Author Archives: Richard Graham

My Budget Wishlist

Today I anticipate we will hear that the UK has done a lot better economically than many expected in the 18 months after the EU Referendum, but that there are still huge challenges ahead.

What would make a difference to our city of Gloucester?

I hope that the Chancellor will:

 
  • Continue to reduce our budget deficit but using some of our growth to invest in infrastructure
  • Announce lifting the salaries of certain front line public servants, and judiciously giving more investment in some public sector organisations
  • Pay those on Universal Credit slightly faster when they first come in
  • Do much more to build more homes that can be both bought and rented
  • Invest more in education and particularly skills in technology
  • Go further on new innovative industrial strategies, giving capital allowances for businesses
  • Help the young on transport and education
  • And help our environment by penalising unnecessary packaging and reducing plastics that damage the world
 
If we get most of this, and perhaps more, then I’ll be delighted.
 
Let’s see…

PRESS RELEASE: City MP to highlight local successes and issues to new Safeguarding and Vulnerabilities Minister in Gloucester

New Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins MP is making her first ministerial visit to Gloucester tomorrow at MP Richard Graham’s invitation. The Minister will meet with charities and statutory bodies to look at how Gloucester supports vulnerable residents as well as the Police to hear what is being done to deal with domestic abuse and reduce serious knife crime.

Richard said, “I plan for the Minister to see some of the good work being done to support vulnerable women and homeless people, both by individual groups and increasingly in wider partnerships. But I would also like her to hear from the county council how it intends to turn around the Ofsted report’s criticism of its safeguarding responsibilities, and how the police are tackling domestic abuse and serious knife crime. These are all issues important to our city being seen as a safe and compassionate city.”

NOTE TO EDITORS

Victoria Atkins was appointed Minister on the 9 November, having previously been a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Leader of the House of Lords. She was elected as MP for Louth and Horncastle in May 2015. Before becoming an MP Victoria Atkins was a barrister and lived for some time in Gloucestershire.

Her ministerial responsibilities include: victims of terrorism, the Disclosure and Barring Service, drugs, alcohol, countering extremism, crime prevention, anti-social behaviour, gangs, youth crime and youth violence, knife crime, wildlife crime, child sexual exploitation and abuse (including Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse), online child sexual exploitation, mental health, modern slavery, honour-based violence (including forced marriage and honour killings), female genital mutilation (FGM), violence against women and girls, missing people and children, sexual violence, prostitution and lap dancing, domestic violence, WEProtect and internet safety.

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PRESS RELEASE: New government supported housing proposals follow Gloucester MP’s report recommendations

 The government’s latest proposals on Supported Housing broadly adopt the recommendations in a joint select committee report co-chaired by Gloucester’s MP Richard Graham in May this year.

 Local Government Minister Marcus Jones announced new measures to provide ring fenced funding certainty for this important sector housing over 700,000 people nationwide, dropping earlier proposals to use the Local Housing Allowance as the starting basis.

 Richard said, “supported housing covers many people’s needs: including the elderly and frail, and those with severe learning difficulties or mental health issues. But there were both cost and quality issues with the old system and these changes address both.

 The government announcement extends the current funding structure until 2020 and then guarantees local authorities the same amount to be re-distributed through county councils – and the details of how to deal with increased demand and inflation will be sorted after this consultation. At the same time a new body will make sure that the supported service does live up to its name and the support is there.

 I worked with Labour MP Helen Hayes on this cross party committee report to outline recommendations for this complicated sector and am pleased the government has listened. There are still issues to be discussed, like how ‘short term housing’ will be structured in ways that protect Women’s Refuges, and I’m interested to listen to charities on this. But I welcome this week’s announcement and the support this will offer my older and more vulnerable constituents.”

 Boris Worrall, Chief Executive of Rooftop Housing Group said, “We’re pleased that the government has listened to the concerns about the proposed cap on the Local Housing Allowance by ring fencing funding for supported housing. This provides us with greater security so that we can continue to build more homes for vulnerable and older people in Gloucester and across the country.”

