Public services are important to everyone. Whether it’s the police, NHS or child protection services, we all recognize the valuable role they play in keeping us safe, healthy and secure. That’s why it’s a constant challenge for politicians to maintain their integrity and ensure that when things go wrong people are held responsible for failings and changes are made.
But, unfortunately, as numerous scandals show, this is not always straightforward. Failings are often covered up, which is why the role of whistleblowers is so critical in helping us identify serious problems. We’ve seen this in the police in relation to Hillsborough, in the NHS and in care homes where the poor treatment of vulnerable patients is concerned. I’ve also seen it in Rochdale in relation to the 2012 grooming scandal, where child protection failings went unnoticed for far too long.
That’s why I raised the issue of protecting whistleblowers at a packed rally in Parliament this week to support victims of child abuse. In recent months I’ve spoken to a good number of police officers and health workers around the country about serious service failings that have allowed child abusers to commit crimes without consequences and I’m very concerned that these failings are not being identified.
Whistleblowers are often very brave, knowing full well that they will be attacked and could lose their job and pension as a result. But unless we listen to them and give them better support and protection then my fear is that more scandals will be swept under the carpet. In this Parliament we’ve had a whistleblowing commission conclude that the current legislation is not working and I agree. We need to make it easier for dedicated frontline workers to share information that can root out scandalous practice and in some cases lead to arrests.
Another issue I raised in Parliament this week is that of small businesses being ripped off by business rate reduction firms. As chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group, I’m extremely disappointed to hear that RVA Surveyors from Heywood are demanding small businesses pay them some of the Government’s business rate discount announced in the Autumn Statement. They have done no work to merit them demanding some of this money and I have written to the Chancellor asking the Treasury to look into this and put a stop to such sharp practice. Small businesses are constantly being fleeced and they need more protection.