Monthly Round Up

Working for You – September 18

In the constituency

I have been contacted by constituents on a number of issues. Last month the most common concerns were over the future of the Pensions Dashboard Project. This month so far, constituents are contacting me asking me to push the Government to make tax changes to ensure retail giants such as Amazon are paying appropriate levels of tax in the UK and to share their concerns over fracking. I attended the short debate on fracking but, unfortunately, I was not called to speak.

Other issues raised include teachers’ pay and blood cancer. On the issue of blood cancer and stem cell donation, I was delighted that following a community campaign a stem cell donor was found for Kaiya, a young girl who has been suffering from a rare form of blood cancer. She remains in hospital and I am following her recovery closely, hoping that the transplant has been a success.

Out and about

Diary highlights in the constituency include experiencing a day spent out and about with Bedfordshire Police. It was a pleasure to visit Guild House to see first-hand the services they offer for people over 50, and I was delighted to be invited to open the Marie-Curie charity shop in its new location on the High Street in Bedford.

I welcome the opportunities to meet residents of Bedford & Kempston enjoying the summer at Brass’s 20th Anniversary picnic party at the Quarry, Salvete Care Home Summer Fete honouring Doris Sharp’s 104th birthday, the Family Fun day at Addison Park in Kempston, and I was pleased to attend the Honour Walk at Priory Country Park, which had a great turn out raising money for wounded and sick Armed Forces personnel.

In Parliament

The House of Commons was back in session for two weeks following the summer recess, and I raised questions regarding the Government’s extreme cuts to funding, which have led to Bedford Hospital’s maternity unit closing its doors six times last year, and which are stretching local mental health provision to breaking point and preventing Bedfordshire Police from effectively carrying out front line policing.

The speaker granted me an urgent question on Thursday 13th September after the extremely worrying news that her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons had issued an urgent notification to the Secretary of State, delivering a damning report on the state of HMP Bedford.

Click on the following links to read what I’ve been doing in Parliament:


National Crisis in NHS Primary Care

National Crisis in NHS Primary Care

It has been two weeks since I learned that the Putnoe Walk In Centre consultation was brought to an abrupt end and we still await news on what the new proposals will look like for urgent care in Bedford.

GP workforce figures released yesterday show the number of GPs in England dropped by more than 500 in three months. This is yet more evidence of a primary care crisis: services are understaffed and underfunded.

The Conservatives make promises on the NHS that are time and again proven meaningless. 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 appropriately for the workforce has resulted in almost 100,000 staff vacancies.

On 18 June the then Health Secretary delivered a statement to the House of Commons outlining the Government’s proposals to increase NHS funding by £20.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023-24 – an average of 3.4% per year increase over the next five years – but Jeremy Hunt provided no detail of how the commitment would be funded.

At the general election last year, Labour pledged an additional £45 billion for the NHS and social care system and offered a long-term workforce plan to ensure safe staffing levels and to give staff the support they need. Our plan involved nearly £9billion extra for health and social care in the first year of a Labour government paid for by fair increases in taxation – this would amount to more than a 5% increase immediately.

I strongly agree with Labour’s pledge to work towards a new model of community care that takes into account not only primary care but also social care and mental health, increasing funding to GP services to ensure patients can access the care they need.



Success for Pedestrians and Cyclists – Bromham Road Bridge

Success for Pedestrians and Cyclists – Bromham Road Bridge

I am delighted that Network Rail and Bedford Borough Council have found a way to ensure that the proposed demolition and rebuilding of Bromham Road Bridge will eventually lead to improved infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists.

As local councillors, Mohammed Masud and I have pushed hard for this since we first became aware that Bromham Road Bridge was earmarked for demolition and rebuilding a number of years ago. The significant numbers of local residents who contributed to the consultation process were successful in making their voices heard, and we now know that Network Rail will leave the bridge footings in place once they remove the temporary footbridge on completion of works.

Network Rail have granted Bedford Borough Council ‘air rights’, essentially giving the council permission to build a permanent structure over the railway lines in the future, to the north side of the bridge. Whilst it was hoped that the newly built replacement bridge could be widened, it was clear the cost of this would not be footed by Network Rail, so I am extremely pleased that an alternative solution has been found to ensure the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.


Statutory Youth Services: Have Your Say

Statutory Youth Services: Have Your Say

I’m delighted by Labour’s bold new plan to introduce statutory youth services in England, announced last week. New legislation would be introduced, requiring every local authority to provide a minimum level of support for young people. Whilst Bedford Borough Council have fought hard and managed to largely protect local youth services, across England, the Government has left youth services devastated after eight years of unnecessary and unjustified austerity.

