Timeline for helping Subpostmasters

If Parliament have just woken up to the #postofficescandal because of the ITV program you have to wonder why they kept their eyes shut for so long…

Here’s a thread of just some of my actions, there have been many more and many others have been campaigning for a lot longer!

26th February 2020 – I asked then Prime Minister Boris Johnson to launch an independent review into the postoffice and Horizon scandal – surprisingly he agreed.

4th March – my constituent Chris Head and I handed in a petition to number 10 asking for a full public enquiry to clear peoples names.

9th March 2020 – I followed up with a letter to Boris

June 2020 I highlighted that we were still waiting for a response from Boris July 2020 I asked the then Minister Paul Scully if we could have a judge led public enquiry

October 2020 – asking the then Minister Paul Scully if the inquiry will have full statutory powers and hear evidence from #subpostmasters to get ensure proper justice is served

March 2021 – asking the then Minister Paul Scully why the 555 are not included in the historical shortfall scheme – meaning subpostmasters after costs received no compensation. The Minister said the members of the group litigation received full and final settlement

April 2021 – I again asked the then Minister Paul Scully how it is fair that constituents like mine @chrish9070 have been left with nothing after court costs and asking that justice must be served calling for an end to the two tiers of justice.

January 2022 I coordinated a letter with 93 MPs agreeing to sign asking the secretary of state @KwasiKwarteng to look into the external reports on Horizon and ensure the 555 got the justice and compensation they were entitled to

Tabled an Early Day motion (822) on the post office horizon compensation scheme – signed by 137 MPs calling for all victims to get full redress and for the Post Office to be held to account.

Oct 2022 Met with Minister Dean Russell and asked in the chamber for him to pause and review all contracts to Fujitsu – an apology is not enough

Oct 2022 – again called on the Govt to review all contracts with this appalling company

Dec 2022 – highlighted the new compensation scheme did not address any of the concerns I had raised and theory were still awarding multi million pound contracts to Fujitsu…

Jan 2023 – highlighted Horizon scandal again in the chamber. May 2023 called in parliament for the compensation scheme to be expedited and highlighted the scandal of Fujitsu still getting money and the Post Office’s racist vilification of subpostmasters

July 2023 called for the Post Office board to be sacked and Fujitsu to be held to account

Right up to date and over the last few days I have spoken to ministers, asked written questions, asked a question in the chamber and laid an Early Day Motion.

I will not stop until my constituent @chrish9070 and all the subpostmasters receive justice, Fujitsu and the Post Office are held to account and all the Govt apologise for the barriers they have put in place. #PostOfficeScandal

Tories have no plan to rebuild our shattered economy

Last week the Conservative government set out its long-awaited road map for easing restrictions but for businesses and families alike there’s still no clear sense of direction following yesterday’s Budget.

With over 20 million people already vaccinated so far, there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel.

That in no small way is down to the extraordinary effort of our NHS and GP staff, scientists, lab technicians, nurses and volunteers.

But there is still some way to go, and I know it will still require a huge collective effort to make sure we emerge from this crisis as quickly as possible.

The million-dollar question is how we emerge from this latest lockdown, and what kind of economy we build in the future?

Yesterday’s Budget was the Chancellor’s last chance to put that right, and this government’s opportunity to make amends for their dreadful handling of the pandemic over the past year. They failed to do so.

The pandemic has delivered a hammer-blow to the economy, with so many businesses hit hard, resulting in more job losses and businesses ceasing to trade.

The government has rightfully committed to extending the furlough scheme until September, but what then? The huge question that still remains is what will happen to those jobs when the scheme ends?

Our NHS – already crippled by 10 years of Tory austerity and underfunding – has needed huge sums of money to cope with the mammoth demands placed upon it, not to mention the billions wasted on ‘crony contracts’ handed out to the Tories and their friends during the pandemic.

Conservative-driven austerity under David Cameron, George Osborne, and Theresa May has already laid the foundations for the destruction of our health service, its consequences already have our NHS regularly at breaking-point. Prior to the pandemic, there were 100 thousand vacant jobs within the NHS. How will this be resolved when the Chancellor had absolutely nothing in this Budget for Health and Social Care and the workers within it?

