Karin Smyth MP comments on the uncertainty of the Ashton to Hengrove Metrobus link

Following the launch this week of some Metrobus routes, Bristol South MP Karin Smyth said:

“While I welcome the launch this week of some Metrobus routes, I’m extremely concerned that the Ashton to Hengrove link seems to have fallen by the wayside.

I immediately contacted Metrobus following their announcement, but as yet have received no meaningful response.

I have asked Bristol City Council to reinstate the link to the route map, and will be writing to the West of England Combined Authority to ask for confirmation that any support needed to ensure the route is launched as promised is delivered promptly.

This crucial route, designed to properly connect communities currently poorly served by public transport links, was a central part of the Metrobus offer – indeed, it still features prominently on their promotional website.

The Metrobus link is also essential to the success of South Bristol Community Hospital. bringing patients and staff to and from the hospital, while also servicing customers using other facilities nearby.

Local residents have lived with significant disruption and inconvenience while the road that the Metrobus is to use was built. But it would seem that once again, people in this part of South Bristol have been pushed down the pecking order when it comes to community investment.

It is my sincere hope that this route is continuing as planned, and will soon launch as promised. Anything less than would be entirely unacceptable, and a betrayal of promises made to local communities.”

 

Trailer safety campaign back on the national agenda following a major Lords debate

A trailer safety campaign launched in memory of Bristol toddler Freddie Hussey is back on the national agenda following a debate in the House of Lords.
Labour Peer Steve Bassam raised the issue at a Grand Committee meeting last Thursday, building on the work done by Freddie’s family and Bristol South MP Karin Smyth.
Karin Smyth MP, Labour MP for Bristol South, said:
“Thursday’s intervention is the latest step on a long journey for Freddie’s parents, Donna and Scott. Since Freddie’s death, their bravery and commitment to ensure that some good would come from their tragedy has been an inspiration.
“And together, we have made some amazing progress, including the #TowSafe4Freddie national trailer safety campaign run by the Driver and Vehicle Safety Agency in Freddie’s memory to educate drivers and raise the profile of trailer safety.
“It is my hope that this latest move in Westminster will put the spotlight back on trailer safety, and ensure that this important issue returns to the House of Commons Chamber, where we can keep up the pressure on Government Ministers to revisit the issue – and consider the case for a change in the law.”
Labour Peer Lord Bassam said:
“It is impossible to not be moved by the bravery of the Hussey family, and the huge impact their campaigning in Freddie’s memory has already achieved.
“I believe that this will provide new impetus to the work Karin Smyth has already done in Westminster, and will put this issue front and centre in the mind of Government Transport Ministers.”
The renewed activity in Westminster comes just weeks before the second Trailer Safety Summit being held in Bedminster. The summit, which follows a highly successful 2017 event, will be attended by Transport Minister Jesse Norman MP.

Hundreds of young people meet employers at the South Bristol Apprenticeships & Jobs Fair 2018

Some of Bristol’s biggest employers met hundreds of the city’s young jobseekers as part of an apprenticeship fair in Hengrove during National Apprenticeship Week 2018.

The South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeship Fair, organised by Bristol South MP and City of Bristol College, took place at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove and was attended by people from across Bristol and beyond.

Airbus, Hargreaves Lansdown, Bristol Airport, The Bristol Port Company and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust were among the large Bristol employers exhibiting; they were joined by other key south Bristol employers such as Robbins Timber, Computershare and Babcock.

Manning many of the stalls were existing and former apprentices, who talked to young jobseekers and their parents about the benefits of undertaking an apprenticeship.

“I’d recommend it to anyone,” said Connor Murphy, a first year apprentice with The Bristol Port Company. “I’ve been doing it for 5 months and I’m loving it. It’s a two year apprenticeship and you’re almost guaranteed a job at the end of it.

“I always struggled at school so getting the hands on experience was the boost I needed really. I didn’t want to focus on getting good grades to then be stuck in an office, I wanted to do a lot of physical stuff which is what I’m doing. It’s ideal for me.”

