I am Ruth Alcroft, a 40-year-old working mum-of-two with a passion for education, our health service and giving people a voice.
As city councillor for Denton Holme I have pounded the streets and knocked on doors, championing the needs of those unable to fight or speak up for themselves.
At work you will find me in wellies as Education Officer and a Director of Susan’s Farm Community Interest Company at Houghton—an ethical organisation which farms organically and shares its knowledge with others.
As a former primary school teacher with a deep understanding of the needs of young children, I will campaign for a fair deal for Carlisle’s schools, building on Labour’s historic record on education.
Carlisle is my adopted city—it’s where I’ve settled, it’s where I had my children—so my desire to see a strong Labour government connects to a big personal investment here.
Because I’ve moved around, I see the massive potential of Carlisle. However, as I talk to people on the doorstep, there’s a feeling that we need to do better. Because of my work on the council, I know full well the amount of time and effort that have been put in by Labour councillors and officers to invest in the city, to pay people a decent wage that they can spend and help our city grow, to create a buzz and bring people to Carlisle and, primarily, to protect the most vulnerable from the harsh reality of life under a Tory government that doesn’t care.
I am not prepared to let this fabulous city sink, under a Tory government, at one end of a single carriageway A69 and the other end of a pot-hole-ridden A595. We need passion to fight for this place—it deserves it, and I have it. That is why I am standing to be your Labour MP.
The deadline for registering to vote is 22 May
The deadline for Postal Votes application is 5pm Tuesday 23 May
There’s been a huge push on education recently. Headteachers’ Union, NAHT, have been campaigning across the country – see School Cuts for more information – to bring people together and inform them about what is happening in all of our schools. There was a rally in Penrith last weekend where people from all parties, headteachers, teachers, parents and even children were invited to speak.
The head at the primary school where I am a councillor in Denton Holme is also an NAHT rep so I contacted him to find out more. It turns out he is offering a briefing service to any candidate that wants one, keeping us informed about what the NAHT are asking for; their ‘5 Election Priorities’. He also asks that candidates sign their pledge.
I’m going to spend a bit of time writing about what the school funding issue is and why there are these pledges because I think it’s important that people know.
If you ask the Conservatives, and I believe a number of people have, funding for schools is at record levels and has been protected in this parliament. Hmm, probably not going to dispute that – I used to be a civil servant and I know that politicians want to tell the truth and will frame things accordingly.
What I am concerned about is that, for a number of reasons, the National Audit Office (NAO) estimates that rising costs to schools means that the school system faces a real term loss of £3bn by 2020.
That is, the government’s own figures, show that schools will lose £3bn worth of funding by 2020. It comes for a number of reasons: increases in national insurance and pension costs, pay increases for teachers and staff (capped at 1% – hardly excessive and certainly not in line with current inflation), the abolition of the Education Services Grant…. The list goes on.
Schools in Cumbria are expected to find £23m savings. Ullswater Community College has a budget of £6.96m; in 2009, it had a budget of £8.05m. In 8 years, it is over a million pounds worse off.
But I’ve found in politics, statistics are a massive turn off and appeal to no one apart from politicians. So here is what it means to me.
At the rally last week, a headteacher from Penrith talked about spending four hours with the bursar trying to make her budget balance. She could not do it without it harming her staff and her children. She had put her head in her hands and cried.
Union reps are talking about a ‘success’ being where staff members have left naturally – through retirement or a new job – and therefore no one has to be made redundant. They just won’t be replaced.
For the primary school in the ward where I am a councillor, funding cuts mean losing three teachers. For the primary school where my girls go to school, it means losing one teacher.
Now think back to the school where your children go. Think of the teacher who ran that awesome residential trip where your child came back buzzing but was so tired they fell asleep on the sofa. Think of the teacher who presided over that lightbulb moment when they suddenly realised they could read. Think of the teacher who quietly organised a change of clothes when your four-year-old was so engrossed in the activity they forgot to go to the loo. Think of the teacher who embraced your child because they were so tired and upset and cross they couldn’t think straight.
Which one of these is going to go?