Ian Austin

Independent for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 21 November

I joined thousands of Dudley residents at Coronation Gardens to pause for a two minutes silence to remember those service men and women who have made the ultimate  sacrifice for their country.


On Remembrance Day I was privileged to attend five events in Dudley.

At 11am I joined thousands of Dudley residents at Coronation Gardens to pause for a two minutes silence to remember those service men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It was incredible to see so many people paying their respects with thousands of people attending – many more than I remember when I marched through the town on Remembrance Day with the Cubs as a child.

As I laid my wreath I reflected on how fortunate we are to live in a country where we take freedom and democracy for granted. We owe an incredible debt to all of the people who fought and died to defend these basic values.

I also thought about the 6,000 dedicated, patriotic service personnel currently serving in Afghanistan. Their actions seek to provide stability for those whose names they do not know, in the knowledge that we as a country have responsibilities beyond our borders and that our security at home is dependent on those who serve overseas.

I also had the privilege of visiting troops at Dudley’s Territorial Army base on Vicar Street. All across Britain people show huge respect and support for the work of our armed forces, but nowhere is that truer than in Dudley, where our local squadron and the wider regiment are at the heart of the community and have the freedom of the borough.

Earlier in the day I attended the Grazebrook Remembrance Service at Grazebrook Park which I organise along with Cllrs Shaukat Ali, Steve Waltho and Safeena Arshad and the Friends of Buffrey Park. We were joined by Dudley Air Cadets and several local veterans including Gordon Willetts and John Deane who read the Words of Commemoration. Reverend Caroline Wickens kindly led our service and local singer Annie Hodkinson led the singing with a beautiful rendition of Abide With Me.

We first organised the service seven years ago after organising a campaign to get the memorial cleaned of rubbish and graffiti. This year more people than ever turned out to pay their respects, and it is a very dignified and moving community remembrance service.

I was humbled to think of the contribution made by so many Dudley men and women to the cause of freedom and democracy and by the commitment of local people to remember these sacrifices.

Holly Hall Walk-in Centre

I was concerned to hear recently that Dudley’s Walk-in Centre at Holly Hall could be closed down.

Just like everyone in Dudley, I’ve used the walk-in centre when I’ve needed a doctor out-of-hours. It’s the best way of getting treatment if you can’t get an appointment with your GP.

It’s clear that the centre is popular, with 50,000 people using it every year. Any change to services at the centre has to be on the basis of better care for local people, but I’m concerned that closing the walk-in centre would make out-of-hours care worse, not better.

I’m calling for the walk-in centre to be saved, and in the long run I want to see better access for patients in the evening and at weekends. People who go to work every day ought to be able to see a GP without having to take a day off.

It’s really important that as many local people as possible reply to the consultation on these plans, as that’s the only way we’ll get a clear plan that improves out-of-hours care.

The consultation runs until 24 December, and you can submit a reply by writing to FREEPOST RTGH-YKLH-AZXZ, Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group, Brierley Hill Health & Social Care Centre, Venture Way, Brierley Hill, DY5 1RU or by responding online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YHGYBHP.

Heating Bills

Price hikes announced by the big six energy companies are kicking in over the coming weeks, and millions of people will start paying the price for David Cameron’s failure to stand up to the energy companies.

Prices and bills keep going up, but wages stay the same. Under this government, prices have risen eight times faster than wages, leaving the average family in Dudley £1,500 a year worse off.

That means that energy bills have gone up by £300 a year since 2010, and businesses say it’s the biggest cost they face. But Britain’s big six energy companies have seen their profits rise by a massive £3.3 billion.

It’s time David Cameron took action to tackle his cost-of-living crisis, but instead of helping ordinary families by backing Labour’s plan to freeze energy prices and reform the market, he’s decided to take the side of the energy companies instead.

It’s another example of how he always seems to be helping the wrong people.

The next Labour government will replace Ofgem with a tough new regulator to stop overcharging. And we’ll implement an immediate two-year of gas and electricity prices, saving a typical household £120 and an average business £1,800.

That’s the sort of straightforward action we need, but there are two more winters to get through till then and the government should act now.


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