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Andrew Gwynne MP's February 2008 Email Newsletter

Posted by Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, at 17:48, Wed 27 February 2008:

Andrew Gwynne MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Denton and Reddish

Parliamentary News – February 2008

Welcome to my February 2008 newsletter, for members and constituents who have asked me to keep them updated on my work in Parliament for Audenshaw, Denton, Dukinfield, Haughton Green, Heaton Chapel, Heaton Norris, and Reddish.

Beware of Chief Rent scams

I have joined up with local campaigner, Dawson Lane, to warn residents throughout Tameside about a new ‘chief rent’ scam.

Letters have been sent out by property company, Estates and Management, to houses in the borough offering a “cut price reduction” for homeowners to buy out the chief rent. Chief rent is a form of annual ground rent charged on freehold properties by a former landowner. It only affects properties in small parts of the country, including parts of Tameside.

The offer, usually around £350 is being reduced to £250 for a limited period. But the letter does not make residents aware of a much cheaper scheme which could save them hundreds of pounds.

Since the passing of the Rentcharges Act in 1977, it has been possible for freeholders to redeem their chief rent via a government scheme – which calculates the cost of buying out the charge at around 14 times the annual rent. For years, rentcharge companies have been trying it on with residents, attempting to fleece them for as much money as they can, especially as the value of the rentcharge is worth less and less as time goes on. I want to see chief rents scrapped altogether – it is outrageous that they can charge you for occupying land that, as a freeholder, you own outright anyway. It is a throwback to feudal times. Until it is abolished, then I want to make sure that my constituents are aware of their rights to buy the rent out using the government scheme. I would hate for local people, particularly vulnerable groups, to pay over the odds.

Dawson Lane said:

“Lots of people have been contacting me about this latest scam and I am concerned that some residents will think the offer is a good deal. I want to make local residents in Denton and elsewhere aware that they can purchase their chief rent for a lot less money by filling in an application form and sending it to the Government Office for the North West. Residents can contact me on 339 1265 or Andrew Gwynne MP on 320 1504 and we’ll send them the appropriate form.”

A national model of local activism

Jean Brazil, local community volunteer and activist, met the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government this month, to discuss her work on community involvement and community safety throughout Tameside.

Jean Brazil, who has been recognised an expert on working with community groups, was invited to Parliament by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears MP to discuss her work in Audenshaw and throughout Tameside with community groups. Jean Brazil was a long time community spokesperson on Tameside’s Public Voice on Policing panel, and has recently been involved in establishing 24 new homewatch schemes in the town. She has also been involved in initiatives to tackle crime and anti social behaviour with the District Assemblies and Police & Communities Together panel.

Jean has also been actively involved with community groups at Ryecroft Hall, including on the Management Committee, and has been central to getting people involved in improving the Audenshaw area.

I have known Jean for some time for her work in Tameside. She is very firmly rooted in Audenshaw and Tameside, and has some superb ideas on how to get people engaged with community to make Tameside a better place to live.

Local Audenshaw and Tameside activist, Jean Brazil, said:

"I was delighted to be invited to discuss my work with local community groups with Hazel Blears. Working with the police, councillors and community groups in Tameside we have achieved a lot to make the people safer, and to give residents a sense of ownership over their streets and public spaces.”

“Hazel Blears has the power to make the initiatives that have worked extremely well in Tameside, work across the country as well, and it was an honour to bring the experiences of Audenshaw and Tameside's residents all the way to the Government."

More fair trade for Denton and Reddish

I am calling on people in Tameside and Stockport to buy fair trade products during this Fairtrade Fortnight (25th February to 9th March).

Our shopping habits can make a real difference to the World’s poorest people. By buying food and presents from developing countries we will help grow their economies and reduce poverty. Fair Trade continues to expand and is already helping to support 7 million people in the developing world.

I have welcomed the Government’s recent announcement of further support to the Fair Trade movement and I would urge you to match this commitment and buy more Fair Trade products.

