As the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Harlow, I have one priority, Harlow. To me, Harlow means its people, its businesses, and its resources and infrastructure, and my priority is whatever is best for the town and the surrounding Villages. Harlow is where I live – but it is also where I grew up, went to school, attended playscheme, youth clubs, and venues like the Square. Harlow is where I learned to swim, dance, sing and act. Harlow is where I met my husband and where I recently had my first baby, Frank. Harlow is my home. As an MP for Harlow and the Villages, I will represent the people to the very best of my ability. But even before I can champion the interests of the local area in Parliament, I believe that it is my role to seek to influence policy at a local level. Harlow Council is a progressive Labour-run council. They have introduced some great initiatives, such as HTS, which looks after the town’s public spaces and being owned by the council, returns its profits to the council budget, enabling the council to spend funds on the town which with the private contractors most councils use, would be disappearing from the local economy as shareholder dividends and corporate profits. This manifesto includes many things, some of which I will be lobbying Harlow Council to do or to provide – I understand that Harlow Council has faced a huge reduction of 60% in direct funding from this government, but still I hope to have some success in achieving these objectives. I would be more than happy to hear ideas from other residents, about their vision for the future of Harlow.
I will be pushing for well paid, decent manufacturing jobs to be brought back to the town. Including jobs created as part of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution. Labour is not only committed to bold and radical action to create hundreds of thousands of good jobs while tackling the climate emergency. I want as many as possible of those jobs to be in Harlow. Harlow was built as a town where many people worked in manufacturing industries. We are perfectly placed as a base for businesses in the Medical and Tech sectors, and I would like to add ‘Green Energy’ jobs to the list. We have a great mix of professional, skilled and unskilled labour in the town, and I will be working towards a vibrant local economy where decent well-paid jobs are available for everyone, whatever their skills.
Council House Building and Private Rent Controls
We owe it to the children and grandchildren of those who built Harlow as a town and as a community, to provide enough decent affordable homes. When in Parliament, I will push for the government to impose rent controls on private landlords, to benefit people living in Harlow and those in a similar situation in other towns. I fully support Labour’s pledge to build 100,000 council homes and 50,000 social homes when in government. I will ensure that Harlow and the Villages get the new council homes we need so that fewer homes are housing two and even three generations, which also creates a huge parking problem in many areas. We’ll prioritise brownfield sites and design homes with the landscaping and infrastructure needed.
I benefitted from a fantastic education here in Harlow. I studied at Little Parndon and Burnt Mill schools. Education is truly one of life’s treasures, and it is coming under attack from this government, which has driven down education standards and allowed for the wholesale destruction of comprehensive education. Under this government schools in Harlow and the villages have faced cuts of millions of pounds. I would support a radical upgrade and huge new funding.
I am passionate about Labour’s pledge to provide free school meals for all primary school children, to ensure class sizes are no larger than 30, a school uniform cap and a National Education Service (NES) to move towards cradle-to-grave learning that is free at the point of use.
Defending our NHS
Our NHS has been intentionally underfunded to fast-forward our proudest institutions privatisation. In December 2017 Princess Alexandra had the longest A & E waiting times in all of England. Under this Tory Government, hundreds of GP Surgeries up and down the country are closing. I campaigned with Harlow Labour against the closure of Harlow’s Osler House GP Surgery, it closed as it wasn’t deemed profitable enough. I wholeheartedly support Labour’s commitment to renationalise the NHS, invest an extra £30 billion into the health system, free prescriptions (like England and Wales and Northen Ireland),the creation of more GP appointments and re-instate nursing bursaries.
I was brought up in Harlow and attended Fold croft Play Scheme throughout my childhood. Play-schemes were active, safe and good learning environments, where children could enjoy healthy exercise through the school holidays. I am 100% behind the return of council-run play schemes. The world has changed since the play-schemes of our childhood; there are statutory requirements for staffing numbers and skills, which must now be considered. I will seek to secure
at least a ‘pilot scheme’, whereby the true cost impact on the council’s budget can be assessed. If this were to be demonstrated as an affordable and popular provision, I will be fully supportive of the rolling out of further play-schemes
across the town, run by our town council.