Amanda Rogers, 20, started an apprenticeship with Hargreaves Lansdown and is now working towards a degree alongside her role in cyber security with the financial company. She said: “I applied for apprenticeships in IT via the government website and was lucky enough to get this one. It’s really good, you learn and get a wage which is really beneficial. I’ll get a degree and there will be no debt. Hargreaves Lansdown are really supportive – if you need time off to do the work, they’ll allow you that. I don’t see myself leaving Hargreaves Lansdown because there’s so many opportunities for progression.”

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth and City of Bristol College Principal and Chief Executive Lee Probert spent the afternoon meeting local families at the event – learning more about the support they need to be able to navigate the post-16 skills, training and job opportunities.

Speaking at the event on Thursday 8 March, Karin said: “It’s been a brilliant day – a great chance for me to meet employers, young people and parents to talk about apprenticeships. I learnt more about the challenges people are facing and how we might address these – something I’ll be taking back to Westminster with me.

“It’s clear that some of the biggest advocates of apprenticeships are apprentices themselves and I met some inspirational young people finding their way in the world of work – from apprentice engineers at Babcock to apprentice nurses with the local NHS, there are so many different opportunities available.”

Lee added: “”We were thrilled to be able to work with Karin on this event again – it was brilliant to see so many young people coming along to find out more about apprenticeship opportunities. City of Bristol College has apprentices itself, working in business administration, customer service and marketing functions of the college. It’s something that works well for both us as an organisation and the individuals who are getting on the job training.

“We also support many of our city’s employers in the recruitment of apprentices for their business as well as the delivery and assessment of relevant apprenticeship frameworks. I hope that this event has inspired more people to take part in apprenticeship schemes.”

National and local organisations which support people through apprenticeships were also on hand to help offer advice, including the National Careers Service, 3aaaa, N-Gaged and the south Bristol organisation Professional Apprenticeships.

The fair was one of many events taking place across Bristol for National Apprenticeship Week 2018. It followed on from a similarly successful event in 2017, which saw lots of young people go on to secure job and apprenticeship opportunities.

Karin regularly speaks about the need for quality apprenticeships in parliament and works with organisations in Bristol South to help promote apprenticeships as a stepping stone into a career.

Last year, Bristol South came out bottom of the table for the percentage of 18-year-olds going on to university in England – with just 1 in 6 school leavers taking up places at university.

Karin said: “Work is being done in Bristol South to address the lack of students going on to university but it’s important to recognise that university is not for everyone. There are other options available and apprenticeships offer a great opportunity to many young people to earn while they learn. One of my priorities as an MP is working to ensure decent employment opportunities for people in Bristol South and quality apprenticeships are an important part of this.”

To find out more about apprenticeships, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/topic/further-education-skills/apprenticeships

 

MP Karin Smyth teams up with City of Bristol College for the South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair 2018

 

Following on from the success of last year’s event, Bristol South MP Karin Smyth has joined forces with City of Bristol College for another apprenticeships and jobs fair.

Taking place from 12 noon – 5.30pm on Thursday 8 March, the event will involve local businesses and organisations with job and apprenticeship opportunities.

Hundreds of young job seekers from across south Bristol and beyond are expected to attend the fair, which takes place at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove. It will feature a wide range of employers from a number of industries – including Kier Construction, Bristol Airport, Greene King, Marriott Hotels and Bristol Water among others.

The fair is part of Karin’s drive to improve job opportunities for people in south Bristol. “Improving prospects for young people living in my constituency is one of my key priorities,” said Karin. “Quality apprenticeships mean you can earn while learn. They can open up new opportunities.”

Not only will young people be able to talk to potential employers about the opportunities available, but businesses will be able to find out more about how apprenticeships could benefit them.

Apprenticeships are available to people aged 16 or older with a minimum of 5 GCSEs and combine paid work with training and typically last between one and five years. They offer a minimum apprenticeship wage of £3.70 an hour to those under the age of 20 and National Minimum Wage for older apprentices (between £5.90 and £7.83 depending on age).

