Political honesty needed over NHS cuts

Westminster Hall NHS debateKarin Smyth took part in a House of Commons debate on ‘Operational Productivity in NHS Providers’, which also involved contributions from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and his Labour Shadow, Andrew Gwynne MP.

Amongst the issues raised by the Bristol South MP during the debate were:

• The need for political honesty about the scale of the cost-cutting challenges faced by the NHS
• The over-complex management structures that make accountability in the NHS unclear
• The need to forge a political consensus on the NHS to ensure the greatest possible efficiency and a focus on quality

You can watch the full debate here:

Karin Smyth MP to serve on Public Accounts Committee

PACA newly elected Bristol MP has secured a place on the Parliamentary Committee that oversees public spending.

Karin Smyth will serve as one of the Labour MPs on the Public Accounts Committee, a group of MPs that scrutinises government spending.

“I look forward to this important opportunity to hold the government to account over the way it spends taxpayers’ money, ensuring it is used wisely and efficiently and that people up and down the country get value for money,” she said.

“The Public Accounts Committee can play an important role in holding the government to account, and I intend to play a full part in doing so.”

The Public Accounts Committee is one of a number of Parliamentary Select Committees, comprising MPs of all parties. It is appointed by the House of Commons to examine “the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted to Parliament to meet the public expenditure, and of such other accounts laid before Parliament as the Committee may think fit” (Standing Order No 148).

Bristol homeowners hit by July mortgage payment change

Karin Smyth MP Health Questions June 2015MP Karin Smyth is urging people she represents in south Bristol to promptly contact their mortgage lender if they feel an upcoming change in mortgage benefit will hit them.

The Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) scheme sees the government making interest payments – usually directly to the lender – on the first £200,000 of outstanding mortgages for those who can’t afford it (the first 100,000 for people getting Pension Credit).

From 6 July, the scheme will change for the first time since October 2010, because the interest rate the government pays will drop from by half a per cent, from 3.63% to 3.12%. For someone with a £150,000, 25-year home loan, monthly payments made directly by the government would fall from £454 to £391 – a difference of £63 per month.

“There has been very little publicity about this change,” said Karin Smyth “but it will affect hundreds of people living across Bristol who are struggling to pay their mortgage.

“If you currently get help from the SMI scheme and are worried about being able to pay your mortgage after this change is made, the expert advice is to contact your lender as soon as possible to see if they can help.

“You can also call my constituency office on 01179 533 575 for further advice.”

Supporting heart research to save lives

Karin Smyth MP heard how UK medical research is helping to save and improve the lives of the millions of people affected by heart disease, when she joined British Heart Foundation scientists at an event in Parliament.

The Labour MP talked with researchers to learn more about the latest projects, the hope they offer people with heart conditions, and why government support is vital.

“An estimated 12,760 people in Bristol South are living with heart and circulatory disease; devastating conditions which cause a quarter of all UK deaths,” said Karin Smyth.

“Public support helps charities like the British Heart Foundation fund some of the world’s leading researchers, working for the next major breakthrough to help save more lives.

“The combination of public support and government funding is key to further great strides in heart research.”

The government’s science budget is currently protected from cuts to expenditure, but only until April 2016. Any cut to science spending would put future and current research projects that could help save more lives at serious risk. The British Heart Foundation is calling on the Government to maintain the current ring-fencing of the science budget and to commit to future increases.

Visit to Hartcliffe Nursing Home

Karin Smyth MP pictured with the Manager of Hartcliffe Nursing Home, Raji Sunil
Karin Smyth MP pictured with the Manager of Hartcliffe Nursing Home, Raji Sunil

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth visited Hartcliffe Nursing Home to mark National Care Home Open Day.

Hartcliffe Nursing Home, located in Murford Avenue, opened in 2002 on the site of a former boys’ club and currently provides nursing care and a home to 65 residents.

“I was impressed by the range of activities the staff at Hartcliffe Nursing Home provide for the 65 residents,” said Karin Smyth. “And it was terrific to have the opportunity to meet some of the people who live there and to find out how much they value not only their home, but the hard work and kindness of the staff and volunteers who look after them too.”

