Commons call for right to determine how city is governed

Devolution 21 Oct 2015Bristol South MP Karin Smyth has urged the government to support moves to give Bristol residents more democratic rights to choose the city’s system of local government.

Speaking in a Commons debate on the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill today, 21 October, the Labour MP said:

“Bristol has been a trailblazer for devolution as the only city in 2012 to choose to have an elected mayor when the question was put in a referendum.

“I’m a very keen supporter of devolution, transferring power closest to the people it affects.

“There is an issue that is unique to Bristol which means people in Bristol do not share the same democratic rights as the rest of the country.

Watch the speech here:

“This is a Bill that started in the House of Lords where Baroness Janke moved an amendment, Clause 21 as it is now contained in the Bill, which if it is passed gives Bristolians the right after 10 years to reverse the decision that we made in 2010 to have an elected mayor as the way to govern our city if they so wish.

“If the model is not fit in ten years we would like the opportunity to change it.

“By that time, citizens will have had ample opportunity to assess the value, or otherwise, of the current model, how it works in Bristol and crucially with the changing situation how it would works across the wider Bristol area, with our neighbouring authorities.

“This isn’t about personalities, about whether we like or dislike the current mayor, or would prefer a different person in that office, but about the system that works best for us in the city region.

Cross-party support

“It’s not about party politics either, because all the major political parties agree on the city council and supported a Motion to that effect.

“I’m very grateful to Baroness Janke, a Liberal Democrat peer who did a lot of work in shaping and gaining support for the Clause when the Bill was in the House of Lords.

“It is about democracy. It is about whether we should have a voice about the model.

“In an era when we are supposed to be seeing an increase in devolution and empowerment it feels wrong that we, as Bristolians, should have to go through a long and tortuous legislation-making process to know that we have the right to determine the way our city is governed.

“I hope the government is able to support that provision and give the people of Bristol a greater say in how this works in the future.”

Opening of New Fosseway school building in Hartcliffe

Headteacher Shan Wynne-Jones watches Karin Smyth cut the ribbon at New Fosseway School
Headteacher Shan Wynne-Jones watches Karin Smyth cut the ribbon at New Fosseway School

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth officially opened a new school building for Post-16 students at New Fosseway School.

“It was terrific to be able to join students, staff, parents and governors on this special occasion and to look around the new vocational centre,” she said. “There was tremendous enthusiasm, pride and excitement about the opportunity to use this new school building.”

Students served homemade cakes and drinks and parents were given a tour of the building, where activities and workshops took place during the day. The centre serves students aged 16-19 and has a strong emphasis on life skills leading to independent living and employability.

New Fosseway School serves students who have a wide variety of needs, associated with Severe Learning Difficulties. Many have autism and some very sensory requirements. It provides the small, specialist learning environment which meets not only their education but also medical, social and care needs.

For more information about New Fosseway School use this link

Arena must mean jobs & apprenticeships for Bristol people

arena2Bristol Arena developers must look beyond the facility’s recreational benefits and focus on using the project to bring jobs and apprenticeship opportunities for city residents, says the MP in whose constituency it will be built.

Karin Smyth (Bristol South) also wants the impact of the Arena on people living in nearby communities such as Totterdown and Windmill Hill to be ‘deliberately and thoughtfully’ addressed, with the close involvement of the residents themselves.

The Labour MP’s response to the official consultation on the Arena welcomes the development, focusing primarily on the need for it to bring employment benefits for Bristol residents.

“Those overseeing the Arena project simply must ensure it creates genuine employment and skills opportunities for jobs for Bristol residents, and much-needed apprenticeships for local people living in the city,” she says.

“The Arena’s creation is a development opportunity that comes along all too rarely and it must be seized upon by planners and developers – for the benefit of Bristol people.”

arena1She says she expects to see apprenticeships provided in the build phase through procurement with contractors and looks to the City Council to ensure that there are equalities of opportunity for Bristol South’s young people access these.

“The Arena has been anticipated for a number of years and it is right that a city the size of Bristol has a facility for leisure and recreation of this type,” she adds. “However, it is now vital that issues relating to employment, skills and impact are deliberately and thoughtfully addressed – in conjunction with local people – as plans are moved forward in the months and years ahead.”

Impact on local residents

Whilst she welcomes a project that will “regenerate a long derelict area of the city within the Bristol South constituency”, she expresses serious doubts about the level of consideration so far given to the impact on people who live nearby, in terms of traffic, access and noise. She also notes how South Bristol itself appeared to have been left out of initial consultation plans.

“People within my constituency are telling me that if a Residents Parking Zone is required to meet increased traffic demand, then the Arena developers should meet the costs, not the people who happen to live in streets that are affected. I am particularly concerned about the impact on residents in Totterdown, Windmill Hill and Knowle specifically as they are closest to the development.

