Copy
November & December Newsletter                                                             View this email in your browser

Welcome to my last newsletter of 2022.  

To say it’s been an eventful year is something of an understatement. Just when we thought things were returning to normal after the pandemic, we’ve seen a year dominated by a cost-of-living crisis, Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and political chaos in Westminster, with the Tories onto their third Prime Minister, fourth Chancellor and fifth Education Secretary of the year. Let’s hope 2023 is a better year all round. 

Budget – Cost of Living

In November our latest Chancellor unveiled his solution to the previous Chancellor’s mini-budget which had crashed the economy, exacerbating inequality in the process: Austerity 2.0.  

Yet again, it is working people who are being asked to pay the price. We’re being offered wage restraint for everyone but the bankers. Higher taxes for everyone but the millionaires with non-dom status. 

I spoke up about this in response to the Chancellor’s budget statement. Because the answer to the cost-of-living crisis isn’t squeezing wages, eroding public services, and taxing working people as living costs soar. It's about investing in public services, investing in infrastructure, and investing in British workers.  

The generosity and community spirit on show to provide ‘warm banks’ is brilliant to see. There are 80 of these ‘welcoming spaces’ in Bristol offering not just shelter and warmth but good company and in many cases something to eat too; you can find your local one on the Council website and I’d encourage everyone to do so. But much like the rise in food bank usage… it is a failure of Government that we reached this point. 

I know this winter will undoubtably be very difficult for many of you, and I’d urge anyone who is struggling to get in touch with Citizens Advice Bristol or the Centre for Sustainable Energy. Both provide a brilliant, free advice service. Or please do email my office and I will do all I can to help. 

NHS in Crisis

For several months now local NHS teams have raised the extreme pressures on their services with me. England’s hospitals are short of 47,406 nurses and 9,053 doctors. Patients are paying the price as they wait on hospital trolleys and in ambulances. And Strep A cases are now rising alongside other winter viral infections, during a cost-of-living crisis which sees nurses on Universal Credit because their wages won’t stretch to cover food, fuel and bills. 

At PMQs I raised the appalling situation faced by my constituent, a dementia patient who waited three hours for an ambulance after he was taken unwell. Once it arrived he spent ten hours receiving emergency treatment in the back of an ambulance, because there was no room for him at A&E. He’s one of many constituents recently affected by the crisis in our NHS – the direct result of 12 years of Conservative neglect and managed decline

The first ever nationwide nurses strike has now begun; a true badge of shame for the Prime Minister. Instead of showing leadership he has refused to get around the table to negotiate a fair deal for staff. The Conservatives must provide a comprehensive workforce plan for the NHS and social care and show how they’re going to fund much-needed improvements. 

A Labour Government would double the number of medical training places currently on offer, deliver 10,000 more nursing and midwifery clinical placements, train twice the current number of district nurses yearly and deliver 5,000 more health visitors, plus 8,000 mental health workers. All of this would be paid for by abolishing tax breaks for non-doms: which I voted for at a recent Opposition Day Debate. We now need urgent action – if you agree, sign Labour’s ‘Nurses not Non-Doms’ petition here

Council Cuts 

I spoke out against cuts in funding for local Government n the debate on the Chancellor’s autumn statement. As I said in my speech “Councils can’t take this level of financial pressure anymore and my constituents can no longer shoulder the burden.” In Bristol we’re already seeing that cuts have consequences; I actually invited the Minister to come and see for himself. 

We’ve also seen the growing impact of labour shortages, which we’re seeing in the NHS, transportation, hospitality, food growing and many other sectors. In Bristol the birthing unit at Cossham Hospital has been temporarily closed – not for the first time - due to a lack of midwives, whilst First Bus has cancelled numerous bus routes because of the post-Brexit HGV driver shortages. I’m in regular contact with First and WECA about what can be done to resolve this recruitment crisis and restore bus services. 

Demanding Energy Bills Support 

I spoke to LBC’s Andrew Marr about the need for a proper windfall tax on the recent record unearned profits made by fossil fuel companies. The Government’s current levy on fossil fuel profits is pretty weak, partly due to a massive investment loophole that has allowed Shell to get away with paying £0 in additional tax this year.  

