August 21st, 2014

Congratulations to young people in Morley & Outwood

Congratulations to all the young people across Morley and Outwood who’ve had their GCSE results today. I know it’s a stressful time for parents, teachers and of course young people themselves. I get out to all five local secondary schools whenever I can and it’s always great to hear about young people’s plans for the future. All the Citizenship students from Outwood Grange who’ve wrote to me last year, when they were in year 10, will now be moving onto A levels or onto college. And at Bruntcliffe, Morley Academy, Rodillian and Woodkirk, hundreds of young people will be making similar decisions about their future.

And congratulations to all the A Level students too who got their results last week and are going on to university or heading out into the world of work or into an apprenticeship.

Earlier this year one young A Level student from Rodillian asked me about what she should do to get into the film industry – after the A level results last week she will now hopefully be putting her plan into action. And in my office, now working with me as part of her year out, former Woodkirk student and aspiring politician, Jess Riley got her brilliant A Level results and is now planning where they will take her.

For those making decisions about A levels, college courses, university or an apprenticeship, thankfully help and advice is close at hand thanks to our great local sixth forms and colleges. But much more still needs to be done to ensure there are opportunities for young people to get them into jobs and training so they can get on and do well.

After a year of hard work I hope everyone can now celebrate their achievements. Young people who have worked so hard for their exams deserve the chances to get on and do well. But like many other local people, I am worried about whether the next generation have the chances to do better than the last.

With the number of young people out of work for over a year still way too high, wages still stagnant and high rents preventing young people from leaving the family home or getting on the housing ladder, we need to make sure there are enough of the right opportunities for our young people to get the education, training, jobs and other opportunities to get on and do well.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be keeping up the pressure to get young people a better deal. We need strong action now to prevent a whole generation of young people falling behind.

Posted August 21st, 2014 by Ed
August 20th, 2014

Pioneering Morley company Brandon Medical

Tucked away, off Bridge Street in Morley, is a pioneering company that exports its goods across the world. Brandon Medical is an award-winning, medical technology company, exporting medical lighting and high-tech cameras to operating theatres, medical clinics and doctors’ surgeries around the world.

From operating theatres in local hospitals down the road at Pinderfields, to facilities half way around the world in Asia and the Middle East, the operating lights and cameras almost certainly came from Brandon Medical.

The company’s new facility in Morley has only been open for a few weeks. So when I called in to meet Managing Director, Grahame Hall and his team, it was great to hear about their move to Morley from Middleton and the company’s recent expansion.

Brandon Medical’s headquarters on Elmfield Road include a demonstration operating theatre, Intensive Care Unit and GP Surgery all of which showcase their fantastic state-of-the-art equipment.  It is a fascinating company. And I was excited to see their research and development team working on new designs and prototypes – world-leading innovation based right here in Morley.

Pioneering companies like Brandon Medical are really leading the way. They are creating high quality, high-tech products locally and then exporting them around the world. By providing more support regionally to companies like them we can get more investment and jobs for people in our region.

Unfortunately, as businesses tell me regularly, since our regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward was scrapped, it’s been much harder for companies wanting to grow, expand and create jobs in our region. We do now have a Local Enterprise Partnership

Partnership for our area. But it lacks the teeth and resources to really support the business community in the way we need.

And while the national economy is now growing again, I know from speaking to both local businesses as well as residents that things are still difficult for a great many local firms.

Brandon Medical are a great example of a company leading the way, creating the high-tech, well paid jobs we need more of. We need to support businesses like this to grow if we’re going to get balanced economic recovery for every region of Britain. That’s why we need a British Investment Bank to help local business grow and expand.

So I will continue to champion the case for economic investment in our region so that local companies are able to grow and create the high-quality jobs and growth we need.

And of course, the next time you see a medical light in a doctors surgery or hospital remember, it could well be from Morley.

Posted August 20th, 2014 by Ed
August 13th, 2014

Morley Observer Column

The lights went out for an hour last week as Britain stopped to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War. One hundred years ago, fateful decisions were made that led to war and changed the course of history.  Almost 10 million men – from here in Morley and across the world – left their families to go into battle, never to return. Many millions more lived to tell the tale but bore the deep scars of their service.

