September 11th, 2014

My Digital Campaign – tell me what you think

I recently negotiated free WiFi internet access for Morley town centre thanks to a partnership with the Morley Chamber of Commerce and O2. Over the next year or so people will be able to use their phones and other devices to get online in the town centre. But when this goes live in a few weeks time, I’m really interested to know how people might use this great opportunity to benefit Morley.

But while for many of us, the digital world is something we take for granted, I know for others it’s a total mystery. Last year Labour commissioned an independent report into digital skills that showed 13% of adults in the UK had never used the internet, 30% of people with disabilities had never used the internet and 52% of those who lack basic online skills are 65 or older. I also know from my own surgeries and meetings across the constituency that lots of people want to know more about the digital world but feel cut off from it.

Increasingly, not being ‘online’ is a real disadvantage in the modern world. If you have difficulty getting around, being able to order your shopping online and have it delivered could be a real lifesaver. If you’re living on a pension or a low income, searching out the best deals for insurance or energy bills can save a lot of money. If you live alone, being able to use Skype and Facetime can keep you in touch with family and friends.

The internet can mean freedom, independence and knowledge.

It also means jobs. Around 745,000 digital jobs will be created in the next few years. With 975,000 young people still long term unemployed digital skills can make a huge difference to their opportunities. But only if our education system provides the skills necessary.

There are also more and more services that are only available online. For example, Universal Credit which the Government says people will only be able to apply for online. So it is vital that not only does everyone in society have the skills they need to navigate the internet, but the hardware and connections necessary to log on.

But along with all the added freedoms and opportunities from the internet there are risks as well. It is really important adults, and especially children and vulnerable groups stay safe online and that people know dangers of being connected and how to protect themselves and their personal information.
I’d be grateful if you could take a few moments to fill in my survey, please click here.

Posted September 11th, 2014 by Ed's team
September 10th, 2014

My column in the Morley Observer

Last week I joined local Morley veteran, Simon Brown in the House of Commons for a special event. Simon is an ex-Army veteran who was shot and severely injured whilst serving in Iraq in 2006 – he lost one eye. Simon has been supported by Blind Veterans UK for over six years, and has received vital rehabilitation, training, equipment and emotional support to help him overcome the challenges of sight loss.

I’m proud to represent the most patriotic town in Britain – and here in Morley we’re especially proud of our armed forces, our veterans and those currently serving. Those leaving the armed forces all deserve our support and admiration for their service to Britain. But those who are injured serving in the armed forces deserve particular support and recognition.

Blind Veterans UK does vital work supporting veterans in Morley and Outwood, and all over the UK. Nationally it is estimated that there are over 68,000 vision impaired veterans – many of those living locally here in Morley and Outwood. The charity provides free, lifelong support to veterans experiencing severe sight loss. It doesn’t matter how or when a veteran lost their sight, or when they served, Blind Veterans UK provides specialist services and support to ensure that they can rediscover a life after sight loss.

It was an honour to have the chance to raise awareness of the vital services they provide. No local veteran now experiencing sight loss should have to battle blindness alone. Any local veterans who don’t feel they are getting the advice and support they need should get in touch – 0133 253 9466 / ed@edballs.com.

*****
On Friday I was in the House of Commons for a crucial vote on the Government’s controversial Bedroom Tax. Locally, since its introduction in April last year, many local people who have been affected have been in touch with me. The cases range from a disabled lady who was asked to pay more for an extra bedroom even though her home had been adapted to her mobility needs to a parent who was being asked to pay more, even though the extra bedroom was for her son serving in the armed forces.

I’ve always argued that the Bedroom Tax is cruel, unfair and doesn’t work. Across the country it is unfairly affecting hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people, such as those with disabilities and their carers. Crucially, it also threatens to cost more money to the taxpayer than it saves. Since its introduction, I’ve campaigned against it locally here in Morley as well as nationally in Westminster and if Labour wins the General Election next year, we will scrap it completely.

The debate on Friday was for a Private Members Bill that seeks to exempt certain categories of household from the Bedroom Tax. Private Members Bills are unusual. They don’t usually have a very high chance to become law, and as a result don’t often attract large numbers of MPs in the Chamber.
However Friday was an exception. This Bill is one of a small number of Private Members Bills that does have a very high chance of becoming law. And although the proposal falls short of the full abolition I want to see, it is a chance to change the law now to protect some of the vulnerable people being affected by the Bedroom Tax.