Every young person needs somewhere to go, something to do, and someone to speak to. For many young people, a local youth club is the only safe space they have to get the support they need. However, research conducted by the YMCA found that overall spending on youth services in England has fallen by £737m (62%) since 2010.

Between 2012 and 2016, 600 youth centres closed, 3,500 youth workers lost their jobs and 140,000 places for young people had gone. New analysis by the House of Commons library shows that spending on universal youth services has fallen by 52% in real terms since 2012.

With youth services targeted for budget cuts, the Tories have created the conditions in which crime can thrive, leaving young people vulnerable to violence and denied the opportunity to build a positive future.

Last week, Labour launched a consultation on a statutory youth service, and I urge all constituents of Bedford and Kempston who want to improve the opportunities available to young people to get involved. Follow this link to the consultation to share your ideas.

Together, we will rebuild youth services to create a system that truly works for the many, not the few.



New Opportunity for a Senior Caseworker

A new opportunity has arisen for an experienced Senior Caseworker to join my busy constituency-based team. We’re looking to recruit as soon as possible, so if you’re interested, please do apply before the 27th August.

The successful candidate will have experience working with the public and providing help and advice on a range of issues including; housing, immigration and social security. Excellent administrative and IT skills, the ability to work to tight deadlines and a highly organised approach to workloads are essential skills for this position.

Job description

• Ensure all cases are logged, monitor progress and ensure all identified actions are taken
• Gather relevant information to resolve or progress cases
• Ensure records are kept and information managed confidentially and in line with the GDPR
• Manage and progress portfolio of casework appropriately
• Liaise with Government agencies, voluntary sector and others to resolve constituency matters
• Attend surgeries, tribunals and meetings as appropriate
• Respond to routine correspondence and enquiries from constituents, the media, lobbyists and pressure groups
• Analyse patterns of enquiries and produce reports.
• Provide briefings for the Member on local issues that arise
• Research local, regional or national issues to support Member’s work as required
• Monitor media coverage, liaise with media, prepare press releases as required and (on constituency, non-party political matters)
• Supervise members of staff and provide occasional cover for Office Manager

Personal Specification

• Minimum qualifications: A-levels (grades A-C) or equivalent
• Substantial experience within a casework, advocacy, or advice and guidance role
• Proven ability to deal with casework and research, work to tight deadlines and pay keen attention to detail
• Good organisational skills and the ability to work effectively as part of a small team and also to work independently when required
• Excellent administrative and IT skills
• Sympathetic manner in dealing with people on the phone or face-to-face.
• Effective interpersonal skills and the ability to deal with a range of people in sometimes challenging situations.

Applicants should send their CV together with a covering letter (as a word document converted to PDF) to Applicants must demonstrate how they meet the criteria set out in the personal specification. Please ensure that examples are given – it is not sufficient to simply state that you believe you meet the criteria.

Interviews will take place during the week commencing 27th August.

Salary will be within IPSA pay-scales and are dependent upon experience

Working for You July 18

In the constituency

The approach to the summer recess has seen no decrease in the numbers of constituents getting in touch to share their views and concerns – we remain busy in our office and very much open for business.

Rail issues

Rail issues are of course still dominating my inbox and some of the stories my team are hearing from people are really quite harrowing – the impact that the failure of GTR and the Department for Transport to deliver anything resembling a timetable cannot be under-estimated.

The second version of the interim timetable was introduced on Monday 15th July, which we were assured would solve the problem. However, since we’re told that the problems so far result from a lack of trained drivers and an over-reliance on rest day working to fill workforce gaps, it’s hard to have confidence and improvements have been minimal. I met with the new boss of Govia Thameslink this week to share your stories with him and he and his team have taken those complaints away to respond to in detail. Despite having offered assurances that he would, Chris Grayling has now decided that he cannot restore EMT peak services and EMT bosses concur – we’re still working to change their minds and find a way through this.

Universal Credit & ESA

Bedford has now been a ‘full service’ Universal Credit area for over a year, and my office is seeing a substantial number of constituents facing issues with the system leading to misery and hardship. Despite pressure from the Labour Party and Conservative backbenchers to halt the Government’s ill-prepared roll-out of Universal Credit, we are now seeing the inevitable consequences of a system not yet fit for purpose.