Young men from across Britain served alongside soldiers from across the world – from the Indian sub-continent to Africa, from Australia to the Caribbean. They fought valiantly, and with incredible bravery, in unimaginably horrific conditions. Hundreds of thousands of British soldiers gave their lives to protect the freedom that we still enjoy today. It was a conflict that touched every family, affected every community and fundamentally changed the course of history.

But as well as the brave soldiers on the front line, there were many millions more who served their country in other ways and deserve our deep gratitude – from the nurses risking their lives on the Western Front to those who played their part on the Home Front.

The First World War will, for generations to come, serve as a reminder of the brutality, and in the case of World War 1, the futility, of war.

Here in Morley, the town, of course, put on a fantastic series of events over the weekend to commemorate the First World War. From the tram in its spot on Peel Street to the brilliantly recreated army recruitment office, run by the Royal British Legion, as well as stalls from local groups and some fabulous music, Morley marked the occasion brilliantly.  So one hundred years after the start of the First World War, it’s important we remember the sacrifice made by those in Morley who laid down their lives for our country.

They must never be forgotten.

*******

Tucked away, off Bridge Street in Morley, is a pioneering company that exports its goods across the world. Brandon Medical is an award-winning, medical technology company, exporting medical lighting and high-tech cameras to operating theatres, medical clinics and doctors’ surgeries around the world.

From operating theatres in local hospitals down the road at Pinderfields, to facilities half way around the world in Asia and the Middle East, the operating lights and cameras almost certainly came from Brandon Medical.

The company’s new facility in Morley has only been open for a few weeks. So when I called in to meet Managing Director, Grahame Hall and his team, it was great to hear about their move to Morley from Middleton and the company’s recent expansion.

Brandon Medical’s headquarters on Elmfield Road include a demonstration operating theatre, Intensive Care Unit and GP Surgery all of which showcase their fantastic state-of-the-art equipment.  It is a fascinating company. And I was excited to see their research and development team working on new designs and prototypes – world-leading innovation based right here in Morley.

Pioneering companies like Brandon Medical are really leading the way. They are creating high quality, high-tech products locally and then exporting them around the world. By providing more support regionally to companies like them we can get more investment and jobs for people in our region.

Unfortunately, as businesses tell me regularly, since our regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward was scrapped, it’s been much harder for companies wanting to grow, expand and create jobs in our region. We do now have a Local Enterprise Partnership

Partnership for our area. But it lacks the teeth and resources to really support the business community in the way we need.

And while the national economy is now growing again, I know from speaking to both local businesses as well as residents that things are still difficult for a great many local firms.

Brandon Medical are a great example of a company leading the way, creating the high-tech, well paid jobs we need more of. We need to support businesses like this to grow if we’re going to get balanced economic recovery for every region of Britain. That’s why we need a British Investment Bank to help local business grow and expand.

So I will continue to champion the case for economic investment in our region so that local companies are able to grow and create the high-quality jobs and growth we need.

And of course, the next time you see a medical light in a doctors surgery or hospital remember, it could well be from Morley.

Posted August 13th, 2014 by Ed
August 4th, 2014

World War 1 Commemorations

One hundred years ago, fateful decisions were made that led to the start of the First World War and changed the course of history.  Almost 10 million men from across the world left their families to go into battle, never to return, with the millions more who served all bearing the scars of their service.

Young men from across Britain served alongside soldiers from across the world – from the Indian sub-continent to Africa, from Australia to the Caribbean. They fought valiantly and with incredible bravery in unimaginably horrific conditions. Hundreds of thousands of British soldiers gave their lives to protect the freedom that we still enjoy today. It was a conflict that touched every family, affected every community and fundamentally altered Britain’s place in the world.

But as well as the soldiers on the front line there were many millions more who we must also remember who served their country in other ways – from the nurses risking their lives on the Western Front to those who played their part on the Home Front.

The First World War will, for generations to come, serve as a reminder of the brutality, and in the case of World War 1, the futility, of war.

Here in Morley the town of course put on a fantastic event over the weekend to commemorate the events of the First World War. From the tram in its spot on Peel Street to the brilliantly recreated army recruitment office, run by the Royal British Legion, as well as stalls from local groups and some fabulous music, Morley marked the occasion brilliantly.  So one hundred years after the start of the First World War, it’s important we remember the sacrifice made by those in Morley who laid down their lives for our country.

