Lynne Featherstone writes… Local services matter!

International Development minister Lynne Featherstone writes a monthly column for one of her local newspapers. Here is the latest one…..

What would we do without our schools, hospitals, post and sorting offices, small businesses and pubs? Our local services are the backbone of our community and need to be protected – but they have been under threat in Haringey for years.

Right from our childhood, we begin to benefit from one of the most important local services – schools. It is vital that schools have enough money to provide a good education and pay their teachers decent wages. Haringey’s schools, however, faced a chronic underfunding problem. Locally, I ran a successful campaign to get fairer education funding – and Haringey’s schools now more than £7 million extra every year to help give our children the best start in life.

From a young age, we also rely on health services – and continue to do so for the rest of our lives. I was shocked, therefore, to recently discover that Haringey’s health services also suffer from unfair funding. We’ve lost out on hundreds of millions of pounds! Having won the fight for fairer education funding, my attention is now firmly on this – I have already launched a campaign and a petition you can sign up to online here.

One of the amazing things about Haringey, both west and east, is the sheer number of independent retailers you see lining our streets and broadways – from bakeries to antique shops! But in these tough times, many of our local shops are struggling. That’s why Liberal Democrats are campaigning for Haringey Council to reduce parking charges on the broadways, and for up to 30 minutes free parking on our high streets – so people aren’t put off from popping into these unique local services.

People of all ages felt the effects of the post office closures under the last Labour Government. We lost vital services that we may never get back. But I’m determined to make the most of what we have – and one of the first things the Liberal Democrats did in government was to call an end to the previous closure program. Now we’re supporting the Post Office’s modernisation programme – it sounds great, and I look forward to seeing refurbished, modern and efficient offices and expanded services on offer. Having met with them last week they gave little away about actually reopening an office – but rest assured that if there’s a chance to campaign to get a new post office in the constituency – then I will take it!

But in the meantime there is another major battle on to protect our postal services. Royal Mail is planning to close both the Hornsey and Harringay area sorting offices, and move services to N19 – meaning residents will have to travel massive distances to pick up undelivered parcels. Not on my watch, Royal Mail! I immediately called a meeting and told them that the plan was unacceptable. I pushed hard for local collection points to be maintained. They agreed to look at the plans again and will get back to me shortly. In the mean time, I have launched a petition to keep services local, which has already received over 1,000 signatures. Do get in touch if you’d like to help the campaign too.

And of course, I have to mention pubs. My constituency office in Hornsey is above one – the Three Compasses – and in their own right they are community assets – providing a place for people to drink sensibly and socially. At the recent party conference I spoke with the chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale about the issues facing pubs. I continue to support them in their plight against unscrupulous pub companies, high rents and cheap supermarket booze.

As the local MP, I spend a great deal of my time in the constituency campaigning to protect or improve the local services which local people rely on. And as you can see – I’m certainly very busy fighting on all these fronts right now!

* Lynne Featherstone was the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green from 2005 to 2015, and served as a minister in both the Home Office and Department for International Development. She is now a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and blogs at www.lynnefeatherstone.org.

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One Comment

  • Richard Dean 19th Oct '12 - 3:23pm

    You’re doing well, Lynne, well done, these are indeed serious matters. There’s a slight concern about the pre-judment in the contrast between your pub selling “drink” while the supermatket sells “booze”. But anyway, well done, and …

    What do you think of the suggestion that MP’s should be given performance targets, like they (MPs) give targets to others, such as to the NHS, chools, etc? For instance:

    must reduce unemployment by x% during term in office
    must increase effectiveness of local NHS services by y% during term in office
    must reduce crime in constituency by z% dring term in office
    must improve amenities …

    Perhaps candidates at elections could be required by law to write down and sign for the percentage improvements they promise. The promises could then be compared with achievemnts. We might even ban any sitting MP from standing at the next election if the constiteuncy targets are not met. Or fine them, or both. What do you think?

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