Burnley MP Julie Cooper column: European Union election still very important
May 23rd is polling day for the European Union elections.
This is the election that we were never supposed to have, but three years of uncertainty and Conservative Government incompetence mean that we will not finally leave the EU until the end of October, this year.
It really is a ridiculous situation and I know that many of you are so tired of hearing about the whole issue but make no mistake, this election is very important.
All across Europe there has been a rise in the extreme right wing.
Never since the times of Hitler have they been so strong.
This is extremely worrying and I so would urge you all, however exasperated you are about the issue of Brexit to use your vote to stop the far right winning in the North-West.
Whilst Europe is so often taking centre stage there is much other important work to do not least in connection with the NHS.
On Tuesday I questioned the Secretary of State about the problems with the supply of prescription medicines.
Pharmacies in Burnley and Padiham and all across the country are struggling to access prescription medication. Over a hundred items are currently in short supply including some painkillers, antidepressants and antibiotics.
This is not a new problem but it is getting worse. Worries about the impact that Brexit will have on all supplies has led to increased stockpiling and this is aggravating the problem.
This situation is making extra work for GPs and pharmacists and is of course very bad for patients. Faced with this growing problem the Government seems remarkably unconcerned.
Still on the subject of prescriptions I met with senior representatives from Asthma UK to discuss their campaign to get the Government to scrap prescription charges for asthmatics.
The whole issue of prescription charges is a real can of worms especially when it comes those who have a medical exemption. The criteria for medical exemptions have not been reviewed for over 50 years and this urgently needs to be addressed.
The current system is at best inconsistent: patients suffering with diabetes and hyperthyroidism get all their prescriptions free (and rightly so) but asthmatics are forced to pay.
Prescription charges have never borne any relationship to the actual cost of the medication but are very much a tax on the sick. In the interests of fairness and good sense the system needs to be changed.
I also took the opportunity to meet with Arthritis UK to discuss the support that is available to help those suffering with this crippling painful condition.
There are several devices available to help with basic household chores and I am very much aware that these are really important to support independent living.
Some of this equipment is available free of charge from Lancashire County Council. Arthritis can affect people of any age but is particularly a problem in old age.
I personally believe that we should do everything possible to support senior citizens to live a safe and dignified retirement and I supported legislation by previous Labour Governments that introduced the Winter Fuel Payment, free bus travel and free television licences.
Now it seems that these benefits are at risk. At the General Election in 2017 the Conservatives promised to protect them and now less than two years later they have off loaded the responsibility to continue free TV licences to the BBC knowing full well that the BBC cannot afford to continue these.
I am personally disgusted at this betrayal. In Burnley and Padiham there are thousands of older people who live alone.
For so many of them their television is a lifeline providing companionship and for some their only connection with the outside world.
Free TV licences are a welfare benefit and the responsibility of the Government not the BBC. This is also a point of principle: the Conservatives promised to retain this benefit and they are about to break that promise.
One has to wonder how long it will be before they remove free bus passes and the Winter Fuel Payment.
On Friday evening I was delighted to accept an invitation to attend Padiham’s Mayor Making Ceremony.
I would like to personally congratulate Coun. Howard Hudson as he takes office.
I know that Howard cares deeply about his home town and is totally committed to serving the community. I would also like to pay tribute to the outgoing Mayor, Coun. Andy Tatchell, for all his work in the last year.
My next MP’s Surgery will be on 25th May from 10am - noon at my office at Tesco Extra in Burnley. No appointments are necessary as people will be seen on a first come first served basis.
Alternatively you can email me on [email protected] or phone or drop in to my Constituency Office which is open from 10am - 4pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and from 10am - 12-30pm on Tuesday.
The number to call with enquiries is 01282 425744 and my staff will always do their very assist you and keep me informed about the issues which you raise.