Universal Credit: I spoke in parliament this week about how many of the 1.5m private sector rented tenants on Housing Benefit across the UK could, unless the government make it easy for landlords to receive direct payments from tenants on Universal Credit, be in danger of losing their homes if they fall behind with their payments.
Because, bluntly, private landlords don’t have the capacity to ‘not’ be paid for months on end, as councils and housing associations sometimes do in emergency situations. And these delays are happening in many instances as UC is rolled out nationally.
In Westminster I urged the government to pause the rollout to prevent a possible disaster in the making, particularly in the private rental sector. I’ve real concerns that unless the government stops the rollout we will have a significant problem affecting many of our most vulnerable citizens. Say for instance 30 per cent, or 450,000 people are evicted from their private accommodation, can you imagine the consequence. Where would they go? Many councils are already stretched to the limit.
Locally I and others, both statutory and charities such as the CAB, are doing our level best to ramp up support mechanisms to cope with the expected demand as UC was launched here week before last. However when a colleague from the Eastbourne Foodbank told me, only a couple of weeks ago, that food requirements from their Hastings equivalent went up a staggering 80 per cent when UC was launched there in December last year, the challenges for us in Eastbourne are going to be immense.
It beggars belief the government simply refuses to halt the national rollout of Universal Credit to ensure crucial changes are made before too many people suffer unnecessarily.
Hospitals: Our DGH A&E is getting better and better: it was good to visit the A&E department recently to meet staff and see the work of the unit first hand. An impressive operation having to deal sometimes, suddenly, with an influx of patients, so the team have to be able to respond as quickly as possible efficiently and with kindness.
It was also a timely visit for me as the Trust had just received a letter from the Department of Health praising them for having the ‘most improved quarterly performance for any A&E in the country’. This is an astonishing achievement considering just how many hospitals there are in the UK so I offer my congratulations to all the A&E staff at the DGH both clinical and non-clinical, for the fantastic work they do. Well done all.
Schools Budget: It was good to welcome some teachers from Eastbourne up to Westminster this week for the schools lobby. I’ve always profoundly believed that a decent education is one of the genuine silver bullets which can be a game-changer for a child’s future. So as I did before when I was last your MP, local schools can know that in me they have a very, very active supporter in Parliament.
It is clear that school budget cuts are putting the potential of some of our young people in Eastbourne and Willingdon at risk, and though after the election the Tories promised to protect per pupil funding, recent analysis of the figures show many areas across the country are in fact still set to lose out in real terms. And this includes many of our own schools!
In all my years in politics I have never known all the local heads make it so clear publicly just how concerned they are. The government must reverse these damaging cuts and invest to protect school budgets, so I will be writing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer demanding he provide sufficient funds. Meanwhile I will continue lobbying actively in parliament over the issue. It’s our children’s future here.
That’s it. Have a good weekend folks and I hope to see you around town.