Kerry writes for Fishponds Voice, August 2021

Creating a mini-Holland in Fishponds?

If we can draw one positive from the past year, which has in most respects been pretty grim, it’s the transformation in travel and working habits. People can now work remotely and conduct meetings by Zoom, rather than sit in rush hour traffic every day. Others have taken advantage of the quieter streets and started cycling, or are walking more because they’re trying to avoid public transport.

As things start to return to normal, we need to embed these changes, by making it as convenient, easy and safe as possible to walk, cycle, or use public transport, and also to free up the street space for things other than cars. What we don’t want to see is a “car-led recovery” and a return to intolerable congestion and illegal levels of air pollution.

Bristol has already made a good start, for example in closing off roads in the city centre that had been previously reserved for motor traffic, to allow businesses to offer outside dining, and creating more bike lanes.

But the Council that has led the way on this agenda is Waltham Forest in east London, beginning with its hugely successful “mini-Holland” scheme some seven years ago. Eastville Councillor Marley Bennett and I recently visited the borough and embarked on an e-bike tour with the Deputy Leader, Councillor Clyde Loakes and one of his officers.

Residential streets in Walthamstow that had seen thousands of vehicle movements a day have been closed off to traffic to prevent rat-running, with traffic levels dropping by up to 97% and no notable increase in congestion on main routes.

These changes are not only enabling active travel but have created some beautiful community spaces too. Marley and I kept pointing out measures that could work in Fishponds and Eastville, from the Blended/Copenhagen crossings, wildflower planting and sustainable drainage features, and reclaimed street space.

There are 29 kilometres of segregated cycle lanes in Waltham Forest, and they have the most on-street cycle hangars of any borough in the country – 550 in total – making bike ownership a feasible option for people who don’t have the space to keep their bike at home.

I’m glad that Mayor Marvin Rees has committed to introducing on-street bike hangars in Bristol. Bristol City Council is also rolling out low-traffic neighbourhoods and new school street schemes (with roads by schools closed off at drop-off/pick-up times). It’s proposed changes to 10 neighbourhood roads and high streets too, which could involve closing a road completely, pavement widening, or road layout and direction changes. Roads under consideration include Rosemary Lane in Eastville. If you have any thoughts on any of this, please do get in touch!

Kerry writes for Bristol Post, June 18th 2021

There were harrowing scenes on Saturday afternoon, as Danish footballer Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch, suffering a cardiac arrest during Denmark’s Euro 2020 game with Finland. It was a timely reminder of the fragility of life and the split-second decisions which preserve it. 

There were incredible displays of humanity in the aftermath. Whether that be the Danish players forming a protective ring around their teammate, shielding him from the prying eyes of the press. Or both sets of fans united in singing the player’s name – powerful, emotional support reverberating from one end of the stadium to the other, echoing the thoughts of millions watching at home. 

The medical staff who were so quick on the scene will rightly be lauded as heroes for reviving Christian who, it is said, is now doing well in hospital. Yet they didn’t perform miracles, they simply executed their training and followed CPR protocols. It is essential that this first-aid training is widely accessible and taught at a young age because as Saturday proved, it makes the difference between life and death. 

I agree with calls for the FA to fund defibrillator use and make its Emergency Aid course compulsory for selected players, referees, and coaches at each grassroots club and County FA up and down the country. The chances of survival without a defibrillator is around 6% – whilst using a defibrillator within 3 minutes increases the victims’ chances of survival to 70%. It is crucial that every sporting venue has this choice. 

I’m supporting calls for The FA to fund defibrillators for the lower levels, but financial assistance can come from the top of the game too. I wrote at the time of the now infamous European Super League breakaway attempt that the £350 million vanity project, occurring just months after lower league clubs were filing for bankruptcy and having to furlough players, highlighted the desperate need for reform and regulation of football’s finances.  

It’s time for increased fan ownership, greater parity across the footballing pyramid and proper investment in grassroots football. Structural reform is necessary to ensure the excessive wealth of the top clubs reaches the lower leagues and provides life-saving equipment. In Bristol we need it for Sunday league games on the Downs or Eastville Park just as much as at Ashton Gate or the Memorial Stadium. 

The coverage of Christian Eriksen’s collapse was extremely distressing, but it will be the empathy and strength in the face of adversity – qualities which have defined this past year and now Euro 2020 – which will be remembered. I hope that the importance of life saving equipment and training is a lasting memory too and the FA ensures anyone at any level has the support that Christian did on Saturday. As the Danish paper Ekstra Bladet put it after Finland went on the win the game: Denmark has lost – life has won.” 

