I’d like to start by wishing all readers a happy and healthy New Year.
2014 was especially busy for my office, but I expect 2015 will be even busier.
There are many challenges facing Rochdale and, above all, the UK. Politics as usual simply won’t do. So as we go into election year I’m hopeful that the General Election campaign will rise above 'the tawdry political tactics' and cheap 'point scoring' that the British Chamber of Commerce this week warned could deflect from important issues facing the UK economy.
I’m acutely aware of these issues and that’s why I hope the campaign in Rochdale will focus on how we can build a stronger local economy, grow key sectors like manufacturing and improve social mobility so that people who work hard are able to earn a good living and enjoy decent job prospects.
Five years ago I stood to be elected because I wanted to improve things in Rochdale and even though this Government has clobbered our town with some of the worst cuts in the country, I’ve worked hard to make a difference everywhere I can.
Some of the areas where I’ve done this are by helping improve our child protection services, championing local business and encouraging the council to introduce business rate reductions and by campaigning for justice and finally seeing the murderers of Rochdale Red Cross worker Khuram Shaikh put behind bars.
At every opportunity I’ve always tried to give local people a voice in Parliament and I’ve led a number of debates on key issues facing our town. In one instance I secured an apology from the minister of state for disabled people over the shocking way in which Government agencies had hounded a Rochdale woman.
Similarly, during the last four years my office has worked hard to deal with a heavy caseload that’s continued to grow as a result of cuts to other agencies like the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. We’ve helped nearly 6,000 people on a wide range of issues, from education and employment to housing and the passport delay fiasco.
Some of this work involves things like re-housing people who have been the victims of crime, helping people get operations that are being rationed on the NHS or challenging energy companies trying to rip off small businesses. Every week is different and I hope to continue helping our town and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.