Last week I was delighted some of our hard work really did pay off and resulted in a cash boost for Burnley. We have managed to increase Burnley Council’s funding quite considerably – an extra £1.74m. a year – by meeting ministers and fighting Burnley’s corner.
One of the best things about this extra money is that our fantastic PCSOs have been saved. They are the eyes and ears of the police in our community and I look forward to continuing to see them making our streets safer.
The first step in getting this extra funding was to win the argument about fairness – we successfully did this – and the Government introduced a transition grant, to protect councils, like Burnley, who were the biggest losers of special grants.
We then analysed the fine print of this settlement and successfully argued on technical and moral grounds for an extra £1.74m. The transition grant is, therefore, £3.977m. a year. I am really delighted to have helped Charlie Briggs and Burnley Council secure this deal, with the help of Andrew Stunnell, a Lib-Dem minister who gave us some much-needed meeting time to fight Burnley’s corner.
This money will be a real boost for Burnley and will help us protect frontline services to make Burnley greener, safer and cleaner.
We all know people who have experienced mental health problems. I know how devastating depression can be, but was still shocked to learn that mental ill-health represents around 23% of the total burden of ill-health – the largest single cause of illness in the UK.
If we care about people’s wellbeing and happiness, we need to invest in psychological therapies – a proven ways of tackling mental illness – and it is to be welcomed that record numbers of sufferers are now receiving these talking therapies.
During the week Nick Clegg and Lib-Dem Health Minister Paul Burstow unveiled the Government’s new Mental Health Strategy, including the allocation of £400m. extra funding for therapies over the next four years.
The Government’s new strategy focuses particularly on the need to intervene early to help children and young people suffering from mental health problems. It is vital we end the stigma and taboo attached to mental illness and talk about the issue openly.
During the week I discussed this investment with Edel Sutherland and Zoe McPherson, from the fantastic local organisation Freeflow Counselling Services, which provides counselling services to people in our town. It was interesting and useful to speak with them. Mental ill-health is a serious issue in Burnley and it was good to hear of the positive work they are doing to tackle this.
I’ve had a lot of correspondence in the past week about the legislation going through Parliament about our forests. It is good to hear from so many of you. It is vital our forests are protected. I have enjoyed our local woodland on many occasions and am determined it remains available for the use, benefit and enjoyment of the community.
I would like to reassure those people who have got in touch with me that no decision has been made on this issue – the recent vote in the Commons was a vote on an amendment to consult further on this issue. The Government is going to carry out a six-month consultation – I voted to have this consultation so no rash decisions are made – and I would encourage you to take part in this consultation and let the Government know your views.
On a local level, I was pleased to hear there has been success on an issue I and other local Lib-Dem campaigners have been fighting for since 2007. It has been announced all residential roads in Lancashire are to be made 20 m.p.h. areas, to make these areas safer, cleaner and greener. It has been proven that 20 m.p.h. speed limits reduce casualties and serious injuries significantly; the changes will take place by 2013, with the policy being rolled out around schools initially.