Labour has been clear that those loopholes should be closed, the windfall tax should be backdated to January and the additional tax revenues should go to support households with their energy bills. 

As part of my role in Labour’s Climate Change and Net Zero team, I also replied to an Urgent Question on the delayed energy bill support for households in Northern Ireland, which are yet to receive any of the £400 support payments meant to ease the burden of sky-high energy bills.  

That is unacceptable, and yet another example of this Government’s incompetence worsening the cost-of-living crisis for families across the UK. 

Urging Action on Climate Change 

November saw the crucial COP27 climate change summit take place in Egypt, which was of great interest to me as Labour’s Shadow Minister for Climate Change.  

As outgoing hosts of last year’s COP26 summit, the UK had a significant role to play in this summit and I have been working in Parliament to push the Government to work to repair our international reputation on climate change and push for ambitious global agreements at the summit. 

Unfortunately, the Government has undermined our credibility on these issues as a nation with its attempts to bring back fracking, ban solar developments and by failing to deliver on its previous commitments to provide international climate finance – which I pushed the Government on in Parliament before the COP27 summit. 

The summit ultimately did not do enough to get the world on track for the Paris Agreement’s goal of 1.5 degrees of warming. However, some crucial progress was made with the establishment of a loss and damage fund to help vulnerable nations cope with the cost of climate disasters. I will continue to push for the Government to go further and faster on the climate emergency at every opportunity. 

I also showed my support for Oxfam’s Second Hand September campaign, which encourages people to buy no new clothes for 30 days to reduce carbon emissions from the fashion industry and wear second hand clothing instead. 

Exposing the Government’s Energy Policy 

I helped expose the Government’s intention to press ahead with plans floated under Liz Truss to ban new solar developments on farmland – despite soaring energy bills and the climate emergency. Given solar power is up to nine times cheaper than gas, all a ban on new solar will achieve is more sky-high energy bill payments for UK households and higher emissions from the energy sector. Labour has been clear that we oppose plans to ban new solar developments, as well as the Government’s de-facto ban on onshore wind. I also spoke in a debate in Westminster Hall on the potential for the UK to make much more of marine energy sources, whether that be in the North Sea or the Severn estuary. 

Following the Government’s humiliating U-turn over fracking - after trying unsuccessfully to bring it back to the UK - I made my views on the matter clear in a debate in Parliament: We need a permanent ban on fracking, not just a temporary pause.  

It is clear that fracking does not have community support, has not been proven to be safe, will not bring down energy bills and is not compatible with our climate targets. That is why Labour is pushing for a full ban on fracking, rather than the Government’s temporary moratorium. 

Taking on the MOJ 

While the Justice Secretary focused on keeping his job in the face of numerous allegations of bullying, I’ve spent much of November and December supporting the shadow Justice team’s efforts in holding the MoJ to account where it’s fallen short. I spoke in a Westminster Hall petition debate calling for ‘Jade’s Law,’ which would restrict parental responsibility (PR) held by those convicted of serious criminal offences. It’s named after mother-of-four Jade Ward, who was tragically murdered by her estranged husband, and Labour has agreed to back this legal change. 

At the debate I explained how domestic abusers often exploit PR to continue to control their victims. While the Victims’ Minister wouldn’t commit to Jade’s Law, he has agreed to make the legal process easier for victims and their families. I’ll be following this closely to see what this means in practical terms, and I’ve since been in contact with the Minister to raise issues brought up during the debate. 

Over the past month I’ve also asked Justice Ministers about when they expect they’ll gather more data on how many parents are in prison, and on ensuring seriously mentally ill people aren’t held in prison or police custody when they should be in hospital. With reforms to the Mental Health Act and the cross-Departmental Better Outcomes through Linked Data project underway, I hope we’ll see positive updates on both issues in the New Year. 

