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Gleadless Valley's Open Kitchen

Thanks to Gleadless Valley TARA for inviting me to their Open Kitchen Gleadless Valley event this weekend. They were working with the Open Kitchen Social Club, a local community group which provides a weekly café for homeless people, asylum seekers and others in need.

The purpose of the event was to provide a free meal for attendees and to show off the benefits of home cooking over ready meals and takeaways.

The group were taking questions and chatting with diners while cooking, and it was fantastic to see so many people getting involved to promote nutritious and affordable cooking. If you’re interested in the work Open Kitchen Social Club do, you can find their Facebook group here.

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Objections to Spearmint Rhino License Renewal

I have written to Licensing at Sheffield City Council setting out my objections to the renewal of the license for Spearmint Rhino in the city centre. If you'd like to read my full letter you can find it below.

Dear Licensing,
I am writing with regards to the application for license renewal for Speartmint Rhino, 60 Brown Street, Sheffield, S1 2BS.
The Council has a legal duty under the Public Sector Equality Duty to to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities.
There is an increasing body of research and evidence that links sexual objectification of women to acts of violence including a paper from the US - Men's Objectifying Media Consumption, Objectification of Women, and Attitudes Supportive of Violence Against Women. written in May 2016, and a paper entitled Link between sexual objectification and aggression from the University of Kent written in January 2017. This research clearly demonstrates the problem of Sexual Entertainment Venues, such as Spearmint Rhinos, for Councils that are committed to carrying out their legal duties in terms of equalities.
Sheffield City Council is known for going beyond the minimum requirements of its legal duties when it comes to promoting equality for women, with its support for the Women of Steel campaign, a gender-balanced Cabinet, strong female leadership, and a Women's Hub that is supported and facilitated by the Council to tackle sexual violence and sexual exploitation/sexploitation, amongst other issues. The city also has Purple Flag status for providing an “entertaining, safe and enjoyable night out," which will undoubtedly be of relevance and interest to female residents and tourists alike. The presence of a lapdancing club that sexual objectifies women is clearly counter to all of this.
Further to the issue of gender equality and sexism in light of the Public Sector Equality Duty, there are a number of grounds to object, and I support the submission by Zero Option which outlines these. 
For the purpose of this objection, I have decided to focus on the following aspect of the discretionary grounds for refusing a license:

d) the grant or renewal of the licence would be inappropriate, having regard:

i)   to the character of the relevant locality;

In a press release from Sheffield News Room on 13th February regarding the award of the Purple Flag Status for another year, Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure at Sheffield City Council, said:
“It’s great to see Sheffield receiving this award, and our night-time entertainment offer being recognised on a national level.

“With our varied selection of bars and restaurants, as well as a thriving theatre district and huge array of cultural attractions, we in Sheffield really are leading the way when it comes to providing an eclectic mix of places to eat, drink, relax and have fun.

“I hope that Sheffield city centre will continue to go from strength to strength, with the imminent opening of the new Light leisure and entertainment complex and the creation of the New Retail Quarter.” 

The City Centre as a whole is undergoing significant regeneration that includes the area in which Spearmint Rhino is present, also known as the Knowledge Gateway on which the Council recently undertook a consultation with the following description:

“This project seeks to transform the corridor running along the Lower Sheaf – Porter Valley, including the station to a similar high standard as the highly acclaimed Gold and Steel Routes in City Centre.

It will improve links between several key destinations and several potential development sites. For example links within and to the Cultural Industries Quarter, Digital Campus and Sheffield Hallam University and to the Railway Station. It will improve accessibility and safety as well as the environment in order to encourage new investment and jobs. Key locations such as Fitzalan Square and streets will be transformed as part of the initiative.

The project recognises that the station is Governments preferred location for an HS2 station which may be 10-15 years away. The station is a key gateway and this project seeks to improve the existing taxi queuing, movement of traffic and pedestrian access. This should all make this area, the corridor and indeed the City Centre much more attractive to inward investment.”

