Karin Smyth MP’s submission to the Transport Committee on local bus services

I submitted evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee when they visited Bristol in November to evaluate the health of the bus market.

My view is that local representatives should have the same powers as the Mayor of London, and be able to set bus routes, timetables and fares. This would mean buses run for passengers and not profit.

Many residents of south Bristol contact me with concerns about the reliability, fares and routes of buses, and I continue to represent your views to the bus companies and the local authority.

Bristol South needs a decent public transport service to keep us moving and improve air quality.

Karin Smyth MP’s submission to UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on the impact of Government cuts to the people of south Bristol

Last week Professor Philip Alston, the United National Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, was in Bristol taking evidence as part of his assessment of poverty in the United Kingdom and in particular on so-called peripheral estates in large cities.

This is the letter I have written to Professor Alston highlighting the impact of austerity on residents of Hartcliffe & Withywood ward since 2010, which has been devastating.

I will continue to challenge government decisions which impact so badly on people living in Bristol South and I look forward to reading the full report when it is published next Spring.

 

Karin Smyth MP spoke on abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland in her role as Shadow Minister.

I was proud to speak from the Front Bench during the reading of the Northern Ireland Bill in support of an amendment put down by Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn on abortion and same sex marriage. I highlighted the hypocrisy of this Tory Government committing to increase access to family planning in countries across the world but not for the women of Northern Ireland. I was delighted the amendment was successful.

Full transcript of the reading can be found here

Original posted 25th October, 2018

 

Karin Smyth MP responds to report by researchers at the University of Bristol on educational inequality in Bristol

The recent report from researchers at the University of Bristol, “Reversing the Educational Inequality crisis in Bristol”, is shocking but sadly not a surprise to anyone with a knowledge of education in south Bristol.

It clearly sets out the gaps in provision and opportunity for young people in my constituency compared to more affluent areas of the city. The report shows how the this lack of post-16 provision has an impact on the chances of young people going on to university – with far fewer students going on to higher education than predicted by their GCSE results.

This is an appalling waste of potential and something I’ve been working to change since becoming the MP for Bristol South.

But the issue isn’t just about access to university. Young people in south Bristol are also not gaining access to the highest quality apprenticeships in engineering, construction and IT, nor are they getting other training that would improve their life chances.

There is much that must be done.

The fragmentation of the education system does not make it an easy challenge to tackle, with no one body leading the charge. That is why I have sought to bring the key providers together over the past three years and continue to highlight these issues.

This summer I meet with Headteachers from all the secondary schools in my constituency and the Principals of both St Brendan’s Sixth Form College and City of Bristol College. I wanted to see how we can work together better to ensure all young people in Bristol South fulfil their potential. A key issue is pastoral support to young people post-16 who struggle with the transition and subsequently drop down a level or drop out of education altogether.

Other factors that have a critical impact include the government’s failing GCSE resits policy, with compulsory re-sits for English and Maths ultimately damaging motivation which can lead to students dropping out of college altogether.

Lack of investment in schools and colleges is also making it much harder to address educational inequality. Figures show that spending per student in school sixth forms is the lowest it has been since 2002. The cuts to Further Education colleges have been severe. Taking away the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) from 16 year olds by the Coalition Government was disgraceful and must be reversed.

Young people now have many more options at aged 16 but the system is complex. A lack of quality careers advice and understanding of those choices, alongside poor transport links, means that they often lack the information to make the right choice for them. Many parents and carers struggle to know how best to support their children through an ever changing education system.

Improved communications between educational providers could go some way to helping students experience a smoother transition to further and higher education. I also believe there is a real opportunity for the Bristol City Council-led Learning City Partnership – which brings all providers and local leaders together to address the city’s skills challenge – to pool resources and insights to ensure that educational inequality in Bristol South is properly tackled after years of oversight.

High quality careers advice and support must be a key focus. Apprenticeships and jobs fairs are a good way of connecting local employers with young people seeking opportunities to further their careers, demonstrated by the huge success of the events I have organised at the Skills Academy in Hengrove Park over the last two years. The delivery of the long awaited Construction Centre, also at Hengrove, will make a significant contribution to better quality training.

The report calls for an educational board to oversee its recommendations – including ensuring equal opportunities are available to all, and holding FE institutions accountable for increasing the number of students from wards where young people are underachieving. The Learning City Partnership already has much of this within its remit and – with representatives from the West of England Authority and Bristol City Council – seems like it could be the right vehicle to take the agenda forward.

There is no need to create another layer of bureaucracy.

The challenge for me is make sure local and national policy makers make addressing the educational inequality crisis facing young people an educational priority. To ensure that in five years time we are not reading another report on how young people in Bristol continue to be let down by the system.

I will keep pushing Bristol’s educational and political leadership to ensure Bristol South is given the particular attention it needs to reduce the shameful inequality gap so clearly highlighted in this report.

Original posted 12th October 2018.

Long Ashton to Hengrove MetroBus re-added to the routemap after pressure from MP for Bristol South, Karin Smyth

Karin says “The restoration of the Ashton to Hengrove MetroBus link on the route-map was one of the key demands I made in April following the decision to drop it. Since then, I have brought together the key players and made the case for why this route matters so much, and have kept the pressure on week in, week out.

It’s great to see that our campaign has paid off, and this is a helpful first step. What we now need is a clear timetable for delivery of the route, and a confirmed launch date. It’s nothing less than people across south Bristol deserve”.

