POLITICALLY SPEAKING - Yvette Cooper MP: Cuts are being forced onto northern councils

Pinderfields Hospital
Pinderfields Hospital

Across our area vital services are being heavily cut.

Schools are the government’s latest target - with £6 million cuts from Five Towns schools by 2019. It’s an outrage. Especially as some wealthier areas will get more money, so will grammars and free schools. It’s normal high schools and primary schools like ours that are being hit.

It’s not just education. Neighbourhood policing, social care, children’s centres, road repairs, swimming pools – all are badly hit even though it will cost us more in rising crime or poorer health.

Often Wakefield Council ends up taking flak for cuts. Yet it has little choice and councils across the north are being forced into these decisions.

Ministers want people to blame local councils. We shouldn’t fall for it. By 2020 the government will have cut £185 million from Wakefield Council’s budget. Many councils are losing on average £340 per house compared to only £68 for Tory councils. At the same time the Conservatives are spending billions on tax cuts for the wealthiest and biggest corporations. For the sake of our kids’ education and local services, they need to change track.

In other news, the Brexit negotiations have started; there’s a lot of work ahead to try to get the best deal for our area.

I voted in the House of Commons to trigger Article 50 as I always said I would respect the referendum result.

Across the country just over half of voters chose leave, just under half chose remain. In our area around two thirds chose leave and one third chose remain.

But, however we voted, we need to work together for a deal that’s fair for everyone.

We were promised extra money for the NHS. Yet so far the government has refused. Pinderfields and Pontefract Hospitals already face serious shortages of doctors and nurses, and investment in social care is badly needed too.

Right at the heart of the negotiation will be jobs, trade and the single market. Local manufacturers employing thousands of people rely on international trade.

Ministers have promised us a trade deal which is “as good as or better than” the deal we’ve got at the moment. I’m keeping up the pressure on them to deliver this because local jobs are too important to us for the government to get this wrong in the negotiation.

New immigration rules will be a key part of the negotiations. I’ve been holding local community meetings asking people’s views on what the new rules should be and they’ve been really good discussions. Most people said they thought immigration was needed and important, but should be lower with more controls.

They also wanted different rules for different kinds of immigration - for example for students, or different kinds of jobs. Some Tories are calling on the government to use Brexit to cut “red tape” - by which they mean ditching employment rights and environmental standards. That’s not what people voted for, and we mustn’t let them get away with it. The Brexit deal has to be fair for all.