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Universal Credit Two-Child Benefit Cap lifted after MP campaign

Following sustained pressure from MPs including Darren Jones, charitable organisations and advice agencies, the two-child benefit cap for families claiming Universal Credit has been removed. It was due to be enforced retrospectively from February 2019 for parents whose third (or more) child was born before Universal Credit was rolled out in 2017.

Darren Jones MP had previously signed a cross-party letter led by colleague Rushanara Ali, calling on the Prime Minister, Chancellor and then DWP Secretary Esther McVey to scrap the cruel two-child limit on some benefit entitlements. See the letter here: Universal Credit – Letter

Darren Jones MP said:

“I campaigned last year for the cruel two-child benefit cap (which was about to be applied retrospectively to families claiming Universal Credit (UC) with 3 or more kids prior to 2017) to be quashed.  I also campaigned for the transfer of existing claimants (of so-called Legacy Benefits) onto UC to be stopped as government admitted some claimants would be worse-off purely because of the move onto UC.

I am therefore delighted to hear the new Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd has bowed to sustained pressure and ditched plans to extend the two-child benefit cap for UC claimants (from February 2019) as planned. This cap would have affected around 15,000 families, some of which will be here in Bristol North West. This cap would have pushed many vulnerable families into further financial hardship and children born before UC existed into poverty.

Amber Rudd has also confirmed she will delay asking MPs to vote on the transfer of people onto UC and will use this time to re-assess waiting times and the roll-out.

Whilst people must consider their financial situation when planning their family, alongside many other considerations, any retrospective capping of benefits is blatantly unfair and punishes children already born.

I will continue to call upon the government to review their wider two-child benefit cap and make sure no-one is poorer because of admin changes in how their benefits are paid”.

 

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MP shares news of Shirehampton YardArts Planning Application

Darren Jones MP for Bristol North West said:

“We received news in December 18 that the Karakal/Fairways site on Penpole Lane in Shirehampton had now been sold in its entirety to the owner of Karakal Factory.

The new owner confirmed to me they had no plans to pursue the former planning application for storage containers or the then live planning application for a circus village, caravan hard standings and workshop area submitted by YardArts.

I have now received formal confirmation the YardArts application has been withdrawn:

Prior to this news, I submitted an objection to the application at the request of hundreds of my constituents who contacted me to share their concerns”.

Following the constituent survey and public meeting held earlier in Summer 2018, MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones submitted his comments on YardArts’ Planning Application for the Fairways site off Penpole Lane, Shirehampton. You view the objection he submitted here.

 

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Darren receives reply about Sims Hill from Bristol Mayor

Prior to the closure of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) transport consultation, Darren Jones MP shared his comments with WECA. You can view these here.

The submission raised concerns about the potential for a new park and ride site at rare blue-finger allotment land at Sims Hill. Stoke Park within Darren’s constituency could also be impacted.

Darren, MP for Bristol North West, has since received a reply from Bristol City Council Mayor Marvin Rees about this matter.

Darren said:

“Grateful to Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol for his prompt response to calls from me, Kerry McCarthy and Lockleaze Councillors Gill and Estella calling out plans to build a park and ride on important greenbelt land near the M32.

It is great to see Marvin agree it needs to be further North near the M4 junction and making the case for urban agriculture too. It is now over to WECA and Regional Mayor Tim Bowles to consider our concerns and, we hope, amend their plans”.

 

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Darren shares concerns about storage facility in Shirehampton

Following contact from a number of constituents over the Christmas and New Year period, Darren has written to all members of the council’s Development Control Committee in advance of tomorrow’s meeting (9th January 2019) which will consider a planning application for a new storage container facility in West Town Road, Shirehampton.

You can follow Darren’s work in the local area here.

 

 

 

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Updated with Government reply: Darren calls on Government to fund police pensions

Darren Jones MP has backed calls from the Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens, for the government to review their plans to pass changes to funding of police pensions to police forces, potentially costing Avon and Somerset Constabulary an additional £9m per year.

