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Preston Constituency Newsletter - October 2016

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Mark Hendrick MP

Member of Parliament for Preston

Dear Member

Welcome to my October 2016 e-newsletter. 

This month I have had an interesting mix of issues raised in my mailbag. Notably, the terrible mess that Concentrix has made with people's Tax Credit claims, the opposition to the Hinckley Point Nuclear Power Station, NHS England's Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) and
Early Day Motion 344 about Statutory Maximum Working Temperature.

I have had many constituents contact me as they have had their tax credits stopped which has left many of them unable to put food on their tables or pay for their utilities.  Read more about this later in the newsletter.

I am pleased to announce that I have been elected as Vice Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).  Read more about that later in this newsletter.

I am always keen for my staff to remain up to date on the issues on which they assist me in advising constituents and to this effect, my team have undertaken Home Office training on immigration matters to help me deal with UK Visas and Immigration enquiries. Presentations were given on the new Administrative Review, the Voluntary Returns Service Civil Penalties for Employers and the Presenting Officers Unit.

Please do get in touch with your feedback. 

Best wishes

St Joseph's Orphanage on Victorian Society 'risk list'

I was dismayed to hear that the former orphanage and hospital on Mount Street had recently been listed by the Victorian Society as one of the most endangered buildings in the country. I have raised my concerns with Preston City Council to see if any action can be taken to save this historical building.
 
The Grade II Victorian Gothic building on Mount Street was identified by the Victorian Society in their recent list of top ten historic buildings ‘at risk’. Opened in 1872, the building has served as an orphanage, a hospital and a care home until its closure in 1986.  More recently, in 2004, planning permission was granted to convert the building into 82 flats with parking but the conversion never took place and the building subsequently fell into disrepair the planning permission to undertake this conversion has now lapsed.


 
  
Some parts of the City centre are seeing exciting changes with buildings like the Guild Hall Arcade and the former Post Office being re-developed.  Although St Joseph’s Hospital has been disused for a number of years, now is a good time to build on that momentum to try and get this building not only off the ‘at risk list’ but realise its potential to develop it into a working building that Preston can be proud of and generations to come can enjoy its Victorian splendour.
 
James Hughes, Victorian Society Senior Conservation Adviser, said: "We’re very grateful for Mr Hendrick’s intervention over the plight of Mount Street Hospital. Ensuring it survives should be one of the Council’s top heritage priorities. We warned the council about the condition of this building back in 2009 – it has got much worse since. We welcome the fact that plans for a residential conversion are being drawn up, but they must be put into action urgently if the building is to be saved."

The Victorian Society is a charity that campaigns for Victorian and Edwardian architecture in England and Wales. Its aims are to conserve buildings of special architectural merit by raising awareness of the buildings with the public and providing advice to local authorities and building owners.
 

Written Questions

I continue to ask many written questions to Ministers about a wide range of issues, most recently about Concentrix's handling of Tax Credit claims, Valuation Office Agency in Preston, the Healthy Child Programme, Properties in Preston Vulnerable to Flooding, Landlord Prosecutions and NHS Recruitment.



I invite feedback on the questions raised and answers given by Ministers.  Please email me at mark.hendrick.mp@parliament.uk, with your views.

Concentrix and Tax Credits 

I have been contacted this month by a large number of distressed constituents about their Tax Credit claims being wrongly suspended by Concentrix - the company employed by the Governments HMRC Department. 

The constituents who have contacted me have had their claims suspended for various reason but most commonly because Contrentix has wrongly included another person with single claimants, resulting in considerable alleged overpayments of thousands of pounds. This is understandably a very distressing situation for any person to find themselves in.  Added to this, is a catalogue of further failures by Contrentrix including constituents reporting that letters informing them of their overpayments going missing; tax credit claims being stopped suddenly with no notification, having to wait over an hour to get through on the telephone helplines set up to deal with constituent queries. 

This has put many working families into dire financial need resulting in their inability to pay their rent, council tax, their gas and electric bills and in some severe situations, my office has had to refer people for food parcels from a local foodbank.

In addition to providing support to those constituents who have contacted my office, I have submitted a number of Parliamentary Questions asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the scale of the problem, how they will review their decisions, what targets they have set themselves in trying to resolve the suspended claims and why MP's were given such short notice to speak directly to Concentrix in Westminster about constituents claims.

I will continue to keep a close eye on developments at Concentrix and the Department's handling of cases.  If you are affected by the actions of Concentrix and have had your Tax Credit claim suspended, please call my office on 01772 883575, where my staff team will try to expedite your case.

Stop illicit UK Puppy Trade

I have lent my support to a new public awareness campaign launched by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to target the growing problem of the illicit and cruel UK puppy trade.

 

The puppy industry is booming, but with many UK breeders and puppy smugglers across Europe producing puppies solely for profit, all too often these animals suffer serious illness or behavioural problems later in life. Others, sadly, do not survive.

 

IFAW has devised a useful guide, P.U.P.S, for anyone looking to buy a puppy, to ensure they know what to look for to avoid buying an unhealthy, possibly puppy farmed animal. The P.U.P.S mnemonic, below, is accompanied by a kitsch, online mock advert for a children’s toy, the Suzy puppy. The short film depicts a young girl’s delight at her new toy puppy, but mirroring the grim reality of the puppy industry she quickly discovers that her seemingly perfect pup is in fact suffering a great deal.

