July 2021: News from your local MP Darren Jones
I know it’s frustrating that the restrictions have been extended once again, not least because we could have reduced the risk of this happening by acting more promptly in closing our borders. But given the situation we’re in, and the fact we’re so close to getting out the two vaccines plus 21 days to our older and vulnerable groups, it’s right on balance to extend for a few weeks.
Having said that, I know how hard the extension is for many businesses and local groups. I’ve met with businesses, restaurants, and community groups, from pop-ups at Breaking-Bread on the Clifton Downs to Bristol Rovers at Lockleaze Sports Centre, about their preparations for re-opening. I’ve also spoken to self-employed workers, people in travel and tourism and our creatives and freelancers about the latest extension to the roadmap. I then called on the Chancellor to extend access to furlough for workers who had been newly employed ready for a June re-opening (for a month) and to extend help to those businesses who were ready to open but now can’t, but the Government decided there was sufficient help already available.
I also know that many of you have concerns about the Government’s proposed planning reforms. I spoke up about the havoc that deregulating the planning system could have in Bristol during an opposition day debate in the Commons. New statutory presumptions that favour development and local people being cut out of the consultation process takes us in the wrong direction when it comes to housing and high streets. In Bristol, we elect councillors, build neighbourhood plans and have independent planning committees because we know that successful planning decisions need local support and input. To make matters worse, the proposal to put planning notices only online will make it harder for people to know what is happening. We already have challenges in this area, from proposals to convert the toilet blocks on the Downs to a café or proposals to convert houses in multiple occupancy flats such as in Horfield or faceless developers seeking to build on top of existing buildings to make a quick buck without any care for existing residents, as we’ve seen in Henleaze.
On the Business Committee, I’m working on the future of the steel industry in the UK, how we’re going to decarbonise heating in our homes (spoiler: we’re all going to need to replace our gas boilers, but doing that is difficult and potentially expensive), our net zero transition and preparations for COP26 and the role of the citizens assembly on net zero that my Committee commissioned, setting out the public’s view on some of the difficult decisions we will need to take to reach our net zero carbon targets by 2050. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch a documentary about this citizens assembly on the BBC iPlayer by searching for ‘The people vs climate change’.
Closer to home, thank you to everyone that took part in my Safer School Journey survey last month. We had over 550 submissions from parents and guardians across Bristol North West, including many with children at Westbury-on-Trym Primary School, Redmaids and Henleaze Infant and Junior schools. The survey confirms that many parents worry about dangerous and difficult roads near school, improper parking and a lack of crossing points. Feedback shows that Springfield Grove, Passage Road and Channel Hill are problem areas that need addressing, and I know residents who live near schools have their own concerns about traffic management too. I’ll be sharing this feedback with headteachers and with Bristol City Council to lobby for improvements.
It’s also been fantastic to start getting out into the community again. Thanks to everyone in Westbury-on-Trym that stopped by my Street Stall at the end of June. I’ll be holding street stalls and other safe ways to meet up throughout the summer, and I’m also continuing my online events, including my fortnightly Facebook Live and my monthly Café Politics. Since moving Café Politics online, we’ve seen more people getting involved than we could fit in an in-person café politics. For the time being I’m keeping these catch ups online and my next Café Politics will be on Saturday July 10th at 10:30 am. You can register to join on Zoom at www.julycafepolitics.eventbrite.co.uk
As ever, do get in touch if you need my help or have a question. You can take a look at my website at www.darren-jones.co.uk, my Facebook page at www.fb.com/darrenjonesmp or get in touch directly by ‘phone on 0117 959 6545 or by email on email@example.com