 Local Government Minister Marcus Jones said: “This government is committed to boosting the supply of new homes, and helping people to live independently and with dignity for as long as possible. This is why we are giving the supported housing sector the certainty of funding they need to get building new homes. These reforms will deliver quality and value for money, funding certainty for the sector and give local areas a greater role in commissioning services.”

 NOTE TO EDITORS

 The announcement includes a ring-fenced grant to local authority by April 2020 which will give local areas a bigger role in providing short term and emergency housing and a National Statement of Expectation setting out how local authorities should plan effectively for provisions in their area.

 A consultation on the detailed implementation of the flexible model for supported housing will run until the end of January 2018. Last week (25 October 2017) the government also announced that the Local Housing Allowance rate will not be applied to the social rented sector.

 The supported housing sector support provides homes from older renters. It also provides a home for other vulnerable groups such as people with learning disabilities, mental ill health, homeless people and victims of domestic abuse.

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PRESS RELEASE: City MP:  “a giant step forward” to clamping down on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals  

 

Richard with Minister Tracey Crouch

Gloucester’s MP Richard Graham said today’s announcement on a consultation on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, including an option to cut the maximum stake from £100 to £2, is “a giant step forward to reducing the risks to gamblers and their families, and a success for those of us who campaigned on the issue”.

The Sports Minister has launched a 12 week consultation on options to reduce the maximum stake from £100 to between £50 and £2. A package of measures will also be introduced to strengthen protections around online gambling and gambling advertising to minimise the risk to vulnerable people and children.

Richard Graham said, “I was influenced by the experience of my constituent Hussain Vorajee who became a gambling addict on FOBTs. It almost destroyed his life, and while of course everyone must take personal responsibility the government can help by reducing the maximum stake and protecting the vulnerable.

There are others who will have lost a lot of money and damaged the stability of their family lives who haven’t come forward – and I encourage all my constituents to help them too by supporting the £2 option in the consultation (as I will be doing). The more of us who support this the more likely it is that we’ll get the right result. So please click on https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-proposals-for-changes-to-gaming-machines-and-social-responsibility-measures.”

Gambling Minister Tracey Crouch said: “It is vital that we strike the right balance between socially responsible growth and protecting the most vulnerable, including children, from gambling-related harm. Given the strong evidence and public concerns about the risks of high stakes gaming machines on the high street, we are convinced of the need for action. That is why today we have set out a package of proposals to ensure all consumers and wider communities are protected.”

NOTE TO EDITORS

The package of measures taking effect include:

  • The Gambling Commission will consult on changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice next year to raise standards of player protection for online gambling.
  • Gambling industry groups will draw up a major two year responsible gambling campaign. The campaign will have a budget of £5 to £7 million per year funded by gambling operators, with airspace and digital media provided by broadcasters.
  • New advertising guidelines will be drawn up by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) to ensure that the content of gambling adverts does not encourage impulsive or socially irresponsible gambling.
  • The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) are strengthening the code on responsible gambling advertising to require operators to ensure gambling content and channels cannot be accessed by under-18s via social media
  • Gambling operators should step up on funding for research, education and treatment. If not, government will consider other options, including introducing a mandatory levy on gambling operators.

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Universal Credit: The Six Week Wait

The new Work & Pensions Select Committee report on Universal Credit (UC), which I attach to this, highlights both a potential improvement to UC and why such reports are more important in a hung Parliament.

First the report itself. Since UC attempts to mirror the world of work, payments are not fortnightly (as some legacy benefits have been), but monthly. But in practice, not least the application processing time, the agreed DWP first payment is after six weeks – so a longer wait than monthly payments.

The Select Committee recommends that payments be made monthly, and so is different from those sometimes made by critics of UC – make payments fortnightly, to mirror some of the benefits system – and more logical.

The government’s view is that it will continue to make changes where and when they’re needed, but has been quiet so far on this.

As I’ve written before the real issues for those in low paid employment are debt, resilience and cash flow. If someone comes onto the UC system with masses of debt and rent arrears then there is going to be trouble ahead.