Already the UK’s demand for African fruit and vegetables benefits a million farmers and their families. By consumers and retailers acting together to promote and buy goods from developing countries we can make a real difference to the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.

Follow this link to find out more about fair trade http www.fairtrade.org.uk

Tameside Hospital: A centre of excellence and innovation

I have welcomed the news that Tameside Hospital has become an innovating Foundation Trust Hospital

The news comes on the back of Tameside Hospital securing an £88 million PFI deal to redevelop their facilities, and the retention of its children’s and maternity services. With these major changes taking place Foundation status will allow the local community to guide the hospital to provide the services that they deserve.

As an NHS Foundation Trust, Tameside Hospital will remain firmly part of the NHS, and will provide and develop healthcare services for NHS patients. Tameside Hospital has been awarded this status so that it is free to control its own resources to develop new services for local people. The trust will have members drawn from patients, the public and staff, and will give more power and a greater voice to local communities and front line staff over the delivery and development of local healthcare.

The new flexibility afforded by Foundation Trust status will allow the Hospital and local community to take maximum advantage of the £112.4 million Health Investment in Tameside project, currently underway.

Top marks for Tameside Council

I have congratulated Tameside Council for another year at the top of the national league tables.

The independent Audit Commission have once again given Tameside Council top marks across the board. For the second year running Tameside has been judged to be in the top category of "improving strongly", and has been judged a top 4 Star council for its services. In addition, Tameside Council has achieved a rating of 4 for Value for Money, the top rating in this brand new category.

The 4 Star rating is for the provision of vital community services such education and support for children, elderly care and other adult social care arrangements, housing, cultural services, and environmental and recycling services for the people of Tameside.

The commission's Comprehensive Performance Assessment for 2007 only found 13 English councils to be both 4 Star rated and "improving strongly". Only 7 English councils, including Tameside, have now achieved this gold standard for two years in a row.

Audit Commission Chairman Michael O'Higgins said:

"The 2007 results show that councils continue to rise to the challenge of delivering better services for local people at better value for money.”

"Where there are challenges, we know the characteristics they need to copy from the highest performers - strong leadership, a skilled management team willing to take tough decisions and an ongoing focus on poorly performing services."

I am delighted that Tameside Council is continuing to perform at the top of its game. Tameside’s success is both a result of the hard work of councillors and officers, as well as the commitment of local communities, the police, schools, and other stake holders, who work with our communities, to ensure that we continue to receive excellent services across the board.

For more information on the results please follow this link Audit Commission.

Television is changing

I am calling on my constituents to prepare for the digital switchover, and to contact Digital UK if they require help.

Television in the UK is going digital, bringing us all more choice and new services. Starting in 2008, the UK will switch to digital TV transmitter by transmitter. The Granada TV region will switch over between October and December 2009.

Digital UK has announced a groundbreaking partnership with leading charitable organisations to make this transition as easy as possible. This initiative will see the creation of a new not-for-profit body, Digital Outreach Ltd, to support potentially vulnerable viewers when analogue television signals are switch off.

Digital Outreach Ltd brings together Age Concern England, Help the Aged, Community Service Volunteers and Collective Enterprises Limited. This body has now begun commissioning a range of support services from voluntary sector organisations throughout the Manchester area. From mid 2009 these organisations will begin such activities as training volunteers; disseminating information to vulnerable people; public meetings; establishing local help centres, and making home visits.

The Digital UK help line (08456 50 50 50) and website www.digitaluk.co.uk are available to everyone.

News from the Home Office

Tackling underage drinking

I am supporting tougher police powers to deal with teenage drinking and anti-social behaviour. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, outlined tougher police powers this week and called for parents and the drinks industry to play their part in preventing young people drinking in public.

Police will have all the powers they need to make groups of young people drinking in public a thing of the past. A new campaign to confiscate alcohol from underage drinkers begins this month. At the same time the Government is continuing to punish those few irresponsible retailers that flout the law by persistently selling alcohol to children.

