Crisis | Homelessness Reduction Bill

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No One Turned Away is calling for every homeless person who approaches their council to get the help they need.

Homeless people in England can be turned away with little or no help by councils if they are not considered a ‘priority’, even though they have nowhere else to stay.

Now Conservative MP Bob Blackman has tabled a Homelessness Reduction Bill to improve the support that homeless people receive. But we need the support of MPs for this to become law.

We urgently need your help to take part in a mass lobby of MPs in Westminster on Wednesday 19 October. It’s a chance to ask your MP in person to back the bill. Sign up to attend.

Even if you can’t attend the mass lobby, you can still ask your MP to take action.

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Ask your MP to be there

Your MP has not said they’ll be there, so below is a message for you to send that asks them to attend.

Dear Ben Bradshaw

I am writing as a constituent and a Crisis campaigner to ask you to attend the second reading debate for the Homelessness Reduction Bill, which is taking place on the morning of 28 October.

A draft version of the bill has now been published, many of the measures it contains are Labour Party policy.

This private member’s bill is sponsored by Bob Blackman and supported by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, who are scrutinising the draft. The select committee has recently published a major report on homelessness.

Currently, many homeless people are not considered a “priority” under the law, meaning that they are often turned away with little or no help when they approach their local council. As well as the devastating personal impact that this can have, failing to intervene early to prevent and solve homelessness is a poor use of public resources.

Scotland and Wales have already reformed their homelessness legislation, so this is a vital chance for England to catch up. The measures in the bill will have a firm foundation in the lessons from other parts of Britain and in the findings of a panel of experts with backgrounds in local government, charities, academia and housing law, who have recommended reforms (www.crisis.org.uk/expertpanelreport).

Yours sincerely

Paul Bull

Further reading:
Crisis: No One Turned Away 

Crisis: No One Turned Away – Executive Summary

The Exeter Daily | Community orchard planted in #BartonFields #EXEStThomas

 

The Exeter Daily logo

Community orchard planted in Exeter

More than 50 people turned out on Saturday to plant a community orchard in Cowick Barton Fields.

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Wheelbarrows at the read [Photo: Joe Levy]
Families, local residents and tree enthusiasts all braved the mud and cold wind with shovels, wheelbarrows and 15 native, locally grown trees in hand.

The orchard is part of a project funded by Alcoa that has seen Active Devon team up with Exeter City Council to create an activity trail across Cowick Barton Fields.

This means that, rather than being a conventionally shaped orchard, the trees – including pear, mulberry, damson and cherry – run in a line that will allow people to follow the trail and enjoy the trees’ produce.

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Ben Bradshaw MP lending a hand planting a tree

Laura Robinson, Community Organiser and coordinator for the Activity Trail, hopes that the orchard and the trail as a whole will have a positive impact on the local community and the health and wellbeing of its residents: The aim of the activity trail is to increase the amount of physical activity locally. The trees will enhance the space and provide more opportunities for community events such as harvesting and food education.

In addition to the community orchard, the event was also used to plant a new Lucombe Oak, a variety of tree that was originally grown in William Lucombe’s nursery around 250 years ago in what is now Pinces Gardens.

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Cllr Hannah Packham with the Lucombe Oak

This particular tree was grafted from an original Lucombe Oak, now sited at Killerton House, just outside Exeter. Local residents Yvonne Fryer and Julia Harbor, who have done extensive research on the Lucombe Oak’s relationship with Exeter and were the driving force behind its reintroduction to Cowick Barton Fields, had the honour of planting the tree, with support and enthusiasm from a small crowd of onlookers and spade bearers.

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Yvonne Fryer and Julia Harbor plant the Lucombe Oak

Everyone present felt the event was a huge success and Laura Robinson felt it reflected the strength of the local community: “The day highlighted the amazing community spirit of St Thomas, from residents and local groups that have been involved as well as new faces coming together to enhance this treasured green space.”

