Weekly Round-Up: 2 July 2021

In this week’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee session, we heard from a number of political parties, large and small, about reform necessary within the Electoral Commission. This is an important subject as without a well-governed electoral process, we undermine Parliament and the work that we do. We heard about politically-nominated board members on the Electoral Commission and whether they should remain party members or whether they should be impartial. They were introduced because it was felt that the Commission should have members with experience in politics and it was suggested that the Commission should make better use of political appointments.  However, it’s clear that there is some disagreement between the party representatives on the value of politically-nominated appointments.  Whatever the appointment system, there should be a broad range of political views represented.

I was pleased to meet with Councillor Tom Renhard, the Bristol Council Member for Housing Delivery and Homes, to discuss housing in Bristol South this week. The Council is by far the largest landlord in the constituency with over 9000 residential properties and more than a fifth of the Bristol South constituency as tenants. Housing is by far the most common reason for constituents to reach out to my office for support and there are many challenges to work on in the coming months and years. Among them are new housing developments, the delayed review of Homechoice, potential housing stock replacement, and outstanding repairs which have been delayed by the Covid pandemic. We had a very fruitful discussion and I await updates on a number of issues, including an important recovery plan to address the outstanding repairs and complaints that have been raised by tenants during the pandemic. Everyone should have a safe and comfortable home and it is important that the Council ensures that its provision is of a high standard and sufficient to meet the demand.

Even before the pandemic, the job market was a challenging place for young people starting out in their careers after education. The Chancellor’s Kickstart scheme was heralded as the answer to youth unemployment, but it is simply too slow and does not match the scale of challenge many young people in the UK face. Since the start of the pandemic there has been a large increase in unemployment and a large fall in employment for young people aged 16-24, nearly two-thirds of all workers who lost their job during the pandemic were aged under 25, and the number of people aged 16-64 claiming unemployment related benefits has doubled in a year, all of which much be incredibly dispiriting and upsetting for young people. The Government aims to have created at least 250,000 Kickstart placements by the end of the year. However, on the 3rd June, only 31,000 young people had started placements. At this rate, they would not reach their target until Sep 2026. Education and getting our young people into good work placements or apprenticeships are vital for our short-term recovery and long-term prosperity.  The Government simply must do more to ensure this generation are not left behind.

I am growing ever more concerned about the Government’s short-sighted attacks on our support for international development. As the only G7 nation to cut aid, breaking a manifesto commitment to support the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, this Tory Government are retreating from our moral duty and people will lose their lives as a result. Our allies and detractors are already taking note and this will further weaken the UK’s position ahead of the G7, an education summit and COP26 – all of which we are hosting later this year. The aid budget should be used to tackle the global challenges facing us all; the pandemic, climate crisis, and rising poverty and inequality. We will not be safe from Covid or the next pandemic if vaccines are reserved for the richest countries. We will not be safe from climate change if we do not support the poorest countries to make the changes that will support our work on protecting the environment. We will not be safe from international terrorism, from instability that is never isolated in one region, from piracy around the world if we do not support the poorest people across the world to redress the imbalance and support development. It is becoming increasingly clear that “Global Britain” is nothing more than an empty slogan.

It was brilliant to see Kim Leadbeater elected as Labour’s newest MP in Batley and Spen this week.  Her amazing campaign reached out across the constituency, rejecting the politics of hate and division and bringing people together.  I’m looking forward to seeing her in Parliament!

There are opportunities within my office, both in London and in Bristol South. I am looking for a Personal Assistant with excellent communication skills and experience of managing a complex diary to support my work in Westminster and a part-time Caseworker to join my constituency team in Bristol South. Closing date for applications is 5 July with a view to starting in the middle of August.

If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing Karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk or by calling 0117 953 3575.