Burnley MP Julie Cooper column: Heritage funding is welcome news for town

Burnley MP Julie Cooper
Burnley MP Julie Cooper

Northern towns have really taken a hammering during nine years of the Conservative Government’s Austerity programme.

Low wages, fears of redundancy, zero-hour contracts, benefit cuts and rising living costs, have badly affected the spending power of many people, not least in Burnley and Padiham.

This of course has a knock on effect on shops, cafes and other businesses. It is really not surprising that there are so many empty shops in Burnley and Padiham town centres.

I have raised this issue consistently with Government and so this week’s announcement that Burnley is to get a share £18.7 million pounds from the Historic English Towns Fund, is very welcome and shows that my voice has been heard.

Burnley is one of only 17 towns in the North-West to benefit and that is undoubtedly good news.

It does, though fall a long way short of the funding that has been taken out of both Burnley and Padiham, and on its own, will not be enough to regenerate our town centre, because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how nice the town centre is and how hard the businesses try, people can’t spend money that they haven’t got.

The best way to promote our town centres is to do everything possible to bring jobs with good pay and conditions into town. People earning a decent income, create a demand for good shops and services, which in turn creates more jobs.

Disgracefully at the moment we have far too many working people who are reliant on food banks to feed their families.

It doesn’t matter how many times we hear mention of food banks I will never stop being shocked that they are needed in 21st Century Britain. Supporting, more and better jobs in the constituency has always been my top priority and will continue to be so.

The announcement of this extra funding coincides with the announcement of extra funding for the police, the NHS and for education. These services have all been starved for nine years and any new funding is welcome but it has to be adequate and it must keep pace with increased costs or it will just disappear down gaping funding gaps like water poured in the desert.

Nowhere has the pain been felt more than in schools in the North where funding has been reallocated under a so called ‘fair funding formula’ to schools in the more affluent South leaving our Nursery Schools, Primary and Secondary Schools and Further education colleges desperately short of vital resources.

So I do hope that the Chancellor’s funding announcements amount to more than a pre-election gimmick.

Last week I responded to a debate on the use of artificial intelligence in the Health Service. In the past Burnley was very much at the centre of the Industrial Revolution and now we are in the midst of a new technological revolution.

Technology has become important in every part of our lives: in the supermarkets, at our airports and before this decade is out, we will see driverless cars on our roads.

It would be strange therefore, if it these new technologies were not used in the provision of NHS services as the use of artificial intelligence increases. Only last week researchers at Oxford University revealed a computer capable of predicting, with great accuracy, those at risk of heart attack or stroke 10 years before conventional testing could see any evidence.

Robots are being developed to help surgeons and GPs are already using technology to assist with diagnosis. This technology has the potential to be truly transformational, saving lives and improving patient care and enabling a more efficient use of resources. This is an exciting industry that will create jobs and infinite opportunities and the UK has the capacity to be a world leader in this field.

These developments are very welcome but the Government must ensure that appropriate regulation is in place and that patients are kept properly informed at every stage.

My next MP’s surgeries are tomorrow at the Jinnah Centre at 1-30 and September 27th at my office on Keirby Walk starting at 10am.

No appointments are necessary as people will be seen on a first come first served basis.

Alternatively you can email me on julie.cooper.mp@parliament.uk or phone my constituency office on 01282 425744.

The constituency office opens Mon-Fri from 10am - 4pm (half day Tuesday) where my staff will do their best to assist you and keep me informed of the issues you raise.