STEVE ROTHERAM, BUSES AND HAPPY DIWALI
- 01:46 pm, Tue 25th Oct 2011
MPs have had a pretty bad name in recent years. What do they do other than fiddle their expenses and take long holidays is a question posed by some? Some of the reputational damage has been deserved, some not. But anyone wondering what good MPs do might want to look at the speech made on Monday night by my colleague Steve Rotheram, MP for Liverpool Walton.
Steve was speaking in the debate on Hillsborough brought about by 140,000 members of the public signing an e-petition asking Parliament to discuss the issue and why documents have been withheld. I have never understood why documents were withheld – and they were withheld during the Labour years too. Steve was at Hillsborough on the day 96 people were crushed to death. He made one of the most moving speeches in Parliament I have ever heard. It was not just powered by emotion (and who could blame anyone for making a speech powered by emotion when 96 of your fellow supporters have been killed.) No, it was powered by dealing one by one with the accusations made against Liverpool fans that day. He did it calmly, carefully and very powerfully. And he ended by reading the names and ages of the 96 victims.
Steve Rotheram did a great service to his constituents and all in Merseyside who want to know the full truth about that day with this speech. Not surprisingly, the Commons accepted without a vote the proposition that the papers about Hillsborough should be made available. That this has happened is testament to the power of people coming together through the e-petition and MPs using the voice and the opportunity we have to do good.
On a more local level I will be meeting with Centro and constituents later this week to discuss the recent bus route changes and in particular changes to the 333 through Portobello. Change is never easy but the bus companies have managed to upset a lot of people in different parts of the city with the changes introduced in July. I hope there is some flexibility in this to respond to genuine difficulties faced by the public as a result of the changes.
I am also looking forward to the switching on of the Diwali lights on Friday evening at Phoenix Park. Last Friday I distributed posters advertising the event to some of the shops in Dudley Road and I hope we get a good turnout on Friday. Diwali is widely celebrated across the city and I would like to wish all constituents a very happy Diwali.
TESCO, MILLFIELDS ROAD AND KEEP BILSTON UNITED
- 09:08 am, Thu 13th Oct 2011
After what feels like a hundred years war between supermarket groups Wolverhampton Council has come up with a novel solution – it has said yes to all of them. So Tesco’s plans to redevelop the Royal Hospital site get the go ahead, as do Sainsbury’s plans for Raglan St and Peel Holdings plan for the north side of town.
I have said for years that the wrangling over supermarket sites did not serve local people well. It is a pretty good example of how land ownership may give you legal rights but the rights of citizens not to have their city frozen in time were written out of the picture. No one should have the right to mess about a city like that. As these companies have fought one another in the courts my constituents have, year on year, had to look at a pile of bricks where a hospital once stood. My point isn’t nostalgia. Far from it. The hospital was never coming back. My point is it should never have taken this long to take a decision about what to do next.
I am glad the decision has got the go ahead. I have heard a number of objections in recent weeks. It should be used for this or that. Everyone is entitled to their view but as far as I could see no one was queuing up to build a Garden of Eden there. The development we were offered in the real existing world was a new supermarket and other new shops and offices. It will bring millions of pounds of new investment and create sorely needed new jobs and we should get on with it.
Perhaps the best view on this was put by ASAN, the All Saints Action Network. They made a plea for the development to go ahead essentially to give the area a better future in place of the forbidding sight that the site is now. They make a good point.
But if that’s the good economic news, at the other end of the constituency, Millfields Road looks like a bomb site after the recent fire. I hope this is sorted as soon as possible and if the physical destruction was not bad enough we now have pollution in the canal affecting areas miles away. Efforts are being made to clean up the canal and I hope they are successful.
Finally, the Keep Bilston United campaign will be having a couple of public meetings over the next few weeks. There will be a small local one this Friday, 14th October, at 2pm at the Willows Campus, Stowlawn Primary School, Green Park Avenue and hopefully a bigger meeting at 7pm on the evening of 27th October at Bilston Town Hall. All are welcome to hear more about the bizarre plans to cut Bilston into four pieces in the name of parliamentary coherence.
REPORT FOR WEEK OF 26 SEPTEMBER
- 09:38 am, Mon 3rd Oct 2011
Keep Bilston United Campaign
The campaign held its first public meeting in St Martin’s Church, Bradley on Friday afternoon. Many thanks to all who came. There was a shared view at the meeting that the Boundary Commission’s proposals made no sense in terms of Bilston’s community ties and no enthusiasm for becoming part of a new seat which is largely based in Walsall. Further public meetings will be held in the coming weeks, culminating in one in Bilston Town hall on the evening of 27th October.
Labour Party Conference
I attended Labour Party conference for two days this year and have gone to every conference for over 20 years. It’s a long road back after an election defeat but I felt the party was in good heart and has avoided some of the tendency to division and recrimination that happened after previous defeats. The big question for the coming period is who is best for jobs and growth in today’s economic environment. It is beginning to look like the Coalition’s recipe is not delivering on that, though Labour still has work to do to be heard on the economy. Liverpool looked great and like most of our major cities is much improved after years of investment and regeneration.
Mike Swain’s funeral
The funeral took place on Friday of Mike Swain, head of the All Saints Action Network (ASAN). Politicians often talk of social entrepreneurs and sometimes it is hard to know what that term means but look no further than Mike Swain for a definition. He epitomised what can be done in communities which don’t hold all the aces with organisation and tenacity. Sometimes I come across good organisations which are always worried about grant funding being withdrawn. Mike knew how to win grants but ASAN is about much more than that. It really is an entrepreneurial organisation and has started businesses involving selling recycled furniture to selling parking spaces, generating income and creating much needed jobs in the process. Mike will be sorely missed. He leaves his wife Kay and two daughters. The service at St John’s church was packed and we heard several moving eulogies to a great man – and some good Christy Moore music.
Fire in Millfields Road
I also visited the site of last week’s fire in Millfields Road. It is a terrible scene and the damage is extensive. I very much hope it can be cleared as soon as possible because the last thing we need is more derelict buildings in the area.