Coronavirus – guidance and advice

I’ve been contacted by constituents who are, understandably, concerned about the impact of Coronavirus on them and their families.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presents unprecedented challenges for our public health and our economy at an individual, local, national, and international level.

Below, I’ve compiled some key information which may be helpful during this period of uncertainty.

NHS guidelines

The NHS has a plan to cope with the spread of the virus and has some essential advice for people on its website, here.

If you believe you may have contracted Coronavirus, you can check your symptoms via NHS 111’s online symptom checker, here.

Everyone is encouraged to wash their hands regularly with soap and water.

Government guidelines

The UK Government has a helpful online Coronavirus hub, here.

It includes the latest “stay at home” (self-isolating) guidance here.

If you must go out, please follow the government guidelines on social distancing here.

It is important that we all play our part in helping to prevent the spread of this virus. The measures that the UK Government has put in place are there to protect us all – and particularly older and vulnerable people whom we may unknowingly pass the virus onto.

Strong adherence to the latest public health advice will also help to ensure that our NHS can cope with the likely increased demand over the coming days, weeks, and potentially months.

Support for employees

Many people are, understandably, concerned about their job situation as a result of the uncertainty around Coronavirus – particularly people on zero hours contracts and those unable to work due to self-isolation, social distancing and caring for members of their family. Others are facing losing their jobs as a result of this.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – the government has cover the cost of 80% of employees earnings if they are furloughed due to their workplace closing as part of the Coronavirus response. It is hoped that this will result in fewer job losses. More info, here.

The rules regarding Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) have been updated in light of the Coronavirus outbreak. The latest changes are available here.

The Self Employment Income Support Scheme – to support self-employed people, the government is allowing you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed. Tax and VAT payments have also been deferred. More info, here.

If you’ve recently been made unemployed, you can find out more about the support available here. The Government is reviewing this and taking extra measures in response to the impact of Coronavirus.

School closures

With the announced school and nursery closures across the UK, I know that many parents are concerned about the amount of leave they may be able to take to look after their children.

You can find information about your rights to time off for dependants here. Please also check with your employer as some have more generous allowances than others.

The government has said that school provision will be made available for children of key workers (such as NHS workers, police and those charity workers involved in the Coronavirus response) and vulnerable children. See who qualifies as a key worker here. You will need to inform your child’s school or nursery if you are in this category and want to use this provision.

Panic buying

There have been reports of panic buying from supermarkets and lengthy waits for home delivery. The UK’s leading supermarkets have all clearly stated that there is enough food and household essential supplies to go around if everybody sticks to buying what they need. Many have put measures in place to try and manage this, including reserved time slots for older people and other groups and a 3 item limit on certain things.

Supermarket responses to Coronavirus

  • Aldi’s response here
  • Asda’s response here
  • Iceland’s response here
  • Lidl’s response here
  • Morrisons’ response here
  • Sainsbury’s response here
  • Tesco’s response here

Please also remember there are smaller shops across Bristol South many of which do have the supplies you need.

Food Banks

Local food bank demand has increased in recent weeks and some have been affected by panic buying. Citizens Advice has a guide on how to get help from a food bank, here. It usually requires a referral from a health or social care professional or relevant support organisation.

Bristol South has a number of independent food banks (see below)

  • Carpenter’s Food and Support based in the Withywood Centre. Contact: wasps@hotmail.com
  • Refresh Bedminster café and food bank on East St. Contact: refreshbs3@gmail.com
  • Victoria Park Baptist Church food bank. Contact: vpbc.foodbank@gmail.com

Please note that food banks have been affected by volunteers needing to self-isolate, shortages related to panic buying and may need support in the form of donations of money, food items and time (volunteering).

Community support

It’s been great to see so many people and organisations coming together to support the response to Coronavirus.

The NHS is looking for volunteers to help up people who have been asked to shield themselves from coronavirus because of underlying health conditions. It includes delivering medicines from pharmacies and driving patients to appointments as well as calling people on the phone. You can sign up to become NHS Volunteer Responders, here.

Bristol City Council is co-ordinating the local and has a registration page for anyone interested in volunteering to help with this. To register your interest as a volunteer, please see here.