 

** Details of the British Heart Foundation guidance can be found at- https://www.bhf.org.uk/how-you-can-help/how-to-save-a-life/defibrillators ** 

 

Kerry writes for the Voice, 1st June 2021

I WANT to start by thanking everyone who voted in the elections last month. It’s a shame that only 40% or so of eligible voters cast a ballot. Although this level of turnout is not uncommon in local elections, it is important that people take part in the democratic process. I would urge you to make sure you are registered to vote, especially if you’ve recently moved house.

Only two of the six candidates elected in the Fishponds area were councillors before; you can check who your new representatives are on www.bristol.gov.uk. I want to pay tribute to those who stood down at this election, and to former councillor for Frome Vale, Bill Payne, who has died after many years of ill-health. Bill was also involved in campaigning for victims of the contaminated blood scandal, and I am glad he lived long enough to see justice done.

Along with Marvin being re-elected as Mayor of Bristol, we also have a new Metro Mayor in Dan Norris, who I hope will be more visible and effective than the previous incumbent. During the recent campaign, many people asked what exactly was the role of the metro mayor? The answer is that they’re meant to take a strategic overview of sub-regional priorities for the West of England, on transport, housing, planning, jobs and skills. It’s an important job when it’s done properly, especially with the Government introducing new changes to the planning system, which are quite worrying in the extent to which they appear to be giving much greater powers to developers. MPs from both sides of the House have expressed concern about these reforms.

Also in the Queen’s Speech, the Government announced proposals to introduce compulsory voter photo-ID, despite the fact that around 3.5 million people in this country don’t have photo-ID. There were only six cases of fraud at the last general election, but the Government says it wants to “prevent the problem before it occurs”, which seems like a rather odd set of priorities, particularly when there are so many other pressing concerns.

We are, for example, still waiting for the Government to produce its plan to reform social care, which it has supposedly been working on for the past two years. We saw over the last year just what strain has been placed on the care system by years of systemic under-funding. We badly need a joined up health and social care system to relieve these pressures.

Kerry writes for Fishponds Voice, March 31st 2021

FISHPONDS’ MP cut the ribbon to open the new library at Avanti Gardens School.

Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy stayed to read Year 3 pupils a story after a ceremony to mark the latest stage in an overhaul after the former Steiner Academy Bristol became a primary school.

Based at the former UWE St Mathias campus in College Road, the school already has a craft room, art, woodwork and pottery studios, a lecture theatre complete with stage, a dining hall and sports hall.

Avanti Schools Trust, which took over the school last year, re-equipped and decorated classrooms before the start of the academic year and the library is the latest project to be finished.

Principal Ashley Milum said: “We are determined to develop a culture of learners who simply love to read.

“As part of our focus, we have fully re-developed our school library to inspire our pupils to enjoy and be immersed in books.

“Altogether, our children are feeling incredibly supported and inspired to develop their love for reading.

“Throughout our amazing school building are now ‘reading nooks’ where children are encouraged to grab a book and indulge in new knowledge and imaginary worlds.

“The staff and pupils are very excited to kick start our #lovetoread initiative.”

Kerry cutting the ribbon to open Avanti School library
Kerry cutting the ribbon to open Avanti School library

Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy writes for the Voice, 4th March 2021

WITH the vaccination programme running at pace and the prime minister having revealed his ‘roadmap’ out of restrictions we can now, finally, see a light at the end of the tunnel after a very difficult year.

It is brilliant that so many people have now received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and we have seen encouraging evidence about its effectiveness. Data from Scotland shows recipients of just the first dose were 85% or 94% less likely to be hospitalised with Covid, depending on the jab used. There is also positive evidence that vaccines reduce transmission, with Public Health England saying that one dose reduces the risk of catching Covid by over 70%.

Whilst overall take-up has been very good, even exceeding initial expectations, there are concerns about the rate of take up amongst certain communities, including people from a black or other ethnic minority background. Tragically, these communities have already been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Community leaders have been working hard to tackle disinformation and encourage everyone to take the opportunity to protect themselves by having the jab.

These vaccines have met strict standards of safety. Reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare whilst no long-term complications have been reported. Getting a vaccination is the best thing you can do to protect yourself and others, and I would urge everyone to have their jab when offered – I certainly will be!