I’m concerned about an issue my team are increasingly encountering, where hard-working constituents are penalised as a result of their employers paying them either fortnightly or 4-weekly. Having an employer payment schedule that is at odds with the monthly Universal Credit payments system has led to constituents suddenly facing a drastically reduced payment of their benefits, receiving nothing at all and even having their Universal Credit claims closed down.

Given that one supposed principal of Universal Credit is to encourage claimants to budget their income through receiving payments monthly rather than weekly, I’m appalled that constituents are being caught unawares, and expected to make up the shortfall. If the Government wants to encourage people in receipt of benefits to budget their money, they must at the very least, in turn, give them the courtesy of advance notice that their employers’ payment schedules will impact on their income.

My team continue to meet with constituents whose Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for disabilities is being routinely refused as a result of Work Capability Assessments, only for the decisions to be overturned later on appeal. The stress and financial hardship that this practice is causing is unjustifiable.


Constituents voicing their views on each side of the debate have been in touch as the messy Brexit negotiations have been taking place in Parliament.

For the last two years, the Prime Minister has presented the country with an extreme interpretation of the referendum result and has been dishonest with the public about the kind of Brexit that was deliverable without catastrophic damage to manufacturing and agriculture in the UK. She laid down rash and reckless red lines that were never compatible with securing a good deal with the EU, or with resolving the issue of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Reality has finally caught up with the Brexit lies and the Chequers statement was the first indication that the Prime Minister realises that approach was wrong. I believe the Prime Minister has shown she is incapable of negotiating a way forward.

Out and about

In recent week, I was delighted to attend the Uprising refugee week event at the Place theatre, and at the Our Minds Matter conference. It was a pleasure to attend the Hands Off Bedford Hospital & Trades Council 70th Birthday NHS rally to support this beloved institution, and of course, to join the weekend of festivities at the 40th Anniversary River Festival last weekend.

In Parliament

It’s been a busy few weeks in Parliament, and during this time we’ve seen Bedford Prison placed in special measures, a vote of no confidence in the appalling Transport Secretary and a Westminster Hall debate on BAME blood, stem cell and organ donation, which I led.

In recent weeks, many constituents contacted me to ask me to attend and vote on the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill at its third reading (otherwise known as Seni’s Law). The bill, which passed through the commons, will provide important safeguards against misuse of force against people with mental health conditions.

Click on the following links to read what I’ve been doing in Parliament:


New timetables and compensation

New timetables and compensation

As the chaos continued, with trains cancelled, delayed and overcrowded, this week I met with representatives of EMT and separately with Joe Johnson, Transport Minister, and Govia Thameslink. It’s clear there’s something of a disconnect between the objectives of the two train operating companies and they would benefit from working together.

New Thameslink timetables are now available here, and on first sight it would appear that the proposed Bedford, Luton and St Albans to London timetable does not differ hugely from the current timetable. This comes with assurances from Govia Thameslink that a more reliable service in and out of London will resume from the 15th July.

The first indication of the compensation package promised by Thameslink suggests that rail users without a season ticket haven’t been given proper consideration, and I will be fighting this.

It is clear that the railways must be brought back into public ownership, as this fragmented, profit-led approach has failed.




Rail chaos continues

Rail chaos continues

What has happened since the new timetable was introduced can only be described as total chaos, and a failure to provide the people of Bedford and Kempston with a functioning train service. Thousands of commuters have been left without services and this has drastically affected people’s everyday lives.

Two weeks ago, I asked the Secretary of State to reinstate EMT peak rail services, and he agreed that this would be the logical solution to the problem. Last Friday, he finally wrote to me to tell me that he cannot make this happen after all. I have asked to be provided with details of the work that has been undertaken that demonstrates this – I fail to see how if the trains cannot be reintroduced when Thameslink are currently running a reduced timetable, how exactly EMT would therefore be expecting to reintroduce these trains in 2020. This lack of transparency is completely unacceptable.

I will be meeting with the Managing Director of East Midlands Trains, and will be raising a range of issues with him in addition to the above.

What this entire episode has showed is that the Government does not have control of the situation. 284 other MPs, along with myself, supported a vote of No Confidence in the Transport Secretary earlier this week. He has failed to strategically manage and oversee the UK railway and take responsibility for his role in the crisis on England’s railways.

I continue to press the Transport Secretary for details of the forthcoming compensation package that will be offered to passengers. That said, I know that no amount of money can replace the hours of waiting on overcrowded platforms, late nights, childcare disruption and devastation that this current situation is having on people’s lives.

