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Volume 664: debated on Monday 9 September 2019


Monday 9 September 2019


Petition presented to the House but not read on the Floor

Proroguing Parliament

The petition of Residents of York,

Declares their deep concern over the proroguing of Parliament, not least during the crucial time of determining the United Kingdom's future relationship with the European Union; further that we believe that our democratically elected Parliament must have the right to set and thereby scrutinise the Government over the determinations that it is making over our future, in order to resolve democratically how it should proceed since we believe that the UK Parliament was elected by the people to serve the people.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government not to prorogue Parliament and that Parliament sits, debates and scrutinises the Government until a final agreement is made on how to proceed with our relationship with the EU, and that this is concluded democratically.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented byRachael Maskell.]


Windsor Gate development, High Wycombe

The petition of Residents of Tadros Court, Ercolani Avenue and Roperies in the Windsor Gate development, High Wycombe,

Declares that during the last three years, service charge costs have surged, but services have fallen for the residents of the Windsor Gate development, High Wycombe, a right-to-manage mixed estate comprising of freehold and leasehold blocks built by Bellway in 2006; further that residents are not provided with the services declared; further that the services that are provided are of substandard level or are not needed; further that freeholders are paying for locked and gated private amenity space for flats; further that the estate is run down, with little or no maintenance; further that there is litter, pests and weeds throughout; further that residents pay the same service charge whether they occupy a 1 bed flat or a 3 bed flat, due to mistakes made by the developer; further that increases in charges are not transparent and have been made without property resident input; further that there has been clear degradation of duty with regards to freeholders, with poor correlation between the rents demanded and the works undertaken in maintenance of the surrounding areas; further that resident directors and managing agents responsible for the collection of the service charges are aware residents lack rights and protections under any Act of Parliament; further that there is no process to receive and consider accounts prior to payment, or to be provided with information relating to the charges claimed; further that voting rights of all who are in shared ownership and in social housing have been removed.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to introduce legislation to give greater transparency and accountability for service charges in residential developments; further urges the Government to conduct a full investigation of the “fleecehold” practice as it is causing owners stress, anxiety and distress and in some cases, has required going to court.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr Steve Baker.]



Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Postmasters' pay

The petition of Residents of Chilton,

Declares that no postmaster should be paid below the minimum wage; further that a related petition on this matter has received significant local support.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to call on the Post Office Ltd to review postmasters' pay to prevent postmasters being paid below the minimum wage.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Phil Wilson, Official Report, 10 July 2019; Vol. 663, c. 411.]


Observations by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Kelly Tolhurst):

The Government recognise the key role postmasters play in ensuring Post Office branches thrive and remain at the heart of communities across the UK. That is why we committed in our 2017 manifesto to safeguarding the post office network and protecting existing rural services. Since 2010, the number of branches in the network has been at its most stable for decades, at over 11,500. The Post Office has invested significantly in the network to enable its branches to operate more effectively and efficiently.

While the Post Office is publicly owned, it is a commercial business. The Government sets the strategic direction for the Post Office—to maintain a national network accessible to all and to do so more sustainably for the taxpayer—and allows the company the commercial freedom to deliver this strategy as an independent business. The contractual relationship between postmasters and Post Office Limited is an operational matter for the Post Office.

I would like to reassure people that the Government and the Post Office care deeply about the thousands of postmasters who operate the network and who are independent, self-employed business people. We understand how important it is that running a post office is attractive and sustainable for them.

Since 2012, as part of the network transformation programme, for the majority of branches it has been important that the delivery of post office services is combined with a good retail offer for the Post Office to be successful. For around 3,200 community branches, where a retail offer is not viable, Post Office Limited pays some fixed remuneration to reflect this.

To explore what more can be done to ensure postmasters are adequately remunerated, on 13 June, I chaired the first in a series of quarterly working group meetings between the Government, Post Office Limited and the national federation of sub-postmasters. I, together with Post Office Limited, also kicked off a comprehensive review of postmasters pay, involving postmasters, commercial partners and the NFSP. The aim of the review is to identify products and services that could see an increase in the variable fees paid to postmasters to ensure postmasters are rewarded fairly for the vital services they provide.

On 1 August 2019 Post Office Limited announced two interim changes in agents’ remuneration which they will immediately implement as the review progresses. These include bringing forward the date that postmasters would receive an increase in remuneration for cash deposits from October to August and increasing fixed remuneration for around 3,200 community status branches, which are effectively the last shop in the village. It is worth noting that cash deposits are the fastest growing banking transactions under the banking framework agreement, so postmasters are set to benefit greatly from this increase.

These first steps will make a real difference to postmasters’ incomes and help those in rural branches, who are the lifeblood of their communities. Post Office Limited is fully aware that more needs to be done to enhance the value of the Post Office and they will be announcing further measures in the winter. The Government look forward to seeing further positive outcomes as the review continues in the coming months.


Education Funding

The petition of residents of the constituency of Colchester in Essex,

Declares that more money should be allocated to schools and colleges to ensure that every child in Colchester receives the education they deserve; notes that whilst Education funding has increased, the cost pressures on schools and colleges have increased at a faster rate and schools and colleges hare having to take difficult decisions that will impact on the education they are able to provide; further notes that schools need certainty of funding in order to set three year budgets.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to: allocate more money to schools and colleges; provide schools and colleges with at least a three year funding settlement to provide certainty.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Will Quince, Official Report, 22 July 2019; Vol. 663, c. 5P.]


Observations from the Minister for School Standards (Nick Gibb):

We have just announced an investment of over £14 billion for primary and secondary schools between now and 2022-23. This funding package for schools includes cash increases of £2.6 billion for 2020-21, £4.8 billion for 2021-22, and £7.1 billion for 2022-23, compared with 2019-20.

In addition, we will provide a further £1.5 billion each year to cover the cost of increased employer contributions to the teachers’ pension scheme.

This will bring the schools budget to £52.2 billion in 2022-23, and delivers on the Prime Minister’s pledge when entering Downing Street to increase school funding by £4.6 billion above inflation, levelling up education funding and giving all young people the same opportunities to succeed, regardless of where they grow up or go to school.

As part of this announcement, every secondary school will attract a minimum of £5,000 per pupil next year, with every primary school attracting a minimum of £4,000 per pupil from 2021-22.

This new money will continue to be allocated via the national funding formula (NFF) which means that school funding is distributed to local authorities based on the individual needs and characteristics of every school in the country. This directs resources where they are needed most, providing transparency and predictability for schools, and addressing historic disparities between areas.

The announcement also includes over £700 million extra for children with special educational needs and disabilities in 2020-21, so every pupil can access the education that is right for them.

Schools will also continue to benefit from Government support to ensure they can make the most of every pound of their budgets, following the launch of the Department for Education’s school resource management strategy last year.

This strategy provides schools with practical advice on savings that can be made on the more than £10 billion non-staffing spend spent across England last year e.g. direct money-saving deals which help schools save on the resources they buy regularly, from photocopiers and energy to catering and books, and a supply teacher framework.