On 22ndFebruary the Prime Minister outlined his road map for relaxing Covid restrictions, setting a timeline for most measures to be removed by the summer.

In a stark contrast to his blind optimism at the start of the pandemic, the Prime Minister is now being more cautious. I hope this means the Government has finally learned from its experience of failing to keep the virus under control. As the Prime Minister says, this relaxation of restrictions must be irreversible.

There will be four steps in total, with the first starting on March 8 with the re-opening of schools, and at least five weeks between each stage to allow for enough time to collect data on how it is affecting the Covid case rate.

Labour is calling for improvements to isolation support (a SAGE report found only 3/10 people who should be self-isolating are actually doing so), the early vaccination of teachers and other key workers, and continued economic support for businesses and individuals. This must include support for those who have slipped through the cracks and have received very little help to date.

For now, the lockdown is still in force. Not everyone vulnerable has the protection from a vaccine yet. We must all continue to follow the guidance, wear masks and minimise our social contact to save lives.

 

26 February 2021

Chancellor must use the Budget to support those who have been excluded  

It was encouraging to see the Prime Minister unveil a roadmap out of Covid restrictions this week. I welcome his new, much more cautious approach this time round; the last thing we want is to have to go into yet another lockdown later this year. I’m also really pleased to see that the vaccination programme is proceeding apace.

What we also need to hear from the Prime Minister, however – and from his Chancellor in the Spring Budget next week – is some clarity as to what support there is going to be for businesses and individuals who have been hit really hard during the past year, and in some cases are struggling to keep their heads above water.

The Chancellor must use the Budget to finally address the glaring gaps in support for the three million so-called “Excluded”, such as freelancers, people who’ve set up small limited companies, and some self-employed, who have so far fallen through the gaps in the Treasury’s support schemes.

We’re also facing a situation in which indoor hospitality venues like pubs and restaurants won’t be able to open their doors until May 17th at the earliest – weeks after the furlough scheme has ended. With 4.6 million workers still on furlough this will inevitably lead to more redundancies. In response Labour is calling for a smarter version of the scheme which isn’t time limited, will include provisions for training, and strict protocols to prevent abuse.

This safety net of support could be reinforced with an extension of the current VAT holiday and business rates relief. Having been in constant contact with companies in my constituency of Bristol East I’m aware of a desperate need for funding and economic breathing space.

Despite being completely dependent on live events for income, events and exhibition businesses have missed out on support every time, and I raised this with the Prime Minister in the Commons this week. The fact that they’re not customer-facing means they miss out on Leisure, Hospitality and Retail grant, the fact that they haven’t actually been forced to close means they’ve lost out on local Council grants for businesses which have, and the fact they aren’t arts organisations has denied them Arts Council funding.

Local authorities have been issued with vague guidelines and inconsistent advice on where discretion should be applied, leaving supply businesses stuck in a cycle of mis-categorisation.

The Government must understand that without the entire supply chain, the whole sector falls apart. Weddings rely on caterers, photographers, and musicians, and no gig or festival I’ve ever been to would’ve been the same without the sound and light engineers. Stage crews, audio-visual companies and coach drivers have all been denied support they need.

It’s exciting to think that the return of live sport, music, and events is now on the horizon, but some businesses are telling me they simply can’t survive till then. The Chancellor needs to support Bristol businesses in his Budget, so that we’re all able to enjoy live events this summer.

Kerry writes for the Bristol Post, December 11th 2020.

As Christmas approaches, I know the prospect of having limited contact with friends and family may feel especially bleak. In this difficult year, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused unimaginable challenges for all of us, both personally and professionally. From being separated from loved ones, to NHS services placed under immense pressure, to businesses struggling to cope, it’s been particularly hard to feel festive – but the tide is turning.

We’ve recently heard the brilliant news that the Government has approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. It’s purchased an initial 40 million doses of this vaccine ready for a mass immunisation programme, starting with those most at risk. Final trials of this vaccine show it has 95% efficacy, signalling a real light at the end of the tunnel. Here in Bristol, immunisation has started at Southmead Hospital, with 98-year-old Jack Vokes receiving the first vaccine in the city on the 8th of December. The vaccine will soon be rolled out into community settings, too – including a mass vaccination programme at Ashton Gate. Of course, there are challenges ahead in the storage and distribution of the vaccine, but this still offers strong cause to celebrate and feel positive, as it takes us one step closer to resuming our normal lives.

