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Anneliese Dodds, Labour's top-placed candidate for the European elections in Oxford, Andrew Smith, Labour MP for Oxford East and Sally Copley, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, were today celebrating the introduction of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for the first time in Britain, fifteen years ago today.

However, they warned that many employers are currently getting away with not paying the NMW because of a lack of enforcement action by the Coalition Government. 

Although in theory the Coalition Government has said it will 'name and shame' employers which do not pay the NMW, so far only five employers have been named (of whom none were from Oxfordshire) and of those, three had underpaid less than £1000 to only one worker. No action has been taken against those larger firms which have been exploiting workers by failing to pay them the NMW. In addition, the Coalition Government has lobbied in Brussels against measures which would make it illegal for employers to pay foreign agency staff less, and give them worse terms and conditions, than UK workers. Finally, the Coalition Government has also abolished the Agricultural Wages Board which regulated wages and working conditions in agriculture.

The NMW is currently £6.31 for adults, £5.03 for 18-20 year olds and £3.72 for under 18s. 

Anneliese said: "It's great to be celebrating the National Minimum Wage's 15th birthday today. My first job was paid £2 an hour - and I'm pleased that those days are gone. Although the Conservative Party argued against the National Minimum Wage, saying it would cost jobs, in practice it has lifted thousands of low-paid people out of poverty over the last decade and a half. But the National Minimum Wage will only work if it is properly enforced- and we've seen enforcement reduced significantly under this government".

Sally Copley said: "Labour is exploring ways of strengthening the National Minimum Wage, such as extending the role and powers of the Low Pay Commission. Labour is also campaigning and working with employers across the UK to encourage them to pay their employes a living wage." 

Last year Ed Miliband announced that a future Labour government would introduce 'make work pay' contracts to incentivise firms to pay the living wage

Andrew Smith MP added: "Here in Oxford the Labour-run City Council already pay their workers a living wage and I support the efforts of campaign groups, such as the Oxford Living Wage Campaign, who are working closely with major employers to get them to pay their staff a fairer wage."

Oxford Labour celebrate 15th birthday of National Minimum Wage

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One of the biggest problems that parents face is the cost of childcare. Parents locally are facing a triple whammy childcare crisis of this Government’s making. Prices are up 30% since the election. Places are plummeting and there are fewer Sure Starts despite David Cameron’s pre-election promise to protect children’s centres. Support for parents has also been cut with some parents getting £1500 less help with childcare support through working tax credits. This is having a real impact on the ability of parents to go out to work and for work to pay.

Yet parents calling out for help with childcare now will have got little comfort from the budget. Whilst new support through tax free childcare is a good start, families struggling now won’t see any benefit until after the election. David Cameron and Nick Clegg haven’t spent a single penny to improve the support the vast majority of families struggling with the cost of childcare since they got into power, in fact they’ve removed support to the tune of £1500 per family.

Labour understands the huge pressure families are under at the moment with childcare. That’s why we’d go further. On top of Tax Free Childcare we’ll extend free childcare for working families with three and four year olds by an extra ten hours, to 25 hours a week, 38 weeks a year. This will mean that for the first time a second earner will be able to work part time without having to worry about paying for childcare. This increase in childcare support is worth £1500 per child and will help mums to get back to work or work the hours they want. The 15 hour early years entitlement will remain universal for all parents and the additional support means families would be even better off under Labour.

And we’ll introduce a guarantee in law to ensure every parent has access to before and after school care through Primary schools because we know how hard it is juggling working hours with school hours.

Labour understands the pressures parents face at the moment. That’s why we will invest in childcare help, and make childcare work for working families.

 

Labour's childcare pledge

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On May 22nd there are crucial City Council and European Elections in Oxford.

We need to send out a strong message that only Labour stands up for fairness in our city in the face of the damaging policies of the Tories, Lib Dems, Greens and UKIP. Most importantly, this needs to be a message we drive forward at the 2015 General Election. We have to fight the strongest possible campaign across Oxford against not only the Coalition Government, but apathy as well.

At a time when the Lib Dem/Tory coalition government is dismantling our NHS, is attacking the most vulnerable in our society through its welfare reforms, and has stifled economic growth through savage cuts, this work is more important than ever.

