It truly is good news that more and more of our elderly citizens in need of care are being looked after in Hartlepool, and are not being placed in residential homes outside of town.
Last year it was reported that the number of Hartlepool residents being cared for outside the borough had risen more than tenfold in a three-year period. Now those figures have plummeted thanks to the efforts of the council and local care providers.
I have always said that people should have the right to be looked after in their own communities and, although we have a long way to go in terms of things like dementia and respite care provision, this is a massive step in the right direction.
Malnutrition was listed on more than 350 death certificates in England and Wales for 2016 according to the Office of National Statistics.
It was cited as being the underlying cause of death in 66 cases – the highest number in the last decade. Worse still, according to Age UK, more than one million older people suffer from, or are at risk of malnutrition in our country.
I agree wholeheartedly with the charity that this is simply shocking.
In last week’s column, I mentioned that one in four parents are skipping meals because they cannot afford to buy food and last weekend I was on BBC Sunday Politics, where the subject of food poverty was raised yet again; this time on the issue of access to free school meals. Quite simply, over 2000 children in Hartlepool live in households where food poverty is a reality and of those, around 1,100 cannot access free school meals because of means testing on Universal Credit.
I make no apology for saying this again, but we are the 6th largest economy in the world and this should not be happening in 21st century Britain.
On a different note, there is a lovely gentleman called Mitch who treads the streets of Hartlepool every day, takes pictures of grot spots and litter and sends copies to myself and the Council. Mitch makes it clear that it’s for my information, but for the Council it’s a different message.
Mitch also busies himself picking up rubbish and is swift to condemn those who don’t act responsibly by littering in the first place, but he does have a point. It appears that our streets are getting filthier.
Last week we debated Local Government Funding settlements in the Commons and I asked the Minister Sajid Javid why this year’s grant for our Town Hall will in real terms mean a £6million shortfall leading to potential cuts to non-statutory services and departments like Neighbourhood Services of up to 40%.
Like Mitch, I have great pride in our town and know that the council could do better although it is doing its very best. If they keep on getting battered financially, the situation is only going to get worse.
It was fantastic to spend time with everyone at West View Primary last Friday and an honour to present UNISON ‘Stars in our Schools’ Certificates to support staff in recognition of their hard work. An amazing occasion not to be forgotten.
Yesterday I visited local company Bridgman IBC Ltd, a GMB unionised business led by owner Peter Bowes, a true ‘lifelong proud Hartlepudlian’ in his own words.
The business has a turnover of over £6million and employs 72 workers, including apprentices, and as such makes an important contribution to the local economy.
The collapse of Carillion has exposed a worrying trend in public sector procurement leaning towards such big tier contractors at the expense of local and smaller businesses who often end up in the supply chain and losing out due to none payments when the bigger firms go bust.
It is time that procurement rules are changed to allow a level playing field for local firms to compete for public sector contracts and unfair payment practices and unreasonable retentions of monies owed to smaller businesses are ended.
Finally, last Monday I attended the funeral of former council leader and Hon Alderman Russell Hart. He will be remembered for his tenacity, political prowess, flamboyance and his larger than life character.
He definitely made his mark and had great pride in his beloved town. Rest in peace.