Press Releases

Roberta has today spoken of her disappointment at the announcement that Marks and Spencer is set to close its Durham City store in April 2018.

In a statement released today, Marks and Spencer has announced that this closure is part of its drive to modernise its estate, and that all 48 staff who are currently employed in Durham will be moving to other stores.

Roberta had already called a meeting with senior officers from Durham County Council to discuss the future of Durham City Centre tomorrow, and will be highlighting the need for Durham to be an attractive location for retailers as well cultural and leisure services.

She said:

“I am very sad to hear that Marks and Spencer will be closing its Durham City store in April this year, however this news was not unexpected.

Despite the good news that all staff will be redeployed to other locations, the loss of this flagship store will be a further blow to residents of the city and surrounding villages.

It is vital that Durham remains a vibrant and attractive centre for residents, tourists and visitors. Losing such retailers to out of town shopping centres means there is a greater pull away from the city, and I will be meeting with officers from Durham County Council tomorrow to discuss this.”

MP speaks of disappointment at M&S closure in Durham

Roberta has today spoken of her disappointment at the announcement that Marks and Spencer is set to close its Durham City store in April 2018. In a statement released today,...

Roberta has today called for the Government to rethink their plans around free school meals under Universal Credit, along with The Children's Society and other Labour MPs.

Currently, as Universal Credit is rolled out, all children who live in a household receiving this new benefit will receive a free school meal.

However, under current proposals set out in a consultation by the Department for Education, this will change when an earnings threshold of £7,400 will be introduced and will be for all new Universal Credit claimants come April 2018. This consultation runs until the 11th January 2018.

Yet, according to analysis of the proposals by The Children’s Society, these proposals will mean one million children living in poverty will miss out on the benefits of a free school meal and locally this will mean 7,032 in County Durham missing out. 

This figure is roughly the same as those children currently living in poverty who don’t receive a free school meal; showing that Universal Credit will do nothing to alleviate child poverty rates in the UK.

That’s why Labour have announced that in addition to providing Free School Meals to all primary school children, we would also ensure all secondary school children in families who are eligible for Universal Credit would receive a free school meal. 

Roberta has said: 

“Labour have always stood up for the benefits of free school meals on a child’s education and health and alleviating persistent child poverty levels in our society. 

“That is why the current proposals on the future of free school meals under Universal Credit are deeply concerning and show how this Government is out of touch with the importance to seriously address poverty levels across the country. 

“These changes will affect many families here in Durham, especially the poorest in our communities, and it is important the Government rethinks their approach. Ministers must hear the views of local people on this matter and how we should be alleviating poverty, not entrenching it.

The Department for Education’s consultation runs until 11th January 2018. It can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/eligibility-for-free-school-meals-and-the-early-years-pupil-premium-under-universal-credit 

Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, also said:

“Labour are committed to making Universal Credit works as it should. That is why a future Labour Government would ensure that in addition to providing Free School Meals to all primary school children, we would also ensure all secondary school children in families who are eligible for Universal Credit would receive a free school meal.  This would remove the cliff-edge in Universal Credit and help to lift more children out of poverty.”

Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, has said: 

“It should be a national scandal that children are going hungry at school, yet the Conservatives’ plans for Universal Credit could leave a million children living in poverty going without a meal in school.

“It cannot possibly be fair or justified that so many children should lose out, and be made to struggle through the school day without a hot meal, which, for many children in poverty, could be the only hot meal they get that day.

“I am proud to say that the next Labour Government will build on our pledge to make free school meals universal in primary schools, by ensuring that no child in secondary school who’s parents receive UC will go hungry. If this Conservative Government was really committed to doing the right thing, they would do the same.”

Roberta calls on local residents to defend Free School Meals in Universal Credit roll-out

Roberta has today called for the Government to rethink their plans around free school meals under Universal Credit, along with The Children's Society and other Labour MPs. Currently, as Universal Credit...

Roberta has this week commented on the proliferation of To Let boards across the city centre prior to the start of the fifth Lumiere festival.

 

A voluntary scheme for landlords was introduced in 2009, which limited each landlord to one board per street, however in January 2017 Durham County Council ran a consultation asking residents whether they would prefer to retain the voluntary code, or whether the local authority should apply to the Government to formally tighten the controls on To Let boards.

 

Lumiere is set to run from Thursday 16 November to Sunday 19 November 2017, and is expected to attract over 200,000 visitors to Durham City, with a series of light installations from artists across the world for people to explore.

 

Roberta said:

“While I am pleased that Durham County Council have consulted with residents on tighter regulations to curb the number of To Let boards in Durham, this has been an issue in Durham for some time, and having regularly raised this issue with the Council, and discussed steps that have been taken in comparable cities around the country, I had hoped that action would have been taken on this already.

As Lumiere is upon us and we are ready to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors to Durham City, Durham should be doing everything it can to make the city attractive, and the preponderance of To Let boards throughout the city is not only unattractive, but sends the message that Durham is up for rent.

I will continue to press Durham County Council on the need to introduce stronger controls on To Let boards as soon as possible.”

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Atherton Street

 

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Mitchell Street

 

 

 

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Flass Street

 

Roberta challenges council on To Let boards

Roberta has this week commented on the proliferation of To Let boards across the city centre prior to the start of the fifth Lumiere festival.   A voluntary scheme for...

Roberta has raised concerns about the level of funding provided by the Government for schools in Durham. Local primary and secondary schools have budgets that are already stretched, and analysis of the Government’s proposed National Funding Formula has found that these will be put under further pressure.

 

Figures from the National Education Union show that 33 out of 41 schools and academies in the City of Durham constituency will receive a cut in funding over the period 2015/16 to 2018/19. Schools in Durham will have, on average, £193 less per pupil in their budgets. Under the Conservative led Governments, school spending per pupil was frozen in real terms from 2010/11 to 2015/16, and further frozen in cash terms from 2015/16 onwards – which represents the biggest fall in per pupil spending for 30 years.

 

On 14 September 2017, Roberta asked the Secretary of State for Education to guarantee that no school in Durham would face a real terms cut under the proposals. Despite the response that “there will be a minimum 0.5% cash increase per pupil for all schools in 2018/19, increasing to 1% by 2019/20”, the National Education Union’s figures point out that in realty, with inflation running at nearly 3%, this amounts to an annual cut in funding.

 

Roberta said:

 

“I know that many schools in my constituency are already struggling. Schools are experiencing larger class sizes, a reduction in activities, a decrease in the number of teachers and overall cuts to their budget.

 

It is completely unacceptable that the majority of schools will be facing budget cuts. I am really concerned about the impact that will have on teachers and school staff generally, but I am also really worried about the impact this could have on the education of our young people in Durham because they deserve a great start in life, and the best education possible. 

 

I am going to continue to press the Government and the Secretary of State for Education to reverse these cuts and give the schools in Durham the proper funding they need.”

Roberta concerned about cuts to schools in Durham

Roberta has raised concerns about the level of funding provided by the Government for schools in Durham. Local primary and secondary schools have budgets that are already stretched, and analysis...

Roberta recently opened the hugely successful County Durham School Games held at Maiden Castle, and was delighted to be asked by County Durham Sport’s Executive Manager, Ian Gardiner, to become their first Parliamentary Sports Champion.

 

County Durham Sport are an organisation which aims to increase the number of people taking part in sport across the county, ensure that everyone has the opportunity to access facilities and services that will allow them to participate in physical activity, and promotes education, training and coaching courses to highlight the benefits of physical health and fitness.

 

As Parliamentary Sports Champion, Roberta will work with County Durham Sport in Westminster and the constituency to help extend, promote and improve the sport and physical activity opportunities open to people in County Durham, as well as raising the profile of local programmes to increase engagement and participation from members of the public.

 

Roberta said:

 

"I believe that it is so important that everyone across County Durham has the opportunity to take part in sport and physical activity, and can access high quality facilities and services, so I am delighted to become a Parliamentary Sports Champion for County Durham.

 

County Durham Sport already do amazing work in our communities, especially in increasing opportunities for young people to become involved in sport, and I really look forward to working with them in the future to raise awareness of their work and supporting them in delivering even more projects across the county.”

Roberta becomes County Durham’s first Parliamentary Sports Champion

Roberta recently opened the hugely successful County Durham School Games held at Maiden Castle, and was delighted to be asked by County Durham Sport’s Executive Manager, Ian Gardiner, to become...

Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for the City of Durham, has recently welcomed the news that nearly £17 million of National Lottery money has been invested in heritage projects across Durham since 1994, and has encouraged constituents to apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund for grants to explore the legacy of the First World War.

 In this time, the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded more than 157 grants to heritage projects in the area to fund projects such as restoring local parks and buildings, researching local history, protecting wildlife and exploring local archaeology. 

The Heritage Lottery Fund is now looking to support projects in Durham that explore the impact of the First World War on our communties beyond 1918, and are offering grants between £3,000 and £10,000. 

Roberta welcomes National Lottery investment in Durham

Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for the City of Durham, has recently welcomed the news that nearly £17 million of National Lottery money has been invested in heritage projects across Durham since... Read more

A report recently released by the Care Quality Commission shows that across the UK, one in three nursing homes are failing, and one in four care homes breached basic safety requirements, with vulnerable people increasingly having to fend for themselves. 

Since 2010, the Government has reduced local authority care budgets by £4.6 billion, with Durham County Council seeing a 42% reducing in its funding alone. This will leave a funding gap in social care of £2.1 billion by 2020. 

I have campaigned on the need for proper funding for social care in Durham for many years, and will be holding a roundtable discussion in November with a number of different stakeholders, including Durham County Council and the County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust. This meeting will focus on the challenges the NHS and local authority are facing in providing care in the future, and how to ensure that people are receiving the care they need. I have also raised a number of issues directly with the Care Quality Commission, including the low standard of care that is currently deemed acceptable. 

 

Social Care in Durham and across the whole country is in crisis, and it is decisions made by the Government that have brought us to this point. 

Since 2010, not only have local authorities’ care budgets been cut by an incredible £4.6 billion, but 400,000 fewer people are now receiving publicly funded social care. In Durham, despite the hard work of the council, the 42% reduction the Social Care budget vulnerable people in our communities are not getting the care and support they need.

 Furthermore, as I have already raised the fact that the baseline standards of care are too low with the Care Quality Commission, it is very concerning to see so many care and nursing homes failing.

 

I will continue to work with care providers and the local authority to help support their efforts in providing much needed care, and will press the Government on the urgent need for proper funding for social care in Durham.

Roberta highlights Social Care Crisis

A report recently released by the Care Quality Commission shows that across the UK, one in three nursing homes are failing, and one in four care homes breached basic safety...

 

 

Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for the City of Durham, has today raised her concerns that many children across Durham will go hungry over the summer holidays as family budgets are stretched alongside children not having access to the meals that are provided for them at school. 

Over 71,500 children in the North East will not receive the free school meal they are eligible for during term time. Of these, 13,656 of these children live in County Durham, so the issue of holiday hunger affects a large number of children in the area. 

Roberta has campaigned on the issue of holiday hunger for many years, and has talked with a number of councils across the region to find out how they work to combat this issue, such as funding events for children that include a meal as well as fun activities, and to share best practice throughout the North East. 

As wages continue to fall in real terms due to rising inflation, and families are finding it harder to get by, Roberta will continue to press this issue with the Government, Durham County Council and local schools. 

Roberta said: 

"I think it is totally unacceptable that so many children are at risk of going hungry over the summer holidays in our communities, and I have campaigned on this serious issue for many years now. 

Child poverty is at a seven year high, and wages are falling, meaning that families are worse off. Every child deserves to be well fed every day, and I will be pressing the local authorities and the Government to ensure a fully funded scheme in put in place in the future to ensure that no child goes hungry over the summer holidays.”

 

Roberta attending a holiday hunger event organised by Gateshead Council

Roberta attending a holiday hunger event organised by Gateshead Council

Roberta highlights issue of holiday hunger in Durham

    Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for the City of Durham, has today raised her concerns that many children across Durham will go hungry over the summer holidays as family budgets...

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Roberta, together with a number of her regional colleagues, has called on the Government to give the region the funds it needs to meet increasing education costs.

The MPs have signed an Early Day Motion (EDM), tabled by Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, which calls on the Government to take action on the estimated £119m real terms cuts that North East schools face by 2020. This funding gap is due variety of factors including changes in the new funding formula, cuts outlined by in the 2015 budget and the effect of inflation on school costs.

An independent report by the National Audit Office found schools across England need to make total savings of £3bn by 2020 to cope with increasing costs. The National Union of Teachers estimate the savings needed in the North East is equivalent to losing 3,203 teachers.

It is not just Labour Members of Parliament worried about this situation, a survey found that 72% of head teachers think their budgets will be unsustainable by 2019.

Roberta met with head teachers from across her constituency about this matter and she will continue to speak out against the unfairness of the regional disparity when it comes to education funding.

North East MPs speak out against unfair school funding

Roberta, together with a number of her regional colleagues, has called on the Government to give the region the funds it needs to meet increasing education costs. The MPs have signed an Early...

Roberta Blackman- Woods MP, Shadow Minster for Local Government and Housing, has welcomed the news that the Government have decided to scrap the “Pay to Stay” measures in the Housing and Planning Act.

Roberta said: “Pay to Stay was one of the most pernicious parts of the Housing and Planning Act. It was nothing more than a tax on tenants and a tax on aspiration and so I am extremely pleased to see that the Government has finally listened to reason and decided not to implement it

During the passage of the Act, I met with a group of tenants from Hackney who were very concerned about the impact of the measures and that stress and worry is something that council tenants from across the entire country have been subjected to for months.

I hope this is the first of many elements of the Housing and Planning Act that the Government come to realise will not help alleviate the housing crisis and I look forward to more statements winding back similar such measures in the future”.

Roberta welcomes the scrapping of Pay to Stay

Roberta Blackman- Woods MP, Shadow Minster for Local Government and Housing, has welcomed the news that the Government have decided to scrap the “Pay to Stay” measures in the Housing...

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