Cat Smith column: Cuts to our schools must come to an end

Fleetwood MP Cat Smith hails good news about the port's hospital and highlights 'Dickensian' poverty in schools

Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 10:25 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 10:28 am
Fleetwood Hospital has won the support of the Prince of Wales, as one of seven community projects he is supporting across the country to mark his 70th birthday

Congratulations to Fleetwood Trust, the new owners of Fleetwood Hospital.

It’s been announced the community project is just one of seven across the country to be supported by the Prince of Wales as part of his 70th birthday celebrations.

The hospital went through a rigorous selection process to be shortlisted for the ‘Seven for 70’scheme, and was chosen from over 90 other potential projects across the UK.

The Prince’s Foundation was attracted to the project by the need for community services and the opportunity to provide these to the people in Fleetwood by adapting the former hospital. The Prince’s Foundation will apply its experience in community engagement, planning and design to support the Trust in delivering a community hub addressing issues from health and wellbeing to social care and family welfare.

I know the Prince of Wales is committed to engaging with local people to create harmonious and sustainable communities and I really look forward to seeing this project come to fruition.

A survey amongst teachers has uncovered ‘distressing’ levels of poverty, including rising hunger and problems with housing.

“I found out last week that a third of my class sleep in their uniforms as they don’t have pyjamas.” That was the response of just one of the teachers who took part in the survey conducted by the NEU teaching union.

“We are buying them coats on a scale never seen before,” said another teacher, while another said “we give free school dinners to children who don’t qualify for free school meals because their parents work but have contacted us to say they have no money that day.”

The survey interviewed a total of 1,026 teachers in England, of whom three-quarters worked in secondary schools and the rest in primary schools. 53 per cent of those surveyed said they believed more children and young people would go hungry over Christmas, while 40 per cent said their schools were having to provide extra items for pupils and their families because of increased poverty.

This is a Dickensian picture of the poverty that far too many children and their families are having to endure.

Cuts to schools, children’s services and to the social security system, and the Government’s failure to address the in-work poverty faced by one in five workers is having a devastating impact and it has to stop.

At the end of last week police in Fleetwood seized close to 1,700 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of more than £3m after raiding a former department store in the town.

The factory has been dismantled with support from Lancashire Fire and Rescue and Electricity North West. The drugs seized will be destroyed and I understand some of those involved were victims of modern day slavery.

Police say the people who grow cannabis are often funding organised crime whilst others may be tampering with electricity supplies to power their cannabis farms which can have lethal consequences for neighbouring properties. They say it’s important that everyone knows what to look out for – from screened-off windows and unusual amounts of heat emanating from a property to signs of bypassing electricity meters.

If you saw anyone acting suspiciously or behaving unusually, close to the Store 21 building on Lord Street in recent months then please call the police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 quoting log 0961.

Finally I wish you all a very happy Christmas.