So speeding up the first payment, on top of the now better advertised ‘advance’ system could make a real difference to some.

The DWP has promised to continue to monitor carefully the underlying problems of the hardest pressed UC claimants, and look at making changes in response to evidence. That is the benefit of a slow roll out that takes the number of claimants (of the assumed future total) from 8% to 10% by the end of January 2018.

This proposal might make a significant difference and I hope DWP will study its potential impact on vulnerable claimants over the next few weeks and months: and implement the recommendation if it would enhance UC’s success.

When a Parliament is effectively hung, party political impasse is common. The mathematics of a vote inevitably means not all Opposition Votes are voted on. The process of Parliament gets shoutier.

So one way through this is through the work of Select Committees – whose reports are the result of cross party work and at their best road tested in advance.

This was true of the report I co-chaired in the summer on Supported Housing, on which a government announcement will be made next week and where I hope most of our recommendations will be adopted: and it might also be true of this report on UC. This is a trend which will grow in this Parliament.

Click to open

Report Summary

In an urgent, unanimous report published on 26 October 2017, the Commons Work and Pensions Committee says Government should aim to cut the baked-in six week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit to a month, as this is a major obstacle blocking the potential success of the policy:

  • In areas where the full service has rolled out, evidence compellingly links it to an increase in acute financial difficulty, with widespread reports of overwhelmed food banks, problem debt and steeply rising rent arrears and homelessness.
  • Most low-income families simply do not have the savings to see them through this extended period without resorting to desperate measures

Advance Payment loans

While increased availability of Advance Payment (AP) loans of up to half the estimated monthly award are welcome, the Committee says they are no solution to a fundamental flaw in the current design:

  • Universal Credit seeks to mirror the world of work, but no one in work waits six weeks for a paycheque.
  • The Committee calls on Government to reduce the standard waiting time for a first Universal Credit payment to one month. This would be entirely consistent with the monthly in arrears philosophy of Universal Credit.

Reduce wait to one month

The arguments for a reduction are compelling:

  • More than half of low and middle income families have no savings, and two thirds have less than a month’s worth
  • Half of people earning £10,000 or less per year are not paid monthly.  Many households simply do not have the resources to get by for six weeks, or in a minority of cases far longer, without resorting to desperate measures
  • The 7 waiting days at the very beginning are purely a money-saving measure. They do not mirror the world of work – as the Centre for Social Justice has pointed out, no one works the first week of a job for free – and unlike the previous, standard benefit waiting days, they also leave claimants without housing costs or child benefit for the period
    Minimising the processing period
  • The Advance Payments put forward by Government to mitigate some of the unwelcome consequences of the current design of Universal Credit, but do nothing to address their underlying foundations
  • Advance Payments are loans, repayable in addition to other deductions such as rent arrears which can be up to 40% of the standard Universal Credit allowance. This will be difficult or impossible for some claimants to afford

PRESS RELEASE: Glosterpreneurs lead the SW for business productivity

Gloucester’s MP Richard Graham said recent research shows business productivity among SMEs is higher in Gloucester than anywhere else in the SW of England. “39% of our work force are in SMEs: the turnover in Gloucester SMEs is up 147% and productivity up 120% over the last four years. It’s an achievement all Glosterpreneurs should be proud of.”

The City MP added that this trend of SME growth should continue: “Gloucester’s relatively affordable property – much cheaper than Bristol or Cheltenham – makes our city a great place to set up and grow a new business, alongside good schools and easy access to the rest of the country.”

Other key findings in the Sage report are the links between local factors and higher productivity: and especially educational attainment (share of the local population with NVQ4+ level qualifications), good transport connections and levels of SME exports. Richard noted that the growing number of higher apprenticeship qualifications, including from the new Nursing Associate course, all help Gloucester’s position.

“What we can build on,” Richard noted, as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy, “is our level of exports, which are focused on a number of great successes and their supply chains. That’s also why I’ve invited the Minister from the Department for International Trade to visit Safran today and meet some of their sub-contractors and others in aerospace to highlight opportunities.”

