This site is easier to read in landscape format on mobiles.

Labour top gun visits Lancaster

John Freeman
With the General Election expected to be a close run between all major parties - and with local Greens predicting a strong vote for their candidate, Gina Dowding - it's no surprize some top politicians are visiting the area to canvas for votes.

Last week, Conservative William Hague was the first senior politician to hit the local campaign trail, backing Lancaster and Fleetwood candidate Eric Ollerenshaw. Today, Health Secretary Andy Burnham will in Lancaster, visiting sheltered accommodation for pensioners at Ripley Court with Labour candidate Clive Grunshaw.

Burnham, who has been Health Secretary since June, has also been Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. He was a strong supporter of the Iraq War (but also backed a major investigation into its conduct), supports the introduction of National Identity Cards and backs major reform of the Houses of Parliament. notes he also supports equal gay rights and supported the introduction of student top-up fees.

As a minister, he had a good relationship with the health organisations such as the NHS Confederation, which backed his appointment, and he met with them regularly formally and informally.

He has been instrumental in health reforms such as 18 weeks and was an early proponent of the NHS Constitution as a way of reassuring patients and staff about reforms.

Burnham's Lancaster visit ties in with Labour's pledge to support the elderly with measures such as an increased state pension, Pension Credit and Winter Fuel payments, which the party claims have helped lift 900,000 pensioners out of poverty since 1997.

Labour has also pledged to introduce a National Care service which will provide everyone with affordable social care. Labour will provide free personal care at home for those with the highest need and free residential care after the first two years.

There's no doubt Labour has helped senior citizens over the last few years. As well as maintaining the Winter Fuel Allowance, Labour has also increased Cold Weather Payments from £250, and £400 for the over-80s, and are pledging to guarantee this higher winter fuel payment for another year, so
that nine million pensioner households will receive at least £250 this winter to help with their fuel bills.

While retirement is uppermost in the minds of many older people, Labour also wants to continue to make it easier for them to work if they want to and plans to conduct a review of the retirement age, looking at allowing people to retire later if they wish to.

Photo: Labour Party Publicity