You can read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
Last week, a parliamentary session lasting over sixteen months ended. The State Opening of a new session will take place next Tuesday, where, following a centuries old tradition, the Queen will visit Parliament and read out a list of the Conservative Government’s priorities for the year ahead.
The first test for the Conservatives in this Queen’s Speech will be to commit once more to securing jobs and backing our local businesses, helping people across the North East, rather than lining the pockets of their mates with dodgy contracts worth millions of pounds.
In Government, Labour would work with private enterprise to create the next generation of high-skilled jobs, and get people into work, training or education, while ensuring the protection of public sector jobs. Labour’s priority is to see jobs protected by holding the Tories to account and by working hard locally to support businesses, trade unions and employees.
We know that the easing of restrictions will help us see many people return to work. But many will not. This Queen’s Speech follows a national report by Green Alliance which shows Washington and Sunderland West has the highest Labour Market Challenge Score (the greatest combination of pre- and post-pandemic unemployment), scoring 239, compared with the national average of 100. This shows that Washington and Sunderland West will have the highest employment challenge nationwide post-pandemic.
It is clear that it will take our community a long time to rebuild; and it is only the Labour Party whose priorities lie firmly with rebuilding our communities and securing the future of our jobs.
Ten years of Conservative austerity cuts have left our councils cash-strapped, while pay for key workers has decreased in real terms. The pandemic only exacerbated the deep-rooted inequalities already present, while favours were provided for those who have ministers in their Whatsapp contacts.
There’s no reason we can’t have job security, more opportunities, high streets we are proud of, and public services that put people first: the Government just has to prioritise them.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to remind readers to use their vote today in our local elections for Councillors and the Police and Crime Commissioner. Our council has worked hard to ensure that this can be done in Covid-safe manner. Results should be known by midday Friday.
You can read Sharon's latest Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
This year, local elections will take place in a context we’ve never known before.
Last year’s Council elections were delayed by national Government, because of Covid-19, but are due to take place this May.
While many of us will have had our vaccine by then, with Sunderland and the North East making incredible progress vaccinating our communities, there is an important step that we all could take to ensure that we can all vote safely in the local elections – sign up for postal voting.
You can vote early with a postal vote, by sending this off ahead of polling day. Around 40% of the population of Sunderland are already registered for a postal vote.
It’s important you have your say in local democracy, and you can do this easily from your own home. The elections in the USA in November were a fantastic success for early postal voting, with over 100 million voters across the country choosing to vote safely and securely from home.
That’s not to say that voting in person at your nearest polling station won’t be safe. Our excellent council workers will be ensuring that polling stations are kept Covid-secure, and social distancing will be strictly maintained.
But I’m sure most people have been in that position where they’ve forgotten it is election day until the last minute, or are too busy to find time to vote on the day. That doesn’t need to be a concern with a postal vote.
Across the next few months, Sunderland Council Electoral Services will be writing to everyone who is not yet registered for a postal vote, to let you know how you can sign up for one.
You can get ahead of the curve, and sign up to vote by post by checking out this interactive website: https://postalvote.labour.org.uk/
Your local Labour candidates have been working hard throughout the pandemic to support communities across Sunderland. You can find out more about the candidates for Washington and Sunderland West on this link: https://www.waswlabour.org/local-election-candidates-2021/
Get your postal vote, and make sure your vote is counted safely and securely in May and in future elections.