The 2017 fair was the first of its kind with around 30 exhibitors and over 400 young people, many of whom went on to undertake apprenticeships.

“My apprenticeship gave me the inspiration I need to thrive for a great career,” says young apprentice Casey Abrams from City of Bristol College. “I feel motivated to train to become a business administration assessor so that I can help others achieve their goals and aspirations, just like I did.”

Lee Probert, Principal and Chief Executive for City of Bristol College, added: “We’ve seen many students benefit from apprenticeships, and we’re keen to support more young people in finding the right apprenticeship for them. Working with employers, we actively continue developing our apprenticeship offer to grow young talent in order to address local skills shortages.

“We’re delighted to be working with Karin on delivery of this event again and we’ll be on hand to offer help and advice on the day.”

Karin, who speaks regularly in Parliament about the need for quality apprenticeships, added: “It was great to see so many people at last year’s event, and I look forward to welcoming even more young people this year.”

The Bristol South Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair is once again being run in association with official media partners the Bristol Post. It coincides with International Women’s Day and there will be information on apprenticeships for young women.

The fair is free to attend with a limited number of free stands on offer for local businesses.

For more information or to book your stall, see: www.karinsmyth.com/apprenticeshipsfair2018

Air rifle review underway following shooting of Bristol toddler and intervention of Bristol South MP Karin Smyth

The family of a young Bristol boy who was left with lasting injuries after he was shot with an air rifle have welcomed a government review into air weapons after their MP Karin Smyth raised the issue in the House of Commons.

Both Karin and Edward Studley, the father of Harry Studley who was just 18 months when he was shot in the head by a former family friend in 2016, are helping to inform a new government air weapons review.

They are calling for changes to the way air guns are regulated – asking the government to consider whether introducing licencing for air weapons might help reduce tragic incidents. They’d also like to see trigger locks, securicords and the need for such weapons to be kept in lockable cabinets to be introduced in a bid to prevent more children getting hurt.

“Existing controls are not enough,” said Ed in his submission to the government Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd. “We need trigger locks, securicords and lockable cabinets to prevent tragic incidents like what happened to Harry.”

The review recognises that, while fatal air weapon shootings are rare, at least four children have died in the UK as a result of air weapon shootings since 2005. This includes 13-year-old Ben Wragge from Suffolk, whose death and the subsequent coroner’s report has helped inform the government review.

The law currently forbids under 18s from possessing air guns unless supervised by someone over the age of 21 or on a private premises with the consent of the occupier but there are currently no licensing requirements.

New licencing regulation was introduced in Scotland in 2016, with 4,000 air weapons handed in as part of an amnesty ahead of the licensing coming in. Karin has this week written to Mr Hurd asking him to ‘very carefully consider’ licensing in England and Wales in light of the change to the law in Scotland. “Children in Bristol South should be afforded the same level of security as children in Scotland,” she says.

Ed, whose son still has a pellet lodged in his brain and suffers with seizures, said: “If there’s licensing in place it will be policed better and take more of these harmful weapons off our streets. The way they have rolled out this law in Scotland is the way forward for England and Wales. We want to ensure that everyone in England and Wales are fully protected.

“Those who have a legitimate reason to purchase, possess and use an air gun will be able to retain ownership and would simply need to apply for a licence.”

The results of the review are expected later this year.

Karin Smyth MP votes against EU Withdrawal Bill for failing to ensure Parliament has control of our laws, protects rights at work, the economy and the environment

 

 

 

 

 

 

I campaigned and voted to remain in the European Union. The majority of voters in my constituency and in Bristol as a city did not want to leave the EU either (I regularly receive letters from constituents on both sides of this debate about this). But the overall referendum result was in favour of Brexit. I respect that result and have been working towards ensuring the best deal for the UK.

