Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 10 July

This August I'm climbing Ben Nevis to support local charities in honour of Dudley hero Bert Bissell.

BERT BISSELL

Many people who grew up in Dudley like I did will remember Bert Bissell.

Bert was real local hero who was born in Dudley and lived at Selborne Road. He worked as a probation officer, but dedicated his spare time to work in his local community and his church on Vicar Street.

On VJ Day in 1945 Bert took a group from his local church and climbed Ben Nevis, constructing a 'Peace Cairn' at its summit. Amazingly he repeated the expedition many times after that, a tradition which he continued for 50 years.

We were lucky enough to count Bert as a great friend of my family and I remember him well. He was a legendary figure and his dedication to his local community was an inspiration to so many of us.

Bert passed away in November 1998 aged 96. Today there is a monument to him at Coronation Gardens in Dudley town centre, but I’ve often thought we ought to do something in his memory.

That's why this year I thought that it would be a fitting tribute to climb the same mountain he conquered so many times to raise money for local charities in what I hope will become a yearly tradition like Bert's.

It's the longest walk I have ever attempted, but I will be tackling it together with the Mayor's Consort Councillor Adam Aston, the Deputy Mayor Councillor Steve Waltho and Armed Forces Champion Councillor Dave Tyler and I'm relying on them to get me through it!

Half of the funds we raise will go to the Mayor's charities Action Heart and Guide Dogs with the remainder split equally between the Children's Unit at Russells Hall, the local Royal British Legion, and Black Country Fast Aid to support local ambulances.

These are all great local causes, so please offer your support at www.bertbissellmemorialwalk.co.uk.

EDUCATION

Last week I got drawn to ask a question at PMQs. It's my job to go to London and speak up for people in Dudley, so I went straight to local residents to hear what they thought I should ask David Cameron.

I was pleased to see that education and skills was the top issue amongst the hundreds of people who responded. In fact nine out of ten agreed with me that we need to make education and skills our number one priority to bring better schools, better skills and better jobs to Dudley. More than half said that creating more apprenticeships was the best way to improve our skills.

That’s why I told David Cameron that every new house or road built by the government should create apprenticeship places to reverse falling numbers of young apprentices and help tackle long-term youth unemployment in Dudley that is twice the national average.

I was really disappointed to hear him say that we shouldn’t be worried about unemployment in Dudley and that to say otherwise is talking Dudley down.

Responding to a serious question with an answer like that shows just how out of touch and complacent he is. Unemployment might not be a problem for David Cameron’s multi-millionaire friends in London, but things are very different in Dudley.

I grew up here, I live here now and no one is prouder of Dudley than me, but I think we need better schools, better skills and better jobs to replace the ones we’ve lost.

You have been clear that education should be our number one priority, so over the coming years it will be my priority too.

Already in the last two weeks I have called on David Cameron to boost apprenticeships, brought the head of Dudley's top school to meet the Education Secretary and backed new plans to create high status 'Master Teachers' into schools. I look forward to doing much more in the year ahead.

REWARD

I was horrified to hear the news that a dog had been found hanged by a chain in Kate's Hill last week.

Decent people will be appalled by such a horrendous crime. It is utterly barbaric and you have to question the mentality of the people responsible.

I know local people will be outraged that this could happen in Dudley. I get a lot of correspondence from local people about animal welfare and I have worked hard to campaign on animal welfare issues. Incidents like this remind us why much more still needs to be done.

Someone must know who did this and I hope they come forward with any information they have so the police and RSPCA can bring the perpetrators to justice.

That’s why I'm offering a reward of £250 for anyone who provides information leading to the conviction of the people responsible for this crime.

If you have information please get in touch with the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018 or contact me in confidence on 01384 342 503 or by email at ian.austin.mp@parliament.uk.

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