From the mass shortages of PPE that Health Secretary Matt Hancock now claims never existed, to the unacceptable staff shortages that forced hard-working doctors and nurses to work themselves into the ground for lots of Boris Johnson-led claps on the steps of Downing Street, we must never forget the failings of this government over the past 12 months and beyond.

Economically, we are in the direst of situations and the Chancellor has had little choice but to extend the furlough scheme and maintain the £20 uplift of Universal Credit for another six months – but still refuses to extend the uplift to legacy benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance. Where is the additional support for those living with a disability?

For many months, I have joined many MPs in Parliament calling for more help for the self-employed and although more are now eligible for grants, is a year too late – these valued workers should have been given help months ago.

Despite all of the Tory spin and press releases they have churned out in the run up to the Budget, one thing is certain – Rishi Sunak has played a huge part in this government’s shambolic handling of the crisis.

Sunak is seen as something of a media darling but he, along with Boris Johnson and the rest of the Conservative government, have presided over this country’s extended length of battling Covid and the UK having the biggest death toll in Europe. The Conservative government were too slow to act throughout the crisis and their failings have been laid bare for all to see.

The reality is that the Conservative government wants to continue with the same austerity programme and unequal country that’s been so cruelly exposed by the virus.

A Conservative government whose decisions have left us with the mess we find today with unemployment at 5% and debt at over £2tn.

No matter how Rishi Sunak tries to gloss over his terrible record with glitzy images on social media, the government has no plan to rebuild our shattered economy, much of it of their own making. We need and deserve so much more.

Millions who’ve fallen through the gaps are being ignored

I fully understand how difficult and challenging the pandemic has been for businesses, traders, freelancers and self-employed workers who have not been eligible for government support over the past eleven months.

This has left millions of businesses and self-employed workers facing an extremely precarious financial situation. Many have been forced to rely on whatever savings they have, or the generosity of friends and family just to try and simply make ends meet.

During the pandemic people have worried about how they are going to feed their children, or keep the heating on, over what has been undoubtedly the most difficult of financial situations for decades.

Although people continue to receive financial assistance through the furlough scheme or the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, the Government continues to ignore a group of around three million people who have fallen through the gaps.

These people have not been eligible for support due to the strict eligibility criteria.

Some had started a new job and had not been on the payroll long enough, others, had taken the massive step to start up a new business and did not have sufficient trading history to quality for support.

Almost a year has passed and the ‘Excluded’ remain forgotten about by this government.

These are genuine, hard-working people who have built up businesses and paid taxes all their lives.

Those who have been excluded span many different categories of workers, including, but not limited to, employees who were denied furlough or were ineligible for it, which includes new starters; the self-employed, including those newly self-employed; those over the £50,000 threshold; those who earn less than 50% of their income from self-employment; directors of limited companies who are paid annually or via dividends, or directors of such companies that are not yet in profit; and PAYE freelancers.

They now find themselves facing hardship with little of the current support available to them.

They have done nothing wrong to warrant being cut out of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

What’s more, our communities are going to need as many of them as possible when the pandemic is over.

I have already raised this matter in Westminster and I will continue to do so.

It is appalling that the Chancellor has repeatedly refused to do anything to address these injustices.

Universal Credit is mentioned as the fall-back. However, let’s face it, Universal Credit is nowhere near adequate, otherwise, the Government would not have felt the need to create the furlough scheme or the self-employed income support scheme in the first place.

I also remain extremely concerned about the impacts on mental health on many of those excluded from support.

My plea to the government is to listen to how those that have been and continue to be ‘Excluded’ are feeling and to put adequate support in place.

The way they have been treated during this pandemic is disgraceful and will have consequences for our ability to recover in 2021 and beyond.

With the vaccine offering hope of a return to normality, the cost of extra support must be weighed against the damage caused if the ‘Excluded’ continue to be ignored.

People have gone above and beyond to help each other

Angie Comerford and Jo Durkin (R) of Hebburn Helps.

It seems every aspect of our lives has changed in some way, particularly the things we often take for granted.

From going to school, to having a medical appointment, from the weekly shop, to using public transport, the coronavirus pandemic means that the past 12 months will be one which we will never forget.

The pandemic has gone to reiterate what all of us already knew. That our public sector workers make a unique contribution to the running of our country, and are there for us even in the most challenging of times.