The aim of National Care Home Open Day, now in its third year, is to help connect care homes with their local communities, as well as challenge misconceptions about residential care and showcase services.

Education Bill will create a ‘climate of fear’ in our schools

Untitled8Commenting on the introduction of the Education and Adoption Bill, which would give the Secretary of State for Education greater powers to force schools which are deemed to be ‘coasting’ to be made into academies – without providing a firm definition of ‘coasting’, Bristol South MP Karin Smyth said:

“We all want children in all schools to succeed. But schools which need to improve require an environment of calm stability that enables strategic measures to be put in place that will improve the young people’s prospects.

“The failure of the Bill to define a ‘coasting’ school, or the deliberate intent to keep its meaning woolly, will create the precise opposite: a climate of fear in schools.

“There are many examples of schools which have improved their Ofsted judgments from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ in the past two to three years: Ashton Park and St Bernadette Secondary in Bristol South are two of them.

“The nub of this Bill is to make ‘academisation’ much simpler for the Secretary of State to order, giving her power to choose the definition of ‘coasting’ by issuing regulations. Given the immense impact of academisation, and the prospect of it, upon staff, parents and young people, the government must guarantee that the eventual definition of ‘coasting’ – and any subsequent changes – will be allocated proper time for scrutiny, rather than allowing it to be hostage to political will.”

Government hypocrisy

She added that her concerns about this Bill are not limited only to the impact upon schools, but on accountability and democracy too.

“In Bristol South schools have for some time been working together with peer support and with very close links with parents, children and the wider communities the schools serve. This gives them the flexibility to match skills & qualifications to the local economy as well as the global one we all inhabit. Crucially it gives parents real influence to help shape the nature and ethos of the educational establishment their children attend. But this Bill effectively hands control of the very constitution of our schools to the Secretary of State. How will parents in Bristol South be able to exercise their right to influence their children’s education once so much power has been squeezed into so few hands?

“From where parents and education professionals in Bristol South are looking it seems nothing less than hypocrisy for a government to talk one week of the need to devolve powers to our city regions and to the people who live there. Then to table a Bill whose intent – in education, one of the most important areas of our lives – forces control in the opposite direction, putting it into the hands of Whitehall.”

MP’s ‘thank you’ to Bristol’s Citizens Advice service

Karin Smyth MP supporting Bristol Citizens AdviceKarin Smyth thanked staff and volunteers working at the city’s Citizens Advice service for providing her Bristol South constituents with a range of support and advice.

Speaking at a Parliamentary event, the Labour MP said: “Staff and volunteers at Bristol Citizens Advice provide free confidential and impartial advice to help local people from across our city resolve everyday problems and challenges by telephone and face-to-face.

“They work hard to deal day-in, day-out with issues including finances, employment and housing. They also help people develop the skills and confidence people need to help themselves.”

Bristol Citizens Advice has a drop in service at Bristol Advice Point, 1 Quay Street, BS1 2JL, on weekdays (9.30am to 1pm). Self-help computers are available there Monday to Thursday 9.30am to 4.30pm. People can also call a telephone advice line weekdays 10am to 1pm, on 03444 111 444. There is also a special debt advice line operating Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 9.30am to 4pm on 0117 946 2588.

Leader and Deputy Leader nominations

In the Labour leadership elections Karin Smyth MP has nominated Yvette Cooper and Stella Creasy as Leader and Deputy Leader respectively.

Karin Smyth said: “This election sees Labour Party members selecting the person they see as the next Prime Minster. Yvette Cooper is an authoritative, respected politician who has a good command of the many varied policy briefs this position demands. She also connects well with people up and down the country, which will be an important asset leading Labour into the next general election.

“I have been impressed by the way Stella Creasy has, as an MP in just one Parliamentary term so far, succeeded as a champion of community campaigning and engagement – a vital part of the role of Deputy Leader.”