Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 21 August

I'm really grateful to everyone who supported our climb up Ben Nevis - we've raised over £2,500 for local causes.

BERT BISSELL MEMORIAL WALK

Thanks again to everyone who supported our climb up Ben Nevis for local causes in honour of local hero Bert Bissell.

Just over a week ago I made the long trip to Fort William with a team including the Mayor’s Consort Councillor Adam Aston, Deputy Mayor Councillor Steve Waltho, Armed Forces Champion Councillor Dave Tyler and Shaz Saleem, the Chairman of Dudley Taxi Association.

The following morning we set off on our trek and managed to conquer Ben Nevis despite awful weather.

It was all worth it when we saw Bert’s memorial at the summit and planted the Black Country flag.

It’s inspiring to think that Bert made the climb 107 times all the way up until the age of 91, and it’s been great to hear from so many local people who remember him fondly.

I knew him as a child. He was a great friend of my family and I've long thought we should do something to honour his memory.

We should raise at least £2,500 for local charities so I’m really grateful for everyone’s generosity. That money will be going to local charities including Action Heart, Guide Dogs, the Children’s Unit at Russell’s Hall Hospital, the local Royal British Legion, and Black Country Fast Aid to support local ambulances. I think that’s a brilliant tribute to the great man.

I’m really grateful to everyone who has made a donation - if you haven’t already there’s still time to add your support at www.bertbissellmemorialwalk.co.uk.

RUSSELLS HALL

When me or a member of my family is ill, we queue up at Russells Hall like anybody else in Dudley, so I was really concerned by news that Dudley hospitals are facing rocketing debts.

Hospital bosses have revealed that they are battling to tackle debts that are set to reach £12 million.

Even the chief executive says the hospitals’ finances are "critical".

Jobs are now at risk as a widespread review of non-permanent staff takes place alongside a clampdown on overtime and recruitment.

Doctors, nurses and other staff are working flat out at Russells Hall but the government have squandered £3 billion on reorganising the NHS instead of supporting front-line staff.

As a result local people are facing longer waits at A&E, cancelled operations at their highest level for a decade and rising waits for vital cancer tests and treatments too.

I’m concerned that the Government has completely lost control of NHS finances so I have written to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt urging him to give our local hospital the resources it needs.

IMMIGRATION

People often tell me that politicians in Westminster don’t care what they’ve got to say about immigration, but I know local people think it’s an important issue and politicians should be listening.

I recently sent a survey to thousands of local people on this issue. The responses were really interesting, with over 84% saying that immigration was very important and more than 70% saying that people moving here should pay taxes before getting benefits.

I told Labour leaders exactly what local people thought on this issue, so I’m really pleased that the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and welfare spokeswoman Rachael Reeves recently said that there’s much more we can do on immigration.

They are saying that we need new rules so that people can’t come to Britain as soon as their country joins the EU, can’t come to Britain and be unemployed and can’t work in Britain and send tax credits abroad.

I think we can stop these abuses by linking benefits with working people's contributions. If you have always worked hard and contributed taxes then you should be entitled to more help than someone who has never worked and never contributed.

That way we can make sure that the system is fair to local people who work hard and want to get on in life.

SEVEN STARS PUB

A number of local residents in Sedgley have been in touch to raise concerns about the future of the Seven Stars pub on Gospel End Road.

The pub is currently owned by Marston's who are said to be considering a bid from Morrison's to buy the pub and turn it into a supermarket.

Campaigners say that the pub is popular, turns a profit and is at the heart of the local community. Their petition has already got over 1,000 names, so it's clear that no one wants to see the pub disappear.

I'm backing local residents all the way on this so I have already written to the Council, the owners and the planning authority to try and find a solution and I will be working closely with residents to support the campaign.

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