Your story

I think that it’s really important that the Government hears the real stories of the personal emotional, physical and financial upheaval to people’s lives. If you would like to, please send me your experiences, and I will share these with the Secretary of State for Transport. If you would be happy for me to share the content but would like your name and/or email address removed, please let me know, as that would still send a powerful message.

Delay repay

I would strongly recommend that passengers submit ‘Delay Repay’ claims for every journey affected, where possible – it is important that Thameslink are made to see how huge the problems have been. Please follow this link to submit a claim. If you receive a refusal to a delay repay request, I would be interested to know and will take this up on your behalf. Please get in touch with my office if this has been the case.

Working for You

In the Constituency

Due to the chaos resulting from the appallingly mismanaged introduction of the new rail timetable, this has inevitably and overwhelmingly been the focus of many constituents’ queries and concerns.

I met with Chris Grayling and later Jo Johnson this week and it is extremely disappointing that despite their promises, they have today failed to provide any guarantee that East Midlands Peak services will be reinstated. This Government have lost all control of rail. My latest written response to Chris Grayling’s inactivity on rail can be read on my Facebook page and Twitter.

Whilst Parliament was in recess last week, alongside my Labour Party colleagues, I visited the homes of constituents, knocking on doors across many wards within the constituency. I’ve also met with many constituents at surgeries over recent weeks at Morrisons, Cardington Road Tesco and Project 229 and at my regular bookable surgery slots in my office.

Over the last month, young D/deaf and hard of hearing people visited me to talk about the ‘Hear Me Out’ campaign, I dropped into see the ‘Break The Stigma’ display at The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum, and I’ve attended various community Iftar events. I also attended a coffee morning at Aspley court in Harpur, and the opening of the new Premier store on Gostwick Road in Cauldwell. Yesterday morning I visited Daubeney Academy to talk about the value of community, and later attended a BME policing conference at Kempston Police Headquarters.

In Parliament

As we approach the first anniversary of the fire, I attended the Grenfell United Rally outside Parliament and met with survivors of this appalling tragedy.

I met with Lucy Frazer, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice, to discuss our courts, and access to justice in Bedford, which is being eroded under this Tory Government.

I attended the LGA’s bright futures campaign launch, which saw Bedford Borough Council’s work on mindful Yoga programme for young people get recognition.

I also lent my support to the Plastics Bill, and ‘say no more’ campaign against domestic Violence.

I have spoken in debates on the fur trade, and NHS Outsourcing and Privatisation and have asked questions on rail timetabling and Bedford Prison. Follow the links to read my contributions to the debates:

Details of the written questions I have submitted on rail (predominantly), stem cell donations and the issuing of voluntary withdrawal forms to young asylum seekers, and the Government’s responses can be read here.






Disrupted Rail Services: Update

Disrupted Rail Services: Update

The first week of the new timetable was a shambles, in the second we saw no improvements, and again today I am hearing reports of significant disruption. I’m aware that trains are still being delayed and cancelled at short notice. It is no exaggeration to say that people’s lives have been turned upside down in these last few weeks. The very first thing that the Government should do is reinstate the East Midlands Peak Services. I understand that reverting to the old timetable for Thameslink is not logistically possible without creating even more disruption throughout the network, but nonetheless whatever must happen to increase the frequency and reliability of trains must happen fast. The livelihoods of my constituents, their wellbeing and the prosperity of our town is at risk.

I would strongly recommend that passengers submit ‘Delay Repay’ claims for every journey affected, where possible – it is important that Thameslink are made to see how huge the problems have been. If you receive a refusal to a delay repay request, I would be interested to know so please get in touch and I will take this up on your behalf. Of course a more robust compensation regime is needed, to ensure that additional childcare payments, and the overall repeated inconvenience of this situation is recognised. I will be pushing for that.

I have meetings with both the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling and Rail Minister Jo Johnson this week and I am advised that a meeting is being arranged for MPs to put their concerns to Train Operation Companies. I will certainly be putting your points across in all of those meetings. We are awaiting a statement on rail from Chris Grayling in Parliament later today, so this may shed some light on the recovery plan, but this must be immediate, and I will make that clear, should the speaker afford me the opportunity to do so.

I have submitted several urgent parliamentary questions for response for the Department for Transport. You can find these here (the Government should respond to these by the end of the week)

This timetable was forced on people who repeatedly raised their voices to disagree with the proposed changes, and their views have been ignored. Questions must be answered about why the decision was taken to proceed with these changes when it was realised that there might be problems. I believe that Chris Grayling MP should resign as a result of the complete and total mismanagement of this new timetable.