The journey has been far from straightforward since the vote in June 2016 and I expect many more twists and turns along the way.  I spent several months as part of Labour’s Brexit team working closely with Keir Starmer and have continued to follow developments and join my opposition colleagues in pushing for vital amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

These amendments – designed to protect the UK economy, rights at work and the environment – have all been rejected by a government which is in chaos on  these important negotiations. We said that unless the Brexit Bill could pass six key tests then we could not support it.

We need it to protect rights at work, the environment and the EU Charter of fundamental Rights; ensure that a transitional arrangement is in place to protect jobs and the economy and support the role of the devolved bodies; and, crucially, guarantee that Parliament is not sidelined but there is a meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement.

The EU Withdrawal Bill in its current guise does not pass these tests and, as such, I and my Labour colleagues could not vote in favour of it.

The Tories want to stop any checks on their power and side line Parliament  but my job is to ensure that we get the best outcome for people in Bristol South and the UK. The Bill will now go on to the House of Lords for further discussion before returning to the House of Commons and we will continue to push for the necessary changes.

 

Karin Smyth MP on the importance of the new arena development remaining in Bristol South.

Karin has responded to the announcement that Bristol City Council is considering moving the planned Arena away from Bristol South. She said:

 

“For many years, we’ve been looking forward to welcoming a new arena to Bristol South and the potential it brings with it for jobs and apprenticeships, investment and the local economy.  An arena for Bristol has been a long time coming with plans for developments at Ashton Gate and Temple Meads. For the past few years, the council has been pursuing plans to build a 12,000 seater venue in the Temple Quarter, something I have supported due to the benefits it would bring to the area.

Bristol South is home to some of the most deprived areas of the city and people desperately need decent job opportunities and apprenticeships – the proposed arena in my constituency offers this. I was very disappointed to learn that the council is considering moving the arena to the outskirts of the city.

I appreciate the financial confines within which the council is working and understand the need to ensure value for money but Bristol South needs this development. The wider economic benefits – including job and apprenticeship opportunities – and social value of keeping it within the city centre and accessible to people living in Bristol South must not be underestimated.

Millions of pounds have already been spent on preparations for the arena in city centre, and Bristol has already waited long enough for its own arena. I sincerely hope that we can find a way to keep the much-needed Bristol arena in the planned location and not waste any more time and money”.

Karin Smyth MP gives a speech in the NHS Winter Crisis debate on health inequalities and a lack of accountability across the NHS.

In her speech in the NHS Winter Crisis debate in the House of Commons yesterday, Karin highlighted the need for South Bristol Community Hospital to be given more support in order to tackle major health inequalities in the area. She also described how the Government’s NHS transformation plans have created confusion for NHS workers and patients alike. Karin argued there needs to be more accountability and greater financial transparency throughout the NHS which would make it possible for MP’s to help ensure their constituents hard earned tax is being fairly and efficiently allocated to health services locally: “Being able to follow the money is a big part of accountability. It’s a key part of the path to true openness and transparency in our NHS and a more informed discussion about resources.”

 

 

Karin writes about the need for the NHS to be more accountable to local people.

Karin Smyth MP has just published an article for the Health Service Journal about the need for the NHS to be more accountable to local people following the Government’s disastrous Health & Social Care Act. You can read it here…

The Kings Fund’s Chris Ham recently wrote about tighter working at the top of the NHS, reducing the number of commissioning bodies and much closer working between the NHS and local authorities. He argues this would simplify a complex system and could release resources. His challenge to politicians is to let that happen without a top-down reorganisation but with some legislation.

The challenge is likely to fall on deaf ears even though just about everyone accepts that the Health & Social Care Act was a disaster. The government has no appetite and little time for non-Brexit enabling legislation and they control the legislative timetable.

My own view is that we desperately need more than adjusting the superstructures. We are at a critical point as we approach the 70th anniversary of the NHS as we come to the end of the era of markets and competition exemplified by the disaster of the Health and Social Care Act. To make our whole care system better and to ensure our NHS thrives for the next 70 years the principle of accountability has to be put centre stage.

My pre-MP professional career in the NHS, combined with years of activity in the Labour Party dealing with local councils, led to concerns about the lack of accountability within the NHS. This background showed me that better accountability is a key driver of change and improvement as well as being necessary in a functioning democracy.