Last Saturday I visited the brilliant team at The Glen Covid Vaccine Centre in Hebburn, to see for myself the well-organised and friendly way that the vaccinations are being carried out.

I can’t speak highly enough about those on the frontline who are keeping our country running, from everyone in our NHS and Social Care staff to the Emergency Services, Shop and Postal Workers, Police Officers, Teachers, Supermarket staff, and many more. Each and every one of those workers deserve our thanks and our gratitude.

The past year has thrown up some true heroes who have kept our communities working and kept it moving during these tough times.

Right now, food bank volunteers are on the front-line helping families during the pandemic, working around the clock to deliver food parcels to local people and their families who are in desperate need of help.

People have really gone above and beyond to support each other during these exceptionally challenging times.

Of course, in this day and age food banks should not be needed. However, I can’t praise highly enough the selfless people who work, and generously donate to our foodbanks across the Boroughs. People such as Jo Durkin and Angie Comerford from one of our wonderful local food banks, Hebburn Helps, Tracy Beaton at Bede’s Helping Hands at the Former Primrose Library in Glasgow Road, and the volunteers at Boldon Community Association, Gateshead Foodbank, Key 2 Life, and Hospitality and Hope, who regularly deliver food parcels in this area to ensure food is available for those who help the most.

And there is also Pub Landlord Lee Hughes, from the Red Hackle, and Nico, a local shopkeeper on the Scotch Estate in Jarrow, who have also gone above and beyond through these difficult times to help others.

The examples of these selfless people have shown that community spirit continues to thrive.

It’s truly inspiring that people are helping their neighbours, their friends, and their families, by making such a big difference and bringing a smile to someone’s face.

I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has played a part in supporting our communities and will continue to do so in these difficult weeks ahead.

Creating food parcels for vulnerable members of the community, making PPE equipment, and fundraising to support others, are just a small part of many acts of kindness.

As always if you need any assistance from me or my team please contact me at [email protected] or call 0191 466 1509 and I will do everything I can to help.

KATE OSBORNE: Government is taking help from the people who need it most

This Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that there are many things in life that we can’t plan for.

Who would have thought that almost a year ago the world would experience a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, causing so much human suffering and loss of life, dramatically affect our relationships with other people in our communities and our families, and create a new way of living.

The coronavirus pandemic has placed enormous strain on our NHS and robbed individuals and businesses of their livelihoods and we face many more difficult months ahead.

What this pandemic has also showed us is that we need a social security system we can rely on.

We entered the crisis with an inadequate benefit system which has been hit by years of freezes and cuts by this callous government, leaving low-income families struggling to make ends meet.

In March last year, with our social security system unable to keep many families above the breadline, the government were left with little choice but to implement a £20-per-week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit for a year.

This uplift has been a lifeline to many working families, many of whom are on low pay, or have seen their incomes drop because they have been furloughed.

This would mean over six million low-million families would lose £1,040 from their annual income from April.

This would also create serious financial hardship and pull 500,000 people into poverty, including 200,000 children.

I can remember when the government said at the beginning of the pandemic that they would “put their arms around” us.

But those words will certainly ring hollow when they intend to take £1,000 a year off Britain’s poorest families during the pandemic and that’s why Labour forced a vote in Westminster this week, to highlight this.

I pressed the Chancellor on this issue only last week. It is vital that the Government must change course, and accept that this uplift must be extended but also extend the uplift to all legacy benefits too.

It is inexplicable that the Tories are now apparently ready to take this lifeline away from struggling families.

Almost 9,000 people in the Jarrow constituency will see their household income drop by around £1,040 a year and around half a million more people, including 200,000 children across the country, will be pushed into poverty.

To remove this vital support for struggling families at this difficult time is taking away help from the very people who need this financial help the most.

This is against a backdrop where unemployment is forecast to hit 2.6 million by the middle of the year.​​

Alongside this, support provided by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is set to end after 30 April 2021, likely resulting in further redundancies, increased unemployment and more people needing to claim Universal Credit.

This extra £20 a week does not afford applicants a lavish lifestyle. Instead, it has provided a lifeline to many families who have already seen their already meagre incomes squeezed during the pandemic because they have had to spend more on food, gas and electricity, internet connection, and home schooling. That’s why it must be extended.