Members of the public are being encouraged to take pictures of the trees and share them @activedevon @laurarobinsonCO #activetrail to raise awareness of the community orchard.

 

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Me with Ben Bradshaw and Hannah Packham

My comment:
This is what community organising and community involvement is all aboiut – far to many people to thank for all their hard work in the lead up to the weekend and on the day itself, but you know who you are. Your all bloomin’ marvellous.

Next stop the tree trail around ‪#‎EXEStThomas‬!

 

TTIP | E-mail your MP NOW!

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Later today, MPs are going to debate TTIP, the dodgy trade deal between the EU and US. [1]

There is a rare opportunity for us to make sure our MPs speak out against the deal in front of the government Minister responsible. Together, we can make sure our MPs, and the government, know that we’re still against TTIP.

TTIP is a danger to our way of life; it could affect our NHS, our environment and our democracy. Under TTIP, corporations could get the right to sue us if they don’t like our laws. [2]

Thursday’s debate has been called by a cross-party group of MPs who think parliament should have more of a say on TTIP – even MPs think the deal is too secretive! [3] Officials and diplomats across Europe and the US are likely to be watching closely. Together, we can show them that when David Cameron says he wants to put ‘rocket boosters’ under TTIP, he doesn’t speak for us. [4] If we can persuade enough MPs to turn up and voice concerns about TTIP, it could really rock the boat.

Just this summer, 38 Degrees members and other campaigners persuaded over half of UK MEPs (our politicians in the European Parliament) to oppose TTIP. [5] But we need to make sure MPs feel the heat too – and that means making sure they know we want them to speak up on our behalf at every opportunity. When we come together as a force, we can take on enormous challenges: the stakes are high with TTIP, so we need to do everything we can to stop this dodgy deal.

Picture this: At the debate, a stream of MPs take to their feet to tell the government that they’ve been inundated with emails from their constituents and the message is loud and clear – we oppose TTIP. The government will be left in no doubt that we see the deal for what it is: a sinister corporate power grab and a threat to our democracy.

But this all hinges on our MPs hearing from us. They need to know why TTIP is bad, and that we expect them to show up and represent our views. It only takes two minutes, so will you email your MP now?

Will you email your MP asking them to speak out, on your behalf, against TTIP? There’s some suggested text that you can use, so it’ll only take 2 minutes to send the email:

Will you email your MP now? It only takes 2 minutes
Tell your MP: oppose TTIP at Thursday’s debate

Thanks for being involved,

Amy, Rachel, Megan, Blanche and the 38 Degrees team

NOTES:
[1] This last-minute debate has been called by Geraint Davies, Zac Goldsmith and Caroline Lucas. They want MPs to be able to properly scrutinise TTIP.

We know that the more people know about this dodgy deal, the more likely they are to turn against it, so more scrutiny of TTIP can only be a good thing for our campaign to scrap it.

The debate is a backbench business debate, which is a chance for some MPs to call for a debate on an issue they care about or want extra scrutiny on.

Parliament UK: How the Backbench Business Committee works:
http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/backbench-business-committee/how-the-backbench-business-committee-works/

[2] TTIP will affect every aspect of our lives, from the NHS to democracy. It:

  • Threatens our public services
  • Transfers powers to big businesses and away from us
  • Weakens our safety standards
  • Lets huge corporations sue governments over regulations they don’t like
  • Weakens our employment rights

38 Degrees: The campaign against TTIP:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/pages/ttip_home

Information on TTIP:
https://home.38degrees.org.uk/2014/10/12/information-on-ttip/

The Independent: What is TTIP? And six reasons why the answer should scare you:
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/what-is-ttip-and-six-reasons-why-the-answer-should-scare-you-9779688.html

[3] Geraint Davies MP (Labour), Zac Goldsmith MP (Conservative) and Caroline Lucas MP (Green) have put forward the debate together.