If you can afford to donate to the local Coronavirus Response Fund, you can do so here. It will help charities and community organisations who are supporting people through this pandemic.

Travel advice

The Government has advised against non-essential travel on public transport. People should be staying at home unless absolutely necessary to go out.

Local public transport services (buses and trains) are running reduced services with extra measures in place to help tackle the spread of Coronavirus. Please see here for the latest travel updates.

The government has announced a temporary 6 month MOT exemption to enable vital services to continue, frontline workers to get to work, and people to get essential food and medicine. All cars, vans and motorcycles which usually would require an MOT test will be exempted from needing a test from 30 March 2020. Vehicles must be kept in a roadworthy condition, and garages will remain open for essential repair work. Drivers can be prosecuted if driving unsafe vehicles.More info, here.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all non-essential international travel. If you are currently overseas on holiday or seeking to return from a period abroad, you are advised to contact your airline or travel company. You are also able to contact the FCO by calling (0)207 008 1500.

Support for businesses

Bristol City Council is publishing regular updates on its website, including information about changes to council services while social distancing measures are in place. For the latest updates, please see here.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced an extensive package of measures to help businesses cope during the Coronavirus pandemic, including reduced business rates. More info on this, here.

Find out more about the government support planned here. And the support locally, here.

Please note that the UK Government has indicated that the package of support available will be reviewed as the outbreak continues.

Constituency surgeries

In line with the current public health advice, I have postponed by upcoming advice surgeries and face-to-face community engagements. My team and I are still working hard to respond to constituents’ concerns as quickly as possible, although we will be prioritising cases relating to the Coronavirus outbreak.

If you live in Bristol South and need further advice or support, please get in touch by emailing karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk

I hope that you and your family stay safe during this difficult time – please do reach out for help if you need it. The community response to this situation has been heartening. Together, we can ensure that we support those who need help.

Karin Smyth MP’s response to the planning approval for an arena in Filton

I’ve seen the planning decision relating to the plans for an arena in Filton and my position on this has not changed. Like many of my constituents I remain convinced that the best location for any such development is in the centre of Bristol.

Substantial amounts of public money have been earmarked for transport improvements in the Filton area – with plans for a new train station, Metrobus routes and bridges. We need to see similar investment here in Bristol South.

I welcome Ashton Gate’s plans to expand and create build a Sport and Convention Centre alongside its 27,000 capacity stadium. They have a strong track record of delivering large scale events – from football matches to huge music concerts – and, crucially, of getting people to and from the stadium from across the region. Most local people walk, cycle and use trains or buses to get to Ashton Gate. Its location makes it accessible not only for people in Bristol South, but also right across the city and the region. 

But, with ambitious plans to expand its annual programme of events it would benefit from more transport infrastructure – electrification of the existing track which runs from Temple Meads through Bedminster and Parson Street, a new station for Ashton Gate as part of the re-opening of the Portishead line, a Metrobus stop outside the stadium and a new pedestrian bridge over the main road.  The plans focus on sustainability – encouraging people out of cars and onto forms of active travel, very important considering the climate emergency we are in.

Finally, we cannot talk about the Filton arena plans without considering what is happening to Arena Island near Temple Meads (which was supposed to be home to the city’s new arena). We were promised hundreds of jobs and apprenticeships as part of the original arena plans and I want to see that the new development proposals benefit people in Bristol South – as the plans for Ashton Gate will. 

Hundreds of jobseekers attend MP’s annual jobs and apprenticeships fair in South Bristol

The South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair takes place in Hengrove each year

Students, parents, carers, grandparents and individuals looking for work headed to the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove 27 Feb 2020 for the only event of its type in Bristol South.

The South Bristol Jobs and Appenticeships Fair was set up by Bristol South MP Karin Smyth and City of Bristol College in 2017 to help local people access a full range of jobs and apprenticeships opportunities. Now in its fourth year, it builds on previous work by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Bristol City Council, and remains the only event of its type in South Bristol.