NOTE TO EDITORS

The State of Small Business report was published on Monday 23 October.

 

PRESS RELEASE: MP welcomes International Trade Minister to Gloucestershire to promote Aerospace exports

Richard Graham MP has today welcomed the Minister for Investment Mark Garnier MP to Gloucestershire to meet with local aerospace companies and discuss exports. Safran hosted the visit with local aerospace companies including Poetons, GE Aviation and Twyver joining the discussion, with the Minister taking questions about post Brexit trade.

Richard said,

“Now that we’re leaving the EU it’s more important than ever that we support our strong local exporters like our aerospace contractors such as Safran and GE Aerospace and I’m delighted to work closely with all.

Gloucester has some excellent aerospace businesses that are already sending their work abroad and so I’m glad that the Minister could join us today to hear about their work and share his insight into what more we can do.”

Safran Landing System’s Managing Director Chris Wilson said:

“Here in Gloucestershire we have a world leading company. Safran Landing System’s UK business has a unique capability with its total process from initial design to final aircraft integration, in service support and MRO, together with Research and Development.

It is therefore critical that we retain those skills which we have locally, in the region and in the UK. We do everything we can to increase our competitiveness which is why the support from Government, through the likes of the AGP, DIT and BEIS teams, with lobbying, skills development, investment and funding initiatives is so important.”

Minister for Investment, Mark Garnier said:

“UK goods and services are in increasing demand across the world, with the aerospace industry bringing billions into our economy every year. Safran’s work in developing quality engine equipment and landing systems is crucial to the success of the industry and in maintaining jobs.

As an international economic department, we will continue to support businesses in making the most of opportunities through our aerospace trade missions and presence at international air shows.”

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP asks Minister to tackle Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

Richard Graham MP has met with Minister Tracey Crouch to support calls for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) to face stricter regulations. Richard urged the Minister to consider reducing the maximum stake on a single bet from £100 to £2: “I can see no benefit to anyone from having such high stakes”, said Richard.

In October 2016 the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced a review of gambling machines and social responsibility measures including looking at FOBTs. The government has pledged to publish its findings soon in response to campaigners who want to see the maximum stake aspect in particular addressed.

Richard said, “local resident and taxi driver Hussain Vorajee has spoken to me both about his gambling addiction and the wider issue of the severe social impact these FOBTs can have on families. Fixed Odds Betting Terminals allow people to put £100 every 20 seconds into this machine, with the average user losing £1,200 a year. Some customers don’t have much money and the shops are often in poorer areas, adding to the issue.

There are choices involved: no one is forced to gamble, but gambling can become an addiction and we should help those addicted or likely to be addicted. It’s time to be responsible about gambling and that’s why I’ve asked the Minister to have this stake reduced.”

Hussain Vorajee wrote to Richard with his concerns over machines. He said, “I’m pleased that Richard has agreed to take up this cause. Gambling addictions can ruin lives, as I know, and these machines should be better regulated.”

NOTE TO EDITORS

Fixed Odd Betting Terminals are electronic machines, sited in betting shops, which contain a variety of games, including roulette. Each machine accepts bets for amounts up to a pre-set maximum and pays out according to fixed odds on the simulated outcomes of games.

The Gambling Act 2005 regulates gambling in Great Britain. The Act classifies FOBTs as B2 gaming machines. Up to four machines can be sited on betting premises. The maximum stake on a single bet is £100, the maximum prize is £500. There are 34,388 B2 machines in Great Britain (Gambling Commission statistics, May 2017). The gross gambling yield from B2s was £1.8 billion.

A survey by the Gambling Commission found that a third of the 1.45 million people who used the machines were at risk of becoming addicts.

Richard recorded a video on this issue: https://www.facebook.com/richard4gloucester/videos/1059233537546735/

Below photos show Richard at a Responsible Gambling Week reception in Parliament and with Hussain Vorajee.

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