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Greg Mulholland

10 March 2017

It has been another busy couple of weeks, both in Leeds and Westminster. We have of course had the Government's Spring Budget this week, and some fantastic news about the Wharfedale Hospital in Otley.

In Westminster

This week Philip Hammond has delivered his first Budget as Chancellor.

Announcements made by the Chancellor in the 2017 Spring Budget do not mask the devastating impact of cuts driven by the Conservative Government. A commitment to invest £216 million in to education comes just two weeks after it was shown that the Free Schools Programme has overspent by £9 billion.

A commitment to invest £216 million in to education comes just two weeks after it was shown that the Free Schools Programme has overspent by £9 billion. In Leeds North West our schools will see huge cuts in their funding between now and 2019 with over £500,000 slashed from Prince Henry's Grammar School and nearly £90,000 cut from St Joseph's Catholic Primary School. Brudenell School will lose £113,000 and Spring Bank Primary School faces a budget cut of £70,000. These are cuts that will damage the education of our young people and make it more difficult for teachers to ensure that every child is getting the best possible education. Despite this, the Government plans to press ahead with its ideologically driven plans to reintroduce grammar schools against overwhelming evidence that this benefits only a minority of young people and when the money that is available is desperately needed in our existing schools. However it is welcome to see the new emphasis on technical education and skills, with the introduction of a new T-Level qualification for technical education.

The promise of £90 million investment for transport in the North of England is a positive but only if it is spent in sensible ways that bring genuine benefit and address the needs of major cities like Leeds.

I have campaigned hard as Chairman of the British Pub Confederation for a cap on the rise in business rates for pubs, similar to that introduced in Scotland recently so I was pleased that the Chancellor included a concession in his Budget. But whilst the £1,000 reduction in business rates for pubs with a rateable value under £100,000 shows that the Government has listened to the concerns of the pubs sector, it does not go far enough, especially as it will only operate for a year, and I will continue to fight for the cap on business rate rises which is needed to protect our pubs.

For other small businesses the Chancellor gave some protection to those coming out of small business rate relief, so that their increase will not be more than £50 a month and he has provided a fund to local authorities so that they can provide more discretionary relief. Nevertheless there are still serious concerns about the impact of the review of business rates that is about to come into operation - please do contact me if you think I could help.

The most controversial announcement was the increase in National Insurance payments for the self-employed which will see additional costs for the more than 60,000 self-employed workers across Leeds. The rise in National Insurance payments for the self-employed will cost the average self-employed worker £93 more a year by next year and there is a concern that it might attack entrepreneurial spirit. Cuts to corporation tax will go ahead however, and it seems that the Chancellor is supporting the biggest businesses whilst penalising those simply trying to make a living. The Chancellor did not even speak about the effect of Brexit on the economy and businesses.

Prior to the budget, the Liberal Democrats had called for a £4 billion investment in to health and social care to avert the ever growing crisis in the NHS and social care. The Government appears to have no plans to give proper funding to the NHS and the amount of national income that is spent on NHS is set to fall. There will now be a £2 billion black hole in funding for social care, an area which is already badly underfunded.

In Leeds

I was delighted at the announcement of the opening of 26 more beds at Wharfedale Hospital, following the opening of 26 beds at the Bilberry Unit in January. The two wards will cater specifically for existing older patients who no longer require acute care but who are not ready to go back home or in to other care settings.

The announcement marks a victory for campaigners who have long called for increased provision at the hospital. Ever since the closure of an elderly care ward in 2006, we have been putting pressure on the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust and the Clinical Commissioning Group to bring these two wards back into use.

This announcement means that the hospital will now be operating all of its original 52 bed spaces, having had no beds open up to January of this year. This means that local older people will be able to stay at Wharfedale Hospital for their care rather than having to be in Leeds or Harrogate and it will release beds at those hospitals for patients with acute illnesses.

I was pleased to visit Wharfedale Farmers Auction Mart to meet with local farmers and butchers, to discuss their concerns about issues currently affecting the industry.

I had been asked to attend the Auction Mart to meet local farmers and listen to their concerns about problems affecting the agricultural industry.

Farmers and butchers outlined their concerns to the MP on a number of issues from the loss of EU farming subsidies to supermarket prices, the labelling of meat, and movement restrictions on livestock still in place from the late 90s.

Along with 15 others, I have been selected as one of Otley's first Honorary Ambassadors at an event held at Otta's Leah restaurant in the town last week.

16 people who all share a strong bond with Otley, accepted invitations to become an Honorary Otley Ambassador and will represent the town in their respective fields of the arts, science, music, business and politics.

The Otley Honorary Ambassadors programme was launched by Otley Town Council, with the support of other tourism stakeholders in town, Otley Bid, Otley Chamber of Trade and Otley Town Partnership.

The other Honorary Otley Ambassadors are: Danielle Bailey, Paralympic swimmer; Jennifer Birch, of the Otley Ukulele Orchestra; Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council; Georgia Coates, Olympic swimmer; Lizzie Deignan, World champion cyclist; Terry Ford, Otley Bellman; Ray Georgeson, Chair of Otley Town Council; Malcolm Hills, of the Wharfedale Wayzgoose Morris Dancers; Sally Hinchliffe, Owner of Bondgate Bakery; Paul Howard, Director of Sinclairs, a stationery company in Otley; Marty Jopson, Scientist; Dudley Parker, of the Blue Badge Guide; Matthew Hedley Stoppard, Otley Town Poet; Chloe Tear, Cerebral Palsy Teens Ambassador; and Rob Woosnam-Savage, Curator at the Royal Armouries.

I was pleased to host pupils from Queensway Primary School on their fact-finding visit to Parliament.

Members of Queensway Primary School's School Council enjoyed a full tour of the Palace of Westminster and met with me for a Q & A session. They had the opportunity to ask questions relating to my role as the Member of Parliament for Leeds North West, as well as broader questions on democracy and politics in general. The School Councillors were also able to watch Commons in action from the public gallery as part of their trip to learn about representative democracy.

I was delighted to visit Yeadon-based insect repellent manufacturer Citrefine International.

The company has been operating for over 20 years. Following several years of rapid expansion it currently exports to around 40 countries world-wide with their range of Mosi-guard Natural® insect repellents and naturally sourced active ingredient, Citriodiol®, which is derived from the oil of Lemon Eucalyptus trees.

The visit included a tour of Citrefine's head office, laboratory, warehouse and mail order facility, and also co-incided with news that I am backing a campaign to raise awareness of tick-borne Lyme disease.

First Bus has launched a review of bus services in the North West of Leeds. As part of the review the company is asking both customers and people in the local community throughout March to give their views so they can use the feedback to introduce better bus services.

Access to the survey and a list of venues is available on the link below.

https://www.firstgroup.com/leeds/more/have-your-say-our-services-north-west-leeds

This week's question:

I would be interested to hear your views about the measures announced in the budget, and how it will affect you.

Best wishes

Greg