This is the first week of the easing of lockdown restrictions and it’s been good to see people getting out a bit more and feeling a little bit more relaxed. However, it’s so important that we are still careful and limit our contact with those from outside our homes, – remaining 2-metres apart from anyone else – and continuing to wash our hands thoroughly and often. Although we in England are able to travel for exercise, the restrictions are different in the devolved nations and it’s important to note that should you travel