At the end of last month, Emma was honoured to be the guest speaker at the meeting of the Greater Sylhet Development & Welfare Council North East. The meeting was the culmination of a weekend of activities organized by the local Bangladeshi community for International Mother Language Day - a day established by UNESCO “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples in the world”.
Every year on 21 February, people of different cultures who speak different languages observe International Mother Language Day and engage in various activities to mark the day and celebrate language variety world-wide. The date was chosen by UNESCO as it commemorates the day in 1952 when the ‘language martyr’ students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bengali, as one of the two national languages of the then East Pakistan, were shot and killed
Regional secretary for the North East, Habibur Rahman Rana, said: “Bangladesh is the only country which has had to fight for its own language, which is why this is so special.”
Emma said, “Knowing how significant this event is, I was honoured to be invited. Language is integral to our identity and protecting a person’s right to use their mother tongue is fundamental to respecting and valuing the diversity of our multi-cultural community”.
This was the first time Emma had made a speech in Bengali, and she was delighted by the positive reception and the warm welcome she received.
If you would like to read Emma's full speech at the event, you can do so below.
Emma has signed the Shields Gazette’s petition calling for retailer Marks and Spencer to return to South Shields as soon as possible, after last week’s announcement that its store on King Street would close at the end of this month after eighty years in the town.
The decision, which was announced on Tuesday, has drawn disappointed reactions from local people. Staff will keep their jobs, but will be moved to the chain’s Silverlink store.
M&S said that a declining customer base meant the King Street store was no longer viable.
“Last week’s announcement was a huge disappointment, and I’m not surprised that so many people have got involved in this campaign. M&S has been one of our most popular retailers, and to lose them is a big blow to our town centre.
“But with over £100m of investment in our town centre on the way as part of South Tyneside Council’s South Shields 365 project, I believe firms like M&S will soon be looking to return. The great response from local people to the Shields Gazette’s petition proves that there is plenty of demand, and I am pleased to back the campaign.”
Readers who want to support the Gazette’s petition can find it by clicking here, or print off a copy for others to sign here.
I have continued to be busy throughout February helping constituents resolve problems they have experienced with Local Authority and Government services. Below are several examples.
1. I was contacted by a constituent who had been the victim of extreme anti-social behaviour from their neighbours for the past 7 years. Complaints had been raised with the Police which resulted in intimidation directed towards my constituents. They wanted to move to another property. I arranged for the Tenancy Enforcement Manager to carry out a thorough investigation. The outcome was a review of their banding to reflect the nuisance they were suffering, which helped them when bidding for properties. After contacting me, they were re-housed in their preferred area. Thanking me, my constituent stated: “We are being moved into a new-build bungalow in the new year. This would not have been possible if they had not been awarded a priority banding following Emma’s enquiry”.
2. I was contacted by a constituent regarding payment of £400 credit owed by a utility company after ending a contract with the company. Within a few days following my enquiry, he received a cheque for the sum of £425.10. My constituent wrote: “I would like to offer my sincere thanks for your help... The good news is that I have finally received a cheque from them today .. I am just thankful that after the long wait, it has arrived. Once again, thank you for your time and effort.”
3. I was contacted by a constituent regarding her Employment Support Allowance (ESA) appeal. My constituent’s appeal was upheld and she was informed that a backdated payment would be made. This was not done. My constituent was concerned that she had not received the payment of £1,7000 plus two week’s cold weather payments. After getting paid by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), she phoned to thank me for my intervention on her behalf.
4. A constituent of mine had applied to take early retirement, as the development of his long term condition meant he was no longer able to carry out the demands of his job. Unfortunately his application was refused, even though it was supported by his GP and consultant. I raised this case with the Work and Pensions Minister and with the company who carried out my constituent’s assessment, Atos. My constituent was subsequently told that, on appeal, the decision had been reversed and that he would receive an early pension backdated to the date of his original application.
If you have a case you think I can help with, please contact my office on 0191 427 1240 or at email@example.com. Alternatively you can come to one of my constituency surgeries, which can be found on the calendar.
Emma Lewell-Buck has expressed her disappointment at this week’s announcement that South Shields’ Marks & Spencer store on King Street is to close.
The closure was announced on Tuesday, signalling the end of the retailer’s eighty year presence in the town. Marks & Spencer’s statement said that a “commercial decision” had been made to focus on their Silverlink store. They confirmed that the 37 staff employed at the South Shields shop would receive a guaranteed role at Silverlink.
Emma told the Shields Gazette:
“This is devastating news, and a blow to our town centre. I have held crisis talks with Marks & Spencer and I am deeply disappointed they are not prepared to reconsider their decision to close the store.
“Marks and Spencer told me that a sharp decline in sales over the last two years means they are no longer able to keep the shop open, but the shop has always seemed very busy when I have been there.
“The announcement of another business abandoning our high street will confirm the suspicions of many that the Government’s supposed economic recovery isn’t being felt in towns like South Shields.”
Emma also hopes that the £100m regeneration of the town centre would encourage businesses like M&S to return in the future.
The Gazette has started a petition opposing the closure of the store, which can be found by clicking here.
Emma is holding a Curry Night on Friday February 28th to raise funds to support her campaigning.
The night will be held at the Indian Brasserie, one of Ocean Road's best-known restaurants. Tickets are £15, which includes a 3 course meal. The event is open to all, so you do not need to be a party member to attend.
To find out more click here or call Emma's office on 0191 427 1240 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Thursday 6 February marked the first ever Time to Talk Day, a new campaign led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness which encouraged people to raise awareness about mental health issues by sitting down for a chat with a friend, family member or work colleague.