They will not be forgotten.

Posted August 4th, 2014 by Ed's team
August 1st, 2014

Stanley Children’s Centre Stay & Play – politically speaking in the Wakefield Express

Politically Speaking in the Wakefield Express

The summer is here and families are planning for the long holidays. I know what a task it can be to keep the kids entertained.

For many families the summer will include a family holiday either here in the UK or abroad. But for some – a growing number this year – getting away just isn’t an option.

I know from my casework how difficult things still are for very many local families, especially those with small children. Many jobs are still under threat and prices for childcare and everyday essentials have gone up much faster than pay.

So I’ve again put together my annual newsletter for parents with local activities going on over the summer. Contact my office for your copy or check it out at www.edballs.com.

Chatting to parents at a ’stay and play’ session in Outwood on Monday, I could tell what a big difference it makes to have activities going on locally.

The Outwood ’stay and play’ was organised by the fantastic team at our Stanley children’s centre. They have a wide range of activities going on over the summer.

But as Express readers will know, there is currently a question mark over the future of some of our children’s centres services.

Wakefield Council is grappling once again with budgets that have been significantly scaled back by central Government. Understandably it is looking for savings – and that includes taking a long, hard look at the services provided by children’s centres.

It was clear from the parents I spoke to on Monday that they strongly value their local children’s centre and the services it provides. “It’s a total lifeline” one parent told me.

For some they are a place to come for midwife and health visitor appointments or a support network. For others, having a tough time, they can be a safe haven, a source of advice about a challenging child or a lifeline if trying to flee a violent partner or dealing with post-natal depression.

But the children’s centres themselves, including our centres in Stanley and Wrenthorpe, are only part of the story. Staff spend a great deal of time carrying out outreach work to ensure that the families and children most in need of support and help, get access to the services they need.

As I know from my work in Westminster, the hard work of those in children’s services can be difficult to measure; a child protected, a family supported, a mum helped though a difficult patch. I believe that, even in difficult times, services for local parents and children must be supported and improved.

So as the consultation on the future of our local children’s centres gets under way, I want to hear about local parents’ experiences. Did you access services on offer at one of our local children’s centres? What help did they give to your family?

Please email me at ed@edballs.com or contact my office on 0113 253 9466.

ENDS

Posted August 1st, 2014 by Ed
July 30th, 2014

The choice on the economy – my speech in Bedford

It’s great to be back here in Bedford supporting your campaign.

Because it’s vital that we win here in this marginal constituency – and in seats across this region from Stevenage to Ipswich, Watford to Waveney – if we are to get the Tories out, elect a Labour government and start to rebuild our country for the future.

Seats where we lost in 2010.

Seats where we have worked hard to show that under Ed Miliband’s leadership we have changed our party from the past, shown that we understand where we made mistakes, like on immigration controls and bank regulation.

Seats where working people have seen their living standards fall month after month since that 2010 election and are crying out for change and a better deal than this Conservative-led Government can offer.

And to show that Labour can offer the change that working people are asking – and with just 9 months now until the general election – it’s vital that Labour sets out the choice the country will face next year.

Over the last few days Ed Miliband and the shadow cabinet have been setting out the stark choice Britain will face on leadership, on crime and on the National Health Service.

In the coming weeks we will be setting out the choice on issues like education, jobs, welfare and housing too.

Today I want to talk about the economy:

• The Conservative economic record.

• The real risk they pose for the future.

• And how Labour’s economic plan will make Britain better off and fairer for the future.

TORY FAILURE

Let’s start with the Government’s record on the economy over the last four years.

Last Friday we learned that our economy has, at long last, got back to the size it was before the global financial crisis.

The fact that Conservative strategists are desperate to persuade us all that this is a significant moment for celebration is revealing.

Not only is it two years later than the Chancellor’s original plan said, and three years after the US reached the same point, it’s also the case that, as our population has grown, GDP per head won’t recover to where it was for around another three years – in other words, a lost decade for living standards.

So while David Cameron and George Osborne complacently claim the economy is now fixed, the truth is most people are worse off under the Tories.

Even the Business Secretary Vince Cable has now admitted the truth when he said this weekend that wages have been growing more slowly than prices.

