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The decision to close Cambridge Magistrate’s Court was challenged in the House of Commons today by Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner. Mr Zeichner asked the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke MP “why is he rushing to close courts, like the court in Cambridge“ before a thorough debate has been concluded around the alternative ways in which people will get access to the justice system.

The question by Mr Zeichner was raised in relation to recent proposals by the Ministry of Justice to increase the use of virtual courts as part of a modernisation process that will see the closure of court sites, including Cambridge Magistrates‘ Court. He urged the Government to look closely at a report from the Justice Select Committee published last week, which raised doubts about the new technologies being used to create so-called ‘virtual courts’, and urging caution in proceeding.

In the House of Commons Mr Zeichner said; “Last week the Justice Committee produced an excellent report highlighting some of the issues around the use of virtual Courts, they raised some very important issues. Why is he rushing to close courts, like the court in Cambridge, when we are yet to have that wider discussion around virtual courts?“

The response from Mr Gauke avoided any reference to the closing of the Magistrates‘ Court in Cambridge, which has seen local opposition from Mr Zeichner, legal experts and Cambridgeshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, but stated; “It is important we make progress using the court estates as sensibly as possible, they are under used. It does make sense that when resources are scarce we use them more efficiently.“

The report by the Justice Select Committee last week, and an open letter from Bob Neil MP (chairman of the Justice Select Committee) to Minister for Justice, Lucy Frazer MP, raised a number of issues relating to the proposals, and specifically virtual courts. One of the concerns raised by the committee was whether the use of virtual courts over traditional court based justice is currently suitable given the current lack of digital infrastructure and evidence to justify the move. The Committee has also said that those using Magistrates‘ Court should live within an hour’s travel time of the court, which would not be the case for Cambridge residents travelling to Peterborough as per the Ministry of Justice’s proposals.

Mr Zeichner urges Secretary of State David Gauke not make a decision until the issue of virtual courts had been properly discussed: “The closure of Cambridge Magistrate’s Court has no local support, and the alternatives are based on assumptions that have been called into question by the Justice Select Committee. In light of that advice, the Government should cancel the closure of Cambridge Magistrate’s Court now.”

Cambridge MP accuses Government of ignoring evidence on court closures

The decision to close Cambridge Magistrate’s Court was challenged in the House of Commons today by Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner. Mr Zeichner asked the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for...

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, has criticised the Housing Secretary’s plans to force councils to build more houses as "empty and flawed", and at odds with the Cambridgeshire Mayor's policy aspirations.
 
Sajid Javid MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, today gave a statement to the House of Commons, telling MPs that he plans to force local authorities to build in areas of large unmet housing need. He has warned that councils could be stripped of planning powers if not enough homes are being built in their areas.  
 
Mr Zeichner asked the Housing Secretary: "Unlocking Land Value could play an important role in securing future developments, but the Secretary of State has previously only referred to a consultatiion. Could he tell us whether he supports a Land Value Capture system, and when we might expect to see one? "
 
Sajid Javid responded: "What I support, is making sure that the State does capture some of the value of the increase in land value once it receives planning permission. We do that currently through developer contributions, through CIL, through Section 106 and other agreements. So I want to make sure what we’ve currently got in place is working well."
 
Mr Zeichner commented: "Sajid Javid’s policies are too little, too late, and do not reflect the importance that Cambridgeshire Mayor James Palmer has given to achieving a land value capture system. The demands on developers reflect a version of Ed Miliband’s offer in 2015. While I am glad that the Tories are using Labour policy, three further years of Conservative cuts have exacerbated the housing crisis since then. It’s disappointing that he isn’t more ambitious about using Land Value Capture effectively – a policy the Cambridgeshire mayor tells us is essential ."

Government housing policies at odds with Cambridgeshire Mayor

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, has criticised the Housing Secretary’s plans to force councils to build more houses as "empty and flawed", and at odds with the Cambridgeshire Mayor's policy...

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, will tomorrow (Friday 2 March 2018) be visiting the Milton Tesco store where he will be hearing about local community work that aims to tackle food waste by providing people in need with a meal. Since 2012, Tesco has been in collaboration with the food waste organisation, FareShare, in an effort to redistribute surplus food to local communities. Mr Zeichner will be introduced to how the scheme works and how it is helping local communities in Cambridge.