So on Friday I supported the Bill in the House of Commons to give it the best chance of progressing through the legislative process. Sadly the vote comes too late for the hundreds of local people who’ve been forced into debt as a result of the Bedroom Tax and the others who have been forced to rely on the local South Leeds food bank to survive.

For them, a full repeal of the Bedroom tax can’t come soon enough.

Posted September 10th, 2014 by Ed's team
September 8th, 2014

With a No vote Scotland can have the best of both worlds – my Daily Record article

In ten days people across Scotland will make an irreversible choice.

The choice on the ballot paper is simple – “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

I understand why many Scots are frustrated by the callous unfairness of David Cameron’s Tory-led government. So am I. But voting for independence is not a protest vote. It’s a permanent and deeply risky decision to leave the UK.

And let me be clear – a no vote is not a vote for no change.

It is a vote for more powers for the Scottish Parliament. All the political parties now agree on this.

And I can give people across Scotland my personal guarantee that as Chancellor in the next Labour Government, I’ll oversee a further and big transfer of financial powers from the Treasury to the Scottish Government.

That’s real powers to improve people’s lives, create jobs and make Scotland an even better and more prosperous place to live.

Scotland can and will have the best of both worlds – with a strong Scottish Parliament backed up by the strength and security of being part of the United Kingdom.

And we won’t stop there.

The SNP want to say they are the party of change and social justice. But people can see that’s just not true.

We’re offering change that will redistribute from those at the top to the majority of working people.

A 50p tax on people earning more than £150,000 and a lower 10p starting rate for low and middle earners.

An energy price freeze, scrapping the bedroom tax and a job for all young people out of work for a year or more funded by a tax on bankers’ bonuses.

This stands in contrast to the SNP, whose only redistributive policy is a 3p cut in corporation tax which takes money from the majority and hands it to big companies.

That’s not real change. That’s more of the same from the SNP.

Alex Salmond now needs to be clear with Scots about what his plans for independence mean.

Throughout this campaign there have been no answers from him on the currency, the cost of living, or how he will fund Scotland’s NHS and schools.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies says independence means £6 billion of cuts. That will fall on our public services, schools and the NHS.

Scotland can have real change. With a ‘no’ vote next Thursday and the election of a Labour government next May. I don’t have a vote. But I really want Scotland to stay.

Posted September 8th, 2014 by Ed
September 3rd, 2014

Support for Blind Veterans UK

Our veterans deserve our support and admiration for their service to Britain. But those who are injured serving in the armed forces deserve particular support and recognition.

On Tuesday I joined local Morley veteran, Simon Brown in the House of Commons for a special event. Simon is an ex-Army veteran who was shot and severely injured whilst serving in Iraq in 2006 – he lost one eye. Simon has been supported by Blind Veterans UK for over six years, and has received vital rehabilitation, training, equipment and emotional support to help him overcome the challenges of sight loss.

Blind Veterans UK does is vital in supporting veterans in Morley and Outwood, and all over the UK. Nationally it is estimated that there are over 68,000 vision impaired veterans – many of those living locally here in Morley and Outwood. The charity provides free, lifelong support to veterans experiencing severe sight loss. It doesn’t matter how or when a veteran lost their sight, or when they served, Blind Veterans UK provides specialist services and support to ensure that they can rediscover a life after sight loss.

It was an honour to have the chance to raise awareness of the vital services they provide. I have also pledged my support to ensure that every veteran now experiencing severe sight loss in Morley and Outwood will not have to battle blindness alone. Any veterans who don’t feel they are getting the advice and support they need should contact my office – 0133 253 9466 / ed@edballs.com.

Posted September 3rd, 2014 by Ed
September 1st, 2014

What an amazing back to school for Morley Newlands!

Wow! Welcome back to school everyone.

What an amazing back to school the pupils, staff and parents of Morley Newlands will be having. I caught up with headteacher Mr Stygall at the end of the holidays and had a wonderful preview of this fantastic new school. From the stunning new school hall and brilliant new nursery to the open and airy reception area and wonderful classrooms, it’s a beautiful building and I hope will be a great place for children to achieve great things.

