Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 5 December

It’s my job to stand up and fight for the services local people rely on, and I’ve been campaigning over the last few weeks to keep local Children’s Centres open.

CHILDREN’S CENTRES

It’s my job to stand up and fight for the services local people rely on, and I’ve been campaigning over the last few weeks to keep local Children’s Centres open.

The council had considered closing them because they have to make huge cuts to their budgets.

George Osborne is claiming the financial crisis is over and the economy is recovering, but cuts in government funding to local services are only just starting to bite.

We all know savings have to be made, but he and the Tories need to explain why services here in Dudley are being hit much harder than those in other areas.

Over six years, council spending will be cut by £100 million. The amount of money councillors can allocate to local services is being cut by 40%.

Local people will lose their jobs, and services we all rely on like local roads, schools, parks, getting our bins emptied, and the social services caring for vulnerable youngsters, the disabled or our elderly parents will all be hit.

Make no mistake: this is what the government means by austerity. It’s all well and good for Conservative MPs to complain about the impact of cuts in Dudley, but the council wouldn’t have to make these painful decisions if they hadn’t voted for them in the House of Commons in the first place.

I visited the children’s centres to listen to parents who use them. I called on the council to look again at their plans and launched a petition against the changes.

The last Labour government opened Sure Start centres to offer affordable childcare to working families along with a whole range of other support. David Cameron promised Sure Starts would be safe in his hands, but he’s slashed the grants councils receive, hundreds of centres are closing and childcare costs are up by a third.

I’m pleased our councillors have made a commitment not to close any centres in Dudley and I want to make sure that centres like Sedgley and Priory will have their services maintained.

But no-one should think the council can make the savings the government has demanded and Conservative MPs have voted for without having to cut other vital services.

WALK-IN CENTRE

Holly Hall Walk-In Centre is also threatened with closure.

We live in Dudley and just like anyone else, 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. Holly Hall serves 50,000 patients, many of whom cannot access GP surgeries due to work.

I want health bosses to guarantee that the same level of services will be provided if they do move services to a new urgent treatment centre at the hospital and that the same number of patients would be treated. But I’m also sceptical about whether GPs will actually open during the evenings and weekends.

The truth is that access to GP services has been reduced because the government got rid of Labour’s policy that said GPs had to give patients an appointment in 48 hours and because they abolished the funding we put in to pay them for opening during the evening and weekend.

I’m concerned that if we lose our local walk-in centre many people won’t be able to see a doctor without losing time from work, which means losing money. A&E services are already close to being unable to cope and I’m fearful losing our walk-in centre will also push waiting times up again, just like under the last Tory government.

I joined Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, at the centre last week. He joined me in calling for guarantees that any changes wouldn’t be to the detriment of out-of-hours services.

I’m going to continue fighting for the centre together with Labour’s candidate for Dudley South, Natasha Millward, and I want as many local people as possible to make their voices heard. You can join the campaign and sign our petition here: http://labourclp14.nationbuilder.com/keep_our_walk_in.

The consultation itself 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.

 

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