Mr Zeichner says: "I am looking forward to hearing how local Tesco stores have been collaborating with FareShare to try and provide meals to my local constituents, while tackling the huge problem of food waste.“

“The large-scale waste of food is something that I think many of us feel needs addressing, especially when we know that more people are struggling to make ends meet to be able to feed their families. Many people are unhappy knowing that there is perfectly good food going in the bin, so I think this is a scheme that everyone can get behind and support.“

“I am already aware of organisations based in Cambridge that are benefiting directly from the FareShare project working out of the Milton Tesco store and have no doubt that many more could get involved. If we can reduce food waste, which is also good for the environment, and provide meals to people that need them then that's a great project.“

The scheme has integrated different areas of Tesco to extend their distribution channels to FareShare. The result of that is that Tesco and Fareshare have been involved in providing more than 88,000 meals across Cambridgeshire and 20 million nationally.

Alex Horne, Tesco’s Community Food Connection Coach in Cambridge said: “We know that Community Food Connection is making a real difference to the community in Cambridge by providing people in need with meals from food that would otherwise go to waste.

“With all Tesco stores now taking part in Community Food Connection there are more opportunities than ever for groups to benefit from the free food provided under the scheme. I would invite any group that thinks they could benefit from the scheme to contact FareShare, as we have the capacity to help even more good causes.”

Cambridge MP hears how local Tesco stores are reducing food waste by feeding local communities

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, will tomorrow (Friday 2 March 2018) be visiting the Milton Tesco store where he will be hearing about local community work that aims to tackle food...

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, has responded to today’s announcement that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG is forecasting a deficit of £48.2 million for 2017/18, exceeding the £15.5 million deficit agreed with NHS England.

The additional £35m cash deficit in the local NHS revealed today shows why the Prime Minister was wrong to ignore warnings given last year by NHS England, says Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner. The local CCG admits in papers published today that the local NHS has had to deal with more patients at Addenbrookes, unexpected additional costs of medicines, and costs associated with the ongoing crisis in the care system.

Mr Zeichner says: "Last year, the Head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, explained to the Government how much the NHS would require to meet current need. The Prime Minister chose to ignore him - now we see the consequences, which is a local £35m deficit. It is quite affordable - some £2 billion nationally, when the Prime Minister has personally squandered £20 billion in lost income from foreign students. But the Government needs to take responsibility, rather than pass the buck to local managers, and make the resources available to ensure that hard-working local health staff can carry on caring for patients."

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG will be publishing the Governing Body papers for a meeting that will be held in public on Tuesday 6 March 2018.

 

NHS Cash Deficit

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, has responded to today’s announcement that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG is forecasting a deficit of £48.2 million for 2017/18, exceeding the £15.5 million deficit agreed...

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, pressed the Immigration Minister to abolish the Tier 2 visa cap again this week, following no answers from the government on the visa cap which rejects skilled STEM workers, despite them holding job offers in the UK.

Mr Zeichner said: "Given that the Tier 2 visa cap has been reached three times in the last three months, what does she say to employers like Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, who are desperate for skilled staff, find those people, and then find the government says they can’t come here? Is it really the government’s policy to deny the National Health Service the skilled people they need?" 

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes replied: "Well I’d like to reassure the Honourable gentleman that no range of medical professionals that are on the shortage occupation list have been refused a visa. What is important is that we keep this under review, and we look carefully to make sure that we recruit more doctors and more nurses within the UK, and my Right Honourable friend the Health Secretary is committed to doing exactly that, and making sure that there are an increased number of training places for both nurses and doctors."

Mr Zeichner comments: "The Minister mentioned the occupation shortage list – there’s clearly a problem if these job roles in the Intensive Care Unit, or elsewhere, are not on the list. Doctors are only recruited from overseas if posts cannot be filled in the UK, due to recruitment protocol and the costs involved. The Home Office cannot carry on applying this kind of bureaucracy if they’re not going to maintain it properly. Abolishing the cap would fix this, across the skilled work STEM areas."  

"It’s also a simple question of logistics – it takes years to train doctors and nurses, which the government has failed to act on sufficiently over the last eight years. Committing to more training places isn’t going to solve the critical condition of NHS staffing today; we need action by the government to sort this problem now. "

The cap was reached in December 2017, and January and February 2018, causing skilled workers to have their immigration and visa applications rejected.

Cambridge MP presses immigration minister to stop rejecting doctors' visas

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, pressed the Immigration Minister to abolish the Tier 2 visa cap again this week, following no answers from the government on the visa cap which...