Darren Jones MP said:

” Our Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens and Avon and Somerset Constabulary‘s Chief Constable Andy Marsh have been very clear that the local force is ‘at a tipping point’ and the government’s failure to properly invest in the police could lead to complex investigations such as sexual exploitation or domestic abuse being under-resourced. Earlier this year, I joined police officers on a typical Friday night in Bristol North West so I have seen first-hand the immense pressure they are under to meet rising, and changing, demands with less staff.

I have been advised today (25 10 18) that potential changes to funding of police pensions (and passing of those costs to the force) could cost Avon and Somerset Police £9m per year from 2020-21. Costs of this magnitude without increased funding will inevitably lead to cuts to the number of police and put public safety at risk.

But this is not ‘just’ a local issue, a report by the Home Affairs Committee released today said forces in England and Wales were “struggling to cope” amid falling staff numbers and rising crime. It also accused the Home Office of a “complete failure of leadership” – this is totally unacceptable and I wonder at what point the government will practice what it preached at Conservative party conference and truly bring an end to the crippling austerity that is bringing every one of our public services to breaking point?

Just over a year ago – in advance of last year’s autumn budget – I called upon the government to protect and boost police funding, I’ve also more recently championed investment into investigating child exploitation and, earlier this month, supported calls for fairer allocation of police funding. I have therefore shared my concerns with the government once again to demand proper funding and support for police“.

Update:

The following reply was received from the Government on the 7th of January 2019:

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Darren calls for experiences of unfair tipping

Darren is supporting a campaign to end unfair tipping practices, which is looking for your stories of unfair tipping. On Facebook, Darren said:

Together with More United, a cross-party campaigns group, Peter Aldousand Stephen Lloyd MP I’m running a campaign on unfair tipping. In the past, we’ve seen employers take up to 100% of tips, and even charge employees more money than the tips they received. It’s time we put a stop to these practices.

Share your experiences of this here:https://moreunited.typeform.com/to/wOit2u

We look forward to hearing from you; get in touch at darren.jones.mp@parliament.uk if you have any questions about this, or indeed about any other area of Darren’s work.

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Darren receives government response on sale of energy drinks to under 16s

Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West, has received a formal response from the government regarding his letter on the sale and advertising of energy drinks to young people. 

As a member of the Science and Tech Committee, Darren has previously shared his concerns about the advertisement and marketing of energy drinks and health impacts on young people and urged for tighter restrictions on their sale.

Darren said:

“I recently shared my concerns with Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, about the sale and advertising of high-caffeine and sugar-filled energy drinks to children. You can see a copy of my original letter here.

I have now received a reply which outlines the results of the government’s consultation (which explored views on banning the sale of said drinks to young people) will be published later this year. I continue to call on the government to swiftly publish their findings and put a ban in place that protects young people from the effects of these cheap and widely-available drinks”.

 

 

 

 

 

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Darren responds to West of England Transport Study

As part of the West of England Combined Authority transport study, Darren has fed in comments from the various community meetings he hosted in 2018 on local transport needs.

 

You can read the full letter below and read about all of the work Darren has done on transport by clicking here.

 

Transport Upgrades across Bristol North West

 

I write in response to the ongoing consultation on the Joint Spatial Plan – Technical Evidence Consultation further to our ongoing correspondence regarding the urgent investment needs in transport across North Bristol.

 

As we are both aware, our constituents live in an area that will see continued significant development in the coming years. Additional housing is of course welcomed, but transport infrastructure that is fit for the future is needed at the same time.

 

This is in addition to the transport upgrades required off the back of the removal of the tolls on the Severn Bridge, the potential Bristol Arena site, expanding retail at Cribbs Causeway and the expected investment in Avonmouth following the installation of flood sea defences.

 

M32 Corridor

 

One of the proposals put forward is for a new Park and Ride at the Bristol end of the M32 motorway, adjacent to the current turning route for the Metrobus.

