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.
Kerry writes for Fishponds and St George & Redfield Voice, 20th May 2020
How you can help Bristol’s music scene survive the coronavirus lockdown
As we enter another week of lockdown, albeit with slightly relaxed rules, it’s clear we’ll be living with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic for a long time to come.
There’s a very real danger that even with Government support, some businesses that have been forced to close during lockdown will never reopen. Bars, clubs and music venues are some of those businesses most at risk.
I’ve always said that one of the things I love most about Bristol is its diverse music scene – I know that’s something I share with many of my constituents. But even before the pandemic struck, many of our independent venues faced the threat of closure. And now coronavirus has thrown a whole new challenge into the mix.
Of course, preserving our independent venues isn’t just important for cultural reasons – they’re also an important source of jobs in Bristol and a way to attract visitors to our city and boost our economy. Live music contributes more than £1 billion to the UK economy as a whole. It’s so important we preserve this vital industry.
That’s why the Music Venue Trust has launched #SaveOurVenues – a campaign to draw together fundraising activity aimed at preventing the permanent closure of these vital venues due to coronavirus. They’re bringing together artists who want to help, with the venues they love, and providing an easy way for music fans to financially support the resultant live streams.
And on Saturday (May 23rd), Colston Hall will virtually ‘host’ the Bristol Takeover Online, a digital festival in partnership with the Music Venue Trust, and curated in collaboration with some of our best loved venues. A line up of new talent and special guests will be live streamed via YouTube, with viewers asked to donate what they would normally spend on a gig ticket via the event’s crowdfunder page.
Although it’s impossible to replicate the shared experience of a gig in lockdown, it’s been fantastic to see fans and artists coming together around things like the Takeover Online. As the weeks go on, I know that many of us are getting through by imagining the joy we’ll feel when this is over and we’re able to once again take part in the activities we used to take for granted. For me, that means the irreplaceable communion that you only feel at a gig by a band you love. The one thing that will help make the wait more bearable is taking action now to make sure we’re talking about when we next get to go to our best loved Bristol venues – not if.
Kerry McCarthy writes for the St George & Redfield Voice April 28, 2020
We must keep all our keyworkers safe, from NHS and carers to bus drivers
AS we continue to live with the shadow of coronavirus, there are increasing concerns about whether enough is being done to keep our key workers safe, including making sure they have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment.
There have been worrying reports this week that the Government has missed the opportunity to procure much-needed items and the NHS Confederation has warned that care homes, GPs and community services are still facing real shortages.
As important as our NHS workers are, they are not the only key workers putting themselves at risk. Here in Bristol, our bus drivers are still going to work every day, and making sure other people doing vital jobs can get around the city. Tragically, we learnt that a third Bristol bus driver has died after contracting coronavirus.
I’m concerned that the Government has been slow to act, and, as part of Labour’s shadow transport team, I’m working with trade union representatives to make sure that bus companies take whatever measures they can to protect their employees.
Labour’s shadow Secretary for Transport, Jim McMahon, has written to Grant Shapps this week calling for clear guidance from the Government on issues ranging from whether cash should be banned on buses to how social distancing can be effectively managed.
We’re backing calls by trade unions for the creation of a national operators’ forum to bring together the Government, the various bus companies and unions, so that these issues can be resolved.
Keir Starmer used his first outing as Leader of the Opposition at Prime Minister’s Questions to highlight the Government’s failure to ensure adequate protection for key workers – and revealed that dozens of British firms have contacted the Labour Party after their offers to produce PPE were ignored by the Government.
The details of these companies have been passed on to the Government by Labour in an effort to support the national drive to adequately equip our key workers.
PMQs took place as part of the first ever virtual session of Parliament, with only a few MPs inside the House of Commons (and respecting social distancing rules!) but most taking part via video call. It’s so important that we are able to scrutinise the decisions the Government is taking at this extraordinary time, and I’m really pleased that – like so many other employers – the Parliamentary authorities have been able to use technology to make sure that MPs can still do their jobs.
My team and I been extremely busy during lockdown dealing with constituents’ concerns, including writing to ministers, but I’m looking forward – technology permitting – to actually being able to put questions directly to ministers.
We must keep all our keyworkers safe, from the NHS and carers to bus drivers
April 28 2020
Protecting Bristol’s music scene
March 06 2020
We will do what we can to protect child refugees
February 03 2020
An incredible response from Bristol people to the coronavirus crisis
April 02 2020
Here to help – and make the case for change
January 01 2020