The decision by Cambridgeshire County Council to axe school cooks and cleaners will lead to unhealthier school meals and make already low-paid staff worse off, say Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner. The decision to cut the Catering and Cleaning Service (CCS) was made by the Conservative County’s Commercial and Investment Committee on Friday 23rd February 2018, and could see the service ending by December of this year.
 
CCS currently provides catering and cleaning services to almost 200 schools across Cambridgeshire, employing approximately 700 staff. 
 
Mr Zeichner said: “This is a disgraceful attempt by the Conservative-led County Council to offset cuts imposed by their own party nationally, putting children’s diet and health at risk. The provision of catering and cleaning facilities is a vital part of any school. It should not be left to commercial firms, where profit margins and cost cutting are the driving force of their decisions.”
 
”At the moment, CCS is providing a balanced diet to children in schools, giving them the right kind of fuel to stay focused in the classroom. What guarantees will we have that commercial firms are not going to undermine that? Also, we should remember that it is quite possible for these commercial firms to go bust, as we saw with Carillion only a few weeks ago, and then what happens to our children’s lunches?”
 
“Many of the problems I am dealing with at the moment stem back to cuts by the County Council, it’s astonishing. We should be askingwhat is this year’s council tax increase actually going to get me? A lot less services, for a whole lot more money!”
 
According to Cambridgeshire’s latest annual public health report, almost a third of primary school leavers are deemed to be an unhealthy weight. There are concerns that the withdrawal of CCS could result in a less healthy diet being provided to children in school, at a time when obesity is increasingly becoming a national health issue.
 

Cambridge MP outraged by Cambridgeshire County Council proposal to axe cooks and cleaners

The decision by Cambridgeshire County Council to axe school cooks and cleaners will lead to unhealthier school meals and make already low-paid staff worse off, say Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner....

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, has welcomed today's speech by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in which he said that with Labour, Britain will remain in a customs union, which will allow tariff-free trade to continue between the UK and the remaining EU27 and avoid a hard-border in Northern Ireland.
 
Mr Zeichner, a prominent campaigner for Britain to remain in the EU, says that today’s announcement is “an important step in the right direction“. His comments come following a statement by the Labour Campaign for the Single Market published in the Observer over the weekend, which Mr Zeichner supported along with over 30 other Labour MPs. The statement reiterated the need for Britain to also remain in the Single Market in order to guarantee the economic future of the country.
 
Mr Zeichner says: “Today’s announcement from Jeremy Corbyn that a Labour government would seek to remain in a customs union with the EU is very much welcome and I see it as an important step in the right direction.“
 
“Committing to maintaining a customs union was achieved because there is consensus across our party that leaving the EU must not come at the price of jobs, living standards or our economy. Jeremy’s announcement reflects this view and I have no doubt that his statement will be well received by Labour members, and should be strongly welcomed by the business community.“

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner, welcomes Jeremy Corbyn's EU Speech

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, has welcomed today's speech by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in which he said that with Labour, Britain will remain in a customs union, which will...

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge clashed with Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, Amber Rudd, in the Commons this morning, backing academics standing up for pensions, and attacking the university gender pay gap.  Last summer, Cambridge University revealed that its pay gap remained at over 18%.

Mr Zeichner linked the current strikes to the pay gap, saying: "Only three universities have so far reported on their gender pay gaps, and on a day when academics are bravely standing up to defend their pensions, can the Minister tell us when she expects that the gender pay gap will be eliminated in our universities?"

Amber Rudd, replied: "Well I would urge all universities to address reporting their gender pay gap; it is the law, they need to do so. And, a word on the other matter if I may, I think it is important that this dispute between essentially students effectively, the universities and their staff is resolved because people need to get their degrees. I would urge the striking lecturers to get back to work"

Mr Zeichner comments: "The Minister’s response showed a complete lack of interest in the plight of academics who have earned their pension, and are now being denied the benefits they signed up for. She also failed to set out any action by the government to improve gender pay gap reporting, or to crack down on the pay gap itself. "

For academics across the country, the gap stands at 12% and has been slowly decreasing in the last few years. The Universities and Colleges Union says that this equates to a shortfall of £6,103 per year for each female academic. In total, this equals £528 million per year.

The gap is also larger at older Universities such as the University of Cambridge, at 16.3%. With less than six weeks to go before the gender pay gap reporting deadline, none of these institutions have reported. Only three universities have so far submitted their gender pay gap to the government’s reporting portal, out of 109 universities in England, and 130 in the UK: Leeds Art University, University of Salford and University of Kent.

