Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 1 August

I want to stand up and fight for local people, for hard working families and pensioners.  I want to show that I’m on their side and won’t let them down.

I’m trying to do things differently and listen to local people

When I speak to people on the doorstop, lots of them tell me that all politicians are the same, are out of touch or that voting doesn’t make a difference, but I work hard to do things differently and listen to local people. When someone gets in touch with me I take they say seriously and work as hard as I can to help them.

I’m from Dudley, I love the place and I want to help the people who live here. I want to stand up and fight for local people, for hard working families and pensioners. I want to show that I’m on their side and won’t let them down.

So I’ve been inviting groups of residents to come and talk to me in church halls and community centres across Dudley over the last few weeks.

Lots of issues have been raised from anti-social behaviour, to Europe, school standards, our local NHS and problems caused by local traffic schemes.

But three issues stood out: the state of the town centre, immigration and the cost of living for local families.

TOWN CENTRE

People get in touch with me about the town centre every week, so it was no surprise when people brought it up at meetings.

Like everyone else from Dudley I remember the town’s past. I grew up here and spent my Saturdays wandering from Graduate Records to Beatties or meeting friends at the cafe upstairs at Littlewoods. I had my first job in McDonalds on the High Street, and my parents bought my first bike from Criterion Cycles on Kings Street.

Since then the town’s had some real knocks and had its confidence shaken. Out-of-town shopping, the recession and the loss of the university campus have all had an impact.

And even after a decade of economic growth and increased public spending opportunities passed us by and the town has not improved.

On the other hand, Dudley College have built a brilliant new campus which is bringing more people into the town centre and boosting trade. There’s plans for a new supermarket to replace Cavendish House.

But I think we need new ideas to strengthen the town centre and I’d like to see the Castle opened up throughout the summer with concerts, plays and other attractions bringing thousands of extra visitors to Dudley, boosting trade and changing the town’s image.

I love this area and I want to see things improve, so I’m always happy to listen to local people’s ideas on this and I will keep on fighting for our town centre.

IMMIGRATION

Immigration is something else that people raise on the doorstep all the time. I don’t think it’s racist to raise concerns about immigration. In fact, I’ve spoken up for local people on this issue myself.

I listened to local people and pushed hard for measures that the last government introduced, like the Australian-style points system for people coming here to work and restrictions on benefits for immigrants. Those changes worked, and I think people supported them too.

But if I am going to be the first to tell you what Labour did well in Government, I have to be able to say where we made mistakes too. And we did make mistakes when it comes to immigration.

The truth is that Labour was too late to understand and face up to the full impact of mass immigration on our communities, workplaces and public services. I think that we were wrong not to impose transitional controls on Eastern European countries as they joined the EU, and I was the first MP calling for restrictions to be maintained.

But the current Government haven’t got this right either. The number of people being deported has fallen sharply and there’s a growing backlog of suspected illegal immigration cases.

I want to see youngsters from Dudley get jobs in Britain, not people from abroad. And I want to see tough action to get a grip on illegal immigration. We need proper enforcement of the minimum wage, action to tackle the abuse of zero hours contracts and new rules to prevent agencies only hiring staff from overseas so that employers can’t use foreign labour to undercut local people.

COST OF LIVING

Families in Dudley are really struggling to make ends meet. Living standards are under real pressure as prices are rising but wages are staying the same.

A survey in Dudley earlier this year found that nine out of ten families don’t think they’ll be better off next year than this. Eight out of ten are spending less on holiday this summer and a similar number stopped saving.

Under this Government things aren’t set to change any time soon.

The Office of Budget Responsibility has said that real wages will be lower in 2015 than when this Government came to power, and every year costs like energy bills are rising and never seem to fall.

Instead of handing out tax cuts to millionaires, the Government should be doing everything they can to help out ordinary families struggling to get by.

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