A New Britain

Labour recently published the Report of the Commission on the UK’s Future, a report authored by Gordon Brown, proposing radical new reforms to transform Britain’s power structures. While Labour has not yet announced which of the recommendations made in this report it will adopt as policy, the Report lays the framework for a fair and democratic Britain under a Labour Government. 

The Report recommends transferring power away from unaccountable and opaque figures at Westminster and into the hands of the British people. This means replacing the House of Lords, the last bastion of British aristocracy, and replacing it with an elected second chamber. 

Another important change proposed in the Report is greater devolution across the United Kingdom, including to English regions. This would place greater power in the hands of local authorities, such as Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority, bringing your government closer to you. 

Post Office Closures

As you may have heard, Morrisons is taking over McColl’s and closing stores it says are not commercially viable. Worryingly, this includes the stores in Begbrook and in Stockwood, both of which host local Post Office branches, which are scheduled to close early next year. 

Lots of people have already replied to my community survey to say how they will be negatively affected by this - many say having a local Post Office has been a lifeline and they will struggle to get to another one, especially as Stapleton has recently lost its bus service too. 

There is not another Post Office near to either branch, so it is important we find new locations in the local area. I have met with Post Office representatives and made this argument to them. I also passed to them the many suggestions I have received from residents about possible sites for a new branch, and they expressed their desire to find new sites for Post Offices in Bristol East as soon as possible. There has, I’ve been told, been some positive developments in relation to Begbrook, but please do keep the suggestions coming. 

Small Business Saturday 

I visited Staple Hill earlier this month to mark Small Business Saturday, with Marvin Rees and Claire Hazelgrove, Labour’s brilliant parliamentary candidate for Filton and Bradley Stoke. 

So often the cornerstones of communities, local high streets and the small businesses based there have been neglected by this Government. I hear from traders on a weekly basis about the pressures that inflation, energy bills and supply chain issues bring. But the support just isn’t there.  

This is why we’ve promised to cut and eventually entirely scrap business rates, replacing them with a new form of business taxation fit for the 21st Century. It’s also time that online giants like Amazon paid their fair share so we’ll ensure savings are passed on, and we’ll bring down businesses’ energy bills for good with investments in renewables and a home-grown publicly owned energy company - GB Energy. 

Return to Bristol Children’s Playhouse 

I was happy to pay another visit to Bristol Children’s Playhouse, a nursery that’s been running for 40 years in Eastville. It was great to see the support they put in place for struggling families but sadly on my visit I also heard the Playhouse is under financial strain, as you can hear in this Guardian podcast

While the Government does provide some funding towards childcare costs for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds, the hourly rate hasn’t increased since 2016. As rising living costs wreak havoc on the Early Years Sector, some providers can’t pay their staff more than minimum wage. Skilled childcare workers are now leaving the sector to take up work at supermarkets, warehouses and call centres as a result. 

I recently received a rather unhelpful Ministerial response to my letter about staff-to-child ratios and the Early Years crisis, which you can read here. I’ve also raised childcare providers’ need for further support after next April’s energy bill cliff-edge with BEIS, but Minister Graham Stuart wouldn’t commit to a guarantee. It’s essential that Early Years education receives the support it needs and I’ll continue to keep up pressure on the Government in light of these ongoing problems.

Bristol East Business Reception hosted by NatWest 

This month, I met with local Bristol East businesses in the beautiful Arnos Manor Hotel at a Business Reception convened by NatWest Bank. 

As well as discussing how the difficult economic situation and the cost-of-living crisis is having an impact, issues raised include the absence of a Government skills strategy, creating problems in recruitment, and how small business struggle to compete with large firms for public sector contracts.  

If you represent a local business and are experiencing any issues that I may be able to assist with, please do get in touch. 

First Bus cancellations 

I am still picking up regular complaints from constituents being affected by delays and cancellations of First bus services across Bristol. This is down to a severe shortage of drivers. In response to this, First Bus has reduced its services, cancelling some routes and scaling back others, in order to be able to effectively run the services that it was maintaining. However, such was the extent of the shortage that even this reduced service is still failing to regularly run on time. 