With Bristol in Tier 3 following the most recent national lockdown, we’ll still have to keep doing our bit to keep our communities safe, reduce Covid-19 case numbers, and give the city the best chance of moving into a lower tier as soon as possible. I know that this is hard, too, especially as we see the world opening up around us, but I’ve been inspired by Bristolians’ ability to work together and help one another through the pain and the pitfalls this virus has caused.

Our citizens have done all kinds of amazing things, from volunteering to do errands for the vulnerable, to distributing food through FareShare, Bristol Food Union and Bristol Food Network, to helping neighbours through city-wide mutual aid groups. All of this is testament to the generous, creative and welcoming spirit of our vibrant city.

For all of this, I want to say thank you – especially to those working for our brilliant NHS. Bristol’s people are its beating heart, staying practical and resilient in the face of everything Covid-19 has thrown at us. I’m immensely grateful to represent Bristol East and am proud of my constituents’ response to the hardships they have had to endure. I’ll keep doing all I can to be your voice in Parliament through thick and thin. As we move towards better days, I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas.

Kerry
Kerry's October 2020 column for The Fishponds Voice
Kerry
Kerry's September 2020 column for The Fishponds Voice

Kerry writes for the Bristol Post, August 7th 2020

For many older people, even in ordinary times, television provides something of a lifeline. During the past few months it has become even more important, especially for those who are living alone, confined to their homes during lockdown.  A survey for Age UK found that many older people have relied on TV not just for entertainment and distraction, but as their main source of information about Covid-19.   

That’s why the Government’s decision to break its manifesto promise and scrap free TV licences for the over-75s is such a blow. I’ve had constituents writing to me about this, and I’ve raised their concerns with the Government on a number of occasions. 

 The Tories have tried to shift the blame for this decision over to the BBC, saying it is their choice not to fund free licences. But the truth is that it was the Government’s choice to offload responsibility for free licences to the BBC – knowing full well that the Corporation would never be able to fund them. 

The 3.7 million pensioners who do not receive Pension Credit – many of whom are still not that well off – now face having to find an extra £157.50 a year for a licence. Some will struggle to afford it and will face a choice between foregoing some other essential, or living without a television.  Age UK has repeatedly expressed concern about the mental health of older people living on their own if they have to give up their television sets, which are a vital tool in alleviating the chronic loneliness many older people face.   

The truth is that this Government has taken an ideological decision to scrap free licences – all as part of their campaign to undermine the independence of the BBC.  Forcing the BBC to assume the cost of providing free licences for the over-75s would lead to cuts equivalent to the closures of BBC2, BBC4, the news channel, the Scotland channel, Radio 5 live and Sports Extra, and a number of local stations.   

 The BBC is one of our most internationally respected institutions.  Here in Bristol we play host to the BBC Natural History Unit – renowned the world over for its amazing nature programming. 

At this time of national crisis, the BBC’s mission to educate, inform and entertain has proved more essential than ever.   

 But the Government’s ideologically driven actions risk undermining our beloved broadcaster while at the same time penalising those people who are most likely to rely on their televisions for company and comfort.  Rather than trying to pass the buck, Ministers must sit down urgently with the BBC and work out how to keep free TV licences for the over-75s.   

If you are one of Kerry’s constituents and need to get in touch, you can email her at kerry.mccarthy.mp@parliament.uk or call her office on 0117 939 3136. 

 


 

Fishponds Voice
Fishponds Voice

Kerry writes for the Fishponds Voice, August 2020

As lockdown has eased, and the public health risk has receded, it’s become clear just what an effect coronavirus has had on jobs and the economy.  In Bristol East, more than 15,000 jobs have been furloughed, nearly 5000 self-employed people have claimed from the Self-Employment Support Scheme, and the number of people claiming Universal Credit went up from 2,960 in March this year, to 4,525 in June.

What’s most worrying is that we know we have not yet seen the worst economic effects of the crisis.   Reports suggest a quarter of furloughed workers could be made laid off in the coming months, with a roll call of companies announcing redundancies in recent weeks.  There have been worrying announcements from Airbus and Rolls Royce, which will affect jobs in Bristol. I’ve been speaking to both companies to try and minimise the impact on those people in Bristol East employed in the aerospace industry. It’s not, of course, just about jobs at those big companies, but many associated jobs in the supply chain and local services too.

