Letter from Westminster - Paul Rowen

March 4, 2009 12:00 AM

Paul Rowen MP - Putting Rochdale FIRST!I have during the last couple of weeks been leading for the Liberal Democrats on the Welfare Reform Bill. During the committee stages of a bill members go through the proposed bill line by line putting forward amendments to improve the bill.

Often these are not voted on but are an opportunity for MPs to find out more about the Government's intentions. This bill is very much a curates egg - good in parts, for example extending Direct Payments of benefits to disabled people or paying pension credits automatically to all those entitled to receive them.

At the moment up to 1.8 million pensioners entitled to receive pensioner credits do not apply for them.

The bill is long on sanctions for those who do not seek employment but does nothing to help those unemployed get a job or protect those at risk of losing their job. I put forward an amendment detailing some of our Liberal Democrat plans in this area.

I was disappointed also that the government failed to extend the upper rate of Disability Living allowance for blind people. I will be moving an amendment about this at the report stage.

Last week I was delighted to welcome to Parliament - Lib Dem Colleague - Councillor Doreen Brophy Lee, Paul Beardmore and Paul Gordziejewicz, officers of the Council to the annual Home Improvement Agency Awards.

Rochdale's Agency won an award for the second year running though I was delighted that this time they were not delayed and arrived on time!

This national recognition shows that our Council are consistently providing excellence to our tenants and I am pleased that the hard work of our team has been recognised.

Last Friday along with several other MPs I attended the Action Mesothelioma event at Manchester Town Hall and the opening of a new Remploy Office on Union Street in Oldham.

This was opened by Phil Woolas MP and although based in Oldham will also assist disabled people in Rochdale get into employment. On Friday evening I took part in a fund raising quiz for Health Aid at the Ratcliffe Arms.

Quiz master Andy Kelly (the man on the telly) did an excellent job and I enjoyed the quiz alongside my team including Councillors Angela Coric and Pat Colclough, although I am not going to reveal the result! I've known the organiser - Anne McNicholas for many years and she has done a brilliant job getting emergency aid to disaster hit areas.

She is currently looking at sending a team into Gaza.

On Sunday I attended a Mayor's Charity event at Nutters Restaurant in Norden organised by the Rochdale Rotary Club.

This was an excellent event but I had a shock at the end when John Kay and local artist Paul Temple unveiled a portrait Paul had recently done of me!

Yesterday I met the external relations manager of Job Centre Plus to discuss the support being provided to those recently made unemployed. This follows contact from constituents made redundant at Woolworths.

Following this I visited Falinge Park High School with Councillor Peter Rush to launch a joint Hornets/RFU coaching scheme to get more youngsters playing Rugby League. If Hornets are to survive and grow these initiatives are vital and the new team at Hornets have my full support.

Finally I'm appalled at the suggestion from my Labour opponent that the council should delay the refurbishment of the town centre. I know local traders want it to happen sooner rather than later and I fully support that.

When the government are saying investing in infrastructure and regeneration is one way out of the recession why should we in Rochdale not benefit? This request for a 12 month delay is short-sighted and illustrates the 'do-nothing' attitude of Labour in Rochdale.

After decades of Labour neglect - we shouldn't wait any longer and I am pleased to see the Liberal Democrats pushing on. I know that my colleague - Cabinet Member for Regeneration Councillor Mohammed Sharif is pushing ahead with our ambitious plans!