Every month I hear from constituents about issues close to their hearts. Here I will try to summarise the issues that have generated a high volume of correspondence from constituents and my response so that you can keep up to date with my work in the constituency, as well as in Parliament. I hope you find this information helpful, and if you would like to get in touch about a particular matter, please send me an email.
The Bootle constituency community is committed, involved and passionate about issues that affect us in our “neck of the woods”, and more broadly, the country.
Many residents contacted me to support an end homelessness and to remove the need for anyone to sleep rough on the streets.
Homelessness and rough sleeping are not inevitable in a country as decent and well-off as ours. Yet, since 2010 the number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled, with the latest statistics confirming there has been a 169% increase.
I believe these figures are a terrible reminder of eight years of failure on housing which has seen a steep drop in investment for new affordable homes; billions of pounds cut from housing benefit; inaction on short-term lets and soaring rents in the private rented sector; and significant cuts to funding for homelessness services.
The Secretary of State for Housing has confirmed that the Government's rough sleeping strategy, published in August, contains no additional funding for his Department to tackle the crisis of rough sleeping. If Ministers are serious about ending rough sleeping, I believe they should back the Opposition's plans to make 8,000 affordable homes immediately available for people with a history of sleeping on the streets.
At the 2017 general election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged to end rough sleeping within five years and prevent the need for anyone to sleep rough on the streets; this included commitments to build one million genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy to give those on low incomes more options for a place to stay.
More widely, I believe action is required to tackle the root causes of rising homelessness. Eviction or default from a private tenancy is now the single biggest cause of homelessness. I support ending the current practice of 'no-fault' evictions and action to strengthen tenants' rights by bringing forward a consumer rights revolution for renters. This would ensure more secure tenancies, new legal minimum standards and controls on rent rises.
Another area were many of my constituents contacted me about was pub closures and tax on pubs. I agree that this is an important issue.
The pub sector supports 900,000 jobs, generates £23 billion in economic value and provides £13 billion in tax revenues. In addition, 30 million adults visit the pub every month. Pubs are at the heart of the UK's communities. However, they continue to be under severe threat. I therefore agree that we must do what we can to support them.
At the 2017 general election I stood on a manifesto that committed to setting up a national review of local pubs to examine the reasons for their decline, as well as establishing a joint taskforce that will consider their future sustainability. It also committed to giving communities more power to shape their town centres, including by strengthening powers to protect pubs. I can therefore assure you that I will continue to call for pubs to be given the support that is necessary for them to thrive and grow.
Many residents contacted me about NHS staffing and Tier-2 Visas.
I welcome the recent announcement by the Government that it will remove the immigration cap on foreign doctors and nurses. I have consistently questioned the logic of turning away qualified medical professionals from working in our NHS at a time when it is struggling to fill almost 100,000 vacancies.
Despite the brilliant efforts of NHS staff who work tirelessly in the face of increasing pressures, years of pay restraint and a failure to invest in and plan properly for the workforce has resulted in vacancies for 35,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors. The Government has also abolished bursaries for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, resulting in the number of applications for nursing courses falling by over 15,000.
Our health service has always relied on the contribution of overseas workers. Yet the Government's 'hostile environment' approach to immigration policy has failed patients as the NHS has been unable to recruit more doctors and nurses from overseas. The NHS must be able hire the staff it needs from abroad to provide safe levels of care and I believe Ministers should be doing more to ensure that hospitals can get the right numbers of staff in place.
The visa rules have not worked in the best interests of NHS patients. I will press the Government to put patient safety first and ensure that NHS trusts are able to recruit the doctors and nurses it needs.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue.
Many people have contacted me about the proposed changes to claims for whiplash injury and to the small claims track limit for personal injury cases. I share many of the concerns about the planned reforms.
The Civil Liability Bill will soon be debated for the first time in the House of Commons. The Government says this Bill will crack down on fraudulent whiplash claims and ban the settling of claims without medical evidence, while introducing a new system of fixed tariffs for compensation payments for pain, suffering and loss of amenity in whiplash claims with a duration of up to two years.
Current proposals mean that the Lord Chancellor will be able to set the level of these tariffs, but I believe these should be determined by the judiciary - based on Judicial College guidelines rather than by the levels proposed by the Government. If there is to be a tariff, the Judicial College should be involved in determining these.
The Government is also bringing a package of other measures by secondary legislation alongside the Bill. The limit for claims on the small claims track in civil courts would be raised from £1,000 to £5,000 for road traffic accident-related personal injury claims, and from £1,000 to £2,000 for other personal injury claims.
There is disagreement about the extent of fraudulent claims, but the insurance industry's own estimates showed the amount paid out for whiplash claims falling by 17% between 2007 and 2016, while premiums rose by 71% on average. I do not want to see victims left unfairly liable for greater legal costs while insurance companies pocket the savings.
I also note the Justice Committee, in its report earlier this year, stated regret that the Government has not considered it relevant during consultation to consider the "potentially substantial" impact of the proposals on the personal injury legal sector.
I hope the Government will now listen to the concerns that have been raised and make substantial changes to the Bill to protect injured people. We should not be punishing genuine claimants for the misdemeanours of the fraudulent. If the real concern is the prevention of fraud, I think we should be looking at other measures.