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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 0117 939 9901.
Read the full copy of the Fishponds Voice, August 2020 here.
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.
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