“I know many residents who live in my constituency fear the details have been overlooked in favour of fanfares,” she says. “From the consultation papers, residents would be forgiven for thinking the detail of the public art that will festoon the building may have been given more thought than the effect of noise on the Arena’s neighbours.”

Below is the full consultation response from Karin Smyth MP

I welcome the Bristol Arena and associated developments and the positive opportunities the project will create for people across the City.

Arena Island will regenerate a long derelict area of the City within the Bristol South constituency and has the potential to offer many opportunities of different types for local people.

Bristolians have been waiting for years, not just for a finished Arena to serve Greater Bristol, but also for all the many other types of opportunities it can offer.

Whilst the Arena has the potential to provide a first-class recreational facility, it is as important that we ensure deliberate measures are taken to create opportunities for local jobs, skills, apprenticeships and standard of living.

It is of course imperative that the project pays due attention to the impact on neighbouring residential areas. There are some serious issues to be considered as we

head towards the planned opening date, and I know many residents who live in my constituency fear the details have been overlooked in favour of fanfares.

When the consultation was first announced, it was disappointing that South Bristol appeared to have been left out of plans given that these are the residents who will be most affected. I was pleased to see that a consultation was belatedly included for South Bristol and it is vital that the developers act on the responses.

Access

It is very disappointing that although the Arena is within the South Bristol boundary, so little is proposed to improve access for my constituents. From the consultation plans, all of the improvements are designed to benefit people travelling from the north, east and west and include road, cycling and pedestrian improvements.

Any development of this type will include investment and it is imperative that people in the Bristol South constituency benefit from this. Although my constituents will be the closest to the development, the roads, cycling and pedestrian access all require much needed improvements in order for people to use them. The proposed access improvements in the current plans are not sufficient and do not address the access needs of people in the South of the City.

For example, the Bath Road is already a busy main road, fraught with dangers for pedestrians, and it is far from clear from the consultation plans how pedestrian safety for people travelling to the Arena from the Wells and Bath Roads will be enhanced.

Employment and Skills

The Arena’s creation is a development opportunity that comes along all too rarely and it must be seized upon by planners and developers – for the benefit of Bristol people.

Residents of Bristol South and the city as a whole join me in welcoming the 1,000 jobs which the consultation document states will be created.

Those overseeing the Arena project simply must ensure it creates genuine employment and skills opportunities for jobs for Bristol residents, and much-needed apprenticeships for local people living in the city.

I would, for example, expect to see apprenticeships provided in the build phase through procurement with contractors and look to Bristol City Council to ensure that there are equalities of opportunity for young people within my constituency to access these.

In terms of the jobs which are on offer at the Arena, people must be paid the real living wage in order that they can be rewarded for their endeavours and that they can afford to
enjoy what is on offer there.

Impact on residents in Totterdown, Windmill Hill and Knowle

People within my constituency are telling me that if a Residents Parking Zone is required to meet increased traffic demand, then the Arena developers should meet the costs, not the people who happen to live in streets that are affected. I am particularly concerned about the impact on residents in Totterdown, Windmill Hill and Knowle specifically as they are closest to the development.

The development must ensure that residents in the areas closest to the Arena are not negatively impacted in terms of their quality of life.

From the consultation papers, residents would be forgiven for thinking the detail of the public art that will festoon the building may have been given more thought than the effect of noise on the Arena’s neighbours.

The projection of a ‘worst case scenario’ of 80% of people travelling by car is bound to place significant pressures on my constituents in the residential areas closest to the arena, particularly as there are no plans to build any parking spaces other than disabled parking on the arena site. In addition to visitors arriving at the arena, there will also be the setting up of operations for the day.

In conclusion, the Arena has been anticipated for a number of years and it is right that a City the size of Bristol has a facility for leisure and recreation of this type. However, it is now vital that issues relating to employment, skills and impact are deliberately and thoughtfully addressed – in conjunction with local people – as plans are moved forward in the months and years ahead.

Karin Smyth MP
October 2015

Opportunity for Bristol to reverse elected mayor decision

Devolution intervention Oct 15 2015The possibility of Bristolians being offered a chance to change the way the city is governed, by reversing the decision to use the elected mayor model, has been welcomed in the House of Commons.

Speaking in a debate on the Cities and Devolution Bill (14 October, 2015) Bristol South MP Karin Smyth pointed out that Bristol is the only core city that supported an elected mayor, when it voted to adopt the system in a referendum in the spring of 2012.

But she said “Citizens of Bristol deserve the right to reverse that decision at any point, and the amendments that have come into this Bill from the House of Lords offering Bristolians that opportunity are to be welcomed.”

