Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Our frontline services are under threat and the outcome of today's election will dictate their future.

I was joined by one of my political friends who's part of the Scottish Firefighters Union and we talked about the role of firefighters in Carlisle and Cumbria.  This was particularly relevant given the flood warnings two days ago, again, for the River Caldew and Petteril.

Not much has been said about the firefighters during this election campaign.  We've talked about nurses and police officers and cuts to school budgets.  So here is the view from the FBU - the firefighters' union:

The last 7 years of Tory rule has resulted the loss of 10,000 firefighter jobs. These cuts are felt particularly hard in the North West including Cumbria. This has been brought about by a massive reduction in the budgets for fire and rescue services by the Tories.

Firefighters pay has been held back, our pensions wrecked and our national insurance payments increased meaning a real terms pay cut for firefighters.

Response times are getting slower whilst the risks are getting ever worse. Flooding is something that cannot be ignored, the Labour Party has declared that it would make flooding a statutory duty for English fire and rescue services, as it already is in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which is the right thing to do. The Tories have said they will not. Why should our citizens be any less protected under a Tory Government than our friends in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Labour have stated that they would re-invest in the fire and rescue service and return 3000 firefighters jobs immediately, the Tories are determined to continue their cuts agenda meaning less money less fire stations, less fire appliances and less firefighters for the fire and rescue service. Sadly fatalities in fire have increased in Cumbria, that trend has to stop and that can only be done by reinvesting in the fire and rescue service by a Labour Government.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

6 days to go....and what a team!

I've just realised it's been over two weeks now since I last posted.  I have drafted a couple more things to put on here but not had the chance to sit down and do it.

The last few weeks have been completely surreal.  I have missed my 40th birthday trip to Rome, sent my children to their grandparents for several days, been up working at 3 in the morning, spent hours reading about and researching so many different topics.  Yesterday I got an email from the Royal Society of Biology and one worried about the threat to UK motorsport. Even now I should be listening to the 11 messages on my phone, collating a list of people who have requested posters and replying to the hundreds of emails I have sitting in my email account.

But I just wanted to pause and say thank you to all the amazing volunteers that have helped me out.  I have been stunned by the numbers turning up to hustings to support me, to forward me articles or lines to take in discussions (they have been invaluable!).

I would like to say thank you to all those who have donated to our campaign; so important given the speed of the election. Thank you to those who have put up posters.  To those who have had conversations saying they are proud to be voting Labour.  To those who have offered a listening ear.

I want to say thank you to those who have joined with the Progressive Alliance and have offered their support - perhaps in a way they would not normally do.  Thank you to those friends who have worked electronically, using technology to support the campaign in a way I would never be able to.  And I would like to thank all those absolute stalwarts, and the many new volunteers, who have carried on leafleting and canvassing, getting the message across without fuss or demand. 

In what occasionally feels like a slightly lonely place, you guys have kept me sane.  I've been a member of the Labour Party for over 20 years and this has campaign has been the Labour Party at its best. We have only 6 days to go.  Let's have one last big push and see what we can do!  Thanks again all.  And I'm looking forward to a big party afterwards!  Lots of love xxx

Sunday, 14 May 2017

School Funding Cuts - really?

There's been a huge push on education recently.  Headteachers' Union, NAHT, have been campaigning across the country  - see for more information - to bring people together and inform them about what is happening in all of our schools. There was a rally in Penrith last weekend where people from all parties, headteachers, teachers, parents and even children were invited to speak. 

The head at the primary school where I am a councillor in Denton Holme is also an NAHT rep so I contacted him to find out more.  It turns out he is offering a briefing service to any candidate that wants one, keeping us informed about what the NAHT are asking for - their '5 Election Priorities'. He also asks that candidates sign their pledge.

I'm going to spend a bit of time writing about what the school funding issue is and why there are these pledges, because I think it's important that people know. 

If you ask the Conservatives, and I believe a number of people have, funding for schools is at record levels and has been protected in this parliament.  Hmm, probably not going to dispute that - I used to be a civil servant and I know that politicians want to tell the truth and will frame things accordingly. 

What I am concerned about is that, for a number of reasons, the National Audit Office (NAO) estimates that rising costs to schools means that the school system faces a real term loss of £3bn by 2020.  That is, the government's own figures, show that schools will lose £3bn worth of funding by 2020. 