Thanks to the hard work of staff, local campaigners and Leeds City Council who’ve funded it, what a wonderful new building you now have. I can’t wait to come back to see the school again – next time with less builders and more children!

Congratulations Morley Newlands! Here’s my latest you tube video after my tour with Mr Stygall.

Posted September 1st, 2014 by Ed
August 31st, 2014

Ed and Yvette take the ALS ice bucket challenge

Watch Ed and Yvette take the ice bucket challenge:

Posted August 31st, 2014 by Ed's team
August 27th, 2014

My column in the Morley Observer & Advertiser

Congratulations to all the young people across Morley and Outwood who’ve had A Level or GCSE exam results over the last few weeks. As we know in our house, August can be a stressful time for parents, teachers and of course young people themselves who face big decisions about their future.

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.

I get out to all our local secondary schools whenever I can and it’s always great to hear about young people’s plans for the future. Students at Bruntcliffe, Morley Academy, Rodillian and Woodkirk – as well as Outwood Grange over in Wakefield – are deciding on their A Levels subjects or college course or looking at some of the great local options for apprenticeships. And older students, who’ve finished their college course or A Levels, are deciding about university or heading out into the world of work or into an apprenticeship.

For those making these big decisions 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 all, it is our young people upon whom we all rely for the future prosperity of the country. Young people who have worked so hard for their exams deserve the chances to get on and do well. But like many others, I am worried about whether the next generation will have the chances to do better than the last.

New analysis from the House of Commons Library shows that the under 30s have had a particularly hard time over the last few years. Almost everyone has been feeling the pinch in their pay packet, but average weekly earnings have fallen much more markedly for the under 30s than for older age groups – down around 10% for younger workers compared to about 5% for those in their 40s. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, those born in the mid-1980s have lower incomes than those born just five or ten years earlier at the same age.

And with the number of young people out of work for over a year still way too high – 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.

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.

********

My office has been particularly busy over the summer dealing with problems local people have had getting new or renewed passports. In the worst cases, holidays have been missed and family get-togethers postponed because of this Home Office mess-up. It’s been a really difficult time for all of those affected. So when I called into the Crown Post Office in Morley I was keen to hear how the problems had affected staff there.

As local people will know, Morley Post Office has been recently refurbished and as well as its smart new look, it is also now equipped with state of the art equipment to provide retina and finger print scans for our modern day passports. Gill serving at the counter told me how much they stress the importance of the Post Office’s ‘check and send’ service which makes sure there applications are correct before being sent off. But with so much pressure on passport offices, not even the Check and Send service was enough to ensure all local people got their passports back on time.

Thank you to the local team for showing me round the back office. I’ll be popping in on the other side of the counter very soon.

ENDS

Posted August 27th, 2014 by Ed
August 27th, 2014

Transcript of Ed’s interview on the World at One

Speakers are Ed Balls and Edward Stourton

Ed Balls: Good afternoon Ed

Ed Stourton: Before we talk about all that can I ask you about the story that is very much leading the news today which is events in Rotherham, and the resistance of the Police and Crime Commissioner to the idea that he should resign, which is something that your Party Leadership generally, as I understand it, thinks he should do. Just seen on the wireless, in fact, that he’s still saying that he still won’t go – what are you going to do about it.

EB: Look, well it’s the view of the Labour Party, announced in the last hour, of Ed Miliband and the Labour Party that Mr Wright should stand down following what was a devastating report yesterday. A report which is devastating in its scale, so many young girls so terribly abused in Rotherham. But also because of the failures of leadership which the report identified. It’s clear over a number of years, the report says senior leaders in the Council and the Police didn’t act when they should have acted on information that they had and when you have a failing on this scale it is important that people who had leadership roles in positions of responsibility should take responsibility and it’s important that people who continue to work in areas closely related to their previous jobs, accept that they have to take responsibility as well. And clearly that applies in the case of Mr Wright.

ES: We have a terrible buzz on the line but I think we are going to press on if we can. Taking all that on board of course, but we’ve just heard from [Mr Wright], he’s just said that he’s not going to pay any attention to that and he’s staying on. Do you have a mechanism for compelling him to go if he continues to insist that’s his position?

