Angel of the North 21st Anniversary

Earlier today I asked the Leader of the House if she would grant a debate on the importance of culture to local economies. The Angel of the North celebrates its 21st birthday this week, and I am very proud that this magnificent landmark is in my constituency and has been one of the most famous symbols of the North East for the last 21 years.

Tomorrow I will be visiting the Angel to celebrate this milestone. Members of the Low Fell Community Choir and Art Diamonds project will also be there to sing a very special rendition of Happy Birthday, along with another song or two. People have also been invited to come along and board the Go North East Angel bus to take part in some angel themed creative activities with local artists (10am–2pm). Do come along if you can!

The year ahead in British politics

So, here we stand at the start of a new year. For me, the run up to Christmas was a time for getting out and meeting constituents making their Christmas preparations and taking the time to thank and celebrate their local communities. It was a privilege – and a huge pleasure – to watch children from St Joseph’s Primary school, Blaydon, present their nativity; to be part of Northumbria Police’s Biggest Coffee morning in Ryton, raising funds for mental health charity Mind; to be part of the Blaydon Angels awards ceremony organised by the Deacon Tracy Hume and to be a part of the community carol service at St Mary’s Church, Whickham. These are marvellous local events, showing how positive the Christmas spirit can be as people join together and show real concern for others.

Sadly, it is also at Christmas time that the differences within our society become stark. While many of us will be enjoying delicious foods, good company and joyous spirits – some will not be so lucky. For them, this time of year makes the struggle a little harder. Our foodbanks are under huge pressure from people who simply don’t have the money for food, or energy, let alone gifts for the children. Foodbanks, churches and many other local organisations make a huge effort at this time of year, distributing gifts and hampers of seasonal food and I thank them for their contribution – but it cannot be right that there can be such huge differences between those who have and who have not. Foodbanks should not be necessary in 2019.

Most notably, this time of year affects the homeless in such a cruel way. Homelessness has rapidly increased across the UK since austerity hit the poorest in our society with the harshest consequences. It is right that after a year of hard work, we all enjoy this time of year – but important that we remember that our country has a long way to go before it works for everyone.

Next week sees the start of a new Parliamentary term and a return to the debate about Brexit. The Prime Minister will at last put her botched Brexit deal to debate and a vote in Parliament. The vote, when it comes, will be four weeks later than it should have been, losing valuable time in which Parliament could have moved forward on this issue. Labour has made clear that we will vote against this deal. We will do so because it is a bad deal for workers and a bad deal for our economy and particularly for our economy here in the North East. Any deal must protect workers’ rights, our economy, jobs and living standards – and bring Britain together. This deal doesn’t do any of that. It is time for Theresa May and her Tories to step aside.

While the country’s attention has been focused on Brexit, many other local and national issues have been ignored. Our local schools face a funding crisis; Children’s services are currently at breaking point; our NHS faces unprecedented pressures; and local authority services, especially social care for the most vulnerable people in our communities, face continuing funding cuts as demand rises. Police and Fire and Rescue services are under sustained pressure. We must make sure that these vital services are not forgotten and I, and Labour MPs across the North East will be pushing to make sure that does not happen – they are too important to our communities.

The United Nations Special rapporteur’s recent report found that austerity had not been driven by economic necessity, but rather by the Tories’ determination to socially re-engineer the UK, which has delivered the “minimum levels of fairness and social justice to the British people.” The report concludes that poverty has been “a political choice”. You might think this damning report has convinced Government Ministers to reconsider their objectives. It has not. The need for change in our country has never been more apparent.

This year I will be working with my Labour colleagues to represent the interests of those who have been let down and left behind by callous Tory policies. Above all, I will continue to stand up for my constituents right across Blaydon constituency so badly hit by this Tory Government .

Job advert: Caseworker

  • Date Added: 03 January 2019
  • Closing Date: 14 January 2019
  • Job Title: Caseworker
  • Working For: Liz Twist MP (Blaydon)
  • Location: Blaydon Constituency Office
  • Salary: £22,000 per annum in line with IPSA pay scale

Job Details

Liz Twist MP is seeking to appoint a caseworker to support her role as the Member of Parliament for Blaydon. The position would suit a flexible, proactive and hard-working individual who can act on their own initiative. Key to the position will be your prior experience in welfare rights, knowledge of Universal Credit. ability to absorb new information and support constituents in resolving a variety of casework enquiries. Excellent written and verbal communication, research skills, the ability to draft correspondence and understanding of the welfare benefits system are essential.

The successful applicant with be a team player, a self-starter, have good knowledge of welfare rights, housing, health, education and other public service. They will work in the Constituency office alongside the Senior Caseworker and will be line-managed by the Office Manager.

Experience of working in welfare rights, politics, public services or a trade union is desirable for this role. Flexibility and team work skills are essential.

Job Description

Responsibilities include:

Dealing with complex casework issues and attending advice surgeries
Drafting responses to constituents
Logging and monitoring all cases in line with GDPR
Undertaking research and preparing briefings for the Member
Flexible evening and weekend work will be required with time off in lieu
Liaising with constituents, agencies, the local authority and other public services
Develop and maintain knowledge in specialist areas as required by Member
Support the Member’s work on APPGs and Select Committees

Personal Specification
Excellent communications skills, both written and verbal with a keen attention to detail
Knowledge of welfare rights and current social issues
Excellent IT skills including Microsoft Office
Good organisation skills, with the ability to prioritise and manage own workload and work to tight deadlines
Ability to work proactively and independently as well as part of a team
Sympathetic to the aims and values of the Labour Party

Upon appointment you will be required to comply with the Baseline Personnel Security Standard, undertaken by the Members’ Staff Verification Office (MSVO). See Members’ Staff Verification Office (MSVO) page for further info. MPs generally pay staff in accordance with IPSA guidelines.

Closing Date: 14 January 2019

Interview/Start Dates

Please note, due to the high volume of applications that are expected, only suitable applicants will be contacted. If your address and contact details are not on your CV, you will not be considered.

Interviews: 25 Janaury 2019 in Blaydon
Start Date: Subject to agreement

Application Details

To apply for this position please send an email titled “Application for caseworker post” your CV (2 pages max) with a covering letter explaining your interest and suitability for this role to Chris McHugh, Office Manager and Senior Parliamentary Assistant on Christopher.mchugh@parliament.uk

For further information telephone 01914142488.

http://www.w4mpjobs.org/JobDetails.aspx?jobid=69239

Traidcraft debate

This morning I led a debate in Westminster Hall on Traidcraft and the future of Fairtrade.

I have been raising the difficulties Traidcraft has been having in Parliament over the past few months. I was therefore pleased to be able to debate these issues in Parliament – with a good number of colleagues contributing.

It’s so important that we keep Fairtrade organisations like Traidcraft running. They do such important work to help those who need it most around the world; and do so by creating good quality products at the same time.

You can watch the debate here: https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/c70b3b05-301c-4711-ad78-d52ace961ea5

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Constituency Christmas Card competition

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I’m delighted to announce that the winners of this year’s Christmas Card competition is St Joseph’s Primary School. The winning cards by St Joseph’s are held by Mary Foy (centre), Chair of the Gateshead Council Fairtrade Steering Group, and Jo Lambert (right), Digital Marketing Manager for Traidcraft. Commiserations to the runner-up, Parkhead Community Primary School, whose entry is held by me.

Thanks to all the schools who took part!