APRIL 2022: News from local MP Darren Jones
Struggling with fuel bills? Seek help
Your champion in Bristol
THIS April will be a difficult month for many families living in Bristol as we see energy bills increase in line with the new energy price cap and take-home pay decrease because of the National Insurance tax hike. It is estimated this will cost the average household nearly a thousand pounds more in tax and energy bills this year, with similar inflationary pressure for many local businesses.
The North Bristol Advice Centre, Bristol North West Foodbank and the Bristol Energy Network can all offer advice and support with energy bills. You can also get emergency financial help from Bristol City Council if you need it, and you can contact my office for signposting to the right places if you are unsure of where to get help.
Thank you to the fantastic teachers, staff and students at Elmfield School for Deaf Children, who invited me to visit last month. It was great to visit the school again for the first time since my Parliamentary debate on funding for deaf children's services. Elmfield school have been campaigning in support of the British Sign Language Bill. Among other things, the Bill ensures public news broadcasts and Parliament TV is accessible in British Sign Language. We celebrated the progress of the Bill through Parliament, and I heard from primary and secondary school students about their experiences of the pandemic and their aspirations for further learning and employment. I will be following up by asking Ministers about recognising British Sign Language as a GCSE, something that is long overdue.
It is fantastic to be holding physical events across Bristol North West once again. Last month, I kicked off our first pop up surgeries in Henleaze and then Westbury-on-Trym. Fortunately, I avoided the rain and had great conversations about everything from on-street parking to global energy prices. Pop up surgeries are a great way to have a quick chat about the things you’re concerned about. Please do come and say hello if you see me on your high street!
Thank you also to everyone that attended our busy cafe politics at the Henbury and Brentry Community Centre. I was glad to hold our first physical cafe politics since before the pandemic, and it was great to see a mixture of new and familiar faces. We discussed the ongoing situation in Ukraine and how we can help locally, as well as the energy crisis and tackling climate change. The event was hybrid and you can watch it back on my Facebook page at www.fb.com/darrenjonesmp (you don’t need an account to do so).
Your Voice in Parliament
IThas been a lively March in Westminster, as my Business Committee has held several evidence sessions on issues ranging from fraud in the Covid loan schemes to Russian sanctions and the ongoing energy and cost-of-living crisis.
As I write this before the Spring Budget update, the Treasury has ruled out further help for households with their energy bills. The Chancellor has said that we cannot afford to financially support people after record Government expenditure in reaction to the Covid pandemic. That in mind, it is very troubling to receive evidence from the Government’s former Anti-Fraud Minister that the Treasury and British Business Bank have missed opportunities to claw back fraudulently lent Covid business loans. Up to 25% of Covid business loans have been claimed fraudulently, potentially costing billions of taxpayers money. This doesn’t include the amount of public money wasted on inadequate procurement and expensive outsourcing during the pandemic. When households are suffering a cost-of-living crisis, I expect more urgency from the Treasury in recouping this money and further measures to help bill payers, especially those on low incomes. A windfall tax on unexpected excessive profits at the oil and gas and energy distribution companies would be a good start.
Lastly, the Government has now come forward with information about the Ukrainian resettlement scheme, dubbed Homes for Ukraine. I am inspired by the large numbers of constituents that have contacted my office with offers of support and shelter for people fleeing Russian aggression in Ukraine. In Parliament, I have pushed for the Home Office to streamline the visa application system and coordinate assistance across borders with our European neighbours. Schools and local authorities must get proper funding to help the families that seek refuge in the UK. The Government must learn the lessons from Afghanistan when it comes to helping refugees, and I will continue to push for properly funded support as your MP in Parliament.
As usual, if you need my help or have a question, I am running telephone surgeries and regular fortnightly catchups on Tuesdays on Facebook. Please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office on 0117 959 6545.