These examples are relevant in terms of the discretionary grounds for refusal based on the character of the relevant locality, and backed up by recent case law from the case of Thompson, R (On the Application Of) v Oxford City Council (2014) wherein it was held by the Court of Appeal that:
“In making that assessment, the sub-committee was permitted to have regard to an imminent development of which it was aware [developments of student housing], even if there could be no certainty that it would be completed and operational within the period of the licence.”
This is an area that has been going through a period of redevelopment and one that the Council intends for further development in the coming months and years. The City Centre Masterplan, Knowledge Gateway, plans for HS2 and aspirations for an international Tech Hub are all evidence of this and I was pleased to support the Council's preferred location for HS2 in the city centre, recognising that Sheffield will be at the centre of the Northern revival with the delivery of this kind of investment and infrastructure. Whilst we are still a number of years away until HS2 is built, I feel it is important and necessary to consider the location of an Sexual Entertainment Venue within the proximity of the intended station, and the message that a lapdancing club sends to potential investors, business people, and tourists that will inevitably increase with the building of the new station.
In addition, in my role as Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy, I was pleased to meet with the Vice Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University to discuss plans for a Tech Hub on Brown Street, and Sheffield's role as a world leader in innovation and technology. Clearly a lapdancing club is not congruent with this vision and I am concerned about the implications for Sheffield's national and international reputation in terms of the digital economy when we have visitors to the intended Tech Hub.
Therefore, I would urge you to refuse the renewal of this license application and I look forward to hearing from you with confirmation of receipt of this objection.
Yours sincerely,
Louise Haigh MP
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My Speech to Locality


On Monday night I spoke to Locality about community assets and the future of community ownership - you can read my full speech below.

It’s a privilege to be here tonight with Locality and with Andy from the Heeley Development Trust, who I first met before I was elected, and saw the inspiring work he was doing with a skeleton staff and local volunteers to transform Heeley, reinvesting in and delivering desperately needed services to deprived communities and providing incredible opportunities for local businesses and enterprise.  I can attest to the fact that not only is the people’s park beautiful, it’s driven genuine economic transformation in the area.

This debate is about driving decisions at local and national government, but also generating a huge return on investment both social and economic, which requires vision and long-termist approaches, which in current times of austerity we don't have the luxury of.

Austerity has immeasurably and brutally damaged our communities and services.  Those services have often shrunk into themselves, only performing statutory services. As despicable, political cuts go even further, many agencies have recognised they have no choice other than to work together and transform services.

That's a difficult journey to go on.  It actually runs counter to a belief systems, believing in public ownership in the truly traditional sense, i.e. ownership by the state. But the work of Locality and organisations within it have shown that it doesn't have to be a backward step, or even treading water. Community ownership and practical working with community organisations have driven enormous change in our communities and empowered people who have not traditionally felt empowered by the state.

Take libraries in Sheffield, one of the few cities in the country which has managed to keep every library open. When the Council undertook its initial consultation amidst eye-watering cuts from central government, there was an enormous campaign against any potential closure or downgrading of the services - ironically led by the local Lib Dems while they were in coalition with the Tories.

There is no doubt the loss of 8,000 librarians nationwide has meant a crushing decline in expertise and experience from dedicated, valued public servants.

Five years on from then, I have five libraries in my constituency - one council-run, three community-run and one in the process of being rebuilt and co-located with the local GP and pharmacy.  All of them provide fantastic services, delivering a wide range of provisions to the local community, and I run my surgeries in each of them.  Obviously, however, there is insufficient funding, which means the local authority can’t provide the support it wants and needs. 

So this doesn't mean I'm letting the Tories off the hook for their seven years of ideologically-driven austerity - by no means.  What they have done to public services and welfare over the last seven years has been criminal, and for some it will be irretrievable. But I will hold my hands up and say that at times the Labour Party in Government at all levels has been too controlling and centrist, and that we should have and should be taking more of the opportunities not only to protect our public assets but deliver them in new, engaging, exciting and sustainable ways.