More than 60 stallholders from businesses, training providers and other employment support organisations were on hand with information and careers advice for the 800+ visitors. Some stalls included apprentices who had found their role at previous fairs. They returned to share their experiences of apprenticeships and encourage other people to become apprentices.

City of Bristol College Principal Andy Forbes and Karin talked to stallholders and visitors about what they were hoping to achieve from the fair. Local families found out about the options available and signed up for apprenticeships and courses. Many employers took people’s CVs and contact details and expect to recruit people from this.

Speaking after the event, Karin said: “I’ve had a fantastic day talking to so many people – young people and older people looking for a job, looking for apprenticeships. We want to make apprenticeships more attractive, to help people understand how you get onto them and give people access to the jobs and training that they need. What’s really lovely is we’ve talked to people who came to last year’s fair and they’re back here this year with a job encouraging new apprentices to come forward. ”

Ricky-Jay Jones, 19, from Withywood, is now an IT Apprentice with Fowlers of Bristol thanks to registering for an apprenticeship at last year’s fair. He said: “I got my apprenticeship at the fair last year. The best thing about it is that I’m learning a lot of new things and I’m learning to get on with a lot of people. It’s building my confidence up and it’s helped me get to know more about IT than before. I’m hoping to try and stay on with Fowlers when my apprenticeship finishes.”

Chris Mitchell, who works for Bristol City Council and helps organise the event, said:  “Today has been fantastic. We’ve had very happy employers and very happy people who we’ve encouraged to come here. It’s been the biggest and best event we’ve done here and, by working together, we’ve brought together a great range of employers and people.

“It’s vital for people here in Bristol South; because if anyone is a bit unsure about themselves, it’s much easier for them to talk to an employer at this sort of event. They’ve still got to apply for the jobs in the usual way but because they’ve actually broken the ice with the employer and they’ve decided, after talking to this employer, ‘yes, I’m going to work for you’, it makes the world of difference.”

Mike Gregory, was manning the HMRC stall and recruiting for a range of jobs and apprenticeship opportunities. Originally from Knowle West, he commented on how brilliant this event was for local people.

He said: “We’ve seen lots of people from students at the college to people who’ve been made redundant and are looking for new work, for retired people who want to get back into the workplace; a massive range, it’s been brilliant. Events like these are essential for Bristol South. Growing up in the area, I didn’t find that there was anything going on. Becoming an adult, looking for work in the area I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t have any help; but with stuff like this there’s advice and a face-to-face interaction that makes people feel much more confident in going for a role. I’d recommend it to anyone.”

City of Bristol College Principal Andy Forbes said: “It’s my first fair, since I’ve only just joined the college as Principal but I’ve been really impressed with the size, the scale and the energy in the event. We’ve seen a really good mix of people coming through the door – parents, youngsters, our own students. It’s such an important event for Bristol South and Karin has been such so helpful in getting this organised, it’s been a great partnership. She is such a champion for South Bristol.”

Fair organisers (L-R) City of Bristol College Principal Andy Forbes, Bristol South MP Karin Smyth, Richard Smale from the DWP and Chris Mitchell from Bristol City Council

Karin added: “It’s been great to work with Andy and the team at City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions on this important event. We’re already starting to think about next year’s fair and hope to be able to help even more people take their first, or next, step in their career.”

The fair comes just weeks after Andy and Karin celebrated the start of work on the new Advanced Construction Skills Centre at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove. The Advanced Construction Skills Centre, due to open in September 2021, will help train the next generation of construction workers and will open up opportunities for young people in Bristol South.

One week to go until South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair 2020 – full exhibitor list unveiled

With just one week to go until the South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair, the full list of exhibitors has been unveiled. 
 
The fair, which takes place at City of Bristol College’s South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove from 11am-3pm on Thursday 27 February, brings together some of the city’s biggest employers, training providers and organisations that support people with apprenticeships. 

From public sector services such as Avon & Somerset Police, HMRC and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust to key local businesses including Babcock International, Fowlers motorcycle dealership and Jeffway Electrical Services, recruiters and apprentices will be on hand to talk about the opportunities available (see below for full list). 

Organised by Bristol South MP Karin Smyth in partnership with City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions, the event is the only one of its kind in South Bristol.  

