Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 4 September

Across the country 28 pubs shut every week - let's prevent the Seven Stars from being another victim.

LOCAL PUBS

Earlier this year I was delighted to receive a ‘Beer Champion’ award after working with campaigners, pubs and brewers on successful campaigns to safeguard the future of local brewing. That’s helped secure measures the like beer duty cut which will help keep pubs open, protect jobs and keep the price of a pint down.

But I know that pubs are more than a successful local industry, they’re community assets too. That’s why I’m backing campaigners who want to stop the Seven Stars on Gospel End Road from being turned 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 2,000 names, so it's clear that no one wants to see the pub disappear.

I’m very concerned about the loss of a popular and well-run local pub. There are also worries about the loss of parking spaces for the school, traffic turning into a shop on what is a busy road and the impact that a new supermarket would have on businesses in Sedgley town centre.

I want to do everything I can to help: I’ve already written to Marston’s and to Morrisons urging them to come and listen to local people, I’ve urged the council to investigate whether they can prevent it being used for a supermarket and I want them to make the pub an ‘Asset of Community Value’ to provide further protection.

In the long run I want the government to change the planning rules so pubs can’t be sold off or demolished without planning permission. That way residents will always get a say on what happens to their local.

I want as many people in the area to support this campaign as possible. 28 pubs are shutting across the country every week. Let’s prevent the Seven Stars being another one.

NHS

When me or a member of my family is ill, we queue up at Russells Hall like anybody else in Dudley, so I’m really concerned about what is happening at hospitals up and down the country.

It has recently been revealed that the target for patients to start their cancer treatment within two months has now been missed for six months running. Here in Dudley there have been reports of patients waiting five hours to receive chemotherapy at Russells Hall.

The Government has also missed its A&E waiting time targets for 57 weeks in a row, with Russells Hall facing an investigation over its own waiting times.

Now Russells Hall bosses are saying that the hospital’s finances are “critical” and jobs are at risk as they tackle a deficit of £12 million.

It’s absolutely clear that the NHS is not safe in David Cameron’s hands.

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

I’ve been talking to local people about this and the overwhelming majority share my concerns, so I’ll continue to raise this issue in Parliament.

BEDROOM TAX

In the last week lots of local people have been in touch about the Government’s disastrous Bedroom Tax.

Not only is it forcing many vulnerable people out of their homes, but here in Dudley rent arrears are rocketing as a direct result of the policy. Recent reports say that 5,435 families in Dudley have now been pushed into arrears costing the Council £1.4 million in lost rent.

Making larger homes available for overcrowded families is a good thing, but the truth is that there just aren’t enough smaller homes for the families affected. In Dudley there are more than 2,000 people waiting for a one-bedroom property.

I’ve been calling on the Government to drop the Bedroom Tax right from the start, and I’m pleased that Labour have now promised to scrap the policy if elected.

HENRY MILLINSON

Last week I had the opportunity to meet Keith Millinson and Anne Thomas, the grandchildren of Dudley free school meals pioneer Henry Millinson.

Henry grew up on Birmingham Road in Dudley and left St. Edmund’s School aged 11 to work in a chain shop as a beer carrier. After taking further work in local foundries and the railway he was elected to Dudley Council in 1932.

In 1933 he started a radical campaign for poor children to be provided with free school meals. After two years his campaign finally paid off, and Dudley Council finally introduced a free school meals scheme.

I remember the hot meals I had as a young child at St Edmunds and Russells Hall, and it’s thanks to Henry that poor children in Dudley were first able to get a square meal to help them concentrate, learn and make a good start in life.

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