, failing to meet the changing needs of our society. It is wrong of the Prime Minister to simply say waiting times are up because demand is high, but offer no resources to meet that demand now or in the future.

Cuts to Local Councils have added even more pressure. Social care and NHS services should work hand in hand, but £4.6bn has been cut from social care since 2010. Care services are working at full capacity and as a result we see “bed blocking”. I have asked the Chair and Chief Executive to look at innovative ways to address this issue because it is unfair to both the patients needing care and the patients waiting for medical treatment.

The National Health Service will always be one of my priorities. I will continue my work locally to protect local NHS services from the cuts agenda. In Parliament, Labour is calling for the Chancellor to develop a new funding settlement for our NHS at the Budget in March.

Visiting the Royal Bolton Hospital

I recently visited the Royal Bolton Hospital to meet with the Chair and Chief Executive. I’ve often expressed my concerns about the NHS in my blog and this was a...

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The GP Out Of Hours service is there to help with medical issues when your GP practice is closed. Patients contact the service and receive a consultation with a GP on the phone. If necessary, when the situation is not urgent enough to require a trip to A&E, you will receive a face to face appointment.

 

Bolton’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) wants to remove this service from Waters Meeting Health Centre in Astley Bridge and locate it at the Royal Bolton Hospital in Farnworth. Given the impact this may have on members of our community I feel it is important that the public is widely consulted on this decision and their views taken into consideration.

 

This suggestion is worrying. The journey to Farnworth is a long one, particularly for those who don’t have a car or can’t afford an unexpected taxi ride. For those who do drive there would be the added cost of parking at the Hospital. People should be able to access NHS services in their own community. Much like the decision to close our NHS Walk-in Centre, I believe this is a decision driven by Government cuts rather than what is best for patients.

 

The CCG is holding an “engagement exercise” which will run until the end of February. You can complete an online survey about the proposals at http://www.boltonccg.nhs.uk/patient-zone/public-engagement/current-engagements-and-consultations

 

Several local residents have told me they feel the survey is too restrictive and does not allow them to express their opinions on this matter. If you would like to share any thoughts with me I am happy to make representations to the CCG on your behalf.

 

You can email me at: david.crausby.mp@parliament.uk

Phone me on: 01204 391909

Or write to me at: 140 Chorley Old Road, Bolton, BL1 3AT.

 

Any comments I receive I will share with the Chief Officer of the CCG. Please share this blog if you can to involve more local residents in this process.

Bolton’s GP Out Of Hours Service

  The GP Out Of Hours service is there to help with medical issues when your GP practice is closed. Patients contact the service and receive a consultation with a...

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I have written several times about the importance of public engagement with the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. If you have not yet responded to the consultation, please click here for details on how to do so. You have until Monday 16th January to make any submissions.

While I have no formal role in the process I have been making representations on behalf of local residents to both the Leader of Bolton Council and the acting Mayor of Greater Manchester.

I have also responded to the consultation myself. I am very concerned by plans to develop large portions of our green belt land, the type of housing that is proposed, the lack of a clear plan for infrastructure and public services, and the poor level of public engagement in this process.

You can read my full response to the consultation by clicking here.

My response to the Spatial Framework

I have written several times about the importance of public engagement with the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. If you have not yet responded to the consultation, please click here for...

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The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is a plan to identify potential development sites for homes and jobs over the next 18 years.

This week is your last chance to have your say on the draft proposals, which could have a dramatic impact on North Bolton. The consultation closes on Monday 16th January.

The draft plan suggests that Bolton needs 16,800 new homes by 2035 to meet growing demand. 85% of these would be houses and the rest apartments.

Developers have already had their chance to identify sites that they think are suitable for development. I know that their priorities are likely to be different to those of local residents, which is why it is so important for people to get involved at this stage. 

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Most of the Framework identifies specific sites for housing development, but it is different here in Bolton North East. The “North Bolton Strategic Development Opportunity Area” covers most of North Bolton, including the whole of Astley Bridge and Bromley Cross, most of Bradshaw, and Hall I’ Th’ Wood. Specific sites are not targeted but the Framework suggests that over 3000 homes may be built across this part of Bolton. Parts of our green belt land could be assigned for development, and local infrastructure will be affected.

I want to ensure that the views of Bolton residents are heard.

For full details of the consultation please visit www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/GMSF

Responses to the consultation may be made:

Online at http://gmsf-consult.objective.co.uk or

By email to GMSF@agma.gov.uk

By Post to: Greater Manchester Integrated Support Team
PO Box 532
Town Hall
Manchester
M60 2LA

Whilst I do not have a formal role in the process I have been making representations on behalf of residents to both the leader of Bolton Council and the acting Mayor of Greater Manchester. If you would like to contact me directly I will bring your concerns to their attention.

 

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One week to go: Have your say on housing in Bolton

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is a plan to identify potential development sites for homes and jobs over the next 18 years. This week is your last chance to have...

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Housing is high on the agenda at the moment as Greater Manchester consults on the development strategy for the coming decades.

One of the common questions raised by my constituents is: why isn't the development and regeneration of brownfield sites the top priority because green spaces should be protected? I agree with this, and this approach requires Government policy to encourage developers to behave against their instincts.

Housing developers will always prefer to build on nice green spaces because it is easier for them and usually goes hand in hand with building bigger, more expensive properties in the nicest areas. Many brownfield sites need extra work like decontamination of soil before they can be built on.

An effective Government policy would recognise this, working to protect the green belt while incentivising construction on brownfield sites.

However, this Conservative Government is clearly failing in this area. Research by MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee revealed that the Government has drastically cut funds needed to encourage new building on brownfield sites. Funding to detoxify soil has fallen from £17.5m a year in 2009/10 to just £500,000 in 2014 and will be phased out in 2017. The same report identified more than 741,000 acres of contaminated land that could be brought back into use.

This simply makes no sense at a time when housing supply is such a major issue for us as a nation. I have tabled a number of parliamentary questions to press the Government to improve their housing strategy and preserve our precious green spaces.

Government cuts funding for brownfield development

Housing is high on the agenda at the moment as Greater Manchester consults on the development strategy for the coming decades. One of the common questions raised by my constituents...

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 We all know that the winter period can be a difficult one for the NHS. As the temperature, drops demand for services rises.

However, it is very concerning that we are already seeing hospitals around the region struggling to cope with this demand. In the last few days Preston Accident and Emergency has been desperate for extra staff whilst Wigan announced waiting time of over 6 hours and appealed for patients to stay away. 

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 I contacted the Royal Bolton Hospital to ask what the situation was at our own A&E and was told that currently only 60-70% of patients were being seen within the four hour waiting target. I hope to also meet with the Chair and Chief Executive of the Hospital later this month to discuss the issues in more detail.

I have previously raised my concerns that failures in other parts of the NHS are passing demand on to A&E. However, even during times were there is no increase in overall attendance, year on year the hospital needs to cater for more elderly and complex patients. These patients should never be made to feel at fault or blamed for high demand as some have implied, they are entitled to care whenever they need it. This is a clearly identified trend and not a one off surprise. The Government should provide the NHS with the resources required to better cater for this need.

The fact we continue to see problems like this is testament to the failings of this Conservative Government. The NHS is not being properly funded, NHS Trusts across the country are facing a deficit; services are being cut back leaving patients’ needs unmet.

Patients must be at the heart of our health service and essential services like A&E should be a priority. Labour will always fight for our NHS and I will continue to raise these matters with the Government. 

A&E winter pressures

   We all know that the winter period can be a difficult one for the NHS. As the temperature, drops demand for services rises.However, it is very concerning that we...

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