Karin says: “I’ve been organising this event with the college for four years now and each year we see new employers and organisations coming on board. We’ve got a good mix of employers from Bristol South and beyond and the colleges and support agencies which can help you with your career. It’s one of the highlights of the year for me – a chance to talk to employers and apprentices as well as parents, grandparents and students and learn more about their experiences.” 

Award-winning apprentice Jess Perrett completed a carpentry apprenticeship with On Site and Bristol City Council. She is now working towards a higher national certificate in construction.  

The 25-year-old from Knowle said: “I wanted to do an apprenticeship because I wasn’t enjoying my A levels and wanted to try something else that’s wasn’t classroom based and a more practical hands on approach. The knowledge I have gained is not only applicable to my work life but to my home life. With this insight, I’ve managed to renovate two properties and about to start my third.” 

21st Century Building Services which also takes on apprentices via On Site explains how apprenticeships are of benefit to them. 

Claire Stockham, from the Bedminster based business, said: “As a business we have always appreciated the value of training and developing our employees and have found this has contributes greatly to having such a committed and loyal team. Our Managing Director started as an apprentice and has invested in apprenticeships from day one of the business. Being able to find the right people and help them train and develop means we can ensure that we have the very best people working for us.” 

Andy Forbes, Principal of City of Bristol College, which helps train hundreds of apprentices each year and has just started work on a new Advanced Construction Skills Centre, added: “We are really looking forward to welcoming such a wide range of employers to our South Bristol Skills Academy. Apprenticeships at City of Bristol College have so much to offer. The chance to earn money while you learn is an attractive option, and in many areas you can now do apprenticeships right up to university level. Hope to see you there!”  

For more information, visit: www.cityofbristol.ac.uk/news/south-bristol-jobs-and-apprenticeships-fair-returns-for-2020 

Exhibitor list: 

Avon & Somerset Police    

Arthur David Food Wholesalers 

Avon Fire & Rescue

Avon & Wiltshire NHS Trust 

Avon Cosmetics 

Axcis Education 

Babcock International 

Barratt Homes  

Bath College 

Brandon Trust  

Bristol Airport (Alpha LSG Sky ChefsMoneycorp, Swissport and others) 

The Bristol Port Company

Bristol Waste 

Carers Support Centre 

CITB Apprenticeships 

Class Recruitment 

Co-Op Distribution 

eXPD8 Field Marketing Agency 

Fowlers Motorcycle Dealership 

Future Bright 

Greene King 

Greggs 

Hayes Parsons Insurance Broker 

Hengrove Park Leisure 

HMRC 

Home Instead  

Jeffway Electrical & Training  

Knowle West Media Centre  

KPMG

Lidl Distribution Centre 

McDonalds     

Marriott Hotels   

Medacs Healthcare 

Midas Construction 

Mitie Technical Facilities Management 

National Careers Service  

Network Rail   

Newcross Healthcare 

N-gaged Training  

On Site

Orridge  Stocktaking and Supply Chain Solutions 

Pattersons Catering Supplies 

Pertemps  

Princes Trust 

Professional Apprenticeships  

Proud To Care 

Redcliffe Precision     

St Monica Trust

Severn Ride & Stride

Sodexo catering based at Clifton College 

Teleperformance 

Tesco Distribution   

Travelwest  

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust  

United Living        

UWE Bristol  

Weston College

Karin Smyth MP welcomes first step in building new Advanced Construction Skills Centre in Hengrove

It’s been years in the making but, thanks to a collaborative effort, the Advanced Construction Skills Centre in Hengrove is one step closer to completion following a turf cutting ceremony at the site next to City of Bristol College’s South Bristol Skills Academy.

Karin, who has been pushing for this new facility for her constituents since becoming an MP in 2015, joined new City of Bristol College Principal Andy Forbes, West of England Combined Authority (WECA) Mayor Tim Bowles and Midas Group Chairman Steve Hindley for a turf cutting ceremony on Friday 14 February. She chatted with young carpentry apprentices and got a virtual reality tour of the new building.