EB: He was the lead member for children’s services for a number of years, which the report covers, where the report highlights the failure of leadership to act to protect children.

ES: I understand that and everyone understands the reasons you’ve just explained. But he’s still saying he hasn’t changed his mind what are you going to do about it.

EB: The point is he resigned in 2010 from that position; he has subsequently been elected under new legislation introduced by the new Government as a Police and Crime Commissioner. Our party opposed those PCC elections in the first place but we are where we are, the problem is that we’re operating in a different legal framework, that the Labour Party has no power to compel somebody who has been elected as a PCC to stand down. But it is absolutely our view that he should do so. That is something which has been communicated to him today, and I hope he very much reflects upon the position he is now in and the importance of leadership in these matters – we need to show that we not just in Rotherham but across the country, can command public confidence to keep children safe, lessons have got to be learned, but when you have a failure of this magnitude and catastrophe, then I think people have to take responsibility. In the case of Haringey, back in the terrible case of Baby P, when the Independent Inspectors report was published, immediately the leader of the council and the lead member of children’s services resigned. They weren’t asked to resign, they resigned because they thought they should take responsibility, and I think the same applies here with Mr Wright.

ES: Let’s move onto the economy, what is it you want to get off your chest today on the subject of exports

EB: Look I think we’ve seen from the last few weeks in particular in the middle of August the Bank of England report, the inflation report, that not only are living standards continuing to fall for working people, but the Bank of England is more pessimistic about what is happening this year, How are we going to get living standards rising for working people?How are we going to get more good jobs? Only by having an economy which delivers more manufacturing investment, more business investment and more exports. Now the Government said in 2010 their plan was to rebalance the economy, they said they would deliver a trillion in exports by the end of the decade, a doubling of exports, the figures we’re producing today from the House of Commons library show that the performance of our exports since 2010 has been so woeful that they are hugely off course for meeting their objectives.

ES: Looking at the picture more generally, couldn’t the Government – the Chancellor in particular – be forgiven for their smugness as they look across the channel at the left wing model available in France and sees pretty much flat growth, unemployment over 10% and looks at the figures here – 3.5% growth predicted this year 6.4%, I think it is for unemployment – we are doing much better than them aren’t we.

EB: Well look the difficulty George Osborne has is he always manages to project an image of smugness and complacency.

ES: but he’s got some grounds to do so.

EB: Well I’m not sure Ed if that’s right. Because we are the first Parliament since the 1870s where people will be worse off at the end of the Parliament then at the beginning. The Chancellor keeps saying to people this year ‘the economy is growing again, and everything is fixed’. Most people where I am in today in Cannock and in Nuneaton in the west Midlands are saying ‘it’s not fixed for people like me’. Well it is the case, it is the case Ed to answer your question, we are not a member of the euro, the single currency, that was a decision the last Labour government made in 2003, that was in my view, in retrospect, a very, very important decision, because we are not dragged down by the euro crisis that is hitting growth.

ES: That’s the only reason that we are growing better than the rest of Europe at the moment is it, that fact that we didn’t join the Euro, not anything to do with the Government’s policies at all?

EB: I think that the Euro decision, which has kept us out of the Euro – which is dragging France and Germany and Italy and Greece and other countries down now is absolutely the main difference between Britain and France. But if you take the period since 2007

ES: And the fact they are a socialist Government you should consider at all either?

EB: Growth is weak and sluggish Ed, in Spain and Germany and in Greece as well as in France, now the conservatives may want to say this is all the fault of socialists in France, but I think in Spain and Greece and Portugal and in other countries across the European Union, in the euro area, they know the fact that the euro area still has huge problems is a bigger deal. The fact is though, compared to 2007, France and Germany have actually still grown more than Britain. We still have the slowest recovery for 100 years; this is not an economy which is fixed.

ES: Forgive me, I must stop you there as we’ve run out of time but thank you very much indeed for joining us and apologies for that difficult line

Read Shabana Mahmood’s article on the government’s export failure at http://centrallobby.politicshome.com/latestnews/article-detail/newsarticle/shabana-mahmood-mp-figures-show-major-economic-concerns-remain/

Posted August 27th, 2014 by Ed's team
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