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MPs talk of hopes and dreams for 2014
Losing weight, improving Bradford city centre and giving children opportunities are among the aims and hopes of the district’s MPs going into 2014. While some are pessimistic about the region’s, and country’s, prospects for next year, others are more positive. We asked the area’s MPs what the highlights of 2013 were and what they hoped the new year would bring.
Labour, Bradford South
Bradford faces many challenges over the next few years, as the effects of Government austerity and cuts really begin to hurt.
Despite the difficult economic circumstances we need a concerted effort in Bradford to re-invigorate our city. Inward investment and job creation are key priorities. Although unemployment rates in the city are thankfully falling, long-term unemployment rates are rising, and we need to tackle this issue as a matter of urgency. Education is another priority and we need to continue the recent improvement in the city’s schools.
Confidence in the city has been low over the last few years, in large part because of the continuing Westfield saga. If the development goes ahead this year as promised, we need to use it as a springboard to attract further investment and jobs into the city.
The campaign to save the National Media Museum earlier this year showed just what we can achieve when Bradford comes together. The reaction of the whole city was magnificent and certainly helped to save this jewel in Bradford’s crown. We need more of that spirit of cooperation to get the city back on track.
I also believe that we should use this window of opportunity to secure the future of the former Odeon cinema – the other great blight on our city centre. Exciting plans are in the pipeline and I want to continue working with the organisations involved to secure funding to develop the Odeon.
Lib Dem, Bradford East
The highlight of the year was the arrival of my second granddaughter – closely followed by the magical trips to Wembley!
It has continued to be a tough year for many people as the economy at last began to slowly recover. As I travel around the constituency and in my busy office every week I see heroic resilience in people who are really struggling. I also see within the voluntary and community sector incredible people who are devoting their lives to supporting those less fortunate than themselves – I thank them for what they do but also for inspiring me to try to do more.
In terms of our campaigns this year, I have wonderful memories of a summer spent touring my constituency on our ‘Get on the Bus’ tour and of the time spent with the many young people we worked with and met during those five weeks.
In my view the most important piece of legislation in 2013 (still in progress) was the ‘Care Bill’ and I thank the numerous local and national groups and organisations that worked so hard to help me lobby the Government on various aspects of the Bill. How we provide quality social care to young people, working age disabled and the elderly is I believe the biggest challenge we face as a society.
The long-running campaign on unaffordable car insurance premiums began to see results – but there is still a long way to go.
In the year ahead my main preoccupation will be to ensure that as the national economy grows we, here in Bradford, are not left behind.
The work on the Westfield site will lift everyone’s spirits but it must also act as the catalyst and driver for skill development, our own economic growth and the creation of more jobs.
Respect, Bradford West
I wish I could be optimistic and hopeful for 2014, but I can't be. The recovery, such as it is, seems to peter out at the Watford gap and it's all smoke and mirrors, fuelled by rising house prices in the south-east.
I don't think there will be much of a drop in unemployment, more than 12 per cent in my constituency, or a noticeable hike in living standards.
The May local elections are important, of course, but so much power has been taken away from local authorities by successive governments, and their budgets so savagely, cut that the results won't transform the political and economic landscape in Bradford.
But it is important that this noxious crew in the big house at the bottom of the hill don't hold onto an absolute majority.
I think the big political event of the year is going to be the Scottish referendum on independence in September.
I am in favour of more powers devolved to it but I am against separation, root and branch. We have got on with each other and developed together for more than 300 years. If Scotland votes yes it is going to have seismic consequences for the UK but the issue does pose the question of further devolution throughout the country and I am in favour of that.
I hope, finally, that Westfield is going ahead early in the new year. Similarly, full speed ahead for the Odeon. I’ve proposed to Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, and a Bradford old boy, that a task force should be set up to sort out the abysmal state of the centre of the city, and those two major developments would be jewels in that new setting.
Personally, I’ve resolved to give up resolutions. But I do have a lot to look forward to and I hope you do too.
My New Year resolution is very easy – to lose weight. I want to lose about a stone.
The main challenge for 2014 remains the economy, in particular reducing the Government’s deficit which is still running at more than £100bn a year at the same time as helping people with the cost of living.
People are finding it really tough at the moment and there are no painless ways to reduce the huge debt that the country is in.
As for my constituency, I want to see the regeneration of Shipley and Bingley town centres – in particular the sale by Sainsbury’s of the old Bradford & Bingley site so that it can be redeveloped as soon as possible; I hope that Aldi will have opened its new store in Bingley; I want to see an end to inappropriate housing developments in my constituency – in particular I would like to see the continued refusal of the proposed development in Micklethwaite and a way to stop the proposed developments in Menston.
I would also like to see progress made on a Shipley Eastern bypass and the end to traffic queues in Saltaire, but that might be too much to ask!
There are many other challenges that are faced by my constituents and my constituency, and in 2014 I will continue to do the best I can for my constituents and for the Shipley constituency that I am extremely proud to represent.
Health and education will remain very high on my personal agenda. Our students must be given every opportunity to achieve in the classroom and equip themselves with all the necessary skills a good employer now demands.
To this end, I am thrilled that the Government has allocated £16m to rebuild Oakbank School. And we have kept our promise to ring fence the health budget, with more than £6m being released to construct a new A&E department at Airedale Hospital.
More generally, I want to continue to do all I can to ensure my constituents, and the North in general, benefit from the ongoing economic recovery, with job creation remaining at the heart of these efforts.
The economic outlook for 2014 and subsequent years is positive. We must capture all the opportunities that this will provide.