Student Housing and Letting Agents 

In late 2022, Mary was shocked to hear reports of students queueing overnight to access accommodation for their second year of university. As the bulk of students live out of college after year one, and numbers of students had increased due to the pandemic, there was a real fear amongst the student population that they may be left without a room if they didn’t access one straight away. This led to many students camping outside lettings agents in the city, in the winter months simply to ensure they had somewhere to live the following year.  

To ensure this wasn’t repeated, Mary reached to letting agents, Durham Students Union and Durham University to try and discover the causes of this panic, as well as setting plans in place to reassure students that they would have access to accommodation in the future. 

So, in early 2023, along with Durham University, Mary convened a meeting with letting agents to discuss the introduction of a code of practice that would ensure that the release of properties is more managed in future. Letting agents will be asked to hold properties until later in the academic year, so students are more familiar with their new city, and are comfortable in their friendship groups; to allow a reasonable amount of time for students to complete the paperwork, and with an eye to introducing certain standards of property that will be let. 

This plan is backed by the Students’ Union, with the aim of giving a ‘seal of approval; from the union and the university to letting agents who sign up to the scheme. Work is now ongoing to create the code of practice, with a more long-term aim to roll this out further to individual landlords. 

You can read more about the first meeting to discuss a code of practice here: 

Healthy High Streets

In the summer of 2022, Mary ran her healthy high streets campaign, asking residents and visitors to the city what they would like to see to make Durham a more attractive city.  

Through an in-person and online survey, Mary received hundreds of responses that highlighted the popularity of Durham’s independent retailers, the lack of accessible facilities, public toilets and baby changing facilities and the limited hours of the Park and Ride Service. 

Following her campaign, Mary presented this information to Durham County Council with a series of asks: 

  • More support for independent businesses, through tapered business rates support 
  • More council owned and operated public toilets and baby changing facilities in the city centre 
  • Extended hours for the park and ride service, catering for those visiting the theatre or cinema, or shift workers returning home in the evening. 

Subsequent to this, Mary met with the council leadership, who had reviewed the data and are looking into introducing some of the measures that residents and visitors suggested. Mary will continue to liaise with the council on these and push for more action on making Durham the best it can be for both residents and visitors. 

Road Safety

After being contacted by Parish Councils in Shincliffe and Croxdale and Hett, and local residents in Merryoaks and Lowes Barn Bank, Mary launched her campaign to make their roads safer. 

In both Shincliffe and Croxdale, residents and councillors have complained that speed limits are too high, with numerous accidents taking place in Shincliffe, and heavy wagons and buses passing through the small village of Croxdale. Residents living on Lowes Barn Bank are having to live with more HGV traffic using their small C-Class road than almost every B road in the county, and have requested a weight limit on the road to divert heavy goods traffic to other more suitable roads leading to nearby industrial estates. 

Highways safety is an issue for Durham County Council and, following meetings with the Parish Councils and residents in Shincliffe, Croxdale and Lowes Barn Bank, Mary contacted the leadership of the council and the highways department, in conjunction with County Councillors, Parish Councils, schools and residents groups. Despite this, the County Council refused to take action to make these streets safer. 

Since then, Mary has enlisted the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen to assist with the campaign, and has brought all three areas together to form one campaign group. The first meeting of the group took place in June 2023, and will be meeting regularly to discuss the next steps in the campaign, and the work that they can do collectively to highlight the risks on the roads that run through their communities. 

Mary will continue working with these groups to challenge the decisions of the council, and press the need for highways works to keep the streets safe for residents, pedestrians, cyclists and other road users. 

You can read about the inaugural meeting of the road safety campaign group here: 

Clear the Wear 

Following contact from a huge number of constituents, including school children, as well as tourists expressing their dismay at the state of the River Wear, Mary commenced a campaign to pressure Durham County Council to seek the relevant permissions for work to be carried out to clear the river of unsightly debris. 
Following Mary’s successful campaign, which involved meeting with the Environment Agency, writing to Natural England and the government; as well as responding to criticism from a County Councillor – the appropriate licences were issued to the local authority and work was carried out to remove vast amounts of vegetation, rubbish – all while safely preserving the habitat of local wildlife, including otters! 
Since the campaign Mary organised a large litter pick to clear the riverbanks of rubbish and has continued to liaise closely with local campaigners and will hopefully organise a series of meetings between key local groups to work together to look after the river and its surroundings. 

‘We MUST Prioritise Emergency Funding for Hospices’ says Durham MP

Mary has joined with MPs across the House of Commons to call for urgent additional funding for much loved hospices as they battle soaring costs. Mary Kelly Foy & Peter Gibson urge Chancellor to ‘prioritise’ hospices | The Northern Echo

After previously writing to Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt before the Spring Budget to press for much needed cash for hospices such as St Cuthberts in Durham, Mary has continued to fight in the House of Commons to secure new funding. 

