The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
10 Downing Street
8th August 2019
Dear Prime Minister,
In your first days as Prime Minister you’ve made a series of spending announcements which begin to reverse a near decade of Conservative-led austerity which has decimated public services and local authority budgets in areas like Bury.
I wanted to take the opportunity to write to you to outline some of the priorities of the people of Bury in the hope that you will change current Government policy and the policy of previous Governments of which you’ve been a part, halt further decline and support my town to thrive again.
Health and social care
I was disappointed that Bury’s local hospital, Fairfield General Hospital, was left off your list of sites which will receive further investment as we sorely need it. However, buildings and equipment are not the only problems facing our NHS and we continue to face serious issues with GP and dentist access in Bury. And with 1 in 10 NHS diagnostic posts unfilled the Government risks missing its targets on early cancer diagnosis and treatment. Will you commit to the extra resource needed to address these challenges?
Further, despite all the rhetoric about extra billions for the NHS, my local CCG is still being forced to make tens of millions of pounds worth of cuts and has already had to make difficult decisions like reducing access to IVF treatment for the people of Bury. Why, when the Government says our NHS is receiving more money than ever before, are we seeing continued cuts at a local level?
As Chair of the APPG for Hospice and End of Life Care I am very worried about the major threat facing our hospices without increased funding from the NHS. This deeply specialist end of life care should not be wholly reliant on the sponsorship of marathon runners and the sale of second-hand clothes. I enclose a copy of my report ‘Living Well and Dying Well’, commissioned by the Mayor of Greater Manchester and adopted by NHS Greater Manchester and urge you to read it and ensure that the Government plans the future of social care with the important role hospices can play at the core.
Brutal cuts to local council funding have led to a crisis in social care and I receive heart wrenching stories through my local casework about the impact budget pressures are having on vulnerable local people. I haven’t heard any commitment yet to address this serious challenge and I hope to do so as a matter of urgency.
Your commitment to ‘level up’ education funding will, it is indicated by the Education Policy Institute, benefit schools serving the most affluent areas to the detriment of the most disadvantaged pupils. Thousands of children and young people, particularly in the wards of Moorside, Redvales and East Bury, will be affected by this imbalance.
Further, the sums simply don’t add up. Can you explain how you will ensure that the most disadvantaged receive a fair share of any desperately needed education funding boost? Can you also tell me how you plan to address the failings of the SEND system and school exclusions, which is not just a matter of cash but of systemic change.
On capital funding, I have two high schools, Tottington High and Derby High, in urgent need of refurbishment or rebuild, yet when I met Lord Agnew and DfE officials earlier this year they were unable to confirm when or even if there would be a new capital funding pot made available. What are your plans to invest in the school estate and ensure all our buildings are fit for purpose?
You made specific reference to buses on your recent visit to Manchester. Buses are extremely important to many people in Bury, yet we suffer from poor connectivity, with many rural areas badly underserved. The debate over the future of bus regulation in Greater Manchester will rage on for some time longer, but in the meantime the funding TfGM has to subsidise routes in areas where commercial operators have determined it is not commercially viable to do so has been gutted since 2010 and as a result many people in areas of my constituency like Ramsbottom, Tottington, Greenmount, Summerseat and Walshaw continue to be isolated. Will you boost the funding available to transport authorities to deliver subsidised routes?
The Government has promised for some time now to invest heavily in broadband services yet the villagers of Affetside in my constituency are still waiting for the most basic connectivity and were forced to take matters into their own hands and pay for a radio internet service. When will promised investment come to Affetside?
Finally, I want to relay to you the very serious concerns that local people and particularly small businesses have expressed to me about the catastrophic consequences of a no-deal Brexit to the economy of Bury. Your Government appears to be intent on crashing us out of the EU with no deal and I believe this to be both reckless and irresponsible. I urge you to reach out across all parties to reach a compromise deal which can be put to the people in a Final Say referendum.
I look forward to your response.
James Frith MP
Member of Parliament for Bury North