Karin Smyth’s comments on Budget 2015

Karin Smyth MP Health Questions June 2015Commenting on the Budget of 8 July 2015, Karin Smyth MP said:

“We are used to waiting for hours or even days for the true nature of Budget measures to emerge from scrutiny of the details. But first impressions are important: and this appears to be a Budget that will offer a few crumbs, but little long-term hope, to lower and middle income families in south Bristol.

“Having worked to manage people’s advance expectations of this Budget, the government is very keen to portray it as one that will ‘slow the pace’ of welfare cuts, as if to imply this is a kinder Budget than people feared. The truth is that many measures it contains will be painful to working families.

Productivity & wages

“Productivity has stagnated since 2007, unprecedented in the post-war period. Economic growth depends on productivity improving and yet despite over-optimistic forecasts, it remained stubbornly low under the Tory-led coalition government.

“Increased productivity is the key to getting the deficit down, and to raising wages and living standards which in turn will help bring down welfare bills.

“Businesses of all shapes and sizes across Bristol and the West country need support to boost their productivity. The cut in corporation tax should help businesses invest and create more jobs, but time will tell whether it leads to the sustainable jobs and higher wages that we need.

“It is right that, having viciously opposed the minimum wage when it was introduced by Labour in 1999, the Tory government has now embraced the principle, although rather than implementing a genuine Living Wage the Chancellor appears to be trying to redefine the Living Wage.

Apprenticeships levy

“South Bristol needs more high-skills apprenticeships and, whilst we await the detail, moves to introduce a levy on large businesses to help fund apprenticeships are welcome.

Inheritance Tax and Income Tax

“Raising the personal income tax allowance by £400 from next year gives crumbs to those on lower incomes whilst Inheritance Tax cuts heap feasts elsewhere. It got loud cheers from Tory MPs on the green benches, but cutting inheritance tax should not be a priority at this time.


“As I pointed out to the Prime Minister moments before the Budget announcement, Bristol South residents are still waiting for the long-delayed rollout of the government’s last grand welfare reform plan, Universal Credit, so its future plans must be viewed with caution.

“By limiting some benefits to two children, the Chancellor wants to make children live in poverty as a punishment for being born into large families.

“The welfare announcements made need greater scrutiny, but it appears the Tory Chancellor is placing the heaviest burden on low-paid working people.

University maintenance grants

“Whilst there is evidence to show the introduction of tuition fees has not deterred young people from applying for university, I am deeply concerned about the plan to remove maintenance grants for students from lower income families.

“Of all 650 constituencies Bristol South sends the second lowest number of its young people to university. Whilst the reasons for this are complex, I fear this measure will snuff out the ambitions of many youngsters who aspire to go to university to work hard to earn a degree.


“The Chancellor talked about ‘putting power into the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, but however hard you listened there was again not a word or nod in the direction of Bristol and the West Country. We need a Western Powerhouse.

Sunday trading

“Allowing shops to open for a few more hours on a Sunday looks like a headline-seeking distraction technique. It won’t tackle the productivity puzzle. It is answering a question the Budget wasn’t asked and didn’t need to address.”

Bristol Pride 2015

bnN5uMmy_400x400Commenting on Bristol Pride 2015, Karin Smyth MP said:

“I well remember marching against Section 28, introduced by the Conservative government in the late 1980s.

“It’s a heartening reflection of changing times that the approach that law represented has been well and truly ditched, with our city now hosting one of the largest Pride events in the UK. Hats off to all those involved in organising it.”

Pledge to champion autism awareness

Labour MP Karin Smyth has pledged to promote more autism awareness across her Bristol South constituency.

She heard testimonies at a Westminster event from people living with autism, a lifelong condition which affects some 3,000 people in Bristol South, and many more across the whole of the city.

“Negative public attitudes and misconceptions about autism can really harm families and individuals, limiting their opportunities,” she said. “I want to take every opportunity possible to actively promote more local awareness of the condition, and to improve access to public spaces, employment and services.”

“It’s also important that we help empower those who work with and support people who have autism.”

Earlier this year, a Bristol South resident, Jacky Wyatt, who teaches at Hillcrest Primary School, Totterdown, was honoured by the National Autistic Society with the prestigious national Award for Achievement by an Individual Education Professional.

President of the National Autistic Society, Jane Asher (pictured with Karin Smyth) added: “Awareness of the word autism has increased dramatically since I first became involved many years ago, but understanding of this complex condition is still desperately low.

“Parliamentarians have the power to make a real change in the lives of those with autism by helping us to spread understanding among their local communities.”

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.”