Reporter: Stuart Littleford
Debbie Abrahams, the Labour candidate for Oldham East and Saddleworth, has spoken to Saddleworth News about what it means to her to seek re-election as the area’s MP for the first time since her by-election win in January 2011.
Debbie said: “I have been so proud to represent Oldham East and Saddleworth over the last four years. Having lived in Newhey for over 25 years to be able to continue to represent local people in Westminster again would be a great honour for me.
“During the last four years I have helped over 6,500 constituents and have met many more across the constituency at my surgeries, community meetings or during my weekly sessions knocking on people’s doors to speak to them face-to-face.
“Some of the highlights for me have been establishing and chairing the Oldham Fairness Commission to tackle local inequalities and campaigning on late payments to small businesses, which is one of the biggest problems for local small businesses who just want to be paid on time for the work they’ve done! This campaign was in response to a local Saddleworth company going out of business as a result of late payments. We can’t, on the one hand, tell small businesses they are the backbone of our nation and then stand by and do nothing when they are mistreated and bullied by larger businesses.
“I’ve also been a passionate advocate for establishing a Dementia Friendly Oldham and Saddleworth. I know from personal experience how difficult and painful it is to care for a loved one who has dementia. But a diagnosis of dementia is not the end of one’s life as many people can live for years with the condition. Making Saddleworth dementia friendly, by working with organisations like Saddleworth Carers, will help make life so much easier for those with dementia and, importantly, for their carers.
“I’ve also worked hard for better rail services at Greenfield station, and that includes better facilities and access for disabled people. Other ongoing transport issues for Saddleworth include getting reliable bus services for Delph, Diggle, Denshaw, Grasscroft, Greenfield, Dobcross, Lydgate and Uppermill.
“Saddleworth School will obviously continue be one of the most significant ongoing issues. I’ve always said that need for a new Saddleworth School for our young people, fit for the 21st Century, is paramount.
“But legitimate concerns have been expressed by local residents about the potential increase in traffic and other issues around the proposed and preferred Diggle site, not to mention the flood risks and consultation process with local people.
“I will continue to address constituents concerns about the impact of additional traffic. I will also investigate options for preserving the Grade 2 listed building on the pallet site; analyse the evidence for the costings for each site; ask the EFA for a full explanation of the process they used to identify the best site; and establish what the plans are for community involvement during the consultation process.
“On a wider note Labour’s plan is for a better future for all of us, not just a privileged few. The Tories propped up by the Lib Dems have hit people on the lowest incomes the hardest, including the 1 in 3 people in Oldham earning less than the living wage. The government gave tax breaks to millionaires whilst working people on average have seen their incomes fall by £1,600 per year. That is not fair.
“Labour wants a fairer society because we know that fairer societies are better for us all.
“We will balance the books and cut the deficit every year.
“Our fully costed plan will see us invest in the NHS and social care with 36,000 more front line staff. They will be given the time to care and properly integrate physical, mental and social health, centred around the person. We will repeal the Health and Social Care Act, reversing the privatisation of the NHS seen under this Government and ensuring a comprehensive NHS free at the point of use.
We will also create better jobs and education and training opportunities for our young people and tackle the cost of living crisis by capping energy bills, freezing rail fares and increasing the minimum wage to over £8 per hour.
“Together with Labour, and your support on 7 May, I will deliver a better future for Oldham East and Saddleworth in a Britain where the next generation can do better than the last.