As one Conservative told the Sunday newspapers about his comments: “This is most unhelpful. We’re trying to mark a major milestone and he tells people living standards are falling.”

Of course we shouldn’t forget that Vince Cable and the Lib Dems are part of a Government that’s failing to tackle this cost-of-living crisis, but the Business Secretary is right. Living standards have been falling and are still under pressure.

For working people, average wages after inflation are down by over £1,600 a year since 2010.

Tax and benefit changes since 2010 will leave the average household £974 a year worse off by the time of the next election.

And new analysis today from the House of Commons Library shows that under David Cameron working people will have seen the biggest fall in wages of any Parliament since 1874.

It’s set to be the first time since the 1920s that people are worse off at the end of the Parliament than they were at the beginning.

From a Conservative-led Government that promised to make working people better off back in 2010, this is a dismal record of failure.

But this failure to deliver rising living standards is not the only pledge they have broken.

David Cameron and George Osborne famously said ‘we’re all in this together’, but then gave millionaires a huge tax cut.

A £3 billion tax cut for the top one per cent of earners, while most people were paying hundreds more pounds each year in higher VAT.

They said they’d balance the books by 2015, but borrowing is set to be £75 billion next year – because they choked off the recovery back in 2010 with that reckless first Budget.

They said they’d back the next generation, but apprenticeships for young people are falling and there are still over 800,000 young people out of work including more than 15,000 here in this region.

And they said they’d rebalance the economy, but housebuilding is at its lowest level since the 1920s, net lending to business is down, business investment is lagging behind our competitors and our export growth since 2010 is sixth in the G7.

THE TORY THREAT

So it’s no wonder that when David Cameron and George Osborne say everything is going well and that the economy is fixed, many people here in Bedford and across the country say ‘it may be working for you, but it’s not working for me and my family and our community’.

As the former Conservative Chancellor Ken Clarke admitted last month, most people are not feeling any sense of recovery.

Living standards are still squeezed and people are worried and insecure about the future.

That old line Harold Macmillan line – ‘you’ve never had it so good’ – may have resonated in post-war Britain when he first used it here in Bedford as Prime Minister back in 1957.

But nearly sixty years on, every time in Prime Minister’s Questions that David Cameron tries to tell the British people that they’ve never had it so good, I fear it just prompts disbelief that he can be so out of touch.

Because here in Bedford in 2014, what voters are saying to Patrick on the doorstep is very much what people 150 miles north are saying to me in my constituency of Morley and Outwood.

Why are we not sharing in the economic recovery?

Where are the good jobs going to come from?

Will my children have the same chances as my generation?

And how will Britain earn its way in a rapidly changing world?

These are the questions people are asking right across the UK.

But the Tories have no answers to the cost-of-living crisis and the challenges facing Britain.

We know the Tories are not going to deliver a balanced, investment-led recovery that benefits all working people with more of the same:

• A race to the bottom on wages.

• Treasury opposition to a proper industrial strategy.

• Flirting with exit from the European Union.

• Hoping tax cuts at the very top will trickle down.

Working people can’t afford five more years of the same old Tory economics.

Already today, even before living standards have stopped falling, this Government’s failure to get more houses built means there is now a real risk that interest rates will rise prematurely to rein in an unbalanced housing market.

And we know what the next five years will bring.

George Osborne is once again a Tory Chancellor who, having abolished the Regional Development Agencies and backed the Beecroft plan and then tried to persuade workers to trade their rights at work for shares, is now blocking the Heseltine plan to devolve real power and resources to business and local Government to support skills and local innovation.

David Cameron is once again a Tory leader caving into his Eurosceptic backbenchers – putting the party interest before the national interest by flirting with walking away from the EU. This would be a disaster for British jobs and businesses.

And we know the Tories’ real economic plan – it’s to cut taxes at the top and hope that wealth will just trickle-down.

Having already cut taxes for millionaires in this Parliament, they’re champing at the bit to do it again if they win the election – cutting the top rate of tax for people earning over £150,000 again from 45p to 40p.

Another tax cut worth £3 billion for the richest one per cent of our country.

We know George Osborne wanted to cut it down to 40p in his omnishambles Budget two years ago. David Cameron won’t rule out doing it. And Boris Johnson and the right are now demanding it.

And now today the cat has been let out of the bag. David Cameron’s close Cabinet colleague – the Minister for Government Policy Oliver Lewtin – has let it slip.

