Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 3 April

Two weeks have now passed since George Osborne gave his budget. Newspapers and politicians in Westminster have gone over it in detail, but my question is, how does it measure against what local people told me were their priorities?

Nine in ten local families told me that rising energy prices are a big concern, and two thirds said they were worried about the cost of food and everyday household items too.

There was nothing in the budget to tackle this issue. Last Thursday the government finally backed Labour's calls for a full review of the energy market, but local people say they need help right now, not years down the line.

Last Wednesday Big Six energy company SSE has promised to freeze prices until 2016, proving that the government could use a price freeze to help families right now.

Six in ten local people told me that they know someone who has been out of work for over six months, and long-term youth unemployment in our area is twice the national average.

Nearly half blamed this on a lack of government investment in our area, but George Osborne had no new plans for investment that will benefit Dudley. I want investment to build 200,000 new homes a year across the whole country by 2020, bringing jobs, investment and cheaper homes to Dudley. Instead, George Osborne wheeled out old plans to build yet more houses in the South East, at Ebbsfleet.

At this rate, many families in Dudley won't be feeling a recovery for some time yet.

PENSIONS

There were major announcements on pensions in the Budget. From now on, pensioners will be able to withdraw as much or as little cash from their pension pots as they like.

People who have worked hard and saved carefully their whole lives deserve to get the best possible value from their pensions, so I welcome any move to give people more power over their pensions.

But this is a big change, and we need to look carefully at how this will affect current pensioners and those saving for their retirement. How will this affect the annuities market? If someone empties their pension pot but ends up in need of social care, who steps in?

In any case, wider reforms are needed. Savers will now need access to proper pensions advice more than ever, and we need to out an end to unfair pension fees that can cost pensioners up to £230,000 over a lifetime.

MUSEUM WEEK

Last week was Museum Week, and the Black Country Museum was asking local people to share their memories of local attractions.

The Black Country Museum has done a great job of preserving buildings I remember from growing up in the area. The St James School was up the road from me on Eve Hill when I was growing up, I’ve had fish and chips from Hobbs & Sons at the Museum and at its old site on Hall Street, and I’ve even spent a summer washing dishes at the Stables Restaurant!

We should be proud of our industrial past and take inspiration from it as we work to bring high-tech manufacturing jobs into the region, and great local attractions like the Black Country Museum help us do that.

FOX HUNTING

Over the last few weeks lots of local residents have been in touch with concerns that the government is seeking to relax or repeal the ban on fox hunting.

On Wednesday the Prime Minister announced that the government will not be introducing an amendment that I know many people feared could have weakened the Hunting Act. However, the Environment Secretary also confirmed in the House of Commons on Thursday that the Government still intend to hold a vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act ‘at an appropriate time’.

I believe the hunting ban was an important achievement by the previous Government and it continues to enjoy overwhelming public support. That is why I will work with campaigners to oppose any effort to amend or change the Hunting Act.

I've fought for many animal rights campaigns since getting elected in 2005, so if there are any issues you think I should be raising in Parliament please get in touch at ian.austin.mp@parliament.uk.

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