Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 15 August

I have written before about the cost of living crisis facing families in Dudley.  I hear from more and more people telling me that they’re struggling to get by.

OUT OF TOUCH TORIES ARE PUTTING HARD-WORKING FAMILIES OUT OF POCKET

I have written before about the cost of living crisis facing families in Dudley. I hear from more and more people telling me that they’re struggling to get by.

They’re not struggling because they’ve overspent or racked up a big credit card bill. In some cases people have been made redundant or had their hours cut. But mostly it’s because prices and bills are going up every month, but wages are staying the same.

Last week, the full extent of this problem was revealed by new official figures. Real wages have fallen for 36 out of the 37 months that David Cameron has been in power. That’s the worst performance of any Prime Minister on record.

In the West Midlands, working people are an average of £1,550 a year worse off in real terms since 2010. That’s a huge blow to family budgets, and the Office for National Statistics says it’s set to continue all the way to 2015.

We’ve got a government that is completely out of touch with what life’s like for ordinary families in places like Dudley, working hard but struggling to make ends meet. Instead of action to ease family budgets, they paid out a tax cut for millionaires.

I want action to help families right now. A lower 10p starting rate of tax would benefit 2,050,000 people in our area, action is desperately wanted on soaring energy bills, and the millionaire’s tax cut should be reversed to protect working tax credits instead.

Zero hours contracts

The use of zero hour contracts has exploded under David Cameron. Reports last week estimate that the number of people on these contracts now stands at one million.

Zero hour contracts offer no set hours and no set wage. In many companies, staff do work fixed hours and know how many hours they’ll be working.

But I’ve met others who don’t know how many hours they’ll be working the following day. Some people turn up to work only to be told to go home after an hour or so. For some workers on these contracts it’s impossible to budget from one week to the next. Job security is non-existent and it’s impossible to plan for the future.

I think this is another sign of the state that the economy is in at the moment. More and more businesses are struggling so badly many can’t even promise jobs with a set wage and set hours. Instead they put people on these ‘no promises’ contracts so that they can drop their wage bill at a moment’s notice if trading is hit hard.

I don’t want to ban zero hours contracts, but we need action to prevent them being abused and to bring wages up. I want to see tax rewards for firms that pay their employees the living wage, and urgent action to get the economy moving again.

Healthwatch

Last week I met with Healthwatch Dudley, a new body responsible for bringing patient concerns to doctors, hospitals and care homes.

Like anyone else in Dudley, when there is something wrong with me or my family we queue up at Russells Hall. I know that when people have concerns about the treatment they’ve received, they want to know there’s someone who’s on their side and will fight to make their concerns heard.

That’s why ahead of the publication of the Keogh Report a month ago, I asked local people to get in touch with me and share detailed accounts of their treatment that I later put to Bruce Keogh and his team directly.

Thanks to everyone who got in touch with me we now have a clear picture of what needs to be addressed. I now want to see Healthwatch Dudley to take on a similar role to help improve the service people in Dudley receive.

You can contact Healthwatch at hello@healthwatchdudley.co.uk or email me at austini@parliament.uk and I’ll put you in touch.

 

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