Voter ID – don’t lose your chance to vote
Local elections are taking place in May this year and this will be your chance to have a say on how things are done on Rochdale’s Council. This year, the way people vote in elections will change for those who vote at a polling station. People who vote in person are now required to bring photo ID (for people who vote by post, the situation remains unchanged).
Various types of photo ID will be accepted at Polling Stations and I list these at the end of this column. Expired photo ID will also be accepted. If you do not have any of the accepted photo ID, you can apply for a voter authority certificate and details of this are below. The deadline to apply for a voter authority certificate is 5pm on Tuesday 25 April 2023.
Recent weeks have seen three of the world’s great religions celebrate important festivals. Easter for the Christians, Passover for the Jews and now Eid for Muslims. These festivals are a time of celebration, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim, Happy Easter, Chag Sameach and Eid Mubarak.
I was pleased to support the Cake Campaign which has been running since 2013 and has raised over £2.2m to support people in Syria. My colleagues, Iftikhar and Jacob, received the cake from Islamic Relief UK for our office. Find out how you can take part: thecakecampaign.org
The death of Awaab Ishak
The Housing Ombudsman concluded their investigation after the death of two-year old Awaab Ishak. We still should be shocked by what happened to Awaab and his family and we should be shocked by the Ombudsman’s report as to how widespread the problems were. It was vital that there was a change of senior management at RBH and a new Interim Chief Executive coming in. The real test over the weeks and months is that we see the changed culture and the changed working practices that RBH’s tenants deserve.
United Utilities dumped sewage in Rochdale — Tory government does nothing about it
The fact that any raw sewage is dumped in Rochdale should shock us all. Last year, the Conservatives allowed 110 days’ worth of raw sewage to be dumped into Rochdale’s open spaces, analysis has revealed.
We were promised by this government some years back that by 2027, 75% of our rivers would be “good”. Recent figures tell us only 16% are “good” and that’s remained unchanged over the last five years. We’re not going to get anywhere near that target with the Tories in government.
Underfunding of the Environment Agency means it can’t monitor the action of the companies as it should. Ofwat, the companies regulator, is a toothless body which simply doesn’t regulate. So is it any wonder that water companies haven’t invested in preventing all this in the years since privatisation?
Bear in mind water companies don’t have a right to pollute and it’s an offence. The number of prosecutions has dropped well down but what has kept up well is the dividends paid out. Some at least of the £296 million paid as dividends by United Utilities could have been invested in overflow prevention but it wasn’t. That has to change.
I’ve raised this in Parliament as have other MPs. We’ve got to insist that the right to clean rivers and seas is a priority.
Know Your Neighbourhood Fund
Voluntary and community organisations in Rochdale will be eligible for funding from the Know Your Neighbourhood Fund, a £30 million pot of money to be shared out amongst 27 local authorities in England. Funding will largely be awarded on an individual project basis.
Whilst £30 million shared amongst 27 different Councils doesn’t seem like an awful lot, it is worth organisations across Rochdale applying for this funding. Some of the most disadvantaged areas in Rochdale are missing out and people in these areas are less likely to volunteer regularly and are more likely to experience loneliness. I welcome the aims of this fund to tackle this and to widen participation in volunteering. I would encourage organisations to apply for this fund. To keep up to date on the fund and how to apply, visit the Gov.uk website here.
I joined the charity Sudep Action in raising awareness of epilepsy and remembering those who have lost their lives. Purple Day was on the 26th of March and I was pleased to wear a hand-knitted purple heart given to me by Sudep Action, who do great work at raising awareness on this and providing support to lose who have lost loved ones.
Women in science and engineering
I’m backing a scheme which will see more women helped back into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) based careers. We’ve seen an increase in young women studying science, technology, engineering and maths at university, but too many later drop out of those careers because they need to care for children or family members. Whilst these types of jobs make up a large proportion of our economy, there is a shortage of STEM employees. This scheme will be helpful for those who have taken long career breaks to care for others and give them the skills and confidence they need to return to work. You can find out more information, and how to apply, by clicking here.
Telecoms price increases
I tabled a Parliamentary motion calling on telecoms companies to reconsider price increases at a time when millions are already struggling with the cost of living. O2 plans to increase prices by 17.3% while BT, EE, Vodafone, Three, Plusnet Mobile and Talkmobile plan to increase prices by 14.4% and Virgin Media plans to increase prices by an average of 13.8%. In September last year, Ofcom warned that a record eight million UK households were already facing problems paying mobile, broadband, pay-TV and streaming bills. Ofcom should now take urgent action on this. You can read the full text of the motion here.
Food Waste Action Week
I supported the campaign behind the Food Waste Action Week to help raise awareness of household food waste and the steps we can take to help reduce it. There are 4.5 million tonnes of edible food wasted in UK households each year, that’s enough to fill 3,600 Olympic sized swimming pools. That is an astonishing figure. Not only is this costly (to the tune of £3.5 billion a year), it’s also a waste of the environmental resources used to produce it and runs a coach and horses through the UK’s Net Zero goals. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has some handy tips and advice on their website, including simple steps such as safely freezing extra portions or correctly storing and re-heating leftovers for low cost, low effort meals the next day.
Labour Friends of Ukraine
The Labour Friends of Ukraine met with Save the Children’s Ukraine Country Director, Sonia Khush, and World Vision’s Policy Manager, Erica Hall. We discussed the importance of considering children in the efforts to rebuild Ukraine, emphasised the need for mental health and psychosocial support, and highlighted issues with child protection and trafficking of refugee children. We also discussed the deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia, the cause of the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Putin.
International Day of Solidarity with Belarus
Like many members of parliament in Western European countries, I’m a godparent to a political prisoner in Belarus. Yana Pinchuk was detained in Saint Petersburg in Russia but then extradited to Belarus where she faces really serious charges but, in the end, she’s simply a political activist who like so many others wants a better Belarus. On the International Day of Solidarity with Belarus, I paid tribute to the many Belarus citizens like Yana and those in and outside of Belarus who are struggling for that better democratic legitimate country. You can watch my message of support here.
Uganda’s anti-homosexuality Bill
I signed a global Parliamentary petition calling on the Ugandan President not to assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, which called on Africa to ‘save the world’ from ‘dangerous homosexuality.’ Given the rise of alarming right-wing rhetoric on all sorts of issues, it is important for Parliamentarians the world over to show international solidarity and remind LGBT+ people in Uganda that we stand with them. The link to the petition, and a list of signatories, can be found here: https://www.pgaction.org/news/uganda-petition-anti-homosexuality.html
I joined cross-party MPs in writing to the government and urging it to scale up its response in Kenya, as the country is grappling with food shortages and hunger. The humanitarian crisis continues to deepen and many risk dying from malnutrition as Kenya is bracing for a sixth failed rainy season, with the drought situation described as an emergency. The international community, including the UK Government, has been too slow to help the people of East Africa. The Government should be acting faster to deliver on the famine compact agreed at the G7 in 2021.
Photo ID will be accepted at Polling Stations
If people wish to vote in person, the following forms of photo ID will be accepted at Polling Stations:
Passport issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, a British Overseas Territory, an EEA state or a Commonwealth country;
• Driving licence issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or an EEA state
• A blue badge
• Older Person’s Bus Pass
• Disabled Person’s Bus Pass
• Oyster 60+ Card
• Freedom Pass
• Scottish National Entitlement Card
• 60 and Over Welsh Concessionary Travel Card
• Disabled Person’s Welsh Concessionary Travel Card
• Identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram (a PASS card)
• Biometric immigration document
• Ministry of Defence Form 90 (Defence Identity Card)
• National identity card issued by an EEA state
Expired photo ID will be accepted as long as the photo is a true likeness of the elector.
If you do not have any of the accepted photo ID, you can apply for a voter authority certificate – free of charge. You can either apply online form (https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-photo-id-voter-authority-certificate) or by submitting a paper application to Rochdale Council. The following information will need to be provided as part of the application:
• Name and address;
• Date of birth
• National Insurance number
• A passport style photograph which is a true likeness of the elector
If you do not have, or do not know your national insurance number, you can provide another form of identification such as their birth certificate, a bank statement or utility bill. That document must include the elector’s full name as stated in the application.
The deadline to apply for a voter authority certificate is 5pm on Tuesday 25 April 2023.