This has left countless constituents in very difficult situations; for example, the cancellation of the Number 5 service has left constituents without a bus service to Blackberry Hill Hospital in the mornings. 

I have been in regular contact with First Bus, and they have assured me that they’ve stepped up their recruitment attempts and are optimistic that they will be able to resolve their driver shortage before too long. I was due to meet the national head of First in Parliament this week but, somewhat ironically, the meeting was cancelled at short notice because of the rail strike. I hope I can pick this up again in the New Year, and will keep up the pressure on First Bus to get a functional service up-and-running again as soon as possible. 

Save Redfield Cinema

I was proud to lend my support to the Save Redfield Cinema campaign, having been contacted by a number of constituents who were very concerned by the development plans to turn a 110-year-old Art Deco cinema on Church Road into apartments. 

Redfield Cinema should be a celebration of Bristol’s cultural heritage, as well as an inclusive and accessible social space. Save Redfield Cinema’s aim is to make the developers who own the site aware of how much the cinema means to the community. 

To this end, in November, the developer held a public consultation, which received a good turnout, and a group of UWE students hosted several events for members of the public to learn more about the cinema’s history and its potential as a cultural hub. You can learn more about the campaign here

Inclusive Go-Karting session 

 I visited one of Absolutely Together’s ‘Together Karting’ events, which is a go-karting session just for children with additional needs. I went for a spin myself and can vouch for how much fun this is, for children and adults alike! I heard how Absolutely Together has benefitted from funding for two-seater karts from The Wooden Spoon charity. Now, they are keen for more children with additional needs to take advantage of these sessions. 

These sessions are being run for free at Absolutely Karting Bristol on Clay Hill on Saturday mornings. For more information or to book a session, please email smiles@absolutely-group.co.uk 

Parliamentary Events: November and December Round-Up

I had the pleasure of attending a number of Parliamentary drop-in events and APPG meetings, which this month included: 

  • APPG for Radiotherapy and Radiotherapy UK’s Catch Up with Cancer drop-in 

  • Anthony Nolan Trust’s Be A Lifesaver reception on stem cell donation 

  • All-Party Dog Welfare Advisory Group (APDAWG)’s Unsung Heroes event with special guest Will Young, as well as their event last month on dog bites 

  • The APPG on Kinship Care’s meeting with Children’s Commissioner Rachel de Souza; 

  • Cats Protection’s Christmas reception 

  • Restitute’s drop-in on support for third-party victims of sexual abuse 

  • ASDA’s Creating Change for Better Reception on support during the cost-of-living crisis 

  • Launch of the Fertility Workplace Pledge to mark National Fertility Awareness Week 

  • A drop-in event hosted by Women’s Aid on how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting domestic abuse survivors 

  • The APPG on Dementia’s launch event for its latest report, Workforce Matters: Putting People Affected by Dementia at the Heart of Care. 

Bristol East Casework Report 

I received over 120 new requests for help with individual casework this month.  The main issues were about Housing, Health, Asylum and Immigration, Police and Crime, Welfare Benefits/Pensions, local council matters and Transport. 

Housing cases included problems with re-housing, fencing, heating, repairs, harassment, rehousing, rodents, damp & mould, insulation grants and planning issues. I have seen an increase in cases where homeless families (evicted from homes due to be sold by private Landlords) are placed in unsuitable emergency, budget hotel accommodation, with no cooking facilities, outside of Bristol away from children’s schools and support networks.   

I’ve been helping constituents where there are delays in processing applications for asylum, British Citizenship, family visitor visas, help to get documents and Ukrainian Passports. Police and Crime matters include: anti-social behaviour at Maytrees and Lodge Causeway, police complaints, parking and speeding issues, modern slavery and crime in Hillfields. 

My health casework has included complaints about hospitals and dentists, the shortage of anti-biotics, ADHD support and delays in children’s autism assessments and hospital bed blocking. Bristol City Council issues include, neighbour dispute referrals, empty properties, noise nuisance, rubbish collections, fly-tipping, public and public toilet closures.   

