You can read Sharon's latest Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo Website
A deep groan was heard across the region this week, as the Prime Minister announced a delay to the easing of lockdown.
What was supposed to be June 21 has become July 19.
Boris Johnson sees politics as a game and has once again shifted the goalposts. So, in the spirit of the Euros, let me address this in football terms.
The Prime Minister promised us a “World in Motion” this summer but, in the words of David Baddiel, has thrown it away. His decisions left us with a leaky defence and now we are well into extra time; our nation exhausted.
By keeping our borders open, despite worrying rising cases internationally, the Prime Minister left the UK vulnerable to new coronavirus variants.
And it was entirely avoidable.
The Conservative Government were warned of the threat of variants by scientists, and Labour has been calling for our borders to be closed, to protect the UK, since the start of this year.
But the Government decided it knows best, so let’s give them the credit; let’s call this the Johnson Variant.
The Conservatives haven’t just ignored science, they’ve ignored the people of Britain.
For those couples who planned to marry after the lockdown, who have already rearranged their special day once, twice, or maybe even three times, this announcement will be yet another blow. Even with increased capacity, dancing inside is forbidden by the rules.
And it is not just couples that this affects, but the entire wedding industry which, like many, has suffered massively throughout the lockdowns.
For those on furlough, the delay brings serious worries about their job security. From July, businesses will have to pay more of their employees’ wages. For nightclubs, who have been shut since the start of the pandemic, this is clearly unworkable.
The Chancellor should link business relief to the extension of lockdown and provide proper financial support for those who need to self-isolate. But instead he is playing politics with the livelihoods of working people.
What’s more, there is real concern that the Government will continue to repeat its cycle of incompetence, as many countries with rocketing cases are on the vague and unhelpful ‘amber’ list, which Labour would scrap entirely.
The Government must take this seriously so we can finally hear the full-time whistle on lockdowns.
Read Sharon Hodgson MP's other column pieces here >
You can view Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below, or on the Sunderland Echo website.
You would think that jobs for the boys would be a thing of the past, but the Conservative Party have gone one step further and used the Coronavirus pandemic as a business opportunity to further line the pockets of their mates.
The Conservative Government have handed out almost £2 billion worth of taxpayers money for Covid contracts to friends and donors.
The most baffling of all being the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock’s former neighbour and pub landlord, supplying the Government with Covid-19 test parts, despite having no previous medical experience. The firm is now being investigated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
The High Court ruled last month that the Health Secretary had acted unlawfully on transparency and failed to publish contracts on time.
But Matt Hancock has been quick to shrug this ruling off. Not only has he declared there was no foul play, he’s also tried to re-write history.
It isn’t even a year since we saw frontline workers on the news every day saying they were scared to go to work because they didn’t have the correct PPE. We saw images of our nurses and doctors using bin bags to protect themselves and issuing emotional pleas and warnings to the Government.
In response, the Government paid a pest control firm £59 million for 25 million facemasks, a hedge fund based in Mauritius £252 million for facemasks and paid a jeweller in Florida £70 million for gowns. None of these could be used.
Matt Hancock doesn’t remember that awful and desperate time and is keen that you forget about it too, but out of respect for our keyworkers on the frontline and the hundreds of NHS staff who died, we must ensure that we don’t forget or allow them to re-write history.
The Government must wind down its emergency procurement powers, reintroduce competitive tender and claw back the money on contracts that haven’t delivered.
In Government, Labour is committed to making the UK a world leader in transparency again by introducing an Independent Anti-Corruption Commissioner.
Contracts for cronies will be a thing of the past under a Labour Government.
You can read Sharon's Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
Last week’s schools chaos shows that the Government’s priorities do not lie with families.
Parents finding out at 8pm on a Monday night that their children wouldn't be going to school the next day, after being reassured the opposite, indicates a wider problem; the Government’s incompetence is leaving families behind.
Seeing children out of school is disappointing, but is now necessary. Schools are open to vulnerable children and those with essential worker parents, but this limited safe capacity has quickly been filled leaving schools under serious pressure.
Meanwhile, parents who cannot work from home are being told to remain at work, creating a childcare issue and leaving parents with the difficult decision of working and keeping their job or looking after their family.
On Wednesday, after pressure from Labour, the Chancellor updated the guidance to make these parents aware that they would be eligible for furlough. But this is at the discretion of employers. It also means a 20% pay-cut.
That’s just not good enough. Once again, working parents are left to juggle childcare and work. It isn’t fair on parents, school staff or children.
As we face the deepest recession of any major economy, we must protect family incomes.
Labour is calling on the Government to create an immediate right for parents to request paid flexible furlough.
Child poverty levels were striking pre-pandemic, with 35% of children in the North East living in poverty. This has now worsened, regional inequality has intensified, and Councils have been starved of income.
Despite this, Boris and Rishi want to cut Universal Credit, which will mean millions of families lose £1,000 a year and another 200,000 children put into poverty. They also plan a raise in council tax, landing every family an extra £90 on their bill.
This harsh austerity won’t help our region build back its economy. It won’t help parents and children build back our communities. It certainly won’t level us up.
Not only are the Tories proving their incompetence, but they are proving that families are not their priority.
You can read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
When Penshaw monument comes into view on the A1 or A19, you know you’re almost home.
The announcement of a coronavirus vaccine feels like that too.
There is now a route out of this pandemic and its hold on our daily lives; soon we may once again be able to hug our nearest and dearest.
A light has shone at the end of the tunnel, there is an end in sight.
We are almost home.
This of course could never have happened if it wasn’t for the hard work and dedication of scientists here in the UK. My congratulations and thanks go out to all who have helped us get this far.
But we cannot forget that by leaving us in heightened restrictions since September 18th and failing to support local businesses, the Government has disadvantaged the North East throughout this pandemic.
It is fantastic that Newcastle’s Royal Infirmary will be one of the first hospitals in the country used as a vaccine hub, with the North East yet again leading the way.
However, every part of our region must have the resources and plans in place to deliver the vaccination programme as promised.
The vaccine rollout will not happen overnight, but the Conservatives must not leave the North East at the back of the queue once again.
On Boxing Day 2018, Sunderland fans set the record for attendance of a League One football match, with over 46,000 fans in attendance. Two years on, even if under tier 2 restrictions, only 2,000 fans would be able to go and watch the Black Cats.
Our region’s economy needs fans back in stadiums, hospitality open and local businesses thriving once more.
I know that these measures have taken their toll on us all but with a review of restrictions on the way, we cannot undermine the progress we have made.
I therefore urge everyone to enjoy their festive celebrations in line with the national and regional guidance.
As ever, if you have any concerns, please email [email protected] and I will do my best to help. I wish you and your families a very happy Christmas.
You can read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website.
As the Government places Northern regions under experimental lockdown measures, without the financial backing to help them through, the North-South divide has never been so apparent.
But as people in our region know all too well, Tory neglect of the North predates Covid-19.
Local Authority budgets in our region have been savaged since 2010, exacerbating long-term regional inequalities between the North and South.
Shocking statistics from the End Child Poverty Coalition show that some of the largest increases in child poverty have come from Northern towns and cities, with the North East seeing the largest jump of any region in England.
In my constituency, 35% of children are growing up in poverty, an almost 9% increase since 2014/15.
This is before we even take into consideration the consequences of Covid-19, which has left the North East facing economic turmoil not seen since the days of Thatcher.
Families face significant economic uncertainty, and need reassurance that support will be there to help them care for their children and stop them from slipping into poverty.
However, the Government is threatening to slash the safety net even further, by scrapping the £20 uplift to Universal Credit in April, which will only make it harder to make ends meet and plunge our children into further hardship.
Tackling poverty and addressing its root causes needs to be at the heart of any Covid recovery plan, to ensure this pandemic does not commit a future generation to a life of deprivation.
The Government must urgently reform the social security net, and retain the £20 uplift in Universal Credit (UC) and apply this to other legacy benefits.
In the face of already unacceptable levels of child poverty, our country’s children are now at severe risk of being swept even deeper into deprivation. Reforming UC and maintaining the £20 uplift would put much-needed cash into the pockets of Britain’s poorest families, helping them through this crisis, and would put us back on path to a fairer, more just society in the aftermath of this pandemic.