Turning to what can be done in Parliament, this report recognises welcome steps made by the last Labour Government and the Coalition on community asset transfer and community rights but it says, and I agree, that we are a long way away from a national strategy or seeing very many of the practical consequences on the ground.

But, as the report also states, the time is absolutely right as increasingly local authorities and indeed national government and other public authorities are finding themselves in the invidious position of having to dispose of their assets.

Understandably they will be de-prioritising community asset transfers in a desperate bid to recoup funding to deliver their statutory services, particularly now the DCLG guidance has changed to allow them to plug gaps in their current expenditure rather than reinvesting in assets. They simply don't have the luxury of long-term thinking, as none of us really do in our political system but it is actually very short-sighted to not be considering community asset transfers that can drive significant local regeneration.

And there are now perverse disincentives that have been put in place that actually and actively encourage authorities to flog off their estate to commercial bidders. Osborne's last budget was a major departure from the move towards Community Asset Transfers and we have consistently over the last two years seen various departments - HMRC, BIS, DWP - disposing of and moving out of offices. From a constituency perspective, it is routinely Sheffield and other areas like it that lose out and the perceived capitals of each region that benefit.

In this context, Locality’s proposals are entirely proportionate and reasonable - a Community Asset Investment Plan to prioritise and accelerate this work, to prevent our community infrastructure being flogged off of course but also crucially to drive regeneration, deliver a return on investment, to empower local people, create resilient communities and in doing so to push back against this feeling of being left behind.

Because not only is the time right in a financial context, but none of us can ignore the political sentiment that has been expressed loud and clear in the referendum vote and over the water in the election of Donald Trump. People want things to be done differently, out of Westminster and Whitehall, and we do not have time to waste.

So to make this case in Parliament, examples like those in the report are really helpful to demonstrate the benefits and the impact community assets are having on people on the ground. 

For us on the ground practically, I think it would be helpful to hear how organisations have overcome those cultural barriers not just with procurement authorities but also between community groups.

Clearly, here, we need to keep the pressure on this agenda - and I’m very keen to do that cross-party, otherwise it will slip down the very long list of priorities.

Finally, I want to thank Locality and members for the ground-breaking work they’re doing in exceptionally difficult circumstances. I’m very proud to be here today, to champion your work and will do everything I can to ensure it remains high on our priority list in the Labour Party, in Parliament and at local authority level, for the future of our public services, for our communities and, I don't think it is an exaggeration to say, for our society.

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Greenhill 20mph Zone Response


I recently sent a letter to people in Greenhill asking for their views on the planned 20mph zone in the area. The vast majority of respondents supported the idea, but there were some reservations which I've brought up in my response to the Council's consultation, which closed last Friday. You can read my submitted response below.

Mr Simon Nelson

Transport, Traffic and Parking Services

Sheffield City Council


15 March 2017

Dear Mr Nelson,

Re: Proposed 20mph speed limit for Meadowhead and Greenhill

Further to the consultation opening last month, I have spoken with numerous constituents in relation to the Council’s proposals for a 20mph speed limit at Meadowhead and Greenhill. I have encouraged all residents to submit their comments directly to the Council, but also wanted to share with you the main points raised with myself.

It is fair to say that just over 80% of those I have corresponded with are in favour of the 20mph – advising that cars currently speed up and down the area, in particular using Greenfield Road as a cut-through from Chesterfield Road and Greenhill Avenue. One individual commented that the whole of Greenfield Road should be included in the proposals because of this. Local residents also raised concerns about motorbikes and off-road bikes speeding up and down the area.