Sure Start Centres
Labour introduced Sure Start centres, but under this Conservative Government, we have lost 1000 centres across the UK due to cuts to funding. Sure Start children’s centres delivered major health benefits for youngsters in the most deprived areas, reducing the number of people taken to hospital and delivering millions of pounds in savings to the NHS. Labour understands the importance of Sure Start centres and has pledged to open a Sure Start centre in every community. As a new mum, I understand the importance of Sure Start centres and recognise the amazing work that Treehouse in Staple Tye, Meadows in Hare Street and Potter Street Children’s Centre carry out, but a reduction in services has been noticed by Harlow mothers due to the brutal cuts inflicted by the Conservatives. I will fight for all families in Harlow and the Villages to ensure we get the services we deserve.
State Pension Age and 1950s Women
The generation of women born in the 1950s were betrayed by the Coalition Government’s decision to accelerate the equalisation of the state pension age, yet the Tories are refusing to support women who’ve seen their retirement plans scuppered.
Labour will compensate 1950s women with a “weekly redress” based on the number of lost weeks of their pension and the amount of time they had to prepare.
With a full weekly redress payment of £100, the average compensation would be £15,400, paid in annual instalments over five years.
Labour will compensate women born between 6 April 1950 and 5 April 1955 by £100 for each “lost week” of their pension, and a tapered compensation rate for those born after 5 April 1955. The amount is intended to offer some redress: it is not intended to be the exact, or even an approximate figure for each individual’s loss of pension, compared to what
they would have received had the legislation not been changed. Individual total redress payments would vary between nil and £31,400, with an average of £15,379.
Under Conservative plans to make people work longer, it is set to increase to 66 years for
those born on or after 6 October 1954 and to 67 years for those born on or after 6 March 1961. Labour will abandon Tory plans to raise the pension age beyond 66 years, keeping the state pension age at that age for both men and women.
I have campaigned against the cuts to our local buses and expressed my support for Labour’s plans to reverse cuts to 3,000 bus routes in England. I am working with a group of residents from Maddox Road, who have seen their bus services disappear over the years. It is utterly heartbreaking that many people, including our elderly citizens, are facing total social isolation because Tory-controlled Essex County Council has decided that their bus routes aren’t profitable enough. And we have a government that will not allow local councils, like Harlow to establish our own publicly run service, so the alternative is the relentless cutting and reduction of so many vital routes.
I will fight for local councils to take control of bus services, which would be run for the people of Harlow and the Villages, not the shareholders of bus companies. I believe that a proper bus service covering all of the town and the villages, not just the most profitable routes, is vital, and if we are to reduce our environmental impact and address the challenges of climate change. I would like to see a council-owned business providing the services, in much the same way as HTS, (the council-owned facilities management company currently looks after our streets and council properties, undertaking repairs, cutting the grass, clearing litter including fly-tipped waste, and many other services). This has been a brilliant Harlow Council initiative, and a great improvement on the service supplied previously by a private contractor (Kier). HTS has returned over £1m to the council. That money was previously lost to the town, disappearing in corporate profits and into the pockets of Keir’s shareholders worldwide. I’ll fight for a bus service which works on the same principle as HTS. Supplying a council-owned service for the people of Harlow and returning any operating profit to the council to help keep down our council tax bills.
We in Harlow already have the highest mile for mile season tickets in the UK. This is completely unfair. I believe that our railways should be taken back into UK public ownership. Currently, Harlow’s service, Abellio Greater Anglia is publicly owned, but not by us. It is owned by Nederlandse Spoorwegen “Dutch Railways” – a publicly owned company with huge profits that go directly back to the Dutch. In a nutshell, our excessive train fares are used to subsidise the train fares of the Dutch.
I will be supporting and promoting plans to extend the Central Line to Harlow. With the arrival of Public Health England as a new major employer, and the many new homes being built, connecting Harlow with Central London via the tube network is a common-sense solution which will create jobs and provide a less costly alternative to mainline travel for commuters.
Harlow Town Market
I believe that the loss of a vibrant market in the town centre has had a very negative effect on the town. Also, with the Climate Emergency, buying local, and encouraging local market traders once again, who spend their profit in the local economy, is or real importance. I support the idea that the council should at least allow a rent-free period to market traders, of at least 3 months, and prioritise local people who wish to sell locally produced goods and foodstuffs. Such a market would rely on the support of the local community. It could only be self-sustaining with the support of the community, but I believe that we can as a community demonstrate that we value and support a vibrant local market if the opportunity is presented.