 

This will result in development on unique blue finger soil sites on both sides of the M32 (the Lockleaze side being in my constituency of Bristol North West). This area was rejected for development when the initial Metrobus route was agreed in 2014 for this reason. Further, it was widely believed that a Park & Ride so close to Bristol City Centre would fail to serve its purpose and that a site further North of the proposed site would better suit.

 

I support proposals for an M32 Park & Ride but I do not support the proposed location and will campaign for this to be situated further North into South Gloucestershire.

 

A4018

 

The A4018 is a major road route through my constituency travelling from the Bristol Rugby Club to the White Tree Roundabout (including Wyck Beck Road, Passage Road, Falcondale Road and Westbury Road).

 

In my multiple transport consultation meetings with constituents last year, Wyck Beck Road and Falcondale Road were identified as two key problem roads, due to frequent gridlock and associated air pollution.

 

I have long called for a new rail station at Henbury (and its eventual connection to Severn Beach to create the so called Henbury Loop) but have also called for a Park & Ride to reduce car volumes on the A4018 into Bristol. I know that we both agree that creating transport hubs with multi-modal connections is the best approach.

 

However, from the proposals it seems that drivers would need to drive through Henbury or North up the A4018 to park at the Park & Ride before getting the bus or rail connection.

 

These connections will be vital for retail workers at Cribbs Causeway and for into-Bristol flows, but will be absolutely crucial if the Bristol Arena is built at the Brabazon Hanger (due to out of Bristol drivers coming to the area).

 

I therefore continue to support calls for a Park & Ride at Henbury but expect to see:

 

  • A new junction connecting the M5(N) to the Henbury Train Station and Park & Ride, to prevent out of Bristol commuters from driving through Henbury to reach these services; and
  • Road upgrades and new bus lanes along the A4018 so that buses can cut through car congestion to be on time and frequent enough for them to be used by local residents. The Wyke Road part of the A4018, including the adjacent route North to Cribbs Causeway, appears to be wide enough for a new bus route without reducing the number of lanes available to cars.

 

For your information, I have also written to Highways England to seek their advice on point (1) above.

 

GBBN2 (New Bus Networks) and Cycle Routes

This current study seems to fail to set out any proposals for bus route upgrades or new cycle lanes in my constituency.

 

We have key bus route corridors in Bristol North West that can currently hold up buses for the entire city due to traffic congestion in North Bristol and which can lead to long delays and frequent cancellations for knock on routes (for example through Lawrence Weston and Shirehampton).

 

Additionally, many of my constituents will cycle North to Cribbs Causeway or South East to Bristol City Centre for work on often dangerous road networks that have intermittent or no cycle lanes.

 

I assume that proposals for new bus routes will be forthcoming, but I would like reassurance of that alongside a clear commitment to investing in proper cycle lanes too.

 

My various consultation meetings with constituents have all resulted in a clear ask for a super-cycle highway with segregated and maintained cycle lanes between our two major economic areas of Cribbs Causeway and Bristol City Centre. For note, preference has been for these routes to be off of the major roads to reduce the impact of air pollution on cyclists.

 

Missing Areas

 

I understand that this current study is only able to consider certain projects within a certain timeframe, but a number of transport issues in my constituency are notably missing:

 

  • Southmead Hospital Transport Hub

 

The B405 (Southmead Road) is also a problem road, with workers and students commuting to major employers and the University of the West of England in Filton. Residents have concerns that this will increase with the aforementioned developments across the North of Bristol including the potential Bristol Arena. Suggestions had been previously mooted for road upgrades and/or new investment into a Southmead Hospital Transport Hub. Have these now been dropped?

 

  • Avonmouth Industrial Routes

 

I understand that further transport investment can’t be considered for Avonmouth at this stage, instead having to wait for further industrial investment expected after the installation of the flood sea defences. Is that still correct?

 

Regardless, many workers in the Avonmouth / Severnside area have to drive to work or risk their safety by walking or cycling to work. Additionally, industrial traffic continues to use the minor routes along Kingsweston Lane when they should be clearly directed along the Portway and along the existing major road routes.

