Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 7 November

Last week I was pleased to hear that plans to close Dudley’s criminal court will be reviewed and I'm going to continue fighting on this issue. 

MAGISTRATES REVIEW

Last week I was pleased to hear that plans to close Dudley’s criminal court will be reviewed.

As they stand, the plans would force victims of crime, witnesses, magistrates, the police and court volunteers to travel to courts in Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Walsall instead. Dudley would become the largest town in the UK without a criminal court, damaging our town centre and ending local justice.

The plans are only being reviewed because local people made clear they wanted them dropped and magistrates in particular spoke out against the plans. I want to thank again everyone who signed my petition or wrote in to the official consultation.

Unfortunately, the court is still under threat, and we have to keep campaigning until the plans are dropped for good.

I’m going to continue fighting on this issue over the coming weeks. I’ll be presenting our petition in Parliament and I’m calling for an urgent meeting with the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to make sure local people’s concerns are heard at the very top.

ENERGY PRICES

In the last fortnight, more energy companies have pushed up prices by up to 10 per cent.

Prices and bills keep going up, but wages stay the same.

Under this government, prices have risen faster than wages for 38 out of the last 39 months, leaving the average family in Dudley £1,500 a year worse off.

Energy bills have gone up by £300 a year since 2010. Businesses say it’s the biggest cost they face. At same time Britain’s big six energy companies have seen their profits rise by a massive £3.3 billion.

In Europe inflation is falling thanks to lower energy costs. Here in Britain, prices are rising at a rate almost four times faster than elsewhere in Europe and energy bills are soaring, not falling.

It’s time David Cameron took action to tackle his cost-of-living crisis, which has left working people an average of £1,500 a year worse off since he came to office. 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 set up a new tough 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.

Labour is the only party promising real action through a price freeze. 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.

EDUCATION

I’ve always said that education needs to be the number one priority for our area.

Education is an issue that comes up time and time again when I speak to people about the future of our town. People worry about how our young people are going to get the education and skills they need to get jobs in the future.

We all know the economy in this area has changed over the last few decades. Much of the traditional industry on which the area’s prosperity was based has been lost. Many of those jobs have gone to other countries paying workers wages that people in British just couldn’t live off.

So in future we’ve got to compete for jobs in new high-tech industries that require highly skilled workers.

That’s why education has to be our number one priority. Dudley has to become known as the best place in the country to go and set up a high-tech manufacturing business and recruit highly skilled young people.

But at the moment England is falling behind in international league tables for basic maths and literacy. We need radical action to reverse this trend, so I stood up in Parliament last Wednesday to call for new policies that will make sure our young people get the best education possible.

I want schools in the Black Country to sign up to an ambitious target for improving education in the region. Let’s commit to the sharpest rise in school results of any region in the country. There’s no reason why three quarters of students in the Black Country shouldn’t be getting five good GCSEs.

I know that it’s possible to hit these targets because heads in Dudley are turning schools around. Just look at Ellowes Hall where the brilliant Andy Griffiths has focused on standards and discipline to double the number of students getting good grades. Results are also improving at other schools like Dormston under Ben Stitchman, Castle High under Michelle King and Bishop Milner under Steve Haywood.

We need more great school heads like these, and it’s the best teachers that make the best heads, so let’s raise the status of teaching and expand the Teach First scheme that brings the brightest graduates into Dudley’s classrooms.

We need this sort of radical action to give pupils in Dudley better chances. Our young people are as good as anyone, and they deserve the same chances as people elsewhere have taken for grated for years.

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