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.
Travelling to Hospital Appointments
I share my constituents concerns that many patients are experiencing distressing and difficult public transport journeys to and from hospital and that, in some cases, patients and families are incurring extra costs as a result.
The Government maintains that non-emergency patient transport services (PTS) are available for patients that meet certain criteria. It outlines that eligibility for PTS should be determined either by a healthcare professional or by non-clinically qualified staff who are both clinically supervised and/or working within locally agreed protocols or guidelines.
I agree that action must be taken to address regional variation in patient transport to ensure that the quality and availability of these services does not depend on which part of the country you live in.
At the General Election I stood on a manifesto that committed to investing more than £38 billion in the NHS and social care to give patients the modern, world-class services they need. The manifesto pledged to ensure ambulance services are properly resourced and to tackle the growing problem of rationing of services.
Across the country ambulance staff are working round the clock to do their best for patients. Yet the Government's unsustainable demands on the NHS has resulted in a 22% rise in spending on private ambulances in England over the past two years.
Many constituents contacted me about the closure of the existing childcare vouchers scheme for new entrants from April 2018.
I am aware that concerns have been raised that many parents will lose out because of the transition to the Government's new system of tax-free childcare. I share these concerns.
It is very worrying that the Childcare Voucher Providers Association (CVPA) has suggested that only 7% of the parents expected to sign up to tax-free childcare by April 2018 will have done so. The CPVA notes that this is particularly alarming given the plans to close access to childcare vouchers, which risks hundreds of thousands of parents being left with no childcare support at all.
The Government has acknowledged that applications for tax-free childcare accounts have been lower than expected. However, it believes that the new scheme is fairer and better targeted than vouchers.
I strongly support investment in childcare and at the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to overhaul the existing childcare system in which subsidies are given directly to parents who often struggle to use them, and transition to a system of high-quality childcare places in mixed environments with direct Government subsidy. It also pledged to phase in subsidised provision on top of free-hour entitlements, to ensure everyone has access to affordable childcare, no matter their working pattern. The manifesto further committed to extend 30 free hours to all two-year-olds, and move towards making some childcare available for one-year-olds and extending maternity pay to 12 months.
Public Sector Pay Cap
I believe a pay rise for all public sector workers, both in our constituency and across the country, is fair and affordable.
The large number of letters and emails I have received on this issue highlights the strength of public concern. The Government has said the pay cap has ended, yet the Chancellor made no reference to public sector pay in his Autumn Budget and there was no new money announced to give public sector workers the pay increase they deserve.
At the General Election I stood on a manifesto that pledged to end the pay cap in the public sector and make a return to pay being agreed through collective bargaining and the evidence of independent pay review bodies. I also supported an Opposition amendment in the House of Commons which called on the Government to give public sector workers a fair pay rise. Unfortunately, the Government voted against the amendment and it was defeated.
I will continue to press the Government to lift the pay cap so that public sector workers are paid at a level which recognises the skill and dedication which they bring to their jobs.
Animals and Brexit
Many residents contacted me about the legal status of animals and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as 'the Repeal Bill'.
I believe we have a moral duty to treat the animals we share our planet with in a humane and compassionate way, and I agree that leaving the EU must not lead to any watering down of existing standards on animal welfare.
As you know, Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union protects the legal status of animals as sentient beings. Despite indicating that the Repeal Bill would incorporate Article 13, the Bill as currently drafted, will not ensure its preservation in UK law. I share your concern about this.
In the House of Commons on 15 November, I supported New Clause 30 which sought to retain the rights and obligations contained in Article 13. I also support Amendment 350, which has been tabled by the Official Opposition and would ensure that the Government is held to the animal welfare standards enshrined in Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Unfortunately, when New Clause 30 was pressed to a vote on 15 November, it was rejected by the Government and defeated. The Minister argued that animals are already recognised as sentient beings under domestic law and that this will continue to be the case. The Government has since said that it will ensure any necessary changes required to UK law are made to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU.