Leeds West general election Labour Party candidate Rachel Reeves, answers readers’ questions ahead of the election. A full list of candidates and their responses can be found here.
1. What is your party going to do to make sure my kids have good educational opportunities?
I am passionate about the education of our local children. As MP, I have visited every school in Leeds West.
My school days were spent under the Thatcher government.
I remember there were not enough textbooks to go around and having lessons in mobile huts because my school was not big enough to accommodate all the classes.
If the Tories win the general election, they will roll out yet more damaging cuts to our local schools.
According to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, Tory plans will mean a real-terms cut in per pupil spending of 7% by 2022. Teaching unions believe schools in Leeds West will suffer cuts of £3.6 million – the equivalent of almost 100 teachers’ jobs. I will fight to protect our local schools.
While the Tories want to scrap universal free school meals for infants, Labour has pledged to provide all primary school children with free school meals.
I will press for a cap on classroom sizes and demand that local schools are properly funded.
Labour will scrap tuition fees in England, reintroduce maintenance allowances, extend free childcare to 30 hours for all two-year-olds and halt the closure of Sure Start centres.
I’m determined children in Leeds get the best possible start in life.
2. What is your stance on the three million EU citizens living in the UK?
The EU citizens living and working in the UK face an anxious and uncertain future thanks to the Tories’ botched handling of Brexit.
The same is true of the many British citizens who have chosen to make their lives in other EU countries.
Labour would immediately guarantee the rights of EU nationals living here AND negotiate a deal to get reciprocal rights for our citizens living in EU countries.
These people must not be used as bargaining chips in the Tories’ cynical and chaotic attempts to get a Brexit agreement.
I will push for the best possible Brexit deal that keeps our borders secure, controls migration and is fair to UK workers.
3. What would you do to support Social Care in our area, particularly foster care, in a climate of cuts that are seeing fewer workers caring for more children?
I think it is important to remember the huge (and often unrecognised) contribution foster carers make to the lives of some of the most vulnerable children.
The biggest threat to social care is posed by the devastating budget cuts that we know would continue under the Tories.
Labour has pledged to tighten up the rules on commercial fostering agencies and strengthen mandatory reporting duties.
We would refocus children’s social care to work more closely with families and concentrate on early intervention. Grandparents can often play a bigger role, stepping in as primary carers for children who would otherwise be in care. We need to make sure that grandparents who already play this role have more support and that the option for grandparents to step in is better understood.
For children in care, Labour would extend Staying Put – the policy that allows young people to stay in foster care until they are 21 – to all children in residential care.
4. What will you do to give young people the very best opportunities in life, to help them prepare for uncertain futures in a global world economy?
I want to give young people in Leeds the best possible start in life. When it comes to education, we will abolish university tuition fees and reintroduce maintenance grants for university students.
But it is not always about one academic route being the only one worth taking, as the Tory government would have you believe.
Labour will provide more good quality apprenticeships that offer a decent wage and will pave the way towards employment and further training.
I am personally calling on businesses in the constituency to give back to the area by providing more decent apprenticeships for local young people.
In the workplace, we will boost the pay of 5.7 million people by boosting the minimum wage to £10 an hour by 2020.
We will end zero hours contracts and ban unpaid internships. Labour will give all workers equal rights from day one, whether they are in part-time, full-time, temporary or permanent jobs.
To help ease the housing crisis, we will build more than one million homes nationwide with at least half of those for social rent.
Labour will guarantee funding of the “Help to Buy” scheme until 2027 and put local people in Leeds at the front of the queue for new homes in our area.
When it comes to helping young people find an affordable place to rent, we would legislate to ban letting agency fees for tenants.
We will reverse the unjust decision to abolish housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds.
Labour will create thousands of new jobs in the NHS and across the emergency services and elsewhere to give our young people a greater chance of finding a decent, well-paid job.
We will also protect the environment and our thriving creative sector to ensure we build a better future for all our young people – not just the privileged few.
5. When do candidates see austerity coming to an end and living standards and security improving?
I think the time to end austerity is right now. Despite the cuts, our national debt is a record high under a Tory government and their promises to lower the deficit are broken year after year.
So far, austerity has all been borne by the poorest and vital public services – but not the banks, big business or the wealthiest. The broadest shoulders must bear the biggest cost and this is just not happening under a Tory government.
We need an economy that is growing, not just coasting as it is at the moment. Only then can we truly secure decent wages. But we know for certain that austerity will continue under a Tory government because they have told us that.
They want to scrap the “triple lock” that protects the value of pensions, means-test winter fuel payments, and force those who need social care to pay for it with their homes.
Working families will be on average over £1,400 a year worse off under the Tories and public sector workers will continue to endure pay increases well below the level of inflation.
Our costed spending proposals will increase investment in the NHS, education, housing and our public services to deliver the jobs and growth we need here in Leeds and across Britain.
In 200 words or less, tell us why readers should vote for you/your party?
The General Election is the chance for West Leeds Dispatch readers to choose an MP who fights their corner.
In the last seven years as your MP, I have fought and won battles with you: saving Bramley Baths; securing a major development to bring jobs, homes and a new train station at Kirkstall Forge; and forcing the Government to commit to new flood defences for Kirkstall.
I am working with the local community to deliver change across Leeds West from tackling anti-social behaviour at Armley Town Street to improving the environment at Farnley Reservoir and backing the Our Place project to help people in and around New Wortley.
I have championed the fight against cuts to our libraries and post offices, and taken up the cases of thousands of residents who came to me for help.
I will continue to fight against cuts to our local schools and NHS and to keep winter fuel payments and protect pensions.
You are my boss and my entire focus is to tackle the challenges facing our community here in Leeds.
I am asking for your vote on June 8th so I can carry on with the job of standing up for Leeds West as your local champion.