That being said, it was felt by many respondents who support the proposals that without proper enforcement of the 20mph area it would simply be a waste of money and resources. One individual raised concerns that putting in the new signs would mean disturbing the freshly laid paths, and several raised concerns about the effectiveness of the zone without enforcement – citing the nearby Lowedges 20mph zone as an example which is felt to be ineffective and ignored, due to non-enforcement. In addition, one resident in favour of the proposals raised their concern about signs and bright road markings making the street look more urban – and wonders if it would be possible to make them sympathetic and in keeping with the area.

Numerous residents in the area raised concerns about the current problems around Greenhill School – not only the speed of cars but of the inconsiderate and sometimes illegal way that cars park, particularly at dropping-off and picking-up time. I understand that the Council are aware of this problem, including it in the leaflet delivered in the area, but it was expressed to me that if these ‘parking violations’ are not enforced or managed, the 20mph limit could be similarly ineffective.

There was a mixed response to the proposals for a part-time limit around the school, with some expressing favour and others the feeling that it should be at all times as the area includes also a GP surgery, the library and is a bus route.

Further, one respondent commented about the bend outside of St Thomas of Canterbury School, on the corner of Chancet Wood Drive and Chancet Wood View – feeling strongly that this ‘blind corner’ should be restricted to 20mph at all times.

Although by-and-large residents I have spoken with have welcomed the proposals, some feel that it should be only around the schools and not on the side roads. Others have commented that the limit should not be in place along Hemper Lane – a wide road on which it is felt that anyone doing 20mph would be overtaken by other cars, creating a potentially dangerous situation. One respondent commented that the volume of traffic in the area already lowers speed – and that lower speeds increase air pollution. In addition, one resident commented that included the A61 will cause chaos in rush hour, on a stretch of road which “is bad enough as it is”.

I would like to thank you for including all of the above points with the comments you have no doubt received directly from local residents and would be most grateful if you could keep me informed of the outcome of the consultation.

Yours sincerely,

Louise Haigh MP

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Little Critters Brewery Visit

 Little Critters

As a Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pubs I’m always happy to have the chance to work with our brewing industry, and I was pleased to be invited to visit the Little Critters Brewery in Neepsend on Friday.

I met with Mark Steer, part of the father-son team who have run the brewery since it opened in 2016. He showed me around the premises and we discussed their hugely impressive growth since beginning brewing last year.

Little Critters was founded in January 2016 by the owners of the Fox and Duck and Doctors’ Orders pubs in Broomhill, and has since won several awards, including a silver medal at the CAMRA Champion Beer of Sheffield, and overall bronze at the 2017 Champion Beer of Yorkshire.

They already have four staff and are in the process of moving to a new unit, which will allow them to treble their capacity and include new products in their range, including bottled beer. It’s great to see that Sheffield continues to be such a success story, leading the way in the brewing industry.

Sheffield is a great brewing city with one brewery for every 24,000 people, and over 400 unique beers available in our pubs.  I've been working in Parliament on the ownership of the pub industry, business rates and planning laws to help protect our pubs which are such a vital part of our communities.

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Local Cancer Statistics

I've been sent figures by Cancer Research UK on cancer statistics in Sheffield, which show a mixed picture. While Sheffield does well for radiotherapy waiting times (with 99.8% of patients being given radiotherapy within 31 days of first treatment), and the rate of cancer treatment beginning within 62 days exceeds the national average, there is still a lot of work to do.
Nationally, the cancer treatment target has been missed for its third consecutive year, with only 82% of patients being treated within 62 days. This has meant over 70,000 people missing the treatment target in that time, and reflects the enormous pressures the NHS is enduring under this Government.
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Louise Haigh MP vows to fight on as Government blocks move to guarantee rights of EU citizens

Yesterday I voted to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and to ensure Parliament gets a meaningful vote on any final deal. It is utterly shameful that the Government chose to block both moves.

In blocking both Labour amendments, the Government sent a very clear signal about their scurrilous negotiating tactics which will deny the rights of people who came here to make our country their home in good faith and their plan to water-down Parliamentary accountability. 

I and many of my colleagues have urged the Prime Minister repeatedly to urgently make clear that any EU nationals who came here and were perfectly entitled to do so should have their status guaranteed.

