THE YEAR of 2011 has been a tough 12 months for many Wiganers and my top priority has been securing and saving jobs. The Government’s policy of making fast, deep public sector cuts has caused problems for the private sector in Wigan, as businesses rely on public sector contracts and see less custom as unemployment rises.
This year Heinz announced some jobs would be moved to Europe, the Tote was sold to Bet Fred and youth unemployment hit one million.
As a result my priority has been negotiating with Government and employers to ensure jobs are protected, apprenticeships for young people are created and employees’ pay, terms and conditions are protected.
I’ve also been dealing with the impact of spending cuts locally, working with the council to find alternatives to library closures and campaigning nationally to save libraries.
One issue that caused outrage in Wigan was the decision to abolish the Education Maintenance Allowance which helped young people stay on at college.
I led the national Save EMA campaign which at least ensured young people who had started their courses would continue to receive it.
It is unacceptable that ordinary people bear the brunt of the cuts while top City Executives’ pay continues to rise. In November I supported the many public sector workers in Wigan who reluctantly took strike action over their pensions, and I hope Government will bring forward a better offer for them - and action for private sector employees - in 2012.
I’ve also run national campaigns this year to get more help for children in care, better rights for agency workers, to bring the Military Covenant into law and for better transport for people with disabilities.
In difficult times we should not forget those who most need and deserve our support: vulnerable children, former servicemen and people who overcome huge barriers just to go about their daily lives.
Next year I will be busy as an aide to the Shadow Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, working to bring the benefits of the 2012 Olympics to Wigan.
For a sporting town like ours it is a chance to show the world, despite hard times, just how much we have to offer.