Alan Whitehead

Labour MP for Southampton Test

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pension-pot.jpgMembers of staff at Southampton University are currently on strike due to a dispute over pensions. I want to express my support and solidarity with all those out on strike. 

I know that staff have not taken the decision to strike lightly, nor do they want to disrupt the education of their students, but they have been left with no other choice. 

Up to this point Universities UK have refused to negotiate the terms of the changes to the USS pension scheme. As it stands some members of staff expect to see their pension pot reduced by 40%. Many staff made a decision to go into an academic career believing they would be able to retire with a secure pension. They believed that because it's what they were told. Now they face the threat of insecurity in their later years. 

I hope that this action encourages Universities UK to take the UCU's counter proposals seriously. 

Supporting staff at the University of Southampton

Members of staff at Southampton University are currently on strike due to a dispute over pensions. I want to express my support and solidarity with all those out on strike. ...

unfit_for_habitation.jpegI usually spend Fridays in Southampton meeting constituents and community groups. However last Friday I was in Parliament to support a bill that will improve the lives of thousands in our city.

Karen Buck MP tried to introduce a bill back in 2015 requiring landlords and letting agents to ensure homes they let are fit for human habitation. The Tories talked it out denying MPs a vote on it. Then in 2016 Labour introduced the proposals as an amendment to the Housing and Planning act. It was defeated when 219 Tories voted against the interests of renters and against making sure they had the right to decent housing.

The Tories’ denial of tenants’ rights has been frustrating to me. Southampton has a relatively large proportion of people living in rented accommodation, many of whom have been in contact with me regarding sub-standard housing. On top of this over 700,000 children across England are living in dangerous rented accommodation.

Not one to give up, Karen Buck re-introduced the bill last week and there was enough support for it to be passed to the next stage. The Government have now said that they will support any legislation forcing landlords to keep their properties up to scratch. It’s now my job to make sure they see this through for the sake of all renters in Southampton Test.

Fighting for decent housing

I usually spend Fridays in Southampton meeting constituents and community groups. However last Friday I was in Parliament to support a bill that will improve the lives of thousands in...

Jobcentre-plus-.jpgCould you live without any money whatsoever for 6 weeks or more? That’s exactly what some of my constituents who have applied for Universal Credit are being asked to do and it’s why I am one of the many Labour MPs, Councillors and activists calling for the Tories to have a re-think and halt the roll-out of it.  

And we aren’t the only ones. It’s increasingly clear that the roll-out of Universal Credit is a shambles and causing further hardship to those already struggling to get by. It seems as though at best it has been rushed out without any thought for claimants and the consequences are so worrying that even ex Tory Prime Minister John Major has asked for a rethink calling it ‘unfair and unforgiving.’  

Universal Credit was rolled out in Southampton back in February 2017 and since then I have had regular calls from affected constituents often in distress as they are waiting long periods of time before their first claim and worried about paying rent or buying food for themselves or their family. I have heard from people waiting much longer for payments than the Government’s 6 week target, some have been forced to take out exploitative payday loans with others having to visit food banks to feed their families. Citizen’s Advice Southampton and Christians Against Poverty have also been in touch with me to let me know about many of their clients who are desperate after being left with nothing whilst their claims drag on.

To add insult to injury the helpline that people are being asked to call in case of any problems costs up to 55p to call! The Tories claimed that Universal Credit would simplify the benefits system but it’s clear to me that it is anything but user friendly.

Up until now David Gauke the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is stubbornly pressing ahead with the roll-out in the face of the dire consequences it is having and despite the fact it isn’t working. The impact of this is only going to get worse with councils and housing associations warning of massive rent arrears if something doesn’t change.

Alongside my colleagues I will continue to put pressure on the Tories to re-think the Universal Credit roll out.

Universal Credit Shambles

Could you live without any money whatsoever for 6 weeks or more? That’s exactly what some of my constituents who have applied for Universal Credit are being asked to do...


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