It comes for a number of reasons: increases in national insurance and pension costs, pay increases for teachers and staff (capped at 1% - hardly excessive and certainly not in line with current inflation), abolition of the Education Services Grant.... The list goes on. 

Schools in Cumbria are expected to find £27.7m savings.  Ullswater Community College has a budget of £6.96m;  in 2009, it had a budge of £8.05m.  In 8 years, it is over a million pounds worse off. 

But I've found in politics, statistics are a massive turn off and appeal to no one apart from politicians.  So here is what it means to me.

At the rally last week, a headteacher from Penrith talked about spending four hours with the bursar trying to make her budget balance.  She could not do it without it harming her staff and her children.  She had put her head in her hands and cried.

Union reps are talking about a 'success' being where staff members have left naturally - through retirement or a new job - and therefore no one has to be made redundant.  They just won't be replaced.

For the primary school in the ward where I am a councillor, funding cuts means losing three teachers.  For the primary school where my girls go to school, it means losing one teacher.

Now think back to the school where your children go.  Think of the teacher who ran that awesome residential trip where your child came back buzzing but was so tired they fell asleep on the sofa.  Think of the teacher who presided over that lightbulb moment when they suddenly realised they could read.  Think of the teacher who quietly organised a change of clothes when your four year old was so engrossed in the activity they forgot to go to the loo. Think of the teacher who embraced your child because they were so tired and upset and cross they couldn't think straight. 

Which one of these is going to go?

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Feeling tired

Sitting outside in the garden watching the kids bouncing on the trampoline. For the first time in feeling tired.

The aim of the campaign is to see as many people and talk to as many people as possible. 5 weeks isn't a Long time. Yesterday consisted of our campaign launch in the town centre, a joyous affair with many volunteers, balloons and stickers, then a visit to Penrith to support parents and staff protesting against the awful school cuts, and finally down to Bolton for the wedding of one of my old school friends. Dancing till 12.30 was great fun but I paid the price with a night of political dreams and an early start.

This morning I drove two hours north back to Carlisle for photos with the News and Star, popped in to see my boss and plan tomorrow and possibly have another two meetings to talk about printed stuff and leaflets and that still leaves us to make our plan for each day in the campaign, stuff to write, website to update and so on. Today I'm tired.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Saturday morning

Saturday morning. Full night's sleep last night after only 4 hours at the County election count the night before. Up at 6 to prepare lines on how we're going to pay for our spending commitments for today's launch. Kids down at 7. Mum here to help so between us we're feeding kids, doing washing, practising key facts. Take youngest child up at 8, who wakes husband with a loud "Boo!", nearly killing him in the process. Go up again at 8.30 to get him out of bed, facing accusations of Stalinism.

Leaving in 1 hour 25 minutes to do campaign launch, then funding rally in Penrith then down the M6 to the wedding of an old school friend, coming back tomorrow morning. Not spent as much time revising as I would have liked but assume that feeding family is a non-negotiable!
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and outdoor
A new photo because my kitchen scales picture doesn't really 'capture' me  😀
Hoping that it changes the picture on my fb posts.  Who knows?  I'm too old for all this...

Sunday, 7 May 2017

First day of being a candidate

I've realised I'm getting more and more behind and my grammar and punctuation is getting poorer and poorer in my blog as the campaign is going on!  Sleep is becoming a precious commodity and this morning I found myself awake at 4.30 with my mind whirring so I got up and planned one of my leaflets before going back to bed. 

Anyway, this is what the first day of being a candidate was like....

Blog 4 - first full day of being the candidate

So today has comprised of work (pond dipping and habitats with a reception class - awesome job!), meeting with council leader to go over policy areas, meeting with agent to sign papers (discussion over which Labour logo to go on the forms), trying to plan when photos can be taken (the sooner the better), delivering mail across the city to members not on email (accidentally arriving at the house of said agent, who I saw only two hours previously, with a letter for his wife) and a good chat with former PPC who's done all this before and then some, and sorted the kids for tomorrow.

Probably better to say what I haven't done: work stuff, chased up emails, published media statement, published anything else I should have done. But anyway, I've showered and it's 12 o'clock. I'm going to bed.