Using people as bargaining chips is a despicable example of the desperation of the Government. It is frankly shameful that Ministers have not moved to guarantee the rights of EU citizens here or UK citizens abroad and it reveals their darker instincts.

Despite the defeat last night, Labour will continue to press them do so urgently.

ln Sheffield we are lucky to have some of the brightest and the best come from all over the world to contribute to our city. They are doctors who care for us and those attracted by the world class reputation of our universities. Alongside colleagues from this country, those at our universities are contributing to research and development which is putting our city and the UK at the cutting edge of the next industrial revolution and helping create the jobs of the future.

We benefit from that because we are an open, tolerant, welcoming city and we work together.

People in this tolerant, welcoming city will see right through the divisive rhetoric in the public debate and the Labour Party will stand up to the division which this Government is looking to sow.

Labour's amendment to guarantee Parliament a say was also rejected by the Government, indicating that they believe it is possible they will return with a deal not acceptable to Parliament. Talk from Senior Ministers about the possibility of crashing out of the EU leaving us on WTO trade rules, which would slap hefty tariffs on our most important industries, inflame these suggestions.

No deal is not an option and Parliament should have a say.

The British people did not vote for the Prime Minister to negotiate away our working rights, environmental standards, tax avoidance measures and our close trading relations with the EU which helps business.

These are the Prime Ministers negotiations and if she botches them it is her failure alone. We will fight tooth and nail over the coming months to make clear to the Prime Minister that she  does not have public support to negotiate away our rights, protections and close trading relationship with the EU.

That means:

  • Protections for existing workers’ rights, human rights and environmental standards.
  • Tarriff-free, impediment-free trading relationship with the EU.
  • Retention of all existing tax avoidance measures.
  • Guarantee of legal rights for EU nationals living in the UK.
  • A strong relationship and close collaboration with the EU in science, research and security protecting our city of Sheffield.

She has to know in the negotiations to come that she does not have public support for a divisive, right-wing Brexit. 

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Visit to Sheffield Hallam University


Last week I took a trip to Sheffield Hallam University’s campus for an extensive tour, including meeting with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chris Husbands. I was taken to the University’s Cantor Building to meet with some of the Game Design students in their PS4 lab, as well as to speak with Sumo Digital’s Business Development Director, Ian Richardson.

Sumo Digital is the biggest independent game development studio headquartered right here in Sheffield, which has grown since 2003 from a 15-person studio to a developer employing over 300 people across three sites. They’ve worked on major titles including LittleBigPlanet 3 and work in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University. It was useful to meet Ian and discuss the digital economy, and what reforms are needed to help the games industry and digital/tech firms in general.

The University have been carrying out research on virtual reality hardware, and I got the chance to try out the PlayStation VR system now available commercially. While its most obvious uses so far have been in gaming experiences, VR has implications way beyond that.

For example, another department of the University works with people with prosthetic limbs, and has been able to use VR to allow people to practice using their new prosthetic limb before it is fitted. This reduces costs to the NHS from those who would reject a prosthetic limb, and is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of VR’s potential medical uses.

We spoke about some of the challenges faced by the digital industries and the University – which include recent changes to the HE sector and cuts to bursaries.

Sheffield’s digital economy continues to be strong, and it’s good to see Sumo Digital and Sheffield Hallam helping to put our games industry on the map.

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Budget 2017: Bad for workers, bad for Sheffield

Louise Haigh, Member of Parliament for Sheffield Heeley, gives her response to Budget 2017:

Today was the budget of a cornered Chancellor which had unfairness at its heart. The decisions announced will hit Sheffielders hard for years to come.

The test of any budget has to be whether it will make people better off in this, the most unequal country in western Europe. We live in the city with the highest number of people on low-pay in the country; they are shop-workers, care-workers, cleaners and yes, the self-employed who take the risk to start a business.