Hospices face soaring prices for essentials such as energy, staff and food, with the sector facing a deficit of £186 million this year alone.. Hospices are reliant on fundraising with the NHS only funding 58% of the cost of clinical services at St Cuthbert’s. Despite Inflation reaching 11% the North East Integrated Care Board recently uprated St Cuthbert’s contract by just 1.7%. Children’s hospices put at risk by loss of £21m grant |

 Mary has called for the Government to intervene to ensure no patient is turned away, adding: “The Government can’t bury their heads in the sand on this issue. If they do not provide sustainable funding, hospices may well close and a vital source of care and comfort to people in their final days will be lost. 

With inflation comes increased costs. St Cuthbert’s has seen a massive rise in their energy bill – by tens of thousands of pounds. And let’s be clear about something: a care home can’t reduce their energy consumption. It’s really not an option. Medical equipment must be kept on.”

Paul Marriott CEO of St Cuthberts Hospice said: “I am grateful to Mary Kelly Foy for amplifying the serious challenges hospices like St Cuthbert’s are facing at present. The need for our services continues to grow- with demand for our beds outstripping supply.  

Rising energy, food and wage costs, are making it an ever more challenging environment in which to provide care. In spite of these challenges, the percentage of patients that report a positive of experience of care using the NHS Friends and Family Test continues to run at 100%.

However, we are increasingly reliant on the community to support us through their volunteering and their fundraising. However, we cannot be complacent about this and we cannot keep on relying upon voluntary donations of money and time to plug the growing gap cause by under-funding by the NHS. I hope the Government will recognise the importance of the service we provide, and properly fund us to ensure we can continue to support those who need us.

MP welcomes ‘Groundbreaking’ Local Forum to tackle Student Housing Crisis

Mary Kelly Foy MP has chaired the first Durham Student Housing Forum. The Group hosted at Durham University together over 30 organisations including Durham University, Durham County Council, landlords and letting agents to create the first forum to resolve these issues locally. (Read More; Durham University: Code of practice plan to fix ‘broken’ student housing – BBC News)

The group has been convened by Mary in response to disgraceful scenes of students queuing up overnight to secure housing which was too often in a poor condition and unaffordable (Durham University students queue overnight to secure accommodation – BBC News). There has also been a spike in Durham residents being evicted in the private rental sector so housing can be converted into expensive student lets. 

The goal is for landlords and letting agents to sign a joint code of practice to enforce higher standards. The university has confirmed its student population will reduce by 1,000 students next year, easing the demand for housing. 

Commenting on the inaugural meeting, Mary said:

“This meeting was a welcome first step towards improving the student rental market in Durham. 

“In recent times there has been growing evidence that the current housing system is not working for students or residents. As the elected representative of everyone in our city, it has been heartening to see the University, County Council and other vitally important stakeholders proactively engage with this new process.  “I hope this forum will continue as a means to open, frank and constructive discussion of these important issues and that practical resolutions can be agreed together in the near future.”

City Unites to Celebrate Durham Pride

Mary Kelly Foy MP has written in the Northern Echo of her pride in the Durham City coming “together to celebrate our LGBT+ community and the inclusivity of our county and to march in unison through our historic winding streets, in a public display of support and celebration of the freedom to love without discrimination”.

As Durham Pride celebrates its 10th Anniversary, Mary has praised tireless work, infectious enthusiasm, and vision” of founder Mel Metcalf and his team. 

Speaking of Labour’s commitment to LGBT+ equality:
“I am proud to be a Labour MP – and my party’s record supporting the LGBT+ community is one of the many reasons why. From the repeal of Section 28 to the creation of civil partnerships, the Gender Recognition Act or introducing the right for same sex couples to adopt, history shows we have stood with the LGBT+ community. But we must continue to defend and advance these rights.

We are, at our core, the party of equality, that’s why Labour will always treat all LGBT+ people with fairness and respect nor waver from upholding people’s dignity. We must build on the positive legacy of the last Labour Government by breaking new ground for LGBT+ rights. This includes introducing a full, trans-inclusive ban on conversion practices.”

Read Mary’s full column here: Mary Kelly Foy: My pride in Durham – and in Labour | The Northern Echo

MP says “let Councils run services” as Durham’s Private ‘buses don’t turn up’ 

Durham’s broken bus services are one of the major casework issues raised with Mary. Unreliable, slow, and fragmented services make it incredibly hard for passengers to reach work, education or healthcare.

