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Letter from Parliament, 7 December



This week’s autumn statement brought little cheer to Rochdale, as the Chancellor was forced to concede that he’s failed to meet his debt reduction targets and austerity measures will have to continue until at least 2018.

A lack of growth continues to hurt this country and outside of London I am convinced we remain in recession. One of the most depressing aspects to the Government’s approach is they continue to squeeze small businesses as much as they possibly can. Yesterday the Chancellor announced more business rate increases, which will cost businesses across Greater Manchester £26.9million. 

That’s another 1,000 jobs that could have been created if only the Government could see sense.

The former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine has admitted this Government hasn’t got a proper plan for growth and it needs to make sure that small businesses are part of the plan. I hope Cameron and Osborne listen to him and stop clobbering small businesses with more tax increases.

Change is often hard to achieve and painstakingly slow. But I’m pleased to see things are slowly improving in child protection across our Borough. The chief executive, Jim Taylor, is leading on this and this week our office arranged for him to meet one of the victims of the recent grooming scandal.

He recognises how important it is for the the face of the Council to meet with victims and this shows a clear departure from the culture of the past where victims were seen as an afterthought. The former director of children’s services, Cheryl Eastwood, recently admitted under questioning from MPs that she had never met any of the victims, and this out of touch and distant bureaucratic culture had to stop.

As we approach Christmas I’m very much reminded of the looming anniversary of the death of Khuram Shaikh, a Red Cross worker from Rochdale. He was murdered on Christmas day in Sri Lanka last year and it has been a particularly difficult year for his family. Our office is working with them to try and bring Khuram’s killers to trial but the wheels of justice grind incredibly slow in Sri Lanka.

With the findings of the Leveson Inquiry now being pored over by Government, I spoke in a parliamentary debate on local newspapers this week on the vital community role of the Rochdale Observer. If the national press had followed local press standards then clearly victims like Milly Dowler’s family wouldn’t have had their suffering added to by unethical reporting.


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