Government must lead the way to tackle underage drinking, and I am determined that the police should use all the powers at their disposal to bring about change in Denton and Reddish. In order to succeed we need the support of industry, enforcement authorities and communities. Everyone needs to meet their responsibilities to make a difference. And parents must play their part too.

Freeing up police time

I have welcomed a major policing review by former Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan. His independent Review of Policing in England and Wales makes a compelling case for radical changes that could free up the equivalent of 3,500 additional police.

I'm very pleased that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has accepted recommendations to cut unnecessary bureaucracy, exploit new technology and enable police officers to spend more time on front line policing. The report estimates that 5 million to 7 million hours of police time each year could be re-focused on the front lines if the recommended changes are made.

I'm also pleased that Sir Ronnie Flanagan has celebrated the development and delivery of neighbourhood policing, which has done so much to cut crime in Tameside and Stockport.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced measures to:

Scrap the lengthy form used to record Stop and Account.

Maintain proportionate recording requirements for Stop and Search. She encouraged Chief Constables to streamline their forms to include only information relevant to the aim of a search.

Pilot the use of hand held devices to enable officers to input information directly, cutting the average time taken to record stop and search information from 25 to 6 minutes.

Introduce a new standard one page form to record crime.

Extend police powers to tackle gun and knife crime by enabling police officers to stop and search in designated areas where an act of serious violence has taken place, as well as in anticipation of serious violence. Streamline IT systems to make them more compatible. The Home Office, Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Authorities have commissioned the National Policing Improving Agency to review the police’s IT strategy and report in May.

New deal for British citizenship

I am supporting the Home Secretary’s plans for ensuring that all immigrants earn their citizenship.

Migration has a positive effect on the UK and our economy, especially if there are short-term shortages in certain sectors, like IT specialists, the care sector or plumbers. But we also need to think about the effect on our local communities and public services.

The Home Secretary’s proposals will ensure that immigrants learn to speak English, work hard and pay taxes, obey the law, and get involved in their local communities before they can earn their citizenship.

When I'm out and about in Denton and Reddish, a lot of people say to me that we need to address the issue of immigration. Each year around 200 million people – that's the population of Brazil – move from one country to another, and like other countries the UK is affected by this movement.

Immigration affects all British people of all backgrounds who have a legal right to be here and who pay for services through taxation. So I'm pleased that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has set out a new deal for citizenship, proposing radical changes to the way newcomers are able to earn their stay in Britain.

Please follow this link to watch a video of Immigration Liam Bryne explaining the new proposals http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo83vox0CNc

More news from Parliament - The Temporary and Agency Workers Bill

I am backing measures to get equal treatment for all workers. The Temporary and Agency Workers Private Members Bill, introduced by Ellesmere Port MP Andrew Miller, is intended to prevent employers from paying and treating agency workers differently to directly employed staff. This legislation would not stop agency working, but ensure that employers must employ agency staff on equal terms.

There are no accurate statistics on how many temporary and agency workers there are in the UK. The official figure is around 1.4 million but the truth is that there is no meaningful measurement of the numbers of agency workers in the economy and the 1.4 million figure is widely considered to be a gross underestimate. Many thousands more people are thought to be working on agency contracts and in the black economy.

Now that this bill has passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons I am calling on the government to talk constructively with its fellow supporters to find a way forward. I believe that it is only fair for workers doing the same work to be employed on the same terms, pay and conditions.

I want legislation that will enshrine in law agency workers rights to equal treatment to directly and permanently employed staff.

Best wishes,

ANDREW GWYNNE MP

For more information on my campaigns, and for full copies of my press releases please visit my website at http://www.andrewgwynne.co.uk/.

Please read my Parliamentary speeches at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/andrew_gwynne/denton_and_reddish

Please feel free to contact me at gwynnea@parliament.uk; phone me on 0161 320 1504 or send a letter to Andrew Gwynne MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA