Cat Smith column: Why I'm supporting the bid to open up a rail link between Fleetwood and Poulton

Cat Smith is backing a move to establish a train link between Fleetwood and Poulton
Cat Smith is backing a move to establish a train link between Fleetwood and Poulton

This week, Fleetwood MP Cat Smith looks at rail links, and getting the right services for young people

I’m delighted that the Back On Track group, a sub-committee of Fleetwood Town Council, is now driving through plans for a feasibility study into the need and viability of a train service from Fleetwood to Poulton.

I’ve long supported this plan and feel it’s critical the people of Fleetwood are given the opportunity to access work, school, college and services by providing the transport network that most other towns enjoy and benefit from. It’s also important, if the town is to flourish and attract new employers, businesses, tourists and football supporters, that travellers can easily get into the town.

It’s upsetting to see so many people having to commute away from their homes every day and the subsequent impact this has on the A585 – particularly at a time when we need to provide people with environmentally friendlier ways of travelling rather than only having the option of cars and buses.

The Back On Track team are now approaching various groups to help with funding the feasibility study, and I’m hopeful this will get the go-ahead soon – it’s our young people who, in particular, are missing out on opportunities as they can’t easily access training, education and jobs.

On that note, this week is Youth Work Week - an opportunity for youth organisations, youth workers and young people to celebrate their achievements and the impact of their work.

As Labour’s Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, I’d like to pay my tribute to our amazing youth workers who are the unsung heroes of our communities. They play a vital role in transforming the lives of young people across the country – unfortunately there are fewer and fewer of them as the Tories slash local authority budgets.

Youth services are essential – they deliver a wide range of programmes, from sex and relationship advice to learning how to interact with each other. They provide a supportive place for young people to become a force for good in society.

This Conservative government, however, has dismantled the whole infrastructure of local authority youth services, and it’s a testament to our voluntary sector that provision has not collapsed. Thank you to all those amazing volunteers who selflessly give of their own time to help young people reach their potential.

Not a single extra penny was found in the Budget for youth services, so clearly austerity is not over and its young people who are suffering as a result.

Many young people are also going hungry. According to The Trussell Trust, 13m people now live below the poverty line in the UK, with individuals going hungry every day for a range of reasons, from benefit delays to receiving an unexpected bill on a low income. This week the trust revealed its foodbank network provided 658,048 emergency supplies to people in crisis between April and September 2018, a 13 per cent increase on the same period in 2017.

The inability of benefits to cover essential living costs and issues with payments remain the most common reasons for referral to a foodbank. Universal Credit is not the only benefit people at foodbanks are experiencing problems with, but the new system is increasingly driving referrals due to benefit delays, which include waiting for a first payment or having problems with a new claim.

At the beginning of December, all new benefit claimants in Fleetwood will automatically go on to Universal Credit. If you have any problems with this new system then please feel free to get in touch with my office and we’ll do our best to help. Contact 01253 490440.