Darren responds to Autumn budget

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has expressed his disappointment that the budget today has failed to solve some of the key issues facing our country.

Darren said:

This budget fails to solve the issue of core schools funding, highlights the increasing costs of this Brexit shambles and fails to meet the needs of Bristol.

“£2.5bn has been cut from the schools budget since 2015, but now the Government has to find an additional £3bn to cover the costs of Brexit. Parents are being asked to help cover the stationary costs at their local schools whilst the Government fails to put any additional money into the core schools budget.

“Bristol has been largely ignored. We’re one of the fastest growing cities in the country but our infrastructure is creaking: we need new inner city rail, better buses, more affordable homes and real investment to help skill our people for the jobs of the future, whilst protecting our police service and the environment.

“Finally, we must all be concerned with the sound bites that have been offered by the Chancellor to cover up the real economic news today: increased inflation, increased debt and the increasing cost of Brexit.

 

On Transport

“I welcome the commitment to give £80m to our Metro Mayor. But this is far from what is needed to fund the real upgrades to transport that we need to see. I’ll be writing to the Metro Mayor to continue to make the case for funding for inner city rail, better bus routes and for projects that will prevent gridlock in North Bristol due to massive developments across the North Bristol arch.

 

On Housing

“I welcome the Stamp Duty cut for first time buyers. But it’s clear the broken housing market needs more affordable and council houses to be built in the first place. For many of my constituents, the idea that cutting Stamp Duty whilst still requiring them to have a £15,000-£30,000 deposit is laughable. I look to my colleagues at Bristol City Council to see whether the Chancellor’s pledge to lift the spending restrictions on council’s for house building will help Bristol or not. But we must also be careful of the catchy Stamp Duty headline: the Office for Budget responsibility has said that cutting stamp duty will have the ‘consequence of… increasing house prices’. This is not what young people looking to buy a house want to hear.

“The Chancellor also failed to address the issue of inflation on rent and mortgage payments. I have been in correspondence with the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, about the impact on my constituents from increases in the base rate. He has made it clear: Brexit is increasing costs, which means the Bank has to increase the base rate, which means people’s mortgages go up. Inflation continues to rise under this budget, and I will continue to lobby the Government to ensure that families with mortgages don’t find themselves unable to pay their mortgages due to Brexit.

“And whilst I welcome the changes to Universal Credit, including for housing benefit support, the Chancellor failed to answer the question of whether these emergency funds are loans or not. Today, they are. For constituents who get left with no support at all through no fault of their own, these emergency funds should be part of the Universal Credit and not given as loans which many struggle to repay.

 

On Healthcare

“This budget has failed to deal with the social care crisis and goes nowhere near what the CEO of the NHS has said is needed to keep hospitals like Southmead Hospital meeting the needs of patients. This budget has also failed to acknowledge to the gaps in the NHS workforce, and I am shocked that there has been nothing to address the declining number of doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners who – in the result of a hard Brexit – may leave the workforce, leaving the NHS understaffed and unprepared for the foreseeable future.

 

On Policing

“Avon & Somerset Police has suffered from significant cuts since 2010, and continue to be forced to make more. I recently presented the “Tipping Point” report to the Policing Minister, which made it clear that the police are at breaking point. And following recent meetings with concerned residents in different parts of Bristol North West – including in Southmead – the sad truth is that the Government has failed to give any additional funds to the police to allow them to do their jobs properly.

 

Other Areas

“I am disappointed with the the lack of investment in the renewable energy sector. The Government – ignoring the concerns of a great number of people in Bristol – has failed to take advantage of the reducing cost of renewable energy and has instead opted to give the oil and gas industry a tax cut.

“And whilst funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure is welcome, it fails to understand that local councils don’t have the staff to install the charging points the Government is giving councils the money for; it offers no upgrades to the wider electricity grid needed to ensure our energy systems can meet the needs of  new electric vehicles; and it doesn’t mention once how the Government will help people who lose their jobs from automated electric vehicles get into new work.”