[4] The Independent: G20 summit: Cameron promises to fire ‘rocket boosters’ under controversial EU-US TTIP trade deal:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/g20-summit-cameron-promises-to-fire-rocket-boosters-under-controversial-eu-us-ttip-trade-deal-9864000.html

[5] TTIP: people power is working:
https://home.38degrees.org.uk/2015/06/12/ttip-people-power-is-working/

Here’s my e-mail to Ben Bradshaw MP:

Dear Ben Bradshaw,

I hear there is a debate on TTIP happening in Parliament on Thursday. Please can you assure me that you will attend and voice your opposition to this dangerous deal?

David Cameron says he wants to put ‘rocket boosters’ under TTIP, but he doesn’t speak for me, hundreds more of your constituents, or hundreds and thousands of people across the UK. I think this is an important issue and as my MP I’d like you to take part in this debate.

In its current form, TTIP threatens our democracy because it:
– allows multi-national corporations to sue governments over policies they don’t like;
– puts US firms’ profits ahead of our safety regulations gives corporations more power over our lives;
– threatens the NHS by “opening it up to competition”;
– prevent consideration of environmental and social
factors when awarding contracts; and
– undermine any local authority that makes a decision to take services back under public control

More information about TTIP, and the dangers it poses, here:
http://rosalux-europa.info/news/TTIP/
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/pages/ttip_home
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/11664750/What-is-TTIP-and-why-is-it-so-controversial.html

Yours sincerely,

Paul Bull
5 Cranbrook Road
EX25HG
paul4cowick@aol.com

Crisis | Homelessness Prevention Grant

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Dear Ben,

I am writing as a constituent to ask that you raise with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government the importance of protecting the Homelessness Prevention Grant in the upcoming Spending Review.

This fund, worth £80 million annually, is used by local authorities across England to provide vital services like debt advice, mediation with landlords and help to find new accommodation, which have prevented hundreds of thousands of people from becoming homeless.

Though the money is not ring fenced, the fact that it is a named grant has helped focus funding on the crucial services it is intended for. Around 80% of all Housing Options and Homelessness services currently receive the full grant allocation and 90% say that money would get diverted elsewhere, and services damaged, if it were no longer a named grant.

Protecting the grant makes financial sense as well as being the right thing to do. While homelessness costs the government £1 billion annually, tackling it early could save between £3,000 and £18,000 for every person helped.

Since 2010, ministers have emphasised the crucial role the grant plays and protected it from cuts. Homelessness minister Marcus Jones recently told parliament its impact is “powerful” in stopping people from becoming homeless.

Even so, with deep spending cuts planned, this funding is at risk.

I would therefore be grateful if you could ask George Osborne and Greg Clark to:

1. Protect the Homelessness Prevention Grant until 2020 in the upcoming Spending Review
2. Allocate the grant according to levels of need in each local authority
3. Monitor how the grant is spent, to help make sure it is used effectively and for what it is intended

For further information on the Homelessness Prevention Grant, please see this briefing from Crisis: http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/Homelessness%20Prevention%20grant%20briefing.pdf

Progress | We need a candidate who’s not from a safe seat

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17 August 2015

We need a candidate who’s not from a safe seat

The success of ‘Fortress Exeter’ should show the way for Labour, says Ben Bradshaw

As we visit deputy leadership candidate Ben Bradshaw in his Westminster office, ‘Corbynmania’ is at its zenith. The politics of the mob has found new voice in the Labour leadership race, most stridently in its hunts for ‘Tories’ lurking in the Labour party. The new online McCarthyism is often led by people whose support for Labour in the past has at best been intermittent or itself questionable.

Bradshaw is clear where he stands on this uncomradely behaviour. ‘I deplore personal attacks whether they are against people like me or Liz [Kendall] who are lifelong Labour members who have spent our lifetimes fighting the Tories … we should be playing the ball – not the man or the woman.’ He hints, though, that such debate, the nature of its conduct aside, might itself be inevitable. ‘We can’t avoid the debate we should have had five years ago, or possibly even [eight] years ago.’