When you look at the whole picture, it’s clear the support package the Chancellor announced in his mini-Budget is woefully inadequate and offers little consolation to those people whose jobs and livelihoods are on the line.  The Government’s ‘one size all’ approach takes no account of the fact that some sectors have been hit harder than others.  It also ignores the opportunities that could come as we rebuild the economy – for example, targeted support for car manufacturing could accelerate the phase out of diesel and petrol vehicles, which will help us meet climate change and clean air goals, as well as keeping people in work and making sure the UK gets a share of the electric vehicle manufacturing market.

But we also need to protect people employed in sectors which can’t open fully yet.  Much of Bristol’s night-time economy will be unable to return to normal for months.  The public health restrictions that – understandably – remain in place mean that thousands of jobs could be lost.  That’s why we need a continuation of the furlough scheme for workers in sectors like these – rather than the Government’s approach, which is to leave them to fend for themselves in the face of economic turmoil.

I know many people in Bristol are concerned about the effect of the pandemic on their finances, and I’ll keep pressing the Government to support everyone who needs it.  In the meantime, if you have any problems or concerns related to finances and redundancy, please do get in touch with my office on kerry.mccarthy.mp@parliament.uk or by phoning 0117 939 9901.

Read the full copy of the Fishponds Voice, August 2020 here.

 


 

Bristol Post
Bristol Post

Kerry writes for Bristol Post ‘On the House’, May 29, 2020

Making Liveable Neighbourhoods

As you may have heard, the Mayor recently announced ambitious plans to pedestrianise the Old City – that is, the area around St Nick’s Market – along with proposals to make some of our busier streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and a ‘School Streets’ scheme, getting rid of traffic and helping combat air pollution outside some of Bristol’s most-affected primary schools.

In the longer-term, the Council is looking at developing ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’. I’ve been talking to representatives of London councils in my new role as shadow Transport minister about how they’ve introduced such schemes, working with local residents to regenerate their neighbourhoods, make the streets more people-friendly and reduce the need for car trips by, for example, by reviving local shopping areas.

Bristol is also likely to be one of the first cities to trial e-scooters. It is currently illegal to use these on the road, but the Government has announced that this restriction will be lifted soon. It will still, rightly, be illegal to use them on the pavement.

I’m very aware that not all people are able to walk or cycle, perhaps because of their age, health or disabilities, or because they need to transport other people or things, or because of the distance they need to travel. But it’s more important than ever to promote active travel right now is because it will be a long time before public transport returns to normal.

Last week I made my Commons debut as a shadow Transport Minister (albeit from a virtual Despatch Box in my living room!) I challenged the Government Minister as to why he hadn’t done more to talk to local councils before lockdown started to be (partially) lifted, so that they could prepare for a safety-led scaling up of passenger transport. Since then First Bus has issued details of how the company will enforce social distancing on its buses, which will mean capacity is reduced by around 70%.

If public transport isn’t available, many people will feel they have no alternative but to get back into their cars, or, indeed, use them far more than they did before, bringing back all the  air pollution and congestion that had disappeared from our streets during lockdown. I’m sure none of us want this to happen, which is why it’s important that those who can walk or cycle do so, and why I am calling on the Government to do more to support local councils in their efforts.


Children should not go to bed hungry

July 06, 2020

https://www.fishpondsvoice.co.uk/children-should-not-go-to-bed-hungry


How you can help Bristol’s music scene survive the coronavirus lockdown

May 20, 2020

https://www.stgeorgeandredfieldvoice.co.uk/how-you-can-help-bristols-music-scene-survive-the-coronavirus-lockdown


We must keep all our keyworkers safe, from the NHS and carers to bus drivers

April 28, 2020

https://www.stgeorgeandredfieldvoice.co.uk/we-must-keep-all-our-keyworkers-safe,-from-the-nhs-and-carers-to-bus-drivers


Protecting Bristol’s music scene

March 06, 2020

https://www.stgeorgeandredfieldvoice.co.uk/protecting-bristols-music-scene


We will do what we can to protect child refugees

February 03 2020

https://www.stgeorgeandredfieldvoice.co.uk/we-will-do-what-we-can-to-protect-child-refugees


An incredible response from Bristol people to the coronavirus crisis

April 02 2020

https://www.stgeorgeandredfieldvoice.co.uk/an-incredible-response-from-bristol-people-to-the-coronavirus-crisis


Here to help – and make the case for change

January 01 2020

https://www.stgeorgeandredfieldvoice.co.uk/here-to-help-and-make-the-case-for-change

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