Mr Forbes, who recently took over as Principal, thanked Karin for her ongoing support for the college and the role she played in getting the new centre here in Bristol South. Mr Bowles, who runs WECA which helped fund the new centre also thanked Karin for championing the cause. Mr Hindley, a former governor at City of Bristol College said he was delighted that Midas Group would be leading on the construction of this £9m centre, which would in turn train the future workforce in that industry.

Karin, speaking at the launch event, said: “We know that, because of transport issues and a lack of big employers locally, it’s very hard for young people in Bristol South to get a decent job, get decent training and then get the money they need to have a decent life. The transport in this city does not work for people here in south Bristol. This Advanced Skills Construction Centre has a key role to play in giving local people training that is based right here at this fantastic skills academy.

“I’ve fought hard to help ensure we get this facility here in Bristol South. Today is a culmination of our collaborative effort – between the college myself, the college, Bristol City Council and WECA. I brought the Conservative Minister Robert Halford here a couple of years ago to see the college and I took him to the window upstairs and said ‘that site down there, we need that site for the construction centre’. I’m delighted that we are now seeing real progress with this and look forward to seeing the centre built and open to learners next year.”

Karin added: “We’ve also got the apprenticeships and jobs fair happening here in a couple of weeks time – again, that’s a good collaboration between myself and the college, the city council and DWP. I hope to see you there!.”

For more information on the apprenticeships fair taking place on Thursday 27 February, click here.

For more information on the new skills centre, due to open in September 2021, click here.

Local apprentices share their stories ahead of South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair 2020

Compiled in partnership with City of Bristol College and Bristol City Council

Former On Site apprentice Harry Payne now works as Gas Supervisor for Bristol City Council

The South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair 2020, organised by Karin Smyth MP, City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and DWP, takes place from 11am-3pm on Thursday 27 February at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove, Bristol. It’s free to attend and there’s no need to book – just drop by.

With the event just a couple of weeks away, Karin heard from apprentices across Bristol South about their experiences of apprenticeships. Here’s what they had to say…

Harry Payne, 31, from Bishopsworth – former On Site apprentice, now Gas Supervisor

Harry successfully completed his apprenticeship with Bristol City Council in 2009 and has continued to work for them as a Gas Service/Breakdown Engineer there for the past decade. Harry’s hard work recently paid off with a promotion to Gas Supervisor and he is now responsible for the supervision of 37 engineers. Harry’s role includes the day to day supervision of Gas Engineers, dealing with all aspects of Health and Safety, carrying out regular site visits and ensuring operatives are updated with latest industry legislation.

Harry says: “I haven’t been to an apprenticeship fair before, as they weren’t around when I joined the council, but it sounds like a great idea to give people a better idea of what we do and promote on the job training. I heard about the Council apprenticeship as my dad was an employee of Bristol City Council when I was at school. I wasn’t the most interested in education so an apprenticeship gave me a way of earning the money I wanted, whilst putting me on a route to a trade that would provide a long-term career and actually sparked my interest to learn. 

“One of the best things about getting where I am via the apprenticeship route has been the opportunity to work across multiple areas of the housing and construction sector, from repairing pipes and boilers in the Museum and City Hall, to fitting bathrooms and kitchens within local housing estates. I completed my apprenticeship by progressing to become a Gas Engineer, servicing and repairing Gas appliances.  

“My most recent role has been to take on the day to day supervision of 18 Gas Engineers, covering the north of Bristol. I deal with all aspects of Health & Safety, carry out regular site visits and ensure adherence to latest industry legislation. I would like to continue in this role learning more about the introduction of new green and sustainable energy sources, whilst building my skills and experience in leading a team, with the hope that long term I could work up to a managerial position.”

Jess Perrett, 25, from Knowle – On Site carpentry apprentice working for Bristol City Council

Jess carried out her carpentry apprenticeship with On Site and is now working towards a Higher National Certificate in construction.

She said: “The reason I wanted to do an apprenticeship is because I wasn’t enjoying my A levels and wanted to try something else that’s wasn’t classroom based and a more practical hands on approach. The best thing about doing an apprenticeship is that the knowledge I have gained is not only applicable to my work life but to my home life. With the insight I have gained I have managed to renovate two properties and about to start my third.”

She added: “The most challenging thing about an apprenticeship is your own self confidence and believing in your own ability.”

Aimee Holcombe, 18, from Bishopsworth – Business Administration Apprentice 

Aimee Holcombe didn’t enjoy full-time education but starting her apprenticeship with A & R Services (electrical, building and mechanical contractor based in Ashton) and City of Bristol College, has given her the chance to learn while she earns and says it has been ‘a great experience’ so far. She completed a Level 2 Business Administration apprenticeship in a year – it usually takes two years – and is now working towards her next qualification with a view to becoming a manager in the long run. 

Aimee says: “I have enjoyed learning my subject while putting it into practice and going to college once a week to socialise with people my own age. By doing an apprenticeship, you are putting the skills which you are learning in college into practice on a regular basis. You are also learning how to work within a professional environment and how to get along with all different types of people. I have found my confidence has grown a lot since beginning my apprenticeship as I am dealing with customers regularly and feel confident in what I am speaking with them about.

“Doing an apprenticeship has massively helped in my career as I have created a good professional profile and have a great network of people from within and outside of the business. I have matured a lot since beginning my apprenticeship as I have encountered some tough situations and have been out under a bit of pressure every now and then which has helped me to learn how to deal with my emotions better. I would 100% recommend doing an apprenticeship to anyone, especially through City of Bristol College.” 

Cody James, 22, from Hartcliffe – Accountancy Apprentice  

Aspiring accountant Cody is currently completing an AAT Level 4 apprenticeship with the Healthcare Financial Management Association and City of Bristol College. She had previously completed a Level 2 and Level 3 AAT working as a Finance Officer before progressing onto her current course. And she has twice been nominated for an award – including Apprentice of the Year in the South West Business Awards. 

Cody says: “The benefits of completing an apprenticeship are that, as well as working and studying, you also gain a qualification at the end of it all which is a great achievement. It can help me get other jobs in the future but the biggest benefit of studying this course is the support you receive from your tutors. 

“The accountancy tutors at the College are always happy to help and respond to your queries quickly and efficiently. I chose to study Accountancy as I just love working with numbers, spreadsheets and solving problems.” 

“The support from my workplace is fantastic. They have supported me since I started my apprenticeship and have always made sure I am okay. The college has also given good support. My college assessor would come every 12 weeks for a visit and again, my tutors are great at giving any additional support I needed. 

Sharon Hewitt, from Withywood – Business Administration Apprentice 

Apprenticeships are not just for teenagers but for older learners as well who want to reignite their future career prospect. Sharon Hewitt joined City of Bristol College in 2019 on the Business Administration Level 3 apprenticeship scheme in the hope of helping her in her job progression.
The perfect fit for her without travelling to college ‘for hours on an evening or weekend’.   

She says: “Apprenticeships are a great way to train as you are gaining experience through your job as well as the help from the college. I had a mentor through the course who was absolutely brilliant. She guided me through my course making me feel anything was achievable – she was a great support to me.

“I would definitely recommend the apprenticeship programme and college to anyone who will listen! I haven’t studied for a little while so initially found this quite difficult and more time consuming than I had initially thought by my mentor, Vicki, was absolutely brilliant. I can’t thank her enough for the time and support which she gave me, I definitely would not have been able to do this without her.” 

Sharon is working as an Administrative Assistant at a Bristol South primary school and hopes she can take on more responsibility in her current role and looks to progress to an office manager role. 

She said: “I’m not sure about my long-term goal at the moment but I am thinking I may do an accounting course and hopefully my Level 4 so I can move on to more of a business manager or office manager role before I’m too old and have to retire!”

More information on the South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair 2020, here.

Karin Smyth MP: Why I’m backing Keir Starmer for Leader of the Labour Party

As many of you will know, I’m backing Keir Starmer for leader of the Labour Party. I’ve touched upon some of my reasons previously but I wanted to expand on this as we near the ballot. 

I’m not alone in supporting Keir. He received 88 MP nominations, around three times as many as the other candidates, as well as the support of several key unions and Labour Party affiliates. There is a very good reason for that. 

We need to unite the party and regain the trust of voters in order to win an election and form a progressive Labour government. This feels like a pivotal moment for the party that I’ve been a member of for 35 years. It’s a huge responsibility and we must get it right.  

As I considered who to support, I thought back to when I first joined the Labour Party and the journey that’s followed. 

As a young woman from an Irish working-class family, I was determined to have a better life than my parents. The Labour Party of the early Eighties offered nothing to support my family or my ambition to go to university. It wasn’t until Neil Kinnock took the reins and started to transform the party into a much more outward-facing organisation that I really saw the potential for a better future. 

That was something I could get behind and I campaigned for Labour in both the 1987 and 1992 elections. The first chance I had to determine the party’s leader was in 1994. Reeling from the shock of the 1992 election defeat and as a feminist, I was taken aback by how a young male lawyer had become the party and media favourite – sidelining Margaret Beckett. I voted for Margaret, and am now fortunate enough to call her a colleague. She is a brilliant politician, whom I continue to admire and respect. 

But it was Tony Blair who inspired the nation and gave hope to millions. He went onto become the greatest leader in my lifetime (to-date!) and won us unprecedented success to be able to make the changes that still serve my constituents. From building decent, modern public buildings for education, healthcare and community services such as children’s centres to establishing a minimum wage, reducing NHS waiting times and enabling more social mobility.  

May 2nd 1997 remains one of the most exciting days of my life – after watching Tory Ministers on TV from my teenage years right through to my early 30s, it was amazing to see and hear the difference that a Labour government could and did make.  I am determined to see that again – it’s why I became an MP, but it’s clear that we have a way to go. There are obvious parallels with today, but it’s also different.  

Once again, we have a male lawyer emerge from the ranks – being pushed forward looking like the party and the media favourite. This time, all the other leadership candidates are women – most of whom, like Margaret Beckett in 1994, would make good leaders. This time round, I personally know the people in the running – having worked with them over the last four and a half years. And, a quarter of a century on, I’m presented with a new dilemma.  

A leader can make or break a party. If we get this right, we have a decent chance of winning the next election – if we don’t, then we will condemn ourselves to another decade of Tory rule.  

Keir does what experienced, good leaders do. He brings people along with him, listening, reflecting and considering the bigger picture. He looks after his team and takes accountability for decisions and actions.  Before becoming an MP, he was Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and, as such, has faced some of the hardest decisions imaginable – relating to murder, serious organised crime and terrorism. He fully appreciates the consequences of such decisions.

In his role as Shadow Brexit Secretary, he’s navigated the difficult and adversarial politics of Brexit to repeatedly hold the government to account. I was part of Keir’s Brexit team and have continued to work closely with him as Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland. I cannot imagine anyone else getting us through the last few years in the way that Keir did. It is testament to his leadership ability and style that everyone in his team is supporting him. 

I remember the evening we agreed to trigger Article 50; a tough decision for MPs who did not want to leave the EU but faced with a Tory majority government and in respect of the referendum result, felt compelled to vote to start the process. A number of colleagues rebelled. As I returned home that night the phone went – it was Keir checking in to say acknowledge what a tough day it had been for the team, checking in to see if I was OK. Empathy is such an important quality in a leader, especially during these fractious times and Keir has that key ingredient – a genuinely decent person who cares.

People who have met him during one of his many visits to Bristol have commented on this too. This genuine caring nature extends beyond his team, to people Keir doesn’t know. Witnessing again and again how well he leads, and crucially, unites teams and connects with people has made my decision much easier. 

I am still hearing people say we need to be bolder and more radical when selecting our next leader. But, after four General Election defeats – the last one in December a catastrophic defeat – the most radical thing we can do is win. And I firmly believe that Keir is the person to lead us to victory. In Keir’s words, another future is possible. 

Invitation: South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair 2020

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth is again joining forces with City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and the Department of Work and Pensions to bring you another apprenticeships fair.

The South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair 2020 takes place from 11am til 3pm on Thursday 27 February at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove, Bristol.

It will bring together employers, training providers and apprenticeships organisations with job-seekers and school leavers.