It is clear that Bradshaw thinks that the party needs a long, hard think about where it went wrong. Labour’s failure at the ballot box was almost inevitable given its failure to come up to scratch on the big questions that voters ask themselves when making their choice. ‘We lost the election because of the wrong political strategy, we weren’t trusted on the economy and we had a massive deficit on leadership,’ he says.

Bradshaw is clear too that the road to No 10 in 2020 runs right through the seats that now look increasingly like Tory heartlands. ‘The stark reality is that four of the five voters that we are going to have to win back at the next election voted Tory on 7 May.’ The party performed weakly among ‘traditional’ supporters and terribly among others. ‘We had a three per cent lead among workers in the public sector; we had a 17 per cent deficit among workers in the private sector.’

This too is one of the former cabinet minister’s chief motivations for his bid for the deputy leadership of his party. Member of parliament for Exeter since 1997, and the first Labour MP for the city to win the seat while his party lost a general election, he explains, ‘My motivation for joining the race was trebling my majority in a former safe Tory seat of the kind we are going to have to win back in spades to have any hope of ever forming a government again … I thought it was very important that there was at least one candidate, on one of the ballots, who wasn’t in a safe seat’.

‘I’m chair of the 12-strong southern group of Labour MPs now, was [10]’, he continues. Labour slipped backwards in this electorally vital region in May. Could he have said or done more to make Labour change course? He replies that when he took the group to see Ed Miliband, ‘Almost universally, all of the candidates said we needed to have a more aspirational offer to win seats like Reading West, Swindon and so forth. And we were listened to, but I don’t think we were really heard – and that was the problem.’

There is a live debate in the Labour party at present about the value of ‘voter ID’. What did those more than four million conversations get us, some are asking. Bradshaw is unrepentant in his belief in the value of door-to-door campaigning. ‘But it can’t just be, “Are you Labour or Conservative? Right, OK, well goodbye, we’ll never speak to you again.” It has to be an engaging conversation.’ Some of the most successful campaigns in 2015 were, he argues, where candidates were able to develop their own narrative. ‘[In Exeter] we ran very locally branded campaigns around sense of place, around the candidate, obviously pro-business campaigns. We tore up the national script.’

‘If I hadn’t had the second-highest contact rate of any CLP in the country, 75 per cent in Exeter … I would never have had the result I had.’ He is bullish about his record: ‘Every leadership and deputy leadership contender’s contact rate should be made public, and I’m prepared to publish mine.’ Contracts for members of parliament stipulating contact rates should also become part and parcel of what it means to represent Labour in Westminster, and the former secretary of state for culture, media and sport attributes Labour’s struggles in Scotland to failings in this area. ‘Scotland is a classic example here of complacency, very little campaigning, very low membership.’

Change also needs to come at the top of the party, and Bradshaw backs increasing the number of councillors represented on the National Executive Committee, as well as the leaders of Scottish and Welsh Labour. But, he adds, ‘I also think we should have an ordinary party member, from Scotland and Wales, reflecting what I would want to see as a more federal party structure’. He is conscious too that, ‘We [Labour] haven’t run anything nationally in quite a long time’ and so ‘it’s really important that the party leadership at Westminster, the PLP, and the party in the country recognise and appreciate the contribution that’s being made by Labour in local government, and listen to their advice’.

It is clear that the Labour party is going to have to change if it is to survive. But what does a successful party look like? To approach this in a different way, we ask the deputy leadership contender: if the Labour party were an animal, which animal would it be? After a period of reflection, Bradshaw muses, ‘It would have to combine stamina, resilience, intelligence, wisdom, enough aggression. So it would probably have to be a predator … It would have to a be lion, wouldn’t it?’ Whatever the deputy leader election result, as the party surveys the inhospitable territory before it, Bradshaw’s experience and Fortress Exeter triumphs should surely be some of the guides leading the pride of Labour lions to higher ground.

