Ian Austin

Independent for Dudley North

Dudley Chronicle, 1 May

Ludlow Castle brings thousands of people to the town.  Let's open up Dudley Castle for concerts and event to boost trade in the town centre.


Like lots of other Black Country families, we travelled to Ludlow for the day over the Easter Bank Holiday.

We visited the Castle and I was struck, as I always am, by how similar it is to our own castle here in Dudley.

What was different was that it was packed with families visiting the medieval fair the town had organised, watching the jousting, seeing the falconry display and climbing the tower. Outside, the market was thriving, packed with visitors. Pubs and restaurants were doing a roaring trade.

It confirmed my view that we need to do something similar in Dudley. I grew up in the town and had my first job in the High Street. Like anyone else from Dudley, I want to see new ideas to bring new investment, trade and jobs to the town.

If it can work in Ludlow, which isn't the easiest place to get to, there's no reason it couldn't work here, with a million people within a forty minute drive.

Let's open up the castle for concerts and plays throughout the summer. And why can't we have a Medieval Fair? Events like this would bring thousands of visitors to Dudley, spending money in local shops and boosting trade in the town centre.

That's why I was so pleased to hear that the castle will be hosting a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream this summer when I met Zoo boss Peter Suddock last week.

The performance is on Saturday 12th July at 6pm with tickets priced at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions. Full details and tickets are available from Leasowes School on 01384 816 285.

This could be the start of something really exciting for the Castle and the town.


New figures released in the last couple of weeks show the extent of the food bank crisis here in the West Midlands.

In the last year alone a record 93,461 people used food banks in the West Midlands, including 35,425 children.

The figures were put together by the Trussel Trust, a Christian charity than runs 400 food banks across the country including 85 in our region. The Trust says the explosion in demand at their food banks is down to the rising cost of living and chaos in the government's welfare reforms.

The government has to take some responsibility for this. As a result of rising prices and falling wages, families are £1,600 worse off a year, and the government's Bedroom Tax alone has pushed nearly 2,000 households in Dudley into rent arrears.

Rather than take responsibility and face up to this food banks crisis, the government wants to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Last year they blamed the crisis on more food banks opening, and earlier this year Ministers told me it was all down to supermarkets making more donations to food banks.

Now they're blaming these latest figures on food banks "aggressively marketing their services" to people in need.

Before Ministers in London started pointing the finger, they should have come to visit food banks here in Dudley and the Black Country. Despite only helping people that are referred to them by doctors and Job Centres, they're still struggling to meet demand. They do phenomenal work, but they would be overjoyed if demand for food banks dried up tomorrow.

It just goes to show our out-of-touch government hasn’t got a clue how difficult life is for people at the moment.


The use of zero hour contracts has also exploded under David Cameron.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of workers on zero-hours contracts has tripled since 2010, with some studies suggesting that up to a million workers are now affected.

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.

I've met some local people who tell me they have to be available even though they might not be called to work.

Some have told me they 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.

These ‘no promises’ contracts are another sign that working people aren’t feeling a recovery and businesses still don’t have the confidence to take people on permanently.

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 new rules to ensure that zero-hours contracts are not used for people who are in practice working regular hours.

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