The complex fragmentation of the NHS in recent years has muddied things when it comes to accountability. There are literally hundreds of bodies involved. The 200-plus Clinical Commissioning Groups are in effect private members’ clubs.

And of the 250-plus NHS bodies which provide services, some still have fully appointed boards and are controlled directly. Foundation Trusts have a pseudo-membership structure with elected Governors but the model hasn’t done much for public and patient involvement.

And then we have the Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) with no legal basis, a leadership that is unelected and unaccountable and operating mostly in secret.

All these bodies spend taxpayers’ money and it is little wonder the taxpayer is both mystified and suspicious as to how they decide what to do with that money.

The current Secretary of State operates in his role as if he’s some sort of Chief Patient Representative, with no active role in leading and shaping any plans, services or systems.

Local MPs are expected by constituents to stand up for local services ensuring they have enough resources, and to be able to make a difference when things go wrong; but the reality is that MPs have been restricted to an annual vote, in Parliament, on the national plan via the Mandate and the budget. We have no role locally in how the Mandate is delivered or on the alignment of the voted national budget with local delivery. And critically neither do local people.

MPs are pivotal: they’re the point where national policy meets local reality. As well as bringing our local experience to Parliament MPs need be made accountable for our decisions in Parliament. They should not be let off the hook for decisions made in Parliament which impact locally.

MPs should be demanding a local role to be able to follow the money – from our vote in Parliament to the GP surgery door, and back again. Local people should have a way of recognising or linking the taxes they pay to the service they get or indeed do not get.

It’s no secret that the money the NHS is allocated is insufficient to do all that’s promised in the NHS Constitution, to the quality that’s rightly expected. Even Tory MPs are being confronted by the reality of GP list closures, trolley waits, too few mental health beds and delayed dates for operations. And these MPs themselves are being forced to come to terms with the reality of being bounced around the system, as they try to help constituents, trying to understand just who is in charge.

Chris Ham’s proposals have some potential for short term benefits but unless we sort out both national and local accountability we won’t be able to sort the long term. On behalf of our constituents we should be putting the public centre stage, considering how to actively improve the NHS and understanding what the money can deliver. We have to give patients and public genuine influence over decisions affecting the care they, their families and their communities receive and the responsibility that goes with that influence.

Publish everything. Let voters follow their taxpayers’ pound all the way to the services they receive. Real comparisons could be made with other areas which may have better outcomes, have implemented better pathways or achieved lower costs. This allows an informed voice into the decision-making process, also giving a proper channel through their elected representatives.

Being able to follow the money is a big part of accountability. It’s a key part of the path to true openness and transparency in our NHS and a more informed discussion about resources.

And we should all want that.

Karin Smyth responds to news that Bristol South remains bottom of the table when it comes to university attendance among 18-year-olds

The latest UCAS figures reveal that Bristol South still has the lowest percentage of 18-year-olds going on to higher education out of every area of England, in what MP Karin Smyth calls ‘very disappointing’.

The 2017 End of Cycle report shows that just 16% of 18-year-olds in Bristol South are entering higher education – the average for the UK as a whole is almost 42%.
Full figures available here: UCAS Report

Karin says: “It is very disappointing to see Bristol South bottom of the list again, with so few school leavers going to university.

“While progress has been made, with Bristol South seeing the biggest rise in the number of young people going into higher education compared with a decade ago, to remain bottom of the list shows that there is still a long way to go.

“In a big prosperous city such as Bristol, with two internationally-recognised universities as well as Learning City status, it’s hard to see so many young people potentially being left behind – not sharing in that prosperity.

“I will continue to work with schools, families and universities to improve opportunities for young people in Bristol South. This statistic also reinforces the need for other avenues of post-16 training in Bristol to enable young people to go on to secure skilled work.

“We must remember that university isn’t for everyone and I have been – and will continue -working relentlessly to improve quality apprenticeship opportunities in Bristol South.”