BenBradshaw letter on Sidwell Street Walk-In Centre

Thanks for your e-mail and for all you and others have been doing to try and save the Sidwell St Walk-In Centre. it is particularly galling for me, as I was Health Minister when the Labour government set up the network of Walk-In Centres across England. I am afraid that most of them were closed by the Coalition government and I suspect you are right when you say this is being directed from the centre, and now the Tories are governing alone, is likely to be accelerated.

I have made several visits, have written several letters to and have several meetings with the CCG since the idea of closing the centre was first mooted two years ago. I will seek a further meeting but I am not confident the outcome will be any different, not least, given the serious financial crisis facing Devon NHS. I will also seek to raise this is Parliament.

A number of Labour members are involved in the campaign and I am copying this to the Chair of the local party, Matthew Vizard. You might want to engage Richard Westlake, who is the Labour councillor who chairs the Health Scrutiny Committee of the County Council. That is the body, under the Tories disasterous NHS ‘reforms’, that is supposed to provide the democratic oversight to local commissioning groups, but their powers are quite limited.

Finally, Labour has just suffered a terrible defeat in the General Election, although we did extremely well in Exeter. In the long term, the only thing that is going to save the NHS from the Tories is a Labour government. I would encourage you and everyone else involved in the campaign to join us and help us in that mission in the months and years to come.

With very best wishes

Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP

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Campaign for Better Transport letter to Ben Bradshaw

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Using the template letter supplied by Campaign for Better Transport, I’ve contacted my local MP

Dear Ben Bradshaw MP,

I am very concerned about continued cuts to bus services. Following significant cuts to Local Authority funding from central Government, according to the Campaign for Better Transport in 2014/15 50 per cent of local authorities have cut funding for supported bus services. This has meant almost 500 services and routes have been cut or withdrawn completely, leaving many people cut off.

These bus services are a crucial lifeline for many people, but especially those of us who are either older, younger, disabled, seeking a job or on a low income.

Continuing to cut these services would not only greatly impoverish us, but also harm the economy as a whole. More people commute to work on buses than all other modes of public transport combined. For every £1 spent on buses they generate between £3 and £5 in wider economic benefits. Cutting buses is a false economy.

Buses are a key issue for millions of people and buses really must be given the political recognition from Members of Parliament that they deserve.

This year looks like it will be even worse than last for bus cuts, with over £10 million already earmarked to be cut by local authorities across the country. I want to call on you as my MP to recognise the importance of our buses and tell me what you and your party will do to stand up and speak up for buses in the coming weeks and months.

At the beginning of the week, Devon County Council announced a consultation that will cover 5 supported services in Exeter: D, U, M, P and T.

You are aware that the P service serves Cowick ward.

Since the route of the P avoids the GP surgery that looks after the health of the Cowick residents, it is thought by many not to function as suitable public transport – it certainly doesn’t serve their needs.

The proposals seek to withdraw evening and Sunday service to the P bus – meaning that the last evening service from the city centre to Cowick will leave the High Street at 2012 (on Sunday this will be 1712).

The 2011 census shows Cowick has the 2nd highest ward (out of the 18 in Exeter) of residents over the age of 65 and 3rd highest of those in bad or vey bad health. And 1 in 4 households in the ward do not own a car.

So for those without access to a car, or chose not to own one, or who cannot drive, or cannot afford a car, a bus service is key to a decent quality of life: with fewer buses, or none at all, journeys may not be made at all. 

I’m not sure if you have read the report from the IPPR thinktank, Greasing the Wheels: Supporting and Improving Britain’s Rail and Bus Services

It highlights that the poorest make more than three times as many trips a year by bus as the richest.

But while car ownership is nearly universal among wealthier people, only 30% of households in the poorest income decile own a vehicle. Poorer groups therefore rely on bus services or have to take taxis.

The report shows that the poorest fifth of households take more taxi journeys per year than any other income group – largely due to the unavailability, unreliability and high fares of their local buses.

Withdrawing the evening and Sunday services will only increase the social isolation of these vulnerable categories as they become even more housebound by these plans.

I look forward to your response.