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On Tuesday 24th October, during the school half-term week, members of Stevenage Labour party joined parents, teachers and children from across the country visiting parliament to lobby hundreds of MPs for fairer school funding.

Stevenage Labour outside parliment

Image: Stevenage CLP members outside parliament at the National Education Union rally.

A taste of what the day involved can be seen in the video.

Unfortunately, the Conservative MP for Stevenage, Stephen McPartland, was not available to have even a short meeting with the teaching staff and education activists who had travelled from his constituency due to “prior commitments” in his diary. This was particularly disappointing as Mr McPartland had previously declined an invitation to join all the other parliamentary candidates at the special Education Hustings just before the June 2017 General Election. At that meeting, he would have heard students, teachers, support staff and parents giving a very clear picture of the detrimental effects of austerity on school children and staff across Stevenage. The extent of these cuts for individual schools can be seen at www.schoolcuts.org.uk.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary was available to speak with the Stevenage contingent. We remembered the success of the London Challenge school improvement programme launched by the Labour government in 2003, as credited by Ofsted and others for a significant improvement in London's state education system.

Angela Rayner with Stevenage CLP member Jill Borcherds

Image: Angela Rayner with Stevenage CLP member Jill Borcherds

Our MP proclaims that he is “Passionate about fairness”, yet in Stevenage just two of the town’s six secondary schools were transformed under Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme as the then Education Secretary, Michael Gove, announced in July 2010 that the programme would be scrapped. The ‘schoolcuts.org.uk’ website shows that 94% of all schools in Stevenage are set to face further funding cuts. Perhaps Mr McPartland is really just passionate about making all of our schools more poor, equally?

A well-funded education system is essential to improving social mobility, helps build a fairer society and is crucial if we are to have a successful growing economy. Labour’s plan for a National Education Service will ensure that all our schools are given the funding they need, provide school staff with the pay that they deserve, and offer all of our children the very best quality education that they can be given.

You can’t get good education on the cheap. Schools need more money now!

Jill Borcherds and Howard Ricketts

National Education Union - Mass Rally

On Tuesday 24th October, during the school half-term week, members of Stevenage Labour party joined parents, teachers and children from across the country visiting parliament to lobby hundreds of MPs...

On Monday 4th September, campaigners from the Stevenage Labour Party and Hertford residents who set up the petition to stop the planned removal of the important Hertford – Stevenage rail link were outside the Stevenage Railway Station calling for the rail link to be saved. In addition, they were publicising the public meeting in Watton-at-Stone, scheduled to take place on the evening of 7th September, in Watton-at-Stone Primary and Nursery school at 7.30pm.

County Councillor Joshua Bennett Lovell (Old Stevenage) who was present at the Station and helped organise the campaign event said, “The plans make no long-term sense. Our local residents and people commuting into and through Stevenage depend on this rail-link. Removing it and replacing it with a bus service between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone stops cyclists from taking their bicycle on their trips, puts additional traffic on the busy A602 creating more congestion chaos at rush hour, increases pollution, and also makes access to important infrastructure such as the Lister Hospital far more difficult.”

“We need a solution that focuses on the needs of our residents, and our local environment. The local Labour Party strongly encourages Hertford, Watton-at-Stone and Stevenage residents to go along to the public consultation meeting and demand a change in this decision. The lack of joined-up thinking involved here is unfathomable; there are increased public-health risks and safety concerns with this rail link removal. We are calling on our Hertfordshire MPs and Govia Thameslink Railway to think again on the introduction of their 2018 timetable and keep this vital local link open.”

The change.org petition to stop the planned changes to Govia Thameslink Railway’s 2018 timetable has gathered over 2700 signatures online and can be found here: https://v.gd/Eb8jCC

The UK Government rejected an initial petition calling for this service to be retained as this was not considered within the remit of the Government’s control (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171337). This in itself was described by Councillor Bennett Lovell as “bewildering.” He said “The Government’s response demonstrates that they have handed over all control of our local railway transportation network to a private rail operating company who clearly, as this case has shown, do not have the concerns of our residents in mind. Nationally, Labour is calling for the re-introduction of a fully publicly owned and run railway network, which we fully support. Only by making our transport system publicly accountable can we control which routes and services are run, and ensure that the cost of these is reduced as much as possible for rail users.”

 Stevenage Labour Party calls for the introduction of a 5th platform to be accelerated which will provide the infrastructure needed at our railway station to strengthen our local economy, improve the connectivity between Stevenage and the rest of the UK, and ensure that this important rail link can remain operational when needed by people in our town.

Opposing Planned Hertford – Stevenage Rail Link Removal

On Monday 4th September, campaigners from the Stevenage Labour Party and Hertford residents who set up the petition to stop the planned removal of the important Hertford – Stevenage rail...

Within the space of a week, workers in Stevenage have been served a double helping of terrible (state pension age increases) and brilliant news (the Supreme Court decision that employment tribunal fees are unlawful).

State pension age changes will cost an estimated £10,000 extra per person, and affect over 11,000 people in Stevenage alone (those born between 6 April 1970 – 5 April 1978). This is an enormous sum of money at a time of unprecedented inequality, and further suggests that greater pension age misery is on the horizon for people born after April 1978. Bizarrely, the Tories didn’t mention raising the state pension age in their 2017 General Election manifesto.

 

On a much brighter note, the announcement that employment tribunal fees, introduced by the Tory and Liberal Democrat Coalition government in 2013, have been deemed illegal, following a lengthy legal battle won by the trade union, Unison, must bring great joy to countless people in Stevenage. For many, the cost of these fees are more than they earn in a month, and have meant that people who had been unfairly dismissed could not afford to seek justice after being sacked. It is wonderful news to hear that the government will now be reimbursing people these costs though it is a pity this decision did not come sooner for so many. Justice for all workers sacked without the ability to challenge their employers must now be the next step in rectifying this debacle.

Having been made aware of mail sent to local residents from our Tory MP on this very matter, his lack of support for our residents being forced to pay thousands of pounds to access justice deserves to be highlighted following the Supreme Court ruling. It is a pity he didn’t Stand Up For Stevenage in 2013, when he was absent from the vote in Parliament on introducing employment tribunal fees.

 

Employment and pension rights are crucial for ensuring that all of us are guaranteed a decent standing of living whilst in work, and when we retire. These must be protected and extended. I encourage everyone reading this article that if they are not already, to join a trade union and join the Labour Party to help fight these draconian changes to employment law (please see the links below).

Both of these recent news items serve as timely lessons to us all as to how far the Tories and Liberal Democrats are prepared to go to inflict austerity budget cuts, pass more anti-working-class laws, and keep all of us working into increasingly older ages. This is a victory for the workers in a battle for employment justice, but all our efforts are still required to reverse the backwards steps taken over recent years.

https://www.tuc.org.uk/join-union 
https://join.labour.org.uk 

County Councillor Joshua Bennett Lovell – Old Stevenage Division

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"Victory for Workers in Battle for Employment Justice" - Councillor Bennett Lovell

Within the space of a week, workers in Stevenage have been served a double helping of terrible (state pension age increases) and brilliant news (the Supreme Court decision that employment...

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