Joan Hibberd from Stretford
Joan Hibberd from Stretford

I was delighted to see my Labour colleagues do so well in the Trafford Council elections last week. We held all our existing seats and won two more. Special congratulations to Cllr Fianna Hornby, elected for the first time in Gorse Hill, and Cllr Shirley Procter, previously a councillor in Flixton ward, who now returns to the council to represent Davyhulme East. I’m looking forward to working with you!

MPs returned to Westminster for the new session of parliament on Tuesday, beginning with the Queen’s Speech, delivered this year by the Prince of Wales. This sets out the government’s legislative programme for the year ahead – and it’s a pretty thin offer. Despite all the rhetoric about levelling up, families across the country are finding times tougher than ever. Soaring bills and real-term cuts to family incomes are a huge worry, yet there was nothing in the Queen’s Speech to address the cost-of-living emergency. Instead, we got a menu of Conservative obsessions – like the British Bill of Rights, or the so-called Brexit Freedoms Bill. But there was no sign of the promised Employment Bill that would guarantee rights and protections at work for pregnant women, new dads and unpaid carers, stop the appalling practice of fire and rehire, or address the insecurity faced by workers on zero hours contracts. Meanwhile, the Victims Bill is still only in ‘draft’ form, and the Schools Bill has nothing to offer pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). We’re now partway through 6 days of debate on the Queen’s Speech, but with so little of substance to discuss, it’s not surprising that so far the debates have finished ahead of schedule.

I know many parents will be particularly disappointed at the lack of progress in reforming provision for children with SEND. Very belatedly, the government published its SEND review at the end of March, and on Wednesday, the Public Accounts Committee, of which I’m a member, held a hearing with senior Department for Education officials about the proposals it contains. The government wants a standard approach to drawing up Education, Health and Care Plans across the country, it wants more young people to be educated in mainstream rather than special schools, and parents will be offered a tailored list of settings. You can watch the hearing at: https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/da6e00ac-5d59-432b-b1d5-c4255900b2e3 (from approx. 15:15).

Unfortunately, the session with the DfE overran, which meant that I missed an awards ceremony in the House of Lords at which Saica, the paper manufacturer based in Partington, was commended for its investment in developing the skills of its employees. Congratulations to everyone on this achievement!

Finally, just a reminder that we’re very excited to be screening a documentary about our local centenarian, Joan from Stretford, on Saturday 21 May in Stretford Public Hall. We’re delighted that renowned photographer Simon Buckley has worked with Joan to record her memories; we know this will be a very special event for Joan’s friends and local residents. Please book your place at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/joan-hibberd-documentary-screening-tickets-335177162917 – we’d love to see you there!

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