Weekly Round-Up

It’s been another busy week in Westminster and Bristol South. On Wednesday I was delighted to join colleagues on the doorstep for the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-selection. Under difficult circumstances following the sad death of James Brokenshire in October, Dan Francis led a really positive campaign, and I know he will continue to work hard in the constituency despite the result.

I was incredibly frustrated to hear about the party held by Boris Johnson at No. 10 over the Christmas period last year. Whilst the rest of the country was doing their bit, keeping to restrictions and protecting others, the Prime Minister has shown once again it’s one rule for us and another for him and his mates. PMQs this week once again saw Johnson on the ropes, losing respect on both sides of the house as allegations of Tory sleaze keep coming through.

It was fantastic to join Labour colleagues at the South West Regional Conference last weekend. We had panels discussing everything from Women’s Safety on the streets of the South West to the Green Revolution. We need to protect the environment and ensure that our children and our children’s children are not forced to live with the consequences of our inaction.

It was great to talk to members about the issues  they are concerned about – our children’s education and young people’s futures, the challenges facing our health services, and the importance of local authorities in ensuring the services that our region needs are provided. There’s so much determination here to improve our public services and to make sure that the right services are in place to serve our communities. Thanks to everyone for coming and our fantastic speakers.

On Thursday I held the first of my Money Entitlement Events since the pandemic. I’m often asked about benefits, pensions and Universal Credit, and whilst many people rightly claim what they are entitled to, some people miss out.  With the devastating cut to Universal Credit, soaring energy prices and rising cost of living, it is more essential than ever that people are claiming all they are entitled to. Rules over money entitlement do change from time to time and it can be hard to stay up to date, so this event is a relaxed environment where you can chat to local experts over a cuppa and get the information you need.

A variety of local services had stalls at the event, including South Bristol Advice Services, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Bristol City Council’s Welfare Rights and Money Advice Service and Warmer Homes Advice and Money.  I want to say a huge thank you to all the experts who were on hand to answer queries, provide information and have a chat. People work hard contributing to society through taxes, caring for others and so on, so I want to help the people I represent claim the money they’re entitled to, particularly during these challenging times.

I was pleased to be able to join a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for ‘Left Behind’ Neighbourhoods this week to discuss the ‘liveability’ of neighbourhoods that are struggling. Left Behind neighbourhoods often have a far lower concentration of green assets and recreational green space than other areas of urban England. We urgently need policies in place to address this shortfall and to work at improving how areas look and feel and how communities can be supported to develop local solutions  to develop their quality of life. Covid has shown us the importance of our green spaces and communal outdoor areas, as well as the impact of our habits on things like air quality and the impact that has on our health outcomes. We have to help communities improve public transport and community links to help people live greener to boost the health benefits of truly fresh air. This means more greenery,improving local recycling, better insulation, and more local activities for children.

This week we marked World AIDS Day. It has been 40 years since the first diagnosis of HIV in Britain. We’ve seen tremendous progress in the decades since, but sadly HIV stigma is still an issue so we must work together to fight prejudice and improve education. The Government must also make it a priority to look at ending cases in the UK in the next decade.

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.