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Darren has flu jab and says stay well this winter!

It’s been another busy weekend in the constituency for Bristol North West MP Darren Jones. As his first appointment on Saturday, Darren met with the team at Kellaway Pharmacy in Westbury Park. Darren chatted to staff and customers about their views on healthcare and also had his annual flu jab.
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Darren speaks about modern slavery, including modern slavery in Bristol

Watch the full speech here:

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Darren writes to the Prime Minister to call for Bristol libraries to be kept open

Darren wrote on Facebook:

I’m lucky to have such politically engaged constituents, including an eight year old pupil from Henleaze who asked me to send her petition (of over 150 friends campaigning against library closures) to the Prime Minister.

I obviously fully support this call, and have written to the PM with the petition. Number 10 has responded to say she’ll get a reply shortly.

You can read the full letter here: https://www.facebook.com/darrenjonesmp/photos/a.503288533036971.119025.235030423196118/1728702940495518/?type=3&theater

 

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Darren receives response from HMRC on childcare vouchers fiasco

Darren has received a response from HMRC after he raised concerns about problems parents were having applying to governments’ new 30-hours free childcare. With the website crashing and problems with HMRC’s own phone line, parents were finding it difficult to apply before the 31st August deadline. Darren challenged this with HMRC direct.

The response from John Harrison, Chief Executive of HMRC told Darren “where parents have experienced persistent technical difficulties and the 31st deadline, we provided them with a 30 hours free childcare code manually. We continued to issue these codes into early September so that those parents who applied before 31st August, but were unable to speak to us before the deadline, could get a code”.

In response to the letter Darren said:

“Whilst it is good news that parents who were not issued a code by 31st August, because of faults with the HMRC website, can use codes sent to them in September, I still have widespread concerns about the government’s flagship childcare scheme.  Parents are struggling to make the 30 hours per week childcare (over 38 weeks of the year) support their year-round, and often full time, employment. It has also been widely publicised that the cost of childcare is rising far above increases in earnings. To strengthen our economy, we need a childcare system that supports working families, I will continue to raise these issues with government. Just today a new study by Admiral Loans has found Bristol parents are hit the hardest of any city when childcare costs are considered against average earnings –  costs account for a staggering 55% of average earnings – this is unacceptable and certainly not a sustainable situation for working families”.

 

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Darren asks the Government how they are planning for Interest Rate rises

Any increase in mortgage rates will affect the housing costs of millions.

Darren asked the Treasury:

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the potential effect of an increase in the bank rate on the number of households subject to eviction?

Stephen Barclay MP, Economic Secretary to The Treasury

 

As was the case with previous administrations, it is not the Treasury’s practice to provide details of these discussions.

The Financial Conduct Authority has put in place regulations protecting borrowers, including a requirement that lenders should deal fairly with customers in payment difficulties. Lenders are also required to conduct an interest-rate ‘stress-test’ on all new mortgages. The insures against the risk of a significant increase in the number of indebted households in the case of an interest rates rise.

This would affect the housing costs of thousands of Bristol households. That’s why we need to know what the government are doing about this, and why it’s so frustrating that they won’t tell me when I asked.

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Darren raises South West train electrification and the Henbury Loop in Parliament

Inner-city rail is vital to the success of Bristol North West. There are already congested roads and that’s without the thousands of new homes being built on Bristol’s northern fringes and an increase in the size of Cribbs Causeway. Some of the largest employers in the city region are based in this area. Failure to invest in proper rail infrastructure will bring this constituency to a standstill and impact air pollution targets and Bristol’s economy.

I welcome the commitment from Network Rail and Great Western Railway on the opening of the Henbury Spur by 2020/21, but we need that spur to develop into the Henbury loop, connecting the track through to Avonmouth and the existing Severn Beach Line. Without the Henbury loop, the middle and north-west of my constituency will continue to suffer from very poor transport connectivity to the rest of Bristol. That affects people’s day to day lives and their access to education, leisure and employment.

The Henbury loop will happen only with appropriate investment and working alongside the port to address potential disruption to lorries and freight. In line with Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways, I’m calling on West of England Combined Authority to fund an independent study of the Henbury Loop and work to ensure its completion.

Watch my full speech here:

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Darren asks the Home Office about the Emergency Services Network

The Emergency Services Network is the special telecoms network on which Emergency Services communicate. Its update’s roll out is being delayed, resulting in cost to the public purse because of the extra cost of continuing to use the old system.