Cambridge MP backs University Strikers in Commons

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge clashed with Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, Amber Rudd, in the Commons this morning, backing academics standing up for pensions, and attacking...

Last month, the Government’s newly-appointed Minister for Justice (and my constituency neighbour), Lucy Frazer MP, announced proposals to close eight courts around England, including the Magistrate’s Court in Cambridge. That would be almost 130 local court and tribunal closures since 2016 if the plans go ahead. We are five weeks into the 10-week consultation, which is asking for constituents’ views on whether they want to see their court provisions relocated to Huntingdon and Peterborough. I would encourage all residents to take part in the consultation and speak up once again for our diminishing public services.

I am opposed to these proposals. I feel justice is best served locally, and after speaking with key stakeholders, I am yet to hear a robust argument in favour of the closure.

The primary argument is that the court is currently underused, and it’s closure will bring about effective cost savings, helping to reach the £1 billion worth of cuts the MOJ is trying to implement. I have serious doubts about this, as there can be no money raised from the selling of the building as it is not owned by the Government. The only saving can be the ongoing rental.

What is needed is a proper analysis of court provision across the city. The cost of travel to alternative locations for those using the court  will surely mount in the coming years. With Cambridge predicted to reach a population of 150,000 by 2050, moving vital law and order services out of the city cannot be in our best long-term, economic interests. What this looks like, is just another way to shift the financial burden from central Government to local services, which we have seen too many times has negative consequences for the local community.

There are plenty of concerns with the proposals to move the court services. Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite, has stated that the move could see fewer criminals receiving justice, and that victims and those they have accused could end up travelling on the same form of public transport.

We have to also consider those people who may not find it so easy to navigate themselves to Huntingdon or Peterborough, how will they manage with the changes? Time and time again the Conservatives see the provision of services in terms of cost and not what it provides to the local community, who are paying their taxes. So what can we do? Complete the consultation, sign the petition that the Cambridge Labour Party has set up against the closure, and join our campaign to keep our local court serving local justice.

Sign our petition to save the Magistrates' Court here. 

This article was originally printed in the Cambridge Independent. 

Sign up and join the fight to keep justice in our community

Last month, the Government’s newly-appointed Minister for Justice (and my constituency neighbour), Lucy Frazer MP, announced proposals to close eight courts around England, including the Magistrate’s Court in Cambridge. That would be almost 130 local...

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, has slammed Theresa May's latest university tuition fee proposals, as measures that would take us "out of the frying pan, into the fire." The proposals, which suggest a fee discrepancy between cheaper-to-run courses in the arts and humanities subjects, and STEM subjects which are more expensive to facilitate. 

Tuition fees, currently capped at £9250 a year for undergraduate degrees, would vary between departments, with a lower cap on arts and humanities courses. Education Secretary Damian Hinds has argued for 'more variety' in the level of fees charged; currently, almost all universities and courses charge the maximum level. Theresa May has announced a review into university fees, funding and students support. 

Mr Zeichner said: "There's already a black hole in the Tories' tuition fee model, and this will do nothing but make it worse. Unlike Labour's plans, which will see tuition fees abolished and paid for through increased corporation tax, the Tories have been very quiet about where the money would come from to make up the gap between fees currently charged, and the cut in fees they're suggesting. This equates to a direct and damaging cut to university income; in an uncertain time, shadowed by Brexit and worried about university funding research, this will not be welcomed by the sector."

"The concept of charging less for cheaper courses is very damaging and discriminatory - it creates disparity in the state's idea of the value of different disciplines. We have been trying to get more people into STEM courses; it is completely illogical to make those courses more expensive when considering the skills the country needs. Of course, any cuts to widening participation budgets would be fundamentally wrong."

"We've seen recently how much money is lost to the economy, and to our universities, through May's ridiculous war on foreign students; she is making it less attractive for foreign students to study here so she can pretend she's taking action on immigration, though this is completely the wrong way to do it. By costing the country around £20 billion through this - I think we need some real answers about the Tories' war on the young. They've realised that their actions have consequences, and they'll lose young voters. This policy mess is the result of blind panic; we need a Labour government to install a sustainable system to ensure the future of our universities is secure. 

Cambridge MP says Prime Minister's tuition fee proposals would take us 'out of the frying pan and into the fire'

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, has slammed Theresa May's latest university tuition fee proposals, as measures that would take us "out of the frying pan, into the fire." The proposals,...

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