That’s why after meeting Arriva and Go North East to express constituents’ concerns, Mary has recently taken this issue to Westminster. 

After welcoming the introduction of capped £2 fares, Mary stressed the need to focus on reliability to encourage more passenger to buses. (Mary Kelly Foy MP says ‘buses don’t turn up’ as £2 fare extended | The Northern Echo)

Sadly, since 2016, County Durham has lost over one million miles of bus journeys; all under the Conservatives watch. Cuts to vital evening and weekend services continue to be announced. Consequently Mary has called on Transport Secretary Mark Harper MP to end his Governments Ideological ban of Councils to create Municipal Bus Companies to ensure vital routes can be continued.

Asking in the House of Commons:
” Recently, Arriva gave up its subsidised 57A route, which goes through my constituency. The council has struggled to find an alternative operator because the Government have banned it from creating its own bus company—one that could serve the local community, which is left struggling to access key local services and even to get to work. Does the Minister agree that it is long overdue and common sense to end the ideological ban on municipal bus companies?”

Mary Urges Government to stop the rot in Durham’s Dentistry

As part of her long running campaign to end the crisis in NHS Dentistry, Mary Kelly Foy MP has written to Health Secretary Steve Barclay, urging him to adopt the “fundamental reforms” recommended by the Health and Social Care committee.

In her letter Mary said:
“The report’s findings echo the experience of hundreds of constituents who have contacted me about the struggles they face when trying to access affordable dental care. Vast areas of our country, including Durham, are increasingly being described as “dental deserts”, where not a single dental practice is accepting new NHS patients. 

Despite repeated promises from ministers that the department will outline further reform measures to the dental contract, the government’s long-term NHS Workforce Plan did not mention the NHS dental contract. While we wait for action, countless people are left to suffer, unable to access or afford dental services and, in some cases, even forced to resort to do-it-yourself dentistry.”

The report, authored by a cross-party committee of MPs, provides a damning indictment of the mismanagement of dentistry services in England which have seen over one thousand dentists leave the NHS in recent years, creating significant barriers for many looking to access affordable dentistry.

The reports key recommendations include:

  • Scrapping the discredited NHS dental contract
  • Focusing on Prevention 
  • Ensuring anyone who needs a dentist us able to access one within a reasonable time frame and distance.

Mary has been spearheading campaigns alongside the British Dentistry Association to improve Durham’s dental services, conducting a constituency wide dentistry survey, holding a parliamentary debate on worsening services in the area ( Mary Kelly Foy MP’s plea to improve dental services in County Durham | The Northern Echo)  , and calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to correct the record after repeatedly misleading the house of commons by stating there are more dentists in the NHS, contrary to official figures. 

Mary has written how she believes the next Labour Government should fix NHS Dentistry here: (People are pulling their own teeth out — Labour must urgently fix NHS dentistry – LabourList | Latest UK Labour Party news, analysis and comment

Government set to miss Smokefree target by SEVEN years after U-turning on MPs tough cigarette and vaping laws

Mary Kelly Foy MP welcomed a Government U-turn to consult on new laws to combat children vaping and smoking, after the same measures proposed by her just two years ago were voted down by the Governments own MPs. 

Mary reacted stating ““It’s incredible that almost two years after the Government rejected similar proposals, they are now consulting to do the same. These were common-sense proposals and enjoyed cross party support and the backing of health campaigners- but the Tories voted them down. It’s clear they put party politics before public health.”

At health and Social Care Questions The Labour MP asked “In 2021, the Government voted down my amendments to the Health and Care Bill to tackle smoking and youth vaping. England is now set to miss the smokefree 2030 target by at least 7 years and countless children will have become addicted to vapes.

I welcome the U-turn but what steps is the minister taking to make up for this lost time?”

Consequently, Mary has branded new Government proposals to cut smoking and stamp out children vaping as “unnecessary dither and delay” and as evidence of putting “politics before public health”, as the UK looks set to miss the Governments target date to stamp out smoking. 

Mary, who is Vice-Chair of the Smoking and Health All-Party Parliamentary Group, has been quick to point out that these measures mirror similar proposals the Government whipped Conservative MPs to vote against when presented as amendments by her to the Health and Care Bill Committee in 2021. 
While serving as a member of the Health and Social Care Bill Committee, Mary presented amendments to the bill to: 

 1. Prohibit tactics such as branding and sweet flavourings to market vapes to children

2.  Close a legal loophole which permits the free distribution of e-cigarettes to children for marketing purposes.  

3. Allow the Government to raise a levy on tobacco companies’ profits to fund stop smoking activities. 

4. Allow the Secretary of State to increase graphic anti-smoking messaging on cigarettes and require inserts containing health information and links to smoking cessation services.