He’s advocating the old right-wing idea of a flat tax if the Tories win the election. That means lower taxes for the richest and higher taxes for everyone else.

The IFS has calculated that for a flat tax to be revenue neutral it would have to set at be 31 per cent. That would be a huge increase for 24 million people on middle and low incomes currently paying the basic rate at 20p.

George Osborne said ten years ago he found the idea very exciting. And behind closed doors the Conservatives are talking about it again today.

This is the real Tory agenda for a second term…

… the same old Tories standing up for the few, while everyone else is left behind.

And it shows just how much is at stake next year.

A LABOUR FUTURE

We know that the next Labour Government will face great challenges.

The failure of the Conservatives to deliver rising living standards for the many and not just a few at the top, their failure to deliver a balanced recovery and their failure to balance the books means the next Labour Government will face a daunting task..

But we are determined to rise to the challenge with long-term changes to create an economy that works for all working people, not just a few.

So Labour’s economic plan will make Britain better off and fairer for the future.

It’s a radical and credible plan based on big reform, not big spending.

First, we will support working people, make work pay and tackle insecurity in the labour market.

That means expanding free childcare for working parents, freezing energy bills, introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax, increasing the minimum wage, ending the exploitative use of zero-hours contracts and giving tax breaks to firms that pay the living wage.

Second, we need to create more good jobs and ensure young people have the skills they need to succeed.

So Labour will boost apprenticeships, transform vocational education and ensure there is a paid starter job for every young person out of work for over a year – a compulsory jobs guarantee funded by a tax on bank bonuses that will help 2,500 young people here in the East of England.

Third, we have got to build a stronger and more balanced economy.

So a vital part of our plan is to get at least 200,000 new homes built a year, devolving more power and funding to city and county regions and investing for the long-term with an independent national infrastructure commission to end the dither and delay on the big decisions we need to make for the future.

Fourth, we will promote long-term reform and competition in markets like energy and banking so they work better for consumers and businesses and support long-term investment too.

So we welcome the Bank of England’s announcement today that bank bonuses will now be clawed back if things go wrong, alongside tougher regulation and strengthened criminal penalties.

And because Ed Miliband and I have repeatedly called for an inquiry into bank competition, it’s welcome that the Competition and Markets Authority is now set to start this work later this year. As we said in January, in the next parliament we want to see at least two new challenger banks and a market share test to ensure the market stays competitive for the long term.

Fifth, we will back British businesses by cutting business rates, maintaining the most competitive corporation tax in the G7, establishing a proper British Investment Bank and arguing for Britain to stay in a reformed European Union.

And finally, I am clear that the next Labour government will get the deficit down where this Government has failed.

As our National Policy Forum voted for last weekend, Labour will balance the books and get the national debt falling as soon as possible in the next Parliament. We will legislate for these tough fiscal rules in the first year after the next election and they will be independently monitored by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

But we will do so in a fairer way, including by reversing David Cameron’s tax cut for millionaires, tackling tax avoidance and cutting the winter fuel allowance for the richest pensioners.

To help restore trust in politics and improve the quality of debate at the next election, we also want the Office for Budget Responsibility to be allowed to independently audit the spending and tax commitments in our election manifesto – and those of the other main political parties.

The fact that George Osborne is desperate to block this shows that he not only wants to carry on peddling untruths and smears about Labour’s plans but is running scared from having his own manifesto subject to independent scrutiny too.

CONCLUSION

So this is the stark choice we face next year.

A choice between a Labour plan to make Britain better off and fairer for the future – with rising living standards for the many, not just a few – or more of the same from the same old Tories.

More good jobs with Labour or a race to the bottom on wages under the Tories.

The books balanced fairly with Labour or ordinary families hit first under the Tories.

Reforms to make Europe work better for Britain with Labour, or sleepwalking to the EU exit door and putting millions of jobs at risk under the Tories.

Tax cuts for millions on middle and low incomes with Labour or another tax cut for millionaires under the Tories.

This is the most important election in a generation.

For millions of people struggling to make ends meet.

For hundreds of thousands of young people out of work.

And for businesses large and small who know Britain’s future is in Europe…

… we can’t risk another Tory government.

So let’s go out there and win it.

Thank you.