The amendment was passed when the Bill was at its House of Lords stage earlier in 2015, supported by former Lib Dem council leader Barbara (now Baroness) Janke.

The Cities and Devolution Bill was scheduled to move to its Committee Stage, for debate in the chamber of the House of Commons, on Wednesday, 21 October.

Support for people living with secondary breast cancer

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth met with charity Breast Cancer Care to pledge support for people living with incurable secondary breast cancer, and called for data collection to improve the care available.

Following the meeting, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pressed David Cameron on the data issue during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons.

Currently data for primary breast cancer is recorded, yet no accurate figures exist around the number of people diagnosed or living with incurable secondary breast cancer. Breast Cancer Care believes the poorer care people with the incurable disease often receive is due to these missing numbers making it nearly impossible to plan the vital services needed.

Karin Smyth said “It is extremely important to show my support for secondary breast cancer patients. Jeremy Corbyn is right to say that it should become a priority to ensure we have accurate data on people living with this incurable disease, and the Government must do more to support people affected by it.”

Breast Cancer Care wants to see the government commit to making the care and support for people living with the secondary breast cancer a priority.

Danni Manzi, Head of Policy & Campaigns at Breast Cancer Care, says: “We are extremely grateful to Karin for supporting our event. Data collection is crucial to improving the care and support available for the women and men living with secondary breast cancer.

“Only when we have the full picture about the numbers living with the disease can we make informed decisions to ensure care services are planned effectively and that everyone affected by secondary breast cancer gets the support they need from day one.”

Find out more about secondary breast cancer at www.breastcancercare.org.uk/secondary

Stop the Tories cutting Tax Credits

Stop The Tax Credit cutOne of the last Labour government’s most successful measures was the introduction of Tax Credits, aimed at helping people who work but have low income.

But now the Tory government plans major changes to Tax Credits, making huge cuts that will leave working families on average £1,300 a year worse off.

The changes will affect three million working families. In Bristol South alone, around 4,800 families will be affected.

Sign Labour’s petition here

Instead of helping working people, the Tories are pushing through changes which will hit working families in the wallet.

Tax Credits are designed to ensure work pays. So it follows that cutting them undermines the value of work, and penalises those who work hard day-in, day-out to make ends meet.

There is, of course, a real risk that children will suffer directly as a result of these changes.

Labour has launched a campaign to stop the tax credit cut.

Please sign our petition which calls on David Cameron to halt his Tax Credit cuts using this link 

Eyes down for a charity cheque handover

Bingo October 2015Karin Smyth visited Knowle’s Club 3000 Bingo to take part in a £250,000 charity cheque handover.

The Labour MP attended the club, based in Broadwalk Shopping Centre, to help celebrate the role of her bingo-playing constituents in helping to raise funds for Variety, the Children’s Charity.

“Bingo players at the Knowle Club 3000 raised some £2,000 towards the national total, reflecting the huge generosity of local people,” said Karin Smyth, pictured (right) with Anne Keen-Arnold, Variety, and Eric Madge, Club 3000 Bristol.

Bingo Association clubs across the country have taken part in a range of fundraising activities through the year. Miles Baron, Chief Executive of The Bingo Association, said: Bingo players and staff are known for their generosity and this very significant sum for Variety, the Children’s Charity, underlines that reputation.”

Residents can influence South Bristol hospital’s future

img_9920_500x199South Bristol residents are being asked to help shape the healthcare services available at the NHS Community Hospital in Hengrove.

MP Karin Smyth is concerned the new hospital, which opened in 2012, is not yet fulfilling its potential, and is conducting a community survey to gather views and experiences.

Many south Bristol residents still travel across the city to other hospitals and health facilities, whilst being unaware of the services available on their doorstep.

“It took over 50 years of PMQ 8 July 2015campaigning to get a new hospital built to serve people in south Bristol,” says Karin Smyth.

“Having finally been built with funding from the last Labour government it is beginning to play an important role, but it could offer so much more to meet local healthcare need. The building has the capacity to offer additional healthcare services.

“I want to find out about people’s experiences of using the new hospital, and their views on how it could be developed to better serve our communities. This will then help shape the work I do on my constituents’ behalf to try to further improve what is on offer there.”

Copies of Karin Smyth’s South Bristol NHS Community Hospital survey will be circulated from door to door in the coming weeks. It is also available for completion online using this link

People who would like to request a hard copy of the survey can also call 0117 9533575.

Visit to Computershare UK

Karin Smyth MP in a meeting with Naz Sarkar, CEO of Computershare UK
Karin Smyth MP met Naz Sarkar, CEO of Computershare UK, on her visit

Karin Smyth met staff on a visit to the HQ of Computershare UK, based at The Pavilions, Bridgwater Road, Bedminster Down.

The company employs over 1,500 people, with some 580 living in Karin Smyth’s Bristol South constituency.