 

I am very pleased to support this important IFAW campaign to help make people aware of the potential pitfalls before buying a puppy who may have been farmed in squalid conditions and taken from its mother too soon, before it is eight weeks old.

 

It is terrible to think of these puppies being transported a great distance by dealers with little or no thought for their health or welfare. The mothers suffer greatly too, being made to produce litter after litter of puppies until they have outlived their usefulness. I encourage everyone to watch and share IFAW’s film and to remember P.U.P.S.

 

Parent – Is the puppy with its mum?

Underage – Has the puppy reached the legal age for sale?

Papers – Are all of the puppy’s papers available and in order?

Sickness – Is the puppy healthy and energetic?

 

IFAW’s P.U.P.S film can be viewed here. Although the film contains no puppy footage, some viewers may find the content shocking or upsetting, because sadly the puppy trade is just that.

 

Philip Mansbridge, UK Director of IFAW, said: “We are very grateful for Mr Hendrick’s support for our campaign. As a nation of dog lovers, none of us wants to be part of the cruel puppy industry. I am sure people will be shocked to find out that many much-loved pet dogs in the UK have suffered a horrible start in life with ill effects that may last through their lifetime.

 

“In the worst scenarios, owners suffer too when their much-loved puppy quickly gets sick and dies. This is the reality of the heartless UK puppy trade. IFAW always advocates adopting a happy and healthy puppy or dog in need of a home from your local shelter. But for those who wish to buy from a breeder, we believe our P.U.P.S campaign arms people with the information they need to make the right choice.”

 

The P.U.P.S film was screened at a parliamentary reception for MPs and key decision makers where IFAW continued to call for legislative change to better protect puppies.

 

Mansbridge added: “IFAW stands firmly against the large-scale, low welfare commercial breeding of puppies for profit. We want to see an end to third-party sales and the introduction of tougher and better enforced licensing to tackle this cruel trade.”

 

The P.U.P.S concept and video were created in partnership with marketing communications brand J. Walter Thompson.

Preston Schools invited to enter 
Joke Competition

I have contacted all primary schools in my Preston constituency to encourage them to enter Voice Box, an annual joke-telling competition designed by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) and The Communication Trust which helps to build schoolchildren’s communication skills. 
 
Seven percent of children aged around five years old have a specific speech and language impairment and a further 1.8% have speech, language and communication needs linked to other conditions such as a learning disability, cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders.
 
This autumn, mainstream and specialist primary schools across the country are invited to bring laughter into their classrooms by taking part in the Voice Box competition. Schools can enter to hold joke-telling contests between October and November and then submit their pupil’s funniest joke to the RCSLT by 1 December for a chance to go through to a grand final to be held at Mr Speaker’s House in the Palace of Westminster, London, in 2017.
 
The pupil with the ultimate winning joke will receive an iPad mini, while two runners-up will each receive national book tokens worth £50.
 
The RCSLT has developed a toolkit with useful resources, ideas and a nomination form for schools to download via www.givingvoiceuk.org.
 
I am delighted to be lending my support to this campaign.  Speaking and listening are crucial life skills that are acquired well before children start their first day at school.  However, some children start school with a language impairment and for many this has gone undetected for a long time before it gets picked up by professionals at school. This competition is aimed at raising awareness about communication amongst children and young people.
 
RCSLT CEO, Ms Kamini Gadhok MBE, says: “The aim of the Voice Box competition is to remind people that all children need support to build their communication skills and confidence and some need additional specialist help to speak and understand what is being said to them.

“Communication is a fundamental skill and has the most profound and positive impact on our lives – from our social and emotional development to our behaviour, learning and educational attainment. It impacts on how we interact with other people, how we understand them and, in turn, how we are understood.”
 

Britain- Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group

I was recently elected to the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) as Vice Chair. APPG's are informal cross party groups in parliament that look at a particular area of interest.

The purpose of this group is to foster good relations and understanding between Britain and Palestine and to promote a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.



The groups activities may include delegations to Palestine which in turn inform parliamentary debate in the House of Commons during both Adjournment and Westminster Hall Debates, the raising of Parliamentary Questions as well as meetings and discussion at fringe events held at party conference.

Preston Unity Statement on Syria

I believe the constant bombing of innocent civilians in Aleppo is, in my view, a war crime the likes of which have not been seen since the atrocities carried out in Bosnia around two decades ago.  It is incumbant upon the international community to condem these crimes and at some stage in the future to bring the perpetrators to justice through the international criminal courts in the Hague.  In the meantime I call upon the British government to place as much diplomatic and economic pressure on the Russian and Syrian governments as is necessary to get these atrocious actions ceased.



Following recent events in Syria, local Preston group, Children of the Ghetto have released the following Preston Unity Statement for Syria, which I have also signed.  It reads:

 

The current situation in Syria, particularly eastern Aleppo, is a humanitarian catastrophe of immense and unimaginable proportions.  The bombing, siege, destruction of civilian infrastructure and deaths are morally reprehensible and cannot be silently tolerated and accepted by the people of Preston.  Hence, we the undersigned call for the following:

 

- An immediate unconditional ceasefire;

- The imposition of a no-fly zone across Syria;

- The lifting of all sieges;

- Immediate delivery of UN aid, even through air drops;

- The evacuation of all the ill, injured and infirm for appropriate medical treatment.
 

Copyright © 2016 Mark Hendrick MP, All rights reserved.


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