Posted July 30th, 2014 by Ed
July 30th, 2014

Morley’s Going Wifi!

Morley’s going wifi! I’ve been working for many months with Morley Chamber and big local employer O2 to make our town centre a free wifi zone. I am really pleased that O2 have now agreed to a free trial.

So in a few weeks time, Morley residents, visitors and shoppers will be able to access free wireless internet when they’re walking down the high street, browsing in our fabulous shops or having a cup of tea, pint or sandwich in one of our great local cafes or pubs.

It’s another Morley first – the first market town in West Yorkshire to have free wifi in the town centre. It’s just one of the ideas we have been working on to get more shoppers in our town centre here in Morley.

Businesses, especially retailers, have had a tough time in recent years. Morley’s fared better than many other towns. But with less money in people’s pockets, shops, cafes and other businesses have really been up against it.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been working closely with the Morley Chamber, O2, Morrisons and local Councillors to find new ways to help local businesses. “Anything that brings people into the town is a real help,” one local retailer told me last week.

Regular readers may remember that 18 months back O2 agreed to support local businesses to set up their Priority Local app – allowing shops to put special offers and deals on their online app – alongside big national chains. Free wifi for the town was the natural next step and so I asked O2 if they could help support the town again.

Big cities, including Leeds and Manchester and London, have been trialling free wifi for a while now – but in market towns like Morley it’s rare. Morley will be the first West Yorkshire town – and just the second in Yorkshire to go wifi.

The opportunity is being provided free for local businesses, including Morley Market, for 12 months. The cost of the equipment, its installation and maintenance and the technical know-how is all free – and delivered by O2. All businesses have to do is sign up. If they decide they don’t want to continue after 12 months, the equipment can just be returned to O2.

With the world increasingly online, it makes sense for visitors, shoppers and residents to be able to access the internet, emails and social media from a phone or tablet while they’re out and about. And of course businesses often have special offers and deals online which it’s useful to be able to access on the spot.

Morley is already a great place to live, work and shop. Free wifi should be a real boost and will support efforts to bring more shoppers and visitors to the town to support local businesses. Any local business who wants to find out how to sign up for the pilot should contact Mike Holmes from O2 on 07834 317947 or email mike.holmes@telefonica.com. Or you can check it out with Rachael Kennedy from Morley Chamber morleyevents@live.co.uk or me ed@edballs.com. Happy surfing!

********

I am so pleased to see the Morley North Children’s centre has settled in at its new home in Morley Town Hall. It’s been a challenging year for the centre trying to find a new permanent home. But having endured two moves in 12 months, it’s a testament to the hard work of Michelle and her team that parents and children have followed the centre from Asquith Primary to St Mary’s Church and now to Morley town hall.

Hopefully the latest move is now more permanent – it’s great to see so many toddlers running around the town hall.

On Friday I joined parents and kids for a stay and play session, complete with magician, Truffles. From playdough and lego to their very own photo booth, the kids were having a great time.

I know local families are still struggling with the cost of everything going up and wages not keeping track. Parents I’ve spoken to recently tell me how the increasing cost of childcare, in particular, has affected their family budget. Over the summer I’m conducting my annual summer survey of parents and families to see what the other pressure points are.

There’s loads going on at both our Morley children’s centres. Parents who want to find out what’s on locally for families and kids over the summer should call 0113 247 7196, pick up one of my newsletters – or download it from my website www.edballs.co.uk.

And thanks to our wifi trial, Morley North Children’s Centre should soon be online too – all for free!

Posted July 30th, 2014 by Ed
July 25th, 2014

My response to today’s GDP figures

At long last our economy is back to the size it was before the global banking crisis – three years after the US reached the same point.

But with GDP per head not set to recover for three more years and most people still seeing their living standards squeezed this is no time for complacent claims that the economy is fixed.

Wages after inflation are down over £1,600 a year since 2010, housebuilding under this government is at its lowest level since the 1920s and business investment is lagging behind our competitors.

Labour’s economic plan will make Britain better off and fairer for the future. Our long-term reforms will tackle the deep-seated cost-of-living crisis and create a strong and balanced recovery that works for the many and not just a few at the top.

We will make work pay by expanding free childcare and introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax. We will create more good jobs and back the next generation by boosting apprenticeships and transforming vocational education.