Karin Smyth MP for Bristol South responds to Tuesday’s formal decision on the Bristol Arena.

Karin Smyth MP for Bristol South vows to keep fighting for what was promised on the Bristol Arena.

“Tuesdays decision is the formal end of a process that has, in truth, been on the cards for some time. While deeply disappointing, in almost every respect it changes nothing for people in Bristol South. We are still waiting for proposals for the site that will deliver the financial, economic, cultural and community rebalancing and benefits we’ve been promised. Until these proposals come forward, I’ll continue to do the only thing we can – keep fighting for what we’ve been promised.

“I have been honest with the Mayor throughout this process, and wish very much that there had been a different outcome. I still hope people in south Bristol get an arena that delivers on the promises made years ago. I remain ready and willing to work with the Mayor to deliver what we both want and what my constituents need – a development that delivers real and lasting benefits.”

Karin Smyth MP restates her position on the Bristol Arena

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth today restated her position on the city’s long-awaited Arena.

“I welcome the discussion around the arena proposals – such debate is a good thing, especially with a project as important as this. However, I am increasingly concerned it is generating more heat than light, with unfair questioning of the motivations of those leading the project. While we may disagree, let’s have as our starting point an acceptance that we are all driven by a desire to do the right thing for Bristol.

“My position remains exactly as it was a few months ago when the Temple Meads site was side-lined in a consultants’ report commissioned by Bristol City Council.

“I said then that ‘… if the decision makers are of the opinion that the Temple Meads arena is not viable, a view I disagree with, they are duty bound to say what will take its place. One thing is certain – another twenty years of talk and associated uncertainty simply will not do.’ That was my position then – and remains my position now.

“The arena was always more than a jobs and business project – it was meant to transform and rebalance the cultural offer for people in South Bristol as well. The plan currently on the table simply does not do that.”

“Mr Hunt – we would like our money back” – Karin Smyth MP slams NHS property scandal in Parliamentary debate

“Mr Hunt – we would like our money back” – Karin Smyth MP slams NHS property scandal in Parliamentary debate

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth today (Wednesday, July 4th) slammed the ongoing scandal surrounding NHS property management – and the Government’s refusal to take action to fix the problem.

At the Westminster Hall debate, Karin Smyth explained why she had called for the debate – and outlined the terrible impact the disastrous Tory health reforms are having on patients, communities and local NHS services.

After today’s debate, Karin Smyth MP said:

“I wanted to raise these critical failings in NHS property management, and the total absence of local accountability, because they are causing real damage here in Bristol South – and in communities across England.

“This is about more than managing buildings – it is about the relationship people have with them. They are the places people go to when they need care, where they welcome their children into the world, and the places where they say a final goodbye to those they love. These are places hardwired into our emotional DNA, and the fabric of the communities in which they sit.

“The problems started with the Government’s botched NHS reorganisation, and have grown worse ever since. Put simply, poor planning and costly bureaucracy are endangering local services like the Knowle West Health Centre and stunting the growth of South Bristol Community Hospital.

“The lack of leadership and accountability is also draining millions of pounds from the local health economy, while making it impossible for local people and service deliverers to get problems fixed or questions answered.”

While Health Minister Stephen Barclay MP offered some reassurance on Knowle West Health Centre today, there was little by way of concrete action promised to resolve the root causes. He did, however, agree to meet with Karin Smyth to discuss the problems in greater detail.

Karin Smyth MP added:

“My message to the Secretary of State today was crystal clear – we want the money back in our local NHS, and local people to be given their voices back when it comes to NHS services.

“While his colleague didn’t deliver either of these in his response to my appeals today, I will take him up on the offer of a meeting to look at these problems in greater detail.

“But the Government should be under no illusions – I will not stop campaigning until this scandal is resolved.”

Karin Smyth MP’s response to the news that Bristol City Council has withdrawn the anticipated Cabinet update on Bristol Arena from the Cabinet Agenda

 

“I welcome this period of consideration and am pleased to see signs that Bristol City Council is engaging as I asked them to. It’s no more that the people of south Bristol deserve.

“There is now a real chance to pause, reassess, and do the right thing, properly assessing the value of the Temple Meads arena plan. The process should ditch the management-speak that ran through recent consulting reports, and put people and communities first.

“We should seize the opportunity to think big, and not view this as a building project but a rare chance to invest in people and place, rebalancing the city and our economy.

“As I have made clear already, I will not support anything that makes Bristol South worse off.”

Karin Smyth MP comments on KPMG reports into plans for a new arena in Bristol

Following the publication of KPMG reports into plans for a new arena in Bristol, Bristol South MP Karin Smyth said:

“However you cut it up, the KPMG reports are very bad news for south Bristol. The top line is no arena and no investment – in fact, the only guarantee that residents have is years of uncertainty around the Temple Meads site.

“Bristol South needs investment, jobs, improved infrastructure – and a signal from those running the city that they are not forgotten. Instead, we are looking at a process which has not only failed to deliver in every regard, but actually cost millions of tax payers’ money to achieve precisely nothing. My constituents deserve better than this.

“In many ways, these reports pose more questions than they answer. They lead the reader through a maze, hedging bets throughout, and relying on the purposefully narrow terms of reference they accepted to avoid assessing crucial issues.

“Too often, Bristol South seems to be at the back of queue for crucial investment, and this announcement is similar to the recent Metrobus mess. Where there are challenges – financial or otherwise – I’ll work with anyone to overcome them. But I will not support proposals which will leave Bristol South worse off.”