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Sims Metal consultation with Avonmouth community

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones is encouraging residents of Avonmouth to contribute to a consultation by Sims Metal Management in relation to plans for changes at their site.

Darren said:

“Sims Metal have advised me they are undertaking a public consultation on their operations prior to submitting planning applications for the site. I would urge residents to share their views by visiting the consultation event on Tuesday 28th November 3 to 8pm at Avonmouth Community Centre or by returning the feedback card local residents have been sent. If you can’t attend the event or have not received a feedback card, you can also email feedback@consultation-online.co.uk or call 0800 298 7040.

You can find out more about the consultation and Sim’s proposals online.

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MP backs Universal Credit Reform Ahead of Budget

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones is encouraging the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, to make changes to Universal Credit in advance of tomorrow’s budget (22nd November).

Darren said:

“Universal Credit, as it stands, is a cruel and shambolic system forcing many into debt – it is coming to Bristol North West next year. The Child Poverty Action Group have advised in their new report ‘The Austerity Generation’ that working families stand to lose £930 a year on average from cuts in the tax credit system and £420 a year from cuts to Universal Credit – these are losses across the population, so the losses for tax credit and UC recipients would be much higher.

Families containing someone with a disability will be £300 a year worse off due to Universal Credit cuts; families containing someone with a severe disability will be £530 a year worse off.

I fully support the changes my colleague Debbie Abrahams has urged the Chancellor to adopt ahead of tomorrow’s budget. Austerity politics needs to get real before the country is unable to recover from the sustained impact on our most vulnerable”.

Amongst the changes backed by Darren include a significant reduction in the waiting period before claimants are awarded benefit, reconsideration of the payment of fortnightly benefits (rather than monthly), easier housing payments direct to landlords and  income level measurement for the self-employed.

Science and Technology Committee – 21st of November

The hearing subject was research integrity.

The first set of witnesses was: Professor David Hand, Royal Statistical Society, Dr Damian Pattinson, Vice President of Publishing Innovation, Research Square, and Wendy Appleby, Registrar and Head of Student & Registry Services, University College London.

The second set of witnesses was: Dr Trish Groves, Director of Academic Outreach, BMJ, Dr Elizabeth Moylan, Senior Editor for Peer Review Strategy and Innovation, BioMedCentral (representing the Committee on Publication Ethics), Catriona Fennell, Director of Publishing Services, Elsevier (representing The Publishers Association), and Dr Alyson Fox, Director of Grants Management, Wellcome Trust.

 

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MP encourages applications to Gigabit Broadband Scheme

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones is encouraging Bristol’s small and medium-sized businesses (as well as local residents) to apply for funding available through a new Government broadband scheme.

Businesses may be able to get a grant of up to £3,000 to upgrade business broadband to a Gigabit-capable connection. This is through a Gigabit Voucher Scheme which will provide vouchers to support the capital costs of getting new gigabit-capable connections for businesses. There are also vouchers worth up to £500 available to connect homes in Bristol.

You can find out more by visiting Connecting Bristol. 

Darren said:

“Slow and patchy broadband is a real problem for many residents and businesses here in Bristol North West – it is holding back some local businesses as so much time is wasted on slow connections. This scheme won’t solve the wide-spread issues the UK has with broadband speeds but it is a step in the right direction and I welcome the DCMS’s investment. I urge businesses and residents interested in getting super-fast gigabit broadband to apply for the funding available to this area”.

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MP visits Riverside’s Jamaica Street Project

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones visited Riverside’s Jamaica Street Project on Saturday 11th November and met with the Area Manager, Centre Manager and a number of residents.  The team on-site provide support to people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, from across the Bristol area. Referrals are made to the centre by Bristol City Council with space available in self-contained flats, with dogs being accepted in a number of the apartments. Crucially, the team provide named support and work with residents to source appropriate longer-term accommodation.

The team showed Darren the accommodation on-site and talked through some of support options available to residents.

