London has a mayor. Scotland and Wales have First Ministers. We need someone speaking up for the West Midlands.
George Osborne continues to trumpet an economic recovery from his office in London, but things look very different here in Dudley.
When I asked local people what they thought, nine in ten told me that their finances weren't improving. Nearly half blamed this on the government's focus on the south of the country at the expense of the Midlands.
The truth is London's got Parliament, Whitehall and its own Mayor. Scotland and Wales have First Ministers. What we need is someone speaking up for the West Midlands.
Last week Labour announced radical plans to make this happen. £20 billion currently spent by bureaucrats in Whitehall will be spent here in the West Midlands in towns like Dudley instead. Regions like the West Midlands will have their own Minister to give local people a voice at the top of government.
I know this could make a huge impact on jobs and growth in our area. I had the privilege of working as Minister for the West Midlands under the last Labour government, working with local businesses, councils, colleges and universities to bring investment and jobs to the region.
Bringing local organisations together like this meant we could get hundreds of houses built on Priory Road, the Wrens Nest and in Gornal. It also meant we could help local businesses and make sure local charities got extra funds to help them through the recession.
The government scrapped regional Ministers because they're not interested in what places like Dudley have got to say. We need a strong local voice in Westminster now more than ever. Now is the time to bring back regional ministers.
People often tell me that politicians in Westminster don’t care what they’ve got to say about immigration, but I think it’s an important issue and politicians should be listening.
That’s why I’m pleased that Labour set out a new position on immigration last week.
First let’s be clear: I don’t think it’s racist to worry about the effects of immigration, or to say that immigration should be controlled.
I think that immigration has brought benefits to Britain. But I think if you want to live here you’ve got to be prepared to work hard and pay your way, and I share concerns about the impact immigration has had on people in Dudley and the Black Country.
That’s why when local people told me that border controls should be stronger, I pushed for a tough Australian-style points system. I also called for tougher citizenship and language tests, so that people moving here can play a full part in society.
Now I think there’s more we can do. On jobs and wages, I think we should crack down on agencies and employers hiring solely from abroad and paying less than the minimum wage. Employers should also have to prove they’ve tried to hire locally and should train up young British apprentices for every worker that they take on from abroad.
I also want tighter border controls. It’s no use having tough rules if we don’t have the capacity to enforce them, and figures showing fewer people stopped and deported prove that government cuts to the UKBA are a huge mistake.
I know lots of people say politicians are out of touch or that voting doesn’t matter but in Sedgley and elsewhere we work really hard to do things differently and listen to local people. Whether it’s anti-social behaviour or the state of the roads, we’re here for people and work as hard as we can to help.
When local residents living on the Northway in Sedgley contacted me with concerns about speeding on the road, our candidate Wayne Male and I took action. Local residents told me that accidents were becoming more and more frequent, with near misses every other week.
With the help of local campaigners, we sent a survey to hundreds of residents asking what they thought should be done to tackle the issues.
Of more than 300 responses, more than three quarters said that speeding was a serious problem on the Northway, with many saying they had witnessed an accident or knew someone who had been involved in one.
Two-thirds want traffic calming measures to tackle the issue, with 35% backing speed limit signs and 30% calling for speed bumps. Over half believed a pedestrian crossing would reduce accidents, while more than 75% would support a weight limit on the Northway to stop heavy vehicles thundering down the road.
I’m now taking local residents’ views to local councillors and Dudley Council to get something done before more accidents occur.
I think that’s a good example of what we can do when we work together. If there are any issues that that you’re facing that you think I should be aware of or if you need my help, please get in touch by emailing me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 01384 342 503.