Politics getting in way of tram travel solution
The political process can often provide a way to provide solutions to long-running problems.
Sometimes, the politics can get in the way of the process. I have no doubt Wyre residents who can no longer use their NOW card on the trams just want to see that decision reversed.
Who is to blame is of secondary importance.
Yet Labour blame the Conservatives, and in turn we blame Labour. We don’t spend time discussing realistic solutions. Naturally, we defend ourselves from attacks we consider unfair.
Labour councils between them took the decision to remove the eligibility for Wyre NOW card holders on the trams. It remains in the County Council’s power as a transport authority to restore it if the will was there.
I’ve made the point many times that Wyre isn’t the transport authority, so doesn’t get central government money to fund concessionary travel, and shouldn’t be expected to.
But isn’t this all about ‘blame’? What about ‘solutions’? No major political party – neither now nor at the last election – was promising to change the national legislation on concessionary fares to include trams.
This is partly because the Government is devolving ever more power over transport policy to local areas.
We now have Transport for Lancashire (covering Blackpool, Lancashire and Blackburn) who are the only combined transport authority unwilling to come up a common travel area for their tram network.
I understand it can’t be done for free – but I note the amount the council is spending on feasibility studies to expand the tram network each year, for example, as well as some of the windfalls it received over the past 18 months from the stock market, a tiny proportion of which could restore NOW card users to the trams.
I’m more than happy to meet with LCC any time to discuss solutions. Just an agreed figure on the annual cost might be a step forward. In the meantime, we wonder whether this is really any way to run a tram network.
Examining funeral costs
As an MP, you have to weigh up how to spend your time.
Is there a hidden subject no-one ever mentions?
What do I see around the constituency that needs an airing too?
One example I’ve been researching since the election has been funeral poverty, so I was pleased my bid for an hour’s debate on the topic was selected recently.
What do I mean by funeral poverty?
Well the ‘cost of dying’ runs at a little over £8,000 once all the elements possible are taken into account.
Clearly not everyone will have access to sums of money like that at the drop of a hat – not even when the estate of the deceased is taken into account.
So the Government has Social Fund Funeral Payments to help out.
I know from my time on a Select Committee that all benefits need careful examination to confirm that the way in which they work actually helps us achieve the objective we set.
They will never meet all the costs of a funeral, but there are ways we can make it work better, especially in letting people know their eligibility before they make funeral arrangements.
It’s a niche topic, you may think, but small incremental changes here will make a big difference to those affected by what can be a sudden financial as well as emotional shock.
And it’s allowed me to work with a superb charity called Quaker Social Action.
They operate the Down to Earth fair funeral campaign which can offer help to those people who are struggling to afford funerals.
They have a helpline on 020 8983 5055, 10am-4pm weekdays.
Practical problem solving should be at the heart of an MP’s role.
Rediscovering our local shops
We’re all pressed for time these days.
A quick dash with the trolley round the supermarket is often the easiest option when it comes to doing our food shopping.
But we also value our local shops too – and regret when they disappear. So my summer campaign sought to highlight the quality available on our high street.
As I’ve found, talking to a butcher can mean you get the right size portion for your needs, as well as practical cooking tips, that might not always be available in the supermarket aisle.
I’ve understood better how Class 1 fruit is much longer-lasting, how to properly roast a potato (after all these years) and found some hidden gems such as the deli offering quality take-away in Marsh Mill at a surprisingly affordable price.
Now I’ve found them, the challenge is to keep using them! Supermarkets will always have their place, but they’re changing fast too.
Maybe now is the time to rediscover local shopping?