Jo Cox: “No child should be left behind”

Jo Cox leads the debate on education in YorkshireJo Cox MP opened and led an important House of Commons debate last night into the regional gap in education attainment.

The Batley & Spen MP told MPs that no child should be left behind and that it should not matter where they are born.

The debate centred on research that shows Yorkshire and the Humber is lagging behind other regions in educational attainment, and is in fact the worst performing region in England.

She said: “In Yorkshire and the Humber, children are now being left behind, and no child should be left behind. We can no longer accept that young people in London are far more likely to achieve good outcomes at school than those in other regions

“This disparity is a disgrace, and education has become a postcode lottery.

“After 30 years of neglect and a lack of focus from Government, we now live in a country where a child in some regions has less chance of reaching their potential than one born in London. As London powers ahead in educational attainment, children in the so-called northern powerhouse are falling behind.”

Mrs Cox went on to say: “Surely the growing divide in regional academic attainment can no longer be left unchallenged. Indeed, I contend that nothing we do in this place matters more than ensuring that no child is left behind.

“If education, education, education is a priority, the answer must, in part, be teachers, teachers, teachers. What has worked in London can work elsewhere. It can work in Yorkshire, but it will need real investment and sustained political commitment.

“It is time for a new, bold and ambitious target to end the postcode lottery in educational attainment. We have a duty to ensure that every child has access to the best possible education. It should not matter where they were born. No child should be left behind.”

MP raises impact tax havens have on developing countries

Jo Cox speaks during Labour's tax avoidance and evasion debateLabour forced a debate in Parliament yesterday on tax avoidance and evasion following the revelations in the “Panana Papers”.

Jo Cox spoke during the debate, led by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP, to raise the impact tax havens have on poor countries.

“Having spent 10 years as an aid worker, I am acutely aware of the millions of pounds that are lost to development in poor countries as a result of these tax havens,” she said.

“Before the anti-corruption summit in May the Prime Minister needs to do far more to reassure the House that he will accelerate his efforts to persuade British overseas territories to mirror the United Kingdom’s welcome move, and establish a transparent public register of beneficial ownership.”

You can watch Mrs Cox’s contribution, and John McDonnell’s reply, here:

Britain should look again at air dropping food into besieged Syrian towns

Jo Cox speaks at FCO questions about air dropping aid into besieged Syrian townsSuccessful air drops of aid into besieged Syrian towns have prompted Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox to once again raise the prospect of the British doing the same to help civilians caught up in the civil war.

Speaking at Foreign Office questions in the House of Commons yesterday, Mrs Cox said less aid is now reaching these communities than before the ceasefire.

Over the weekend however, she said the World Food Programme had successfully air dropped 20 tonnes of aid into the besieged town of Deir Ezzor – bypassing the Government blockade stopping UN trucks from entering.

“The Foreign Office, along with the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence, should now re-examine the possibility of airdrops to all besieged communities in Syria?,” she said.

You can watch Mrs Cox’s exchange with the minister by clicking here.

Meeting set for those affected by sports centre closure

WM Sports CentreJo Cox MP is holding a meeting this week for people who use Whitcliffe Mount Sports Centre, ahead of its closure and demolition next month.

The Batley & Spen MP is determined to make sure that all those groups who use the sports centre can be found a new home after it closes, as part of a scheme to redevelop the neighbouring high school.

Mrs Cox said: “Kirklees Council has taken the decision not to retain the sports centre when a new school is built at the site. The date for its closure has now been set as 20 May.

“In some cases, alternative facilities and locations have already been offered to users of the centre. In other cases, such as with indoor bowls, the council has decided it can no longer subsidise provision to the extent it has in the past.

“I want to know how the closure will affect those who use the sports centre and where they will go once it closes. Most importantly of all, if there is anything else the council and Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) can do to help them, I want to make sure they do that.”

Mrs Cox has invited the leader of Kirklees Council, Cllr David Sheard, the chief executive of KAL, Alasdair Brown, and members of both Kirklees and KAL staff to attend the meeting.

They will be on hand to answer questions or concerns about future provision.

Mrs Cox added: “This is not a meeting of the council or the cabinet and it is not a meeting to consider the decision they have already taken to close the centre. It is a meeting organised by me so that users of the centre can discuss and ask questions about the alternative provision they have been offered.

“I hope this will be useful to those affected by the closure. I know Whitcliffe has been a valued facility, the loss of which will be felt by many.”

The meeting will be at the sports centre on Friday 15 April at 7pm.

Newspaper column: We underestimate the value of post offices at our peril

Every month Jo Cox writes a column for The Press. This month’s column appeared in last week’s edition.

Jo Cox with Batley Post Office's Ismail Loonat (2015)

Jo Cox with Batley Post Office’s Ismail Loonat

The value of our post offices, and the service and expertise they provide, is something that sadly we underestimate. And we do this at our peril.

Those who run post offices are dedicated public servants and the post offices they run are far more than just a local business. It is a remarkable and precious asset and for many it is a lifeline. No one else does quite what the post office does in the way that they do it.

I met with local subpostmasters last week and discussed some of the concerns they have about the future of the post office network. It certainly gave me plenty of issues to raise with the government in the coming weeks.

Many factors affect the fortunes of our post offices.

Like many where retail is central to their businesses, the internet has had a seismic effect on post offices. This is compounded even further due to the continuing rise of the digitalisation of our lives beyond retail and into our day to day chores.

For example, you can tax your car now without even having to leave the house. Once upon a time you had to get into your car and drive to the nearest main post office.

Stamps are cheaper online. The post office card accounts are being phased out. Pensions and benefits are paid directly. Less and less are bill payments done in person. You can pay your TV Licence from your bed or your water bill while eating your breakfast.

As society ‘goes direct’ more and more the post office’s role shrinks. However, its value doesn’t. But when post offices rely on customers walking through their doors, the more we whittle away the different transactions they can undertake the more likely the post offices will simply not survive.

These changes to the culture, technology and behaviour of shopping are no doubt a major factor behind the closure of thousands of post offices in the UK.

But the biggest is still government policy. The network has been reduced in half over the last 20 years. Much of this has been driven by the changing behaviour of customers and attempts to make sure the network can meet the modern day demands.

But it is the future not the past that worries local subpostmasters most.

The Government promised to put hundreds of millions of pounds of business the way of post offices. It has not materialised. The streams of income are constantly being eroded away. There are even incentives for post office staff to get customers to ‘go direct’. Incentives that will affectively lose that post office more customers in the longer term.

While the government says it is committed to our post offices, they are starving them of the business they need to remain afloat.

What is clear is that subpostmasters fear more closures are inevitable unless there is a change in the way government approaches this.

One of the local subpostmasters I met last week told me the story of a vulnerable woman whose home caught fire. She rang him first instead of the fire brigade.

This was because of all the people in her life she trusted him through his role in her local post office. I accept that this is a unique example but it does underline just how much value and trust people put in their post office.