The visit included a meeting with CEO Naz Sarkar, which gave an opportunity to discuss the needs of Computershare staff and the wider local community, including transport, air quality and education.

Karin Smyth MP said: “Computershare plays a valuable role in south Bristol, employing hundreds of people living locally. It was interesting at the meeting to hear about the company’s wider work supporting local schools and sustainable transport provision.

“I look forward to continuing to engage with Computershare and other local businesses in the future.”

Naz Sarkar said: “It was great to see Karin again in her new capacity as our MP and discuss how we can work in the local community. As a growing business we play an active role in the south of Bristol and beyond, whether through our staff member’s lunchtime visits to schools to help with reading, or through working with transport providers to lower air pollution and reduce congestion.

“We’re looking forward to working with Karin as she represents our community in Westminster.”

City council’s housing failure

Karin Smyth MPBristol South MP Karin Smyth has criticised the failure of Bristol City Council to actively engage citizens in the development of its strategy to address future housing need.

In her published response to the council’s draft housing strategy, the Labour MP lists groups of city residents which have been omitted from the development of the new strategy:
• Current and potential tenants
• People looking to buy a first home or move to a larger property
• Older people wanting to downsize and
• Homeless young people

She said: “Bristol’s citizens don’t have all the answers, but in the spirit of openness, accountability and empowerment, the council really should be engaging those whose lives stand to be most profoundly affected by its future approach to the housing crisis which is no less than a social timebomb.

“Too many Bristol people are living in poor or inadequate accommodation, and it is vital that the council shapes the right means of tackling our city’s housing needs for coming generations. The draft strategy is a start, but it leaves much, much work to be done.”

The following is Karin Smyth’s submission to Bristol City Council in response to the summer 2015 publication of its draft Housing Strategy:

Thank you for inviting me to respond to the draft Housing Strategy for Bristol 2015-2020, the current lack of decent, affordable housing is a key issue affecting my constituents. Since being elected in May I have been contacted by families living in acutely overcrowded homes or facing eviction, young people who are sofa surfing, effectively homeless, older people looking to downsize and many others forced to live in very poor privately rented accommodation.

Therefore I welcome the publication of the draft Strategy. It identifies many of the challenges we face in our city and the solution – to build more homes, to make best use of existing buildings and to intervene early before housing crisis occurs.

One of the strengths of the Strategy will be the partnership working across the housing sector, I was pleased to read the expectation that all those partners will be expected to align their business strategies and business plans to the overall Strategy. However I was disappointed that there appears to be no opportunity for the users of housing – current and potential tenants, those seeking to purchase a first home or move to a larger property, older people looking to downsize, homeless young people – to participate in the development of the Strategy. I believe this is a weakness of the plan.

With regard to the provision of more affordable homes in Bristol the headline proposal for 2500 appears to be below that envisaged in the Bristol Mayor’s Affordable Housing Delivery Framework, approved in October 2013. It is disappointing that there is no specific explanation for this reduction or detailed analysis as to why this framework may be under delivering new homes. In Bristol South in recent weeks we have seen on one Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) site a reduction in proposed affordable homes from 30% to fewer than 10%. It is not clear to me whether the 2500 figure is achievable if this reduction is replicated on other sites.

I was also surprised to see no reference at all to the Bristol Housing Zone within my constituency announced by George Osborne MP in the March 2015 Budget.

It is also disappointing that there is no differentiation between proposed numbers of new “social” housing and “affordable” housing. I am already aware that many in housing need have expressed concern that they are unable to afford new so-called affordable housing.

The proposal for a new not-for-profit Privately Rented Sector (PRS) provider is an exciting development which I fully support. In the shorter term I would also support the roll out of the landlord licensing scheme, proposals for longer term tenancies and a kite mark for landlords. I would be keen to learn more details about how under-occupation and the vacancy rate in the PRS could be addressed.

The identification of the need for new high quality homes which appeal to healthier, fitter, older people is welcome. This has the potential to release larger family homes, reducing under occupancy, however is not clear how this need is to be addressed.

It is important that housing is viewed as more than just bricks and mortar, so the emphasis on a holistic approach to preventing housing crisis through intervention is most welcome. Working with families and individuals at times of crisis should reduce future problems and I would hope that the promotion of the Bristol Energy Company – an important legacy of Bristol 2015 – will have an impact on fuel poverty. I was however disappointed that there was no reference to the impact of local antisocial behaviour of an individual’s or a family’s housing need, an issue which is often raised with me by constituents.

The success of the Housing Strategy for Bristol is vital for the overall success of our city, but more importantly it has the potential to offer hope to many of my constituents living in poor or inadequate accommodation. I look forward to reading the outcome of this consultation and the publication of the final document.