If we get more Labour City Councillors elected, the Council will be in an even better position to protect vital services and deliver fairness in difficult times. Oxford's own Anneliese Dodds is Labour's top candidate for the South East in the European elections, and we want to send her and John Howarth, second on the list, to the EU Parliament to be a strong Labour voice for Oxford and beyond.

In order to get the best possible result on May 22nd, we need as many people helping as possible over the next few months and on Polling Day. If you can help out, please sign up on our volunteer page here: http://www.oxfordlabour.org.uk/keepuptodateThere are plenty of ways to help out, such as doorstep campaigning, delivering newsletters or volunteering in our office.

Of course, elections cost money, and one vital way you can help Labour in Oxford is by generously donating. Donations from our members and supporters are what allow us to pay for leaflets and mailings to key areas to help drive up the Labour vote. You can donate here: http://www.oxfordlabour.org.uk/donate

 

Can you help get more Labour Councillors and MEPs elected?

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Yesterday evening Labour-run Oxford City Council passed its budget which is balanced over the next four years and continues to invest in our city and its people, despite the Tories and Lib Dems cutting the government grant by 47% between 2010 and 2015/16.

The budget plans investment of £142 million over four years including new community centres for Rose Hill and Quarry, 500 new council homes at Barton, flood alleviation schemes at Marston and Northway and £46m on refurbishment of existing council properties. £300,000 is being invested in the Covered Market. The investment programme prioritises local firms and is estimated to create over 1,000 jobs.

All public toilets are to be refurbished and their opening hours extended in the City Centre, and food recycling is coming to the 15,000 flats in Oxford. The Living Wage for council staff will increase to £8.36 and the council has committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies. The council are maintaining funding homelessness prevention despite a government cut in this funding, in stark contrast to the Tory-led County Council which has slashed funding by 38%. 

Oxford Labour have shown a commitment to continue funding vital services and protect the most vulnerable where other councils across the country have been unable to do so. Oxford City Council is one of the dwindling number of councils still not to pass on the government's pernicious reduction in council tax benefit, and is one of the few councils to have increased funding for advice centres, which help the most vulnerable people in the City with the effects of the government's disastrous welfare policy.

In sport, leisure and the arts, the council is spending £1 million to refurbish all our sports pavilions, freezing leisure charges for those on low incomes, providing free swimming for those under 17 and providing grant funding to support the arts, such as £25,000 to the Pegasus Theatre.

Deputy Leader of the Council Ed Turner, who presented the budget, said: "We are proposing a budget which invests in communities throughout our city. A budget to alleviate poverty, a budget to safeguard the vulnerable. A budget which says that, whatever the government’s agenda, we want to keep Oxford as the tolerant, inclusive, attractive city we love, open to those of all backgrounds and incomes."

Oxford City Council budget: A Fair Future for Oxford

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Labour County Councillors voted against the Tory-run County Council's budget this week. The County has faced a cut of 46% in its funding from the Tories and Lib Dems in government, but unlike the Labour-controlled City Council, the Tories have opted to pursue their budget reductions on the backs of the poorest in the County. There has been a savage 38% cut to housing related support which has sparked a vocal campaign in Oxford due to fears of the effect on the homeless.
Liz Brighouse, leader of the opposition Labour group on the County Council, said "Deficit reduction is being used a smokescreen for attacking the services provided by local government to the most vulnerable."

Labour were able to make proposals which were included in the budget, such as grants for information and advice centres, the Pegasus Theatre and a Laundry service for those experiencing incontinence. Labour were also able to secure more money for Adult Social Care and reduce the size of the cuts to Learning Disability. Initial proposals to close children's centres were also abandoned thanks to Labour's campaign against it.

Several Labour amendments to the budget which would have gone some way to alleviating the misery were rejected by the Tories and their independent allies. Labour's budget included money to fund a network youth workers which are currently only funded out of Councillors' Community Budgets. Labour would have ring-fenced funding for Dial-A-Ride, which provides a vital resource to older people to allow them to maintain their independence, and would have increased the number of social workers to meet the needs of those in care. Labour would also have put £150,000 into the budget to talk to a credit union to support those who need emergency financial support without them having to go to a loan shark.

Ultimately, however, hefty budget cuts by the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition mean it will be poorest and most vulnerable who will suffer, until there is a government which invests in local government and the services they provide, which will only happen if Labour wins the next General Election.

Labour oppose County budget

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