Transport cases include unreliable bus services, delays with driving licence applications and disabled badge application reviews. 

My team and I have managed to resolve over 40 cases this month, which include, helping to  

  • Get a constituent a Universal Credit back-payment of nearly £8,000 

  • Sort out delays with driving licence, British Citizenship and autism hub applications 

  • Arrange for suitable temporary accommodation for a family in need 

  • Resolve HM Revenue and Customs, Disclosure and Barring Service and Modern Slavery issues. 

Get in touch!



My work continues on a range of other issues too, which you can read about if you follow me on social media, or in future newsletters. Do please, as always, get in touch if you have any comments or questions, or if you need help from me and my team. You can email me at kerry.mccarthy.mp@parliament.uk or call 0117 939 9901.

Best wishes,

Kerry McCarthy, Member of Parliament for Bristol East


 

Media Catch Up 

01/11/22  Kerry discusses the shocking profits made by fossil fuel giants on Tonight with Andrew Marr 

8/11/22 New Boundary Commission map creates 'Bristol North East' constituency - Bristol Post 

10/11/22  Kerry talks climate change, immigration and getting along with the tories to Bristol Unpacked with Neil Maggs 

14/11/22 Bristol suburb with worse speeding than the M32 to get new road safety measures - Bristol Post 

15/11/22 Government dismisses calls to make fracking moratorium U-turn proof - Drill or Drop?

17/11/22  Defacto ban on solar farms in England to continue, Coffey signals - The Guardian

21/11/22 Review of BMV land extension hampering rollout of solar set to continue - Solar Power Portal

7/12/22 UK Government ends uncertainty on solar farms - Renewable Energy Magazine 

 

Welcoming Spaces

Bristol City Council are working with organisations across Bristol to set up a network of Welcoming Spaces over the autumn and winter 2022 to 2023.

A Welcoming Space is a place already established in the community (such as a community centre, children's centre or place of faith), where people can meet up, socialise, and access support, relating to the cost of living. Services available at each Welcoming Space will vary but may include:

  • access to support about money, welfare and mental wellbeing
  • community activities, including homework club, community meals and film nights
  • access to computers, free wifi and charging points
  • heated space

Find out more and see where your nearest Welcoming Space is here.

Cost of Living Support

As the national cost of living crisis continues to grow, you may be looking to seek assistance and support if you're struggling to make ends meet. Bristol City Council have a new Cost of Living Support page where you can find useful websites, community organisations, advice and guidance. 
 

Wellbeing Support 

If the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis are making you feel stressed, anxious or low, there are people and organisations who you can talk you who are here to help, including; 


 
📍  Vita Health Group  - 24/7 Support & Connect offers Immediate emotional and practical support helpline Tel: 0800 0126549 

This is a 24/7 confidential helpline staffed by experienced counsellors, who you can talk to and they will listen. They offer emotional support and can connect you to organisations available in Bristol, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire. For more information visit www.vitahealthgroup.co.uk 


📍  Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust’s (AWP) offers advice through their Mental Health Response Crisis Line 24/7  0800 953 1919  


Helpful information and support is also available through the following voluntary sector organisations:- 


 👉 MINDhttp://www.bristolmind.org.uk/ - Tel: 0808 808 0330
 

 👉 Rethinkhttps://www.rethink.org/home Tel: 0117 903 1801 

 👉 Second Step - https://www.second-step.co.uk/

 👉  CALM - https://www.thecalmzone.net/ Tel: 0800 585858

 👉 Care Forumhttp://www.thecareforum.org/

 👉 Wellawarehttp://www.wellaware.org.uk/ 


📞  If you start to feel that life is getting too much to cope with, reach out to SAMARITANS. They offer support 24/7. Call 116 123

 

Twitter Twitter
Facebook Facebook
Website Website
Email Email

Keep in touch and up-to-date:
Twitter
Twitter
Facebook
Facebook
Website
Website
Email
Email

If you no longer wish to receive my updates you can unsubscribe from this list.

 






This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Kerry McCarthy MP · House of Commons · London, SW1A 0AA · United Kingdom