We will get more homes built, promote competition in banking and energy, cut business rates and argue for Britain to stay in a reformed EU. And Labour will balance the books in the next Parliament, but do so in a fairer way by reversing David Cameron’s tax cut for millionaires.

Posted July 25th, 2014 by Ed
July 24th, 2014

Conservative complacency won’t help working people – my article in the Guardian

Our economy has, at long last, got back to the size it was before the global financial crisis, the latest growth figures on Friday are expected to show. The fact that Conservative strategists believe this to be a significant moment for celebration is revealing.

Not only is it two years later than the chancellor’s original plan said, and three years after the US reached the same point, it’s also the case that GDP per head won’t recover to where it was for around another three years – in other words, a lost decade for living standards.

So while David Cameron and George Osborne complacently claim the economy is now fixed, most people are worse off. As even Ken Clarke, the former Conservative chancellor, recently admitted, most people are not feeling any sense of recovery.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Tories said their policies would deliver rising living standards, but working people are worse off with wages after inflation down by more than £1,600 a year since 2010.

The myth that we were all in this together was shattered by the £3bn tax cut for the top 1%. Far from balancing the books by 2015 as promised, borrowing is set to be £75bn next year – because Osborne’s reckless first budget choked off recovery back in 2010.

Even with the economy growing again, Conservative complacency is now deeply misplaced. Because while they said they’d rebalance the economy, housebuilding under this government is at its lowest peacetime level since the 1920s, business investment is lagging behind our competitors, apprenticeships for young people are falling, and our export growth since 2010 is sixth in the G7.

Despite all this, ministers think all we need is more of the same. But we are not going to deliver a balanced, investment-led recovery that benefits all working people with the same old Tory economics.

Hoping tax cuts at the very top will trickle down, a race to the bottom on wages, Treasury opposition to a proper industrial strategy, and flirting with exit from the European Union cannot be the right prescription for Britain. We need a different approach to deal with the deep-seated cost-of-living crisis, build a stronger and more balanced recovery, and tackle the substantial deficit the next government will face.

That means making work pay and tackling insecurity by expanding free childcare, introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax, raising the minimum wage and ending the exploitative use of zero-hours contracts. We need to create more good jobs and ensure young people have the skills they need to succeed when technological change is hollowing out middle-income jobs.

To build a stronger and more balanced economy we need to get at least 200,000 new homes built a year, and devolve more power and funding to city and county regions.

British businesses should be backed by cutting business rates, maintaining the most competitive corporation tax in the G7, and arguing for Britain to stay in a reformed EU.

And we must also get the deficit down. Labour will balance the books and get the national debt falling as soon as possible in the next parliament – as the national policy forum voted for last weekend. But we will do so in a fairer way, which includes reversing Cameron’s tax cut for millionaires, tackling tax avoidance, and cutting the winter fuel allowance for the richest pensioners.

While the Tories claim all we need is one more heave of the same old policies, Labour’s radical and credible economic plan is the only way to make Britain better off and fairer for the future.

Posted July 24th, 2014 by Ed
July 24th, 2014

Baby P and Haringey Council – my interview on the Jeremy Vine Show

Full transcript below

ED BALLS – Sharon Shoesmith

R2 – Jeremy Vine

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Speakers        Ed Balls

Jeremy Vine

JV:     This means you got it wrong doesn’t it?

EB:     I don’t think so Jeremy because the fundamental question was could the Director of Children’s Services, Sharon Shoesmith stay in her job after a damning report which highlighted failings in Haringey and my judgement was that she couldn’t. It is important to remember the person who lost most here was a small boy who lost his life. His parents were responsible but the report I commissioned also showed the huge failures of leadership and management in Haringey social services. I had a duty to children in Haringey and across the country to act and the law gave me the power, not to sack Sharon Shoesmith – that was not my decision, she was an employee of Haringey – but to remove her from her position as Director of Children’s Services which I did because it was my judgement that was the only way to keep confidence in children’s services in Haringey and across the country. And Jeremy, at every stage I acted on the basis of the expert and legal advice from our departmental lawyers who said to me that it was not my responsibility to have a meeting with Sharon Shoesmith. She had met the independent inspectors, her employers did not want her to come to the meeting at which they heard my decision and then they resigned themselves. Sharon Shoesmith didn’t resign, she has then taken this unfair dismissal case, in my view the judges have not understood the proper legal framework within which I was acting where I had a responsibility to act to keep children safe and therefore I regret this decision.