The roll-out of the vaccine has given us hope but needlessly and heartlessly cutting family incomes will heap more financial pressure on them.

The government did the right thing last year with the uplift in Universal Credit, however, the level of need has not changed. The pandemic continues to hit us hard, so they must extend this uplift and extend to people on legacy benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support, who haven’t received an equivalent uplift to their benefit awards.

With continued restrictions and the added costs of lockdown it is critical families keep this added support and are told so now, rather than facing weeks of uncertainty ahead.

South Tyneside MP voices opposition to controversial Tilesheds flyover proposals

The MP for Jarrow has come out against proposals for a flyover development after hundreds of constituents signed a petition opposing the project.

South Tyneside Council is weighing up plans to replace two level crossings in Boldon through a separate scheme, which is supported by Network Rail.

The council says ‘Tilesheds Flyover’ proposals are being considered as an alternative to an East Boldon ‘road-over-rail’ bridge development that would see existing half-barriers at Tileshed Lane and Boldon Lane replaced by full ones.

The flyover plans have, however, sparked a considerable backlash among residents and environmentalists.

An online petition that has garnered more than 4,000 signatures overall and several hundred among area residents has prompted a response from Jarrow MP, Kate Osborne, ahead of a council meeting where the petition is due to be discussed.

The council meeting will be held later today.

“I have closely looked into the proposals and I strongly believe that the construction of a bypass and bridge will have a hugely detrimental impact on the environment and the lives of people who reside, travel or work in the area,”

Ms Osborne said.

Just over a month ago, the Green Party opposition councillor, David Francis, requested the plans be considered by the Place Select Committee, one of the council’s scrutiny panels.

Councillors were told then that the proposals had come about as a result of Network Rail’s plans to install full barriers at the site, with the current half-barriers having been considered a “serious risk”.

Campaigners opposed to the scheme argue that the green belt area’s protected features – including its designation as an area of Special Scientific Interest – make the project unworkable.

They point to the borough council’s climate emergency declaration, which the Jarrow MP also highlighted, saying that “these proposals, were they to come to fruition, would completely go against the local authority’s commitment to a carbon neutral future by 2030.”

A council spokesperson previously said no decision has been made and there is a substantial amount of work still to be done, including a full detailed design and environmental assessment of the bridge option.

Should the council’s cabinet decide to progress with the proposed bridge it would also be subject to the planning process.

To find out more, visit: www.southtyneside.gov.uk/btlc

MP urges Government to support South Tyneside residents set to bear the economic brunt of Lockdown 3

The MP for Jarrow has called for a number of rapid social measures to protect constituents, as lawmakers prepare to vote on yet another lockdown bill.

Kate Osborne recognised the announcement of a third national lockdown since March 2020 was a ‘necessary’ decision, while noting that the Government had lost control of the rate of infections.

Critical care units in London and the South East have been operating at above 100% capacity since the Christmas week.

Ms Osborne echoed certain demands made by the MP for South Shields, Emma Lewell-Buck, who blasted Number 10’s “incompetence” in managing infections over recent months.

“The news of tighter restrictions is disappointing but unfortunately necessary, as the virus is clearly out of control. “Over the festive period, the relaxation of restrictions would not have helped and will have contributed to towards the increasing infection levels.”

The Jarrow MP said

Ms Osborne told The Gazette towards the end of last year that she feared a “tsunami of redundancies” could be on the way in 2021, as the economic hangover from the pandemic begins to kick in across the borough.

She now argues the Government must prioritise disadvantaged schoolchildren and working residents, who have disproportionately borne the brunt of the economic fallout from covid.

Last year, food banks in the borough recorded a huge increase in demand for their emergency services, while predicting unprecedented levels of need in 2021.

The two MPs in South Tyneside have also highlighted the need to make provisions for schoolchildren in the area, as it was revealed last autumn that hundreds of disadvantaged pupils across the borough were denied IT support devices previously pledged by the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

“We now need adequate support to be put in place for businesses who have to close and people who are forced out of work,” Ms Osborne added.

“IT equipment and broadband should be provided to all those children who need it as they continue to learn at home.

“There also desperately needs to be a significant increase in Statutory Sick Pay to ensure people who fall ill can afford to get through these difficult times with the correct support in place.

“The health, well-being and livelihoods of people should be the priority for this Government.”