Darren said:

“It was invaluable for me to speak with residents and staff at the Riverside scheme. The team provide emergency accommodation, care and support services to some of our cities most vulnerable people. Riverside is clearly a values-driven organisation with a strong sense of social responsibility. The residents I spoke to were clear about the need for the services such as those Riverside provides, and how important these bases are to them as individuals. Housing is at breaking point with extremely high demand for social housing and with many people finding themselves unable to afford private rents, organisations such as Riverside provide vital support to people when they most need it”.

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MP hosts Pub Politics in Westbury-on-Trym

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones hosted his second ‘Pub Politics’ at The White Lion in Westbury-on-Trym on Friday 10th November.

Darren heard from constituents who shared their views on policy issues including Brexit and more local issues such as concerns about crime and cuts to public services.

Darren said:

“It was fantastic to talk to a variety of constituents at my second pub politics, after the first was held in Horfield in September (picture below). This get-together was well attended and informal so people feel comfortable having a chat about both national and local issues. Due to Christmas and New Year festivities, the next Pub Politics will be held in mid-January. I also host Cafe Politics sessions for those who prefer to chat over a coffee in a more family-friendly environment, the next will be held on the morning of 2nd December in Avonmouth with venue information to follow soon.”

All of Darren’s events are promoted on this website and Darren’s Facebook page. Key events are also featured in the monthly e-newsletters which you can sign-up to here.

Highlights from Darren at the Science and Tech Committee, 14th of November

The second set of witnesses consisted of Silkie Carlo, Senior Advocacy Officer, Liberty, Dr Sandra Wachter, Lawyer and Researcher in Data Ethics, AI, and Robotics at the Oxford Internet Institute, and Dr Pavel Klimov, Chair of the Law Society’s Technology and the Law Group.

 

The subject of the Committee meeting was algorithms in decision-making.

The first set of witnesses consisted of Hetan Shah, Executive Director, Royal Statistical Society, Professor Nick Jennings, Royal Academy of Engineering, Dr Adrian Weller, Turing Fellow, Alan Turing Institute, and Professor Louise Amoore, Durham University.

The second set of witnesses consisted of Silkie Carlo, Senior Advocacy Officer, Liberty, Dr Sandra Wachter, Lawyer and Researcher in Data Ethics, AI, and Robotics at the Oxford Internet Institute, and Dr Pavel Klimov, Chair of the Law Society’s Technology and the Law Group.

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MP visits Southmead Hospital and meets CCG Chief Exec

In a day of health-related meetings (10th November), Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones met Southmead Hospital Chief Executive, Andrea Young and completed a tour of the hospital’s modern Brunel Building.

Andrea and Darren discussed the impact of Weston A and E’s closure on Southmead, Brexit and the hospital team’s preparations for winter.

Darren is now planning to meet some of the nursing staff to hear their views on how Brexit will affect the NHS and EU staff recruitment and retention.

In a separate meeting, Darren also met with Julia Ross, Chief Executive of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG. Julia and Darren discussed the planned merger of the three CCG’s and the impact of budget cuts on the range of treatments constituents can access. Darren expressed his pleasure at the CCG’s decision (announced on 9th November) to scrap plans to reduce the upper age limit on which women can access one NHS-funded cycle of IVF. A decision from the CCG on proposed changes to access to post-cancer breast reconstructive surgery is still outstanding. On 15th September , Darren wrote to the CCG expressing his concerns about both proposals and their disproportionate impact on women.

 

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MP to attend Southmead Community Meeting

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones, has confirmed he will be attending a community meeting to discuss crime and Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) in the Southmead area. The meeting has been organised by Southmead Councillor, Helen Godwin, and will see representation from local councillors, senior representatives from Avon and Somerset Police as well as Darren and the local beat team.

The meeting will take place on Friday 17th November from 6.30 to 8pm at the URC on Wigton Crescent.

All residents are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Darren first called on Police to hold a meeting in Southmead following high levels of ASB this summer. Darren also highlighted his broader concerns about local policing levels and the impact of further Government cuts to Police funding by writing to Nick Hurd, Minister of State for Policing in late September. In this letter, Darren called on Government to protect police funding and  heed the warnings issued by Avon and Somerset Police.