 

I would like to see travel routes into and around Avonmouth to become more worker friendly and for steps to be taken to properly direct industrial transport.

 

 

  • A38/Gloucester Road

 

The A38/Gloucester Road is clearly a significant challenge, as both a major road route and a busy high street environment. However, significant traffic along this route causes air pollution concerns for many local residents and my constituents have raised questions in my consultation meetings about potential mass transit routes along this road. Please can you set out any proposals you have for this cross-border route.

 

  • RPZ Parking

 

We have started to see significant nuisance parking along the connecting residential roads attached to Stoke Hill and Parrys Lane. Whilst we expect some of this to be student related (and are in ongoing correspondence with Bristol University) we assume that a great deal of this is travel-to-work related. We should therefore do all that we can to encourage park and ride and rail usage from current and proposed sites.

 

I appreciate all of these issues don’t fall under your remit as the regional Mayor, but they do provide the context for many of the requests from my constituents which result in my demands for key transport investment. These investment requests go through the West of England Combined Authority. However, I have naturally copied my colleague Mayor Marvin Rees for his information.

 

I look forward to hearing what plans the West of England Combined Authority have for each of the above issues.

 

Darren Jones MP
Member of Parliament, Bristol North West

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Darren welcomes FCA overdraft ruling

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has welcomed news (announced on 18th December 2018) that the Financial Conduct Authority will stop banks charging higher prices for unarranged overdraft fees – an issue Darren campaigned on earlier this year.

Darren said:

“Back in May, I joined with consumer champion Which? and over 80 fellow parliamentarians in signing a letter calling on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to bring an end to excessive overdraft charges.

Today the FCA announced that banks will no longer be able to charge higher prices for people who go over their arranged overdraft limit, in radical new proposals set down by the UK’s financial watchdog.

I welcome today’s strong action from the regulator as more than 50% of banks’ unarranged overdraft fees came from just 1.5% of customers in 2016, in some cases unarranged overdraft fees can be more than ten times as high as fees for payday loans and people living in deprived areas are more likely to be impacted by these fees”.

Under the new proposals, the FCA plans to:

•Stop firms from charging higher prices when customers use an unarranged overdraft – around 30% of overdrafts are unarranged.

•Simplify overdraft pricing so that arranged overdrafts are priced using a single interest rate on each account.

•Standardising the presentation of arranged overdraft prices so that they are easier to compare and requiring a representative annual percentage rate (APR) in certain advertising for arranged overdrafts.

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Darren calls for investment in social care

Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West has spoken our about the need for dramatic investment in social care funding following the release of the Coram Family and Childcare Older People’s Care Survey 2018. This is the third annual survey mapping the cost and availability of older people’s care across the UK.

Darren said:

“Anyone who needs social care or tries to put care in place for an older relative knows the current system is not fit for purpose. The government continues to dodge any real assessment of the social care crisis facing the UK’s ageing population, doesn’t fund council’s properly so they can adequately meet rising demand and has not ensured parity of importance between health and social care services.

I have met many constituents who have struggled to source adequate care and find the bureaucracy of the system significantly adds to levels of anxiety and stress. The Local Government Association is right to say the government just kick this issue ‘into the long grass’. I will continue to call on the government to fund council’s properly so they can meet the demand for social care services“.

The key findings of the survey in relation to the availability of older people’s care were:

•There is not enough care available for older people, with only one in five local authorities (20 per cent) reporting enough care in their area to meet demand.

•Over 4.3 million people aged 75 and over live in areas where there is not enough social care to meet demand.

•Some 34 per cent of local authorities expect the situation to get worse in the next year, while only 1 per cent expect it to get better. Bristol City Council has only recently flagged up how catastrophic a no-deal Brexit could be for social care across the city.

Key findings on the price of care were:

•The average weekly price paid by local authorities for all residential care types in the UK is £585. This represents a 5 per cent price rise since last year.

•UK averages show that individuals paying for their own care face prices which are 13 per cent more expensive than what the local authority pays for the same care. It takes less than 17 months for someone funding their own care to spend over £20,000.