I'll be raising the issue of the closure of Dudley Magistrates Court in Parliament this week.
Plans to close Dudley’s Court
Many thanks to the hundreds of local people who have signed my petition to prevent the closure of the Magistrates Court. If you haven’t signed yet, you can do so at www.ianaustin.co.uk. I’ll be tabling questions in Parliament and raising the issue with government ministers this week. The consultation period closes on Monday 21 October and it would be great to see as many local people respond as possible by writing to the Deputy Justices’ Clerk for the Black Country at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court, North Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1RA as well.
Priory Park opening brought back memories
It was great to see the improvements at Priory Park and to see Dorothy Round’s daughter and wider family unveil the statue to the Dudley-born Wimbledon Champion.
I want to congratulate the Friends of Priory Park, the local councillors, Dudley Council and Heritage Lottery Fund for the improvements in the park.
I spent so much time as a child in this park and I think the facilities for today’s youngsters and the wider community are absolutely brilliant.
The statue to Dorothy Round is great and should inspire local youngsters. Her achievements show that we are as good as anybody and that with the right support, hard work and dedication, youngsters from Dudley can beat anyone in the world.
Plans to help with the cost of living
The last few weeks have seen the political parties meeting for their annual conferences.
I know lots of people say that politicians are all talk, and that what they say at these gatherings doesn't matter, but Labour’s conference saw new announcements on issues people raise on the doorstep with me in Dudley all the time such as the cost of living and immigration.
For generations in Britain, when the economy grew, most people got better off as a result. But that isn’t true anymore. Today people are facing a cost of living crisis – they’re working harder, for longer, for less.
Wages have fallen for 36 out of the 37 months that David Cameron has been in power, making working people an average of almost £1,500 a year worse off.
I hear from more and more people that are struggling to get by. Massive energy bills don’t help, and people I meet in Dudley ask me all the time why energy bills always rise and never seem to fall.
Household energy bills have gone up by £300 a year since 2010. Businesses say it’s the biggest cost they face.
At same time Britain’s big six energy companies had £3.3 billion increase in profits.
The government has been too slow to act, and now it seems its plan to cut the number of tariffs is actually pushing customers onto more expensive ones.
Labour is the only party announcing real action to tackle energy bills.
Energy companies are quick to pass on price increases, but when it drops their customers don’t see their bills fall. That’s why Labour will set up a tough new regulator to stop overcharging.
And a Labour government would legislate immediately to freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017, saving a typical household £120 and an average business £1,800.
We’ve also announced plans to help working families by expanding free childcare for three and four year olds from 15 to 25 hours per week, paid for by raising taxes for millionaire bankers.
Small businesses are the engine room of the economy so we’re promising to cut business rates in 2015 and freeze them again in 2016 for small businesses rather than going ahead with the Government’s corporation tax cut for the largest firms. I think that would be a real boost for the vast majority of businesses in places like Dudley.
And we’d bring back the 10p tax rate, helping two million people in the West Midlands.
I know a lot of people I speak to on the doorstep feel like immigration is one of the issues where politicians just aren’t listening.
I’ve been pushing for tougher border controls for a long time, and at the last election I brought the immigration minister to Dudley to hear local people’s concerns for himself.
At conference, we announced real action on the most harmful forms of immigration.
Businesses and job agencies that bring people here illegally push down wages and put a strain on overstretched public services. Labour would increase fines for people who employ illegal immigrants, breaking minimum wage rules and putting local people out of a job.
This builds on Ed Miliband’s plan to force companies hiring workers from abroad to train the next generation of British apprentices.
And we’d retain the Government's immigration cap for as long as the evidence supports it.