This week I have barely had chance to catch my breath. I began on Sunday with a lovely event to celebrate the achievements of Burnley’s Bangladeshi community. I was delighted to join with staff from Sir John Thursby Community College to present awards for academic achievement. The Pitha food festival also formed an important part of the event and I think it is fair to say that a good time was had by all. I was, though sorry that my busy schedule meant that I was not to be able to stay to sample the winning dishes.
This week my new role with the Shadow Treasury team has begun in earnest and I have attended numerous detailed briefings. This has been time consuming but really useful and going forward it will definitely be an advantage to have the ear of the Shadow Chancellor. However in my new role I am not allowed to speak in the chamber on any Treasury related issues. This was frustrating this week because I was desperate to have my say on the proposed cuts to Tax Credits. I have written more detail on this subject which you can read on my website at www.juliecooperforburnley.co.uk.
This week began with a very enjoyable visit to Mary Magdalene’s Roman Catholic Primary School. I spent what was for me a very interesting session speaking with Year 6 (the top class). The children had obviously prepared well for the class and their questions were intelligent and their enthusiasm was a delight to behold. They caused me to reflect again what an absolute privilege it is to be Burnley’s MP. Every week is different and brings new experiences and there is certainly never time to be bored.
I was really pleased this week, to attend the Annual General meeting of the local Samaritans.
Last night (20th October 2015) I voted to oppose the Governemnt’s plans to cut Tax credits. Their proposals will further impoverish over 3 million working families. 150,00 of these are families with disabled children. 7000 families and over 10,000 children in Burnley and Padiham will be affected. They are to be punished it seems because they are poor. Undoubtedly the Tax Credit system needs reform and the way to do that is to introduce a real Living Wage. If people got paid enough to live on at work there would be no need for Tax Credits.
Today we’ve seen brutal evidence of the Tory’s continued attack on students. Not content with simply scrapping EMA, tripling tuition fees and abolishing AimHigher, we have now seen the Maintenance Grants, a lifeline for thousands, pulled from under our feet.
The money these grants offer is often the difference between being able to get into Higher Education or not. Scrapping them will hit the poorest hardest and make university even more difficult for those who need support the most.
The government must think again. Shutting the door to University for thousands is not the answer to the economic or social problems Britain faces.
During the General Election I was one of many Labour Students knocking on doors across the country in marginal seats. Although the result was disappointing for all of us, we won’t stop campaigning for the values that we believe in.
Since last month, we’ve seen a Queens’s speech that threatens higher education, suggests the scrapping of the Human Rights Act, and proposes tax cuts for the wealthy. For me there’s never been a more important time to be a Labour Student.
The next twelve months are about more than just opposition, they’re about putting forward our party’s vision for the future in the Scottish, Welsh, and London elections.
It sounds dramatic, but students could tip the balance of power at the next General Election. First thing’s first, everyone needs to register to vote by 20th April. If sufficient numbers do, studies have shown that students could determine who forms a Government in May. And rightly so. Students – at college or university, studying full time or part time – are incredibly important members of society, with a huge stake in our country’s future.
Since 2010, when I was elected MP for Sheffield Central, the constituency with the highest number of students in the country, I’ve worked hard to make sure students are listened to and taken seriously by politicians.