JV:     You sacked her for a headline because you were under pressure too and it is the easiest thing in the world to scapegoat her?

EB:     Well they may have thought that or not but that is absolutely and categorically untrue. What happened at the time, because you remember this, we I’m sure discussed this at the time, there was huge public anger and upset at what had happened to Peter Connelly and there was lots of pressure for immediate action. I didn’t take immediate action, I actually instead commissioned an independent investigation and waited for that report and was regularly criticised, including in BBC interviews, for not acting more quickly. But when the report came it was devastating and the people who did the report, the independent inspectors pinpointed failures of leadership and management. Now could I really have kept Sharon Shoesmith in her job when her bosses had resigned and when she had failed to keep this child safe and her department hadn’t…

JV:                  There is a suspicion that these so-called independent inspectors actually were also swinging in the wind of public opinion because just after the death of Baby P they awarded Haringey a good rating, then you say what is going on and they award it a bad rating?

EB:                 Well look, many lessons were learned about the importance of tougher independent inspection. That rating was given without a visit and that was …

JV:                   Exactly …

EB:                 And that was a mistake and they corrected that. But the fact was the health, children’s and police inspectors went into Haringey and concluded devastatingly that the department was being badly run. I, to keep children safe, had to remove Sharon Shoesmith from her statutory position as Director of Children’s Services.  Now, the judges said afterwards they think I should have had a meeting with her. I was advised not to do that, it would have made no difference because I wasn’t acting on the basis of my hunch, it was the inspector’s report which highlighted the problem. And the law, the Education Act, gave me, as Secretary of State, the power to remove somebody from a statutory position if I judged public confidence required that. And that was my judgement and I would make the same decision again today.

JV:                  So looking at the whole trajectory – obviously you didn’t have responsibility for Haringey’s decision – but do you think she was treated unfairly?

EB:                 I think that …if the courts say that Haringey could have done their processes differently, fine. The courts say that I should have had a meeting with her, which I was advised not to have done. Frankly, Jeremy, if I had had that meeting it would have made absolutely no difference other than the fact that she wouldn’t have received a very substantial amount of money. But I didn’t have the meeting because I was advised it was improper and outside the law to do so. I wasn’t, if I am honest with you Jeremy, thinking about Sharon Shoesmith, I was thinking about Peter Connelly and thousands of children up and down the country, including in Haringey, who were at risk.

JV:                   He wasn’t killed by Sharon Shoesmith either, was he?

EB:                  No, he wasn’t …

JV:                  The treatment of her is almost as if she did it, her name is more famous than the three killers …

EB:                 I’m afraid what happens in our society is that when some parents do terrible things to children – and it happens and it is hard to understand – we then step in to try and keep those children safe. That was the responsibility of social workers in Haringey who, by the way, were the … it was the same department where Victoria Climbie had been so terribly let down a decade before. Unfortunately, they failed in their duty to keep Peter Connelly safe despite repeated meetings where injuries to him were covered up. I didn’t rush to judgement; I asked the independent inspector to tell me the truth, they came to me and said the position is devastatingly bad, and it starts at the top with a failure of leadership. That was Sharon Shoesmith’s failure of leadership. I could not have kept her in her statutory post and kept public confidence. I did what I thought was the only thing possible to maintain public confidence and allow social workers in Haringey and across the country to get on and do their jobs of keeping children safe. Now, of course this payment leaves a bad taste in the month for everybody because I’m afraid Sharon Shoesmith and her department failed and therefore it is hugely frustrating when somebody receives a payment and I am also frustrated that the courts have taken the view they have taken about a piece of procedure and a meeting which may or may not have happened which would have made absolutely no difference. In the end, whatever had happened procedurally, whatever we would now learn in retrospect from this court case, I’m afraid Sharon Shoesmith had to leave her job in Haringey to maintain the safety of children and public confidence and nothing we can do or say will ever bring back a little boy who was so, so badly hurt and let down.

Related links:

My statement on the appeal court judgement

Former Children’s Minister Kevin Brennan’s blog on the decision

Posted July 24th, 2014 by Ed