Emma was pleased to support Time to Talk Day by sitting down for a cup of tea with a colleague for a conversation about mental health, as part of the campaign to get a million conversations on the day.
Mental health problems are more common than many people think – one in four adults experience a mental health issue. But often these problems can be difficult to talk about, and nearly nine out of ten people who experience them say they face stigma and discrimination as a result. Because of this stigma some choose to hide their condition, which can lead to stress, isolation and problems at work.
Emma said: “Mental health issues are very common but unfortunately are often hidden or misunderstood. Many people with a mental health problem feel that the social stigma is a bigger burden than the illness itself, and the lack of public discussion about mental health is a big part of the fear and lack of understanding many people have. Time to Talk aims to change that, and I am delighted to support their fantastic campaign.”
Time to Talk Day is part of the Time to Change campaign to end mental health discrimination. To find out more about this campaign you can visit their website.
Emma also recently contributed to the Mental Health North East (MHNE) project Reach Out, a newsletter written by young people that focuses on their experiences of mental illness. MHNE offers help and support for people in the region of all ages. You can find out more on their website www.mhne.com or contact them by calling 0191 492 8235.
This week Emma attended an event hosted by Age UK, Barnardo’s and Energy Bill Revolution to promote their Cold Homes Week campaign, which calls attention to the scandal of fuel poverty in Britain.
Cold Homes Week began on Monday 3 February, and Wednesday brought the campaign to Parliament to drive home the importance of tackling rising energy costs and energy-inefficient homes. The parliamentary event was followed by a public meeting, No More Cold Homes – Lasting Solutions in Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, one of many such meetings taking place around the country this February and March.
Over 170 charities, businesses and unions support the campaign. Members of the public can get involved too by visiting www.energybillrevolution.org. People across the UK are taking ‘selfies in scarves’ to spread awareness about the campaign, and Emma was pleased to don her own Cold Homes Week scarf on Wednesday.
Emma also backs Labour Leader Ed Miliband’s Energy Price Freeze, which would freeze household energy bills until 2017 and save the average household £120 a year.
“Every person should be able to afford to heat their home in winter, and it is scandalous that in one of the richest countries in the world over 3 million people, including many elderly people and young children, are living in fuel poverty.
“At a time when household incomes are frozen, people need help from the Government to stop their bills getting out of control and to make their homes more energy efficient. But under the Coalition we’ve seen the average household’s energy costs go up by more than £300 a year and a huge drop in the number of homes having insulation installed. The Government needs to recognise the severity of this situation and act now to help struggling households who are braving the chill this winter.”
Previously confidential cabinet papers released in January under the have revealed the last Conservative government’s secret plans to force 75 pit closures during the miners’ strike of 1984 - at the cost of 65,000 jobs - despite the public having been assured this was not the case. In addition, the papers show that the then Government had plans to declare a state of emergency and bring in troops if strikes continued. Emma is one of a number of Labour MPs who have written to the Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude MP as part of Labour’s ‘Justice for the Coalfields’ campaign, calling for an official apology for the actions of the Thatcher government.
The campaign demands that the Government:
- Make a formal apology for the actions of the previous Conservative Government during the time of the strike;
- Set out all details of the interactions between the Government and the police at the time of the strike;
- Release all information about government-police communications specifically around Orgreave, with a proper investigation which might go a little way to rebuild public confidence, as the Shadow Home Secretary has called for previously.
You can read Emma’s letter in full by clicking here.
Labour MPs raised this issue at both Cabinet Office and Prime Minister’s Questions last week. Both Francis Maude and David Cameron refused to accept the need for an apology.
“These papers show that the public were lied to, and for those who suffered in the coalfield communities it is essential that the full truth is known. Many coalfield communities still bear the scars of the closures of these events, and for there to be reconciliation there first needs to be recognition by the Government of the injustices that were done.”
Over the weekend Emma sent out the latest edition of her newsletter, with updates on her work in South Shields, her activity in Parliament and future campaigning dates in the local area. The newsletter is sent to Labour Party members in the South Shields constituency, but non-members can read too by clicking here.
As well as the newsletter Emma sent out an Immigration Myth Buster, highlighting some of the key facts about migrants that challenge the stereotypes made popular by right-wing parties. The factsheet also reveals some of UKIP’s most worrying policies, including a flat tax that would make the lowest paid worse off while giving a tax break to millionaires. You can read more by clicking here.
Mental Health North East (MHNE) recently published the first edition of their Reach Out North East newsletter, written by its team of young volunteers. The newsletter includes articles about mental health issues, information about support services and written pieces by young people about their experiences with mental illness.
Emma is proud to be MHNE’s young people and mental health champion, and wrote a message for readers of the newsletter:
''I remember how tough it can sometimes be when you have problems at School or at home and things just don't feel as good as you know they can be. I also remember feeling that at times I was the only one, but it turns out I wasn't. There are three children in every classroom that have a mental health condition, and so many more who just need someone to talk to. The great news is that there are people you can talk to; just have a look in the newsletter at some people’s stories and for the places you can go to talk about whatever it is that is worrying you. Remember, feeling the way you do is never something to be ashamed of - what makes you who you are is what makes you great.''
You can read the newsletter in full by clicking here.
Emma said: “I am so proud to be able to promote this fantastic project. Mental health is sadly ignored or misunderstood in our society, and part of the reason is that people with mental health issues feel unable to talk about their lives. Reach Out is a brilliant way of giving young people a voice and showing readers that mental ill health is not something to be ashamed of, and that there are other people out there who share their experiences.”
MHNE is a registered charity that helps to support over 350 voluntary and community organisations in the North East region whose work involves mental health.
If you would like to find out more about MHNE you can visit www.mhne.com or call 0191 492 8235.