Darren asked:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what discussions have taken place between key stakeholders in and suppliers for the roll-out of the EmergencyService Network on changes to the timetable for the implementation of that roll-out; and if she will make a statement.

Nick Hurd MP, Minister of State at the Home Department, replied:

The new Emergency Services Network (ESN) will provide the dedicated teams who work so hard protecting the public and saving lives with the most advanced communications system of its kind anywhere in the world. ESN will be a more capable, more flexible and more affordable communications network than the existing Airwave mobile radio system used by the three emergency services in England, Scotland and Wales. While still delivering mission critical voice communication, it will also provide broadband data services.

The timelines for ESN are ambitious and this is because we want to give the emergency services the benefits of the latest technology as soon as practicable. However the Government is clear that public safety is our priority and the emergency services will only transition when they are content with the new ESN service, as the existing Airwave system will continue until transition on to the ESN is completed.

A formal arrangement has been agreed between the Programme’s sponsors (including the Home Office) of the police, fire and rescue, ambulance services of Great Britain, for how any Airwave extension costs beyond the planned National Shutdown Date (31 December 2019) should be shared between themselves.

We are working closely with our key stakeholders and suppliers on a revised plan for delivering ESN. We will have greater clarity on timescales at the end of the year.

Darren also asked:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what discussions have taken place between key stakeholders in and suppliers for the roll-out of the EmergencyService Network on changes to the timetable for the implementation of that roll-out; and if she will make a statement.

Nick Hurd MP, Minister of State at the Home Department, replied:

The costs of upgrading to the Emergency Services Network and the costs to extend Airwave contracts for the emergency services are available in the public domain at:

https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Upgrading-emergency-service-communications-the-Emergency-services-Network.pdf and

https://www.london.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/b15926/Minutes%20-%20Appendix%201%20-%20Transcript%20of%20Item%205%20Tuesday%2018-Jul-2017%2010.00%20GLA%20Oversight%20Committee.pdf?T=9

Any delay in rollout impacts the date by when the savings from ESN will start to be realised. These savings will represent 50% of the cost of Airwave. The cost of delay is therefore the opportunity cost of not being able to realise the cost savings of ESN sooner.

Up to the end of 2016/17, the Programme has already delivered £77m of cash releasing benefits on existing Airwave contracts. These are benefits that would not have been obtained under the previous contractual agreements.

 

 

 

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Darren says ‘Stay well this winter’

Winter brings with it a number of challenges for all of us, but particularly the increased risk of illness as temperatures drop.

Getting the flu can be bad enough for even the fittest of us, but for older people and those with long-term conditions in particular it can cause serious health problems. The Chief Medical Officer warned this week that flu and complications associated with it – such as pneumonia – cause 8,000 deaths on average a year in England – around 6,000 of which are people with existing heart and lung conditions. This is not to mention the hundreds of A&E trips to Southmead Hospital, GP appointments and emergency admissions that our local NHS sees every year over winter – official figures show that flu and pneumonia account for 2.9m bed days in English hospitals.

The strain, and therefore strength, of flu changes every year, so even if you’ve had vaccinations in previous years these won’t offer protection. And if the experience in Australia and New Zealand is anything to go by, this winter could see a much stronger strain than in recent years.
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Darren continues to raise concerns about Universal Credit roll-out

Following receipt of an MP Briefing from Citizens Advice, Bristol North West MP Darren Jones has continued to push for a delay to the roll-out of Universal Credit, which is due in Horfield and Shirehampton in May 2018.

Citizens Advice has released unparalleled evidence on the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) – they have helped people with over 100,000 UC issues since it was introduced and have seen the equivalent of 12% of new Universal Credit claimants every month.

The Citizens Advice briefing that highlighted:

– Universal Credit isn’t working for too many people.

– The 6 week wait risks pushing people into debt. Over half of the people we’ve helped who receive UC were forced to borrow money while waiting for their first
payment.

– 1 in 5 claimants wait longer than 6 weeks . Support isn’t available for new claimants having problems with evidence verification and the claimant commitment.

– Advance Payments help but are only partially propping up a flawed system. They provide people with only 50% of a payment, which covers 2 weeks, and most people wait 6 or more weeks.

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