Exhibitors include the college and council as well as some of the city’s employers, such as NHS, Avon Fire and Rescue Service and Bristol Port Company. There will also be representatives from organisations supporting people into employment, such as the National Careers Service.

This is the fourth year that Karin Smyth has run the free event with City of Bristol College, which follows National Apprenticeship Week on 3-9 February 2020.

“I’m delighted to be bringing you another South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair in partnership with City of Bristol College, Bristol City Council and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP),” said Karin Smyth, “It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet the training providers, employers and all those people who are involved in supporting apprenticeships.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “This is a great opportunity for people seeking a route into work, and are keen to develop their skills and knowledge on the job. I am delighted that there are so many apprenticeship opportunities on offer across Bristol and that employers are committing to developing our city’s talent.” 

Speaking at last year’s South Bristol Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust Apprenticeship Co-ordinator Joanna Dunlop said: “The uptake has been brilliant – a really good breakdown of college students and pupils and a lot more adults, interested in all areas. We bought current jobs and even interviewed a couple of people during the day. This is the only event with this catchment and long may it last because it’s been brilliant.”

Andy Forbes, Principal of City of Bristol College, said: “Apprenticeships at City of Bristol College have so much to offer. The chance to earn money while you learn is a really good option, and in many areas you can now do apprenticeships right up to university level.”

Burges Salmon apprentice Gareth Parfitt was at the 2019 fair talking to people about his experience of the scheme. He said: “I found the university route to be really expensive and I’d had enough of reading from a textbook day-in, day-out; I wanted something that was a lot more practical so decided that an apprenticeship was way better for me.

“The practical side coupled with study works really well – I go to university on a Monday and on a Tuesday, whatever I’ve learnt, I go to work and put straight into practice. That works really well. If I pass all my exams, I should come out as a qualified solicitor without the debt of university.”

Karin Smyth added: “Apprenticeships offer a fantastic route to work and qualifications, including university degrees. We’ve had great feedback from previous fairs with people securing jobs and apprenticeships. The event is not just for school pupils but for their parents and grandparents as well as older people looking to re-enter the workplace or re-train.”

It’s free to attend and no need to pre-book, simply turn up on the day!

Karin Smyth MP backs Keir Starmer for leader of the Labour Party

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth has revealed that she is supporting Keir Starmer in his bid to become Labour Party Leader.

She has nominated Dawn Butler for Deputy Leader and also supports Angela Rayner.

She said: “All the declared candidates for Leader have very strong attributes; and I am confident that whoever wins will rise to the challenge and take the fight to Boris Johnson and the Tories.

“I am backing Keir Starmer.

“I worked closely with Keir both in my previous role as his Parliamentary Private Secretary and in my current role as Shadow Northern Ireland Minister. He’s campaigned with me here in Bristol South, most recently during last month’s General Election campaign.

“As part of his team, I’ve seen first-hand what a good leader he is and, when welcoming him to Bristol South, how well regarded he is on the doorstep. I have every confidence in him to lead the Labour Party and hold the government to account and I will work with him to achieve this.

“I think that both Angela Rayner and Dawn Butler would make excellent Deputy Leaders. Angela has already secured enough nominations, so I nominated Dawn; I look forward to hearing more from both of them – along with Keir – during the selection process.”

Karin Smyth holds Bristol South seat in General Election 2019

Karin Smyth (Labour) retained her Bristol South seat in Thursday’s General Election with 27,895 votes, it was confirmed last in the early hours this morning – with a majority of 9,859.

Karin, who has been MP for Bristol South since 2015, said: “I’d like to thank you for re-electing me as your Member of Parliament and putting your trust in me again. I’d also like to thank everyone who played a part in my election campaign – to all those who delivered leaflets, spoke to people on the doorstep and supported me online.

“It’s been great to get out across Bristol South and speak to so many people in person too. It has reconfirmed my focus on healthcare, education and transport and I will continue to work hard as your MP in parliament and speak up for everyone in Bristol South, regardless of how you voted, to secure improvements in all of these areas.

“It is clear that the Labour Party has much work to do to secure the trust of people in other parts of Britain and I will work with my fellow MPs to achieve this.”