Our town has been in the news recently, presented as a ‘problem area’ and ‘dumping ground’ to ‘socially cleanse’ London. These rabbit hutch homes which have been built in empty office blocks are no solution to our housing problem, and of no benefit to Harlow. I have been fighting to stop these problematic developments. As your MP I would campaign for the cancelling of the catastrophic Tory government changes to planning law which allowed these completely unsuitable properties to be developed. Labour has pledged to ban permitted developments when in government.
The whole country, Harlow and the Villages included, has problems created by Tory cuts of 23,000 police officer jobs, over 800 of them in Essex. As an MP in a Labour government, I would demand that at least the 10,000 new police jobs Labour promise are created in the first year of the new government. Before then I will lobby Essex County Council hard and constantly, to ensure that Harlow and the Villages have the largest possible police numbers in the current circumstances. It is a priority – there should be nowhere in the town where people are afraid to be.
When Harlow was first designed, the view was that many more households would never own private cars, than would have them. Now we have sometimes 3 or 4 adults all owning cars, sharing a single home. Parking, on our housing estates, is a nightmare. The council has made a start on relieving this issue, but I would be happy to hear from anyone living in the town, especially if they believe an opportunity exists to re-landscape public space to provide much needed extra parking. If it is realistic, I will put pressure on the council to adopt many more viable changes to the parking landscape in Harlow. I also hope to work with the council to find alternative, secure parking for commercial vehicles, so they are not parked in residential areas.
I am already working on plans for a scheme to combat social isolation, especially for older people in the town – I hope to work with Harlow Council on initiatives such as ‘Meet Your Neighbour Week’, where the council promotes socialising with your neighbours, as well as a weekend each year for town-wide street parties. I want to be taking the lead on the fight against loneliness and a push for the community spirit which developed naturally in the early days of ‘Harlow New Town’.
Respect our Elderly
Labour will freeze the pension age at 66. Protect free tv licenses, free bus passes and the Winter fuel allowance. We will create a National Care Service with free personal care.
Social care is a vital public service. The current social care system is in crisis and not fit for purpose. Too many people are going without the care they need. Failures in the system are putting great pressure on unpaid carers and on the people who need to receive care.
We will ensure that people with disabilities are supported to live independently. We are committed to reforming the care provider system. Our National Care Service will ensure that social care is a universally-available service, with personal care provided free at the point of use, and that all who need it can access it.
I am a founder member of the local pressure group, Climate Emergency Alliance (Harlow) I believe that the real dangers of climate change will not just be a matter of individuals changing their habits; we must pressure businesses to be even more considerate of the impact of their commercial processes and supply chain on the planet. But there are things we can do locally – I will be asking the council to take a lead in installing free public water fountains at key points in the town so that we can more easily use refillable bottles, and introducing a scheme where local shops also subscribe as ‘refill stations’, prepared to provide free tap water to refill your personal water bottle. We produce 1.44 billion single-use plastic bottles every day, which take up to 450 years to degrade. I will also be lobbying for the installation of water fountains at our train stations and station car parks, for the same reason.
I want to work with Harlow Council on a plan to create ‘Harlow Energy’, an energy supplier wholly owned by the council. Council-owned energy firms are simply energy suppliers that are run by local authorities to offer households cheaper energy deals than the more established energy firms. And they have been successfully introduced in several areas. the public ownership model has seen growing customer numbers, and profits reinvested back into the local community. They also provide local jobs for local people.
I will be holding public meetings in Harlow on a regular basis, for a free exchange of ideas on a range of topics, with local people. Some of these meetings will be discussing ideas for residents who want to set up businesses. I will be presenting the case for setting some local businesses up as cooperatives, where all staff have a stake in the company. Cooperatives are run not by investors or shareholders, but by their members – meaning ordinary working people like you and me, if we are employed by a cooperative, have a share of the profits.
I hope to develop further Harlow and the Villages specific policy over time, and I am always happy to discuss anything about the town, especially ways in which we can make it better, with any resident or group. More than anything, I want to hear your vision for the future of Harlow and the Villages. Keep up to date with LOVE Harlow public meetings by emailing me with the subject line – LOVE HARLOW.
Laura McAlpine, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Harlow and the Villages.