Being the MP for Barnsley Central has taught me one thing above all else—that Barnsley is a proud town; with proud people and a strong sense of community.
It is a great honour and privilege to represent you, and our town, in Parliament—and I do so determined to make a difference, mindful of the responsibility I carry, and humbled by the faith you place in me.
The truth is that Barnsley is going through a very tough time. I also know from many letters, e-mails and conversations that people are very worried for their families’ future. Living costs are rising faster than wages which combined with cuts to working tax credits and changes to housing benefit—the ‘bedroom tax’–are hitting people hard. The increase in utility bills has meant that many, especially the vulnerable and elderly, have suffered needlessly this winter. I think it’s appalling that in 2013 many elderly people struggle to stay warm.
Young people are facing an uncertain future with youth unemployment rising, with EMA scrapped and university tuition fees trebled. The number of people out of work in Barnsley has risen by 7% since May 2010. This is the human price of David Cameron and George Osborne’s economic failure. They are utterly out of touch with the realities of our lives here in Barnsley.
In government, I don’t believe Labour got everything right—we made mistakes but our guiding instinct was and is to improve the lives of the many, not just the few. This is my instinct and it is where my values lie.
We shouldn’t forget that Labour introduced the minimum wage, reduced waiting times in hospitals, created Sure Start centres and ensured that more young people were able to realise their ambitions—whether that was getting a job, an apprenticeship, vocational training or university study.
Overall, I believe that Britain and Barnsley changed for the better during those 13 years. And now, in opposition, we’re standing against this government and their unfair cuts, working for a fairer tax system, working on plans to offer a Job Guarantee for the long term unemployed and working on integrating health and social care to look after an increasingly elderly population.
And in Barnsley, I’m working for a better future for our town: I want to see local people setting up new and innovative businesses, I want to see us attract inward investment, I want to see us attract people to our great attractions. I want us to be creating jobs for Barnsley people. But to do that, we need a government that will help us to harness Barnsley’s potential and ensure that it becomes an even better place to work, go to school, live and raise a family.
It is my job to fight for that future—and that’s what I’ll continue to do.
It is a privilege to serve you in Parliament and to work with you in creating a better Barnsley for the future.