This afternoon I walked round the corner from my office to speak to sixth form politics and economics students at Parrs Wood High School. I'd been invited by one of the students to talk about how I'd become interested in and involved with politics and more generally about my role as an MP.
I talked about the future of university funding and the fact that both Labour and the Conservatives will increase tuition fees if they win the election whereas the Lib Dems remain commited to abolishing them. It was great to see the enthusiasm of the students and to see how interested they were in politics.
This morning I met with people from Didsbury Baptist Church and the Planning Department to discuss the church's plans to build a small extension to the School Lane side of the church. At the moment the building looks fairly bleak from School Lane, and the plans could not be considered to be an overdevelopment, and would certainly be a massive improvement. Unfortunately the planners aren't too happy with the proposals. I hope that we can resolve this problem, because the proposed changes make a lot of sense.
Last night I attended the licensing of Nick Bundock as Team Rector for St James and Emmanuel. The church was packed for the service that was taken by Bishop of Middleton and the Archdeacon of Manchester.
When Lib Dem councillor David Sandiford was Lord Mayor, Nick Bundock was his Chaplain. He now goes from being Team Vicar to Team Rector. As a Methodist I'm not entirely sure what the difference will be, but I'm certain that Nick will carry on his hard work in the heart of Didsbury.
This afternoon I went to St Johns Catholic Primary School for the unwanted Christmas present "Swap Party". It was a great success with loads of people there. The highlight of the event were the "healthy" cakes, particularly the banana and poppy seed muffins. Well done to Claire Law for arranging the event.
This morning I had a meeting with Great Places Housing Association (formerly Manchester Methodist Housing Association) to discuss the future of Lorna Lodge. The Housing Association want to sell it off because of the cost of bringing it back into use.
We have thousands of people on the housing list, but Lorna Lodge is empty. Great Places made the point that south Manchester is not a priority for council investment in social housing, despite the waiting lists being longer in south Manchester and private rented housing being less affordable. Rehousing is the most raised issue in my surgeries, week in, week out. It's about time that is was made a priority.
I recently did an interview with the Lesbian and Gay Foundation for their magazine, Outnorthwest. They quizzed me on my views on a number of issues ranging from the importance of the UK government challenging homophobia abroad to LGB and T issues in the upcoming general election.
You can read the article here
or by clicking on the image above.
Last night I attended the licensing and induction of the Rev Gisela Raines as Rector of St Paul's in Withington. The service was led by the Bishop of Middleton and the Archdeacon of Manchester. As usual the Choir was outstanding.
It has been "all change" across the constituency parishes since I was elected in 2005, and I will be at Emmanuel on Sunday for the Licensing of Nick Bundock. Good luck to both of them in their new roles.
I have been to St Paul's on a number of occasions over the years. I was talking to Ray Jones last night, the husband of my former colleague and Lord Mayor Audrey Jones. He was telling me that he had been a reader at St Paul's for a mere 55 years! That's some dedication. Mind you, dedication runs in the family. Audrey was a Withington Councillor for almost 30 years.
I am gutted. Last week City were lucky to beat United 2-1. This week they were lucky to beat us 3-1. We were 2 down when Tevez pulled one back, making the scores level over the 2 legs. Three minutes of injury time, and United score with a minute to go. Gutted. Absolutely gutted. Will I ever see City at Wembley for a major final? Who knows?
I recently tabled a parliamentary question to Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, on the bonuses that his department is paying out to consultants. I was shocked yesterday when the answer came through telling me that one consultant was paid £84,563 last year - as a bonus! When you consider all the complaints that have been made about the lack of equipment, helicopters, body armour, etc, that our troops are having to endure and the shoddy justifications that have been coming from the government, it's frankly appalling that the MOD should be paying out bonuses like this. It’s also worth bearing in mind that this comes at a time when the Tories are proposing no pay increases for public sector workers on wages over just £18,000 and Labour are planning to restrict public sector pay rises to just 1% - effectively a pay cut.
To make matters worse, the average consultant's bonus in the department has quadrupled from £7,243 to £31,890 in just the last five years! So that means that whilst the government was launching an illegal war in Iraq, MOD bonuses were rising – to the point now that the average MOD consultant is paid twice as much in bonuses each year as a squaddie earns for fighting on the frontline. To me that's completely unacceptable.
There's more coverage of this on the Daily Mail's website here
and the full response to my question is published in Hansard (parliament's official records) here
Since entering Parliament I have been an active member of the PCS Union All Party Parliamentary Group. It has been a tough time for public sector workers, with thousands of job cuts in recent years. I attended a meeting this afternoon for an update on the current situation, and there are real concerns over job cuts at the British Council, particularly in Manchester. A meeting is being arranged for me to talk with local union officials to see how I can help to protect local jobs.
Meanwhile the Government seems hell bent on pushing ahead with changes to the Civil Service compensation scheme, which will see a lots of lot of moderately paid staff lose out if they are made redundant. In my view it is simply wrong to take away an entitlement that has been in place for years, particularly when staff have often worked for lower wages than other people in similar jobs.