DEBBIE Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, has shared her New Year’s message with constituents. She writes:
A happy new year to everyone in Oldham, Shaw and Saddleworth!
I hope you have been lucky enough to spend some time with family and friends over the Christmas and new year holidays and relax a little as we say goodbye to 2018.
And what a year it’s been.
In political terms, Brexit has dominated Parliament. Theresa May is so concerned that she will not get the backing for her deal – which is deemed by all credible analysts to be the worst of all worlds, an EU rule-taker while making us poorer – that she has failed to put it to a Parliamentary vote.
While I recognise the difficulties she is in, this is truly undemocratic. Many are seeing this as nothing more than blackmailing MPs to accept her deal under the threat of no deal as the clock ticks towards the end of March.
At the same time, the government is wasting billions of pounds – and asking businesses to do the same – to prepare for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
At a recent Brexit roundtable that I organised for local businesses in Oldham it was clear that the over-riding feeling was one of uncertainty and concerns about the lack of preparation the Government has put into place.
And while all this has been going on many of my constituents have been struggling to cope as they have been moved on to Universal Credit, another of the Government’s misplaced social security policies, which has led to debt, rent arrears, poverty and worse.
One of my constituents who came to see me for help said she thought of taking her own life after the support she gets was stopped for five weeks.
Something has gone seriously wrong in this country when we see ever increasing rough sleepers on our streets and hundreds of thousands of children in temporary accommodation. There has been a 169 per cent increase since 2010, with almost 600 deaths in 2017 alone.
My team and I have helped a number of homeless people recently. I pay tribute to Mayor of Greater Manchester for his ‘a bed every night’ scheme to make sure nobody is without a bed in Greater Manchester.
And to Oldham’s churches and interfaith forum for all they are doing to support the homeless and the poor. But, as the fifth richest country in the world, it shouldn’t be like this.
This epitomises the neglect of too many of our citizens and reflects the Conservative Government’s failure to ensure that there are enough homes for us all, while ill-conceived policies such as Universal Credit make things worse. A UN report on poverty in the UK referred to a social security system that is punitive, scathing and often has a callous approach. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Governing is about choices. And a Labour Government would make different choices, tackling the poverty and inequalities that too many of our fellow citizens are facing. While building a Britain that is fair and forward-looking, with a new industrial revolution where we can all thrive and prosper.
I will continue to put the interests of my constituents first whether that’s through my weekly door knocking sessions and surgeries, supporting community organisations, continuing my work to tackle inequalities through the Oldham Fairness Commission, developing a Dementia Friendly Oldham, campaigning for small businesses to be paid on time by larger companies, including stopping small businesses losing millions when large contractors like Carillion go under.
And I will be holding my seventh annual summer school in 2019 bringing together young people from across the borough.
I must also thank my wonderful team for all the care they show constituents who come to me for help – over the last year they have worked on over 4,000 cases – and the support they give to me. I couldn’t do all I do without them.
Finally, I’d like to wish you all the very best for a happy and peaceful new year.
Debbie Abrahams – MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth