Before Covid struck, I received emails from constituents virtually every week, complaining about the appalling train service on our local line through Flixton, Urmston, Humphrey Park and Trafford Park. I raised their concerns repeatedly in parliament, and eventually the government removed Northern Rail from the franchise and took the service back under public control. We were promised that the new public operator would sort things out – though it would take a couple of years.
With far fewer people travelling during the pandemic, I’ve had far fewer complaints, and I hope the time has been used as promised to rectify the many problems passengers experienced, so that journeys go smoothly as people begin to travel more again. But it was deeply disappointing – and infuriating – to hear the secretary of state for transport announce the government’s integrated rail plan in parliament this week. I am sorry to say it amounts to a total betrayal of the north. The promised east-west high speed line connecting Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Hull has been shelved in favour of a series of smaller upgrades, with investment cut roughly in half. Meanwhile, while HS2 will come to Manchester, we are the only city in the UK that’s expected to pay for our share of the line.
This isn’t good enough, and MPs are incandescent. I’ll be working closely cross-party with colleagues representing northern seats to press for a better deal for the north.
The Conservatives were up to the same tricks when it came to their announcement on social care this week. Earlier this year, they promised no one would face care costs of more than £86000. We already knew that this would leave better off people with more assets less likely to have to sell their homes to meet care costs. But this week’s announcement has made things worse, with poorer pensioners having to pay more. This care con will hurt people in my constituency who need help with personal care like washing, dressing and eating, while doing much more for better off people in regions with higher house prices, especially in the south east.
There’s a pattern here with the Conservatives. Whether it’s hiking national insurance, cutting universal credit, threatening to reduce the salary at which young graduates have to repay their student loans, or increases in council tax, every policy hurts those on modest incomes harder, while the better off do well.
And as we approach the winter, I’m increasingly worried about the hardship people will face. But thankfully, faith and community groups and charities are stepping in where the government has failed to act. I was delighted to attend Mayor of Trafford Laurence Walsh’s charity fundraiser on Saturday, in support of the amazing Stretford foodbank. And every November, I’m proud to back Human Appeal’s Wrap Up Manchester campaign, when they collect spare coats for homeless people. As usual, I popped down to Safe Store in Old Trafford, where you can drop off coats you have to donate. Safe Store are open 7 days a week and will be collecting coats until this Sunday, so please help if you can. Click here for more details.
Finally, it was a privilege to attend two moving Remembrance ceremonies last week, in Partington and at the ‘tin church’ on Trafford Park. I was also proud to be represented by councillors Simon Thomas and Sophie Taylor at the ceremonies at Urmston and Stretford. We owe so much to our brave service men and women, and all who gave their lives to keep our country safe. We will always remember them.