They will feel betrayed by today’s budget.

Sheffield has one of the highest proportion of self-employed and small businesses in the country. It’s what makes our city special and unique and one of the reasons why people from outside come here and fall in love with the place. Today, the Government said to them ‘thanks but no thanks’. Regardless of their promise to the British people at the last election, the Tories went ahead and announced a £2bn tax hike on the self-employed.

Frankly, their promises aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

And the small print was even more devastating and revealed that the Tories are presiding over an economy where for most financial security is just a distant dream. 5.6 million people are paid less than the living wage and we are the only country in the developed world were workers have got poorer while the economy supposedly gets richer.

By the end of the budget period, household income will be £900 lower than expected just one year ago.

Household debt revised up year-on-year and families trying to make ends meet will now look into their accounts and find the lowest levels of savings faced by British families since the 1960s.

This is an economy, seven years into a Conservative Government where work doesn’t pay. And this is a Government which couldn’t care less about the grafters and those who work so hard to keep our economy moving.

That’s why today they chose to tax the workers and not big business. In 2020, the tax bombshell will become crystal clear:  while the self-employed will be footing a £600m tax hike, massive global corporations making millions in profit will be getting a £2.6bn tax cut from our Government. It is a Corporation Tax cut which even big business feel uncomfortable about, such are the embarrassment of riches. This was a political choice and it is one Sheffielders will pay for, for years to come.

And on investment which will be the lifeblood for a Northern revival; investment in transport, in small-business start-ups, in training, in flood defences. No commitments on HS2 to Sheffield City Centre; no commitments even on completing the electrification of the Midland Mainline to Sheffield – the last mainline in the country not to have been electrified, some 60 years after the first. No commitment to bring superfast broadband to the 15% of Sheffield left in the slow-lane, the highest proportion of any city in the country.

The truth is, just like in the 80s, Sheffield is being neglected by a Tory government packed full of Ministers who do not understand the challenges of people here.

We need a real living wage for workers here boosting the local economy by millions of pounds a year; we need proper protection for our social care service this year, not an IOU from the Government which council’s will only feel the full benefit from a couple of years down the line; and we need a government which backs small business owners and the self-employed.

In truth, this was a budget which proves the old adage; the Tories are not on your side.

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Louise Haigh MP writes open letter to the new Bishop of Sheffield

Louise Haigh, the Member of Parliament for Sheffield Heeley, has written the following open letter to the newly appointed Bishop of Sheffield, Philip North. Concerns have been raised about his membership of a society which holds traditionalist views on the ordination of women.

Dear Bishop Philip,

I am writing both as a parishioner in Sheffield and as the MP for Sheffield, Heeley regarding your proposed appointment as the Bishop of Sheffield.

I know you will have received many hundreds, if not thousands, of private and public letters following your comments in the media through which you expressed your traditionalist views around women in the church.

As you will be more than aware, more than a third of Sheffield's clergy are women.  I was born, baptised and confirmed in Sheffield, I have felt fortunate to have been Ministered to by two women priests and I am proud that the Church in Sheffield is a progressive actor not only on equality but on issues of economic injustice and poverty also.

So I am sure that your very proud record and your very welcome views on the latter issues were a primary factor in your nomination and appointment.  I am also confident, however, from speaking to parishioners and clergy across Sheffield, that attitudes to women in the church are a major priority for our next Bishop.

As has been said elsewhere, your traditionalist views pose many questions about how your leadership in Sheffield will work practically in relation to existing women clergy, men who have been ordained by women, women who are in the process of becoming clergy and congregations who come from a completely different tradition within the church.

I understand you are currently on retreat and in a period of reflection but I would urge you to engage with those congregations and individuals within the church to answer these and many more questions that are troubling people in Sheffield and to establish if your views can possibly be reconciled with the pastoral and public image of the Church in Sheffield.

I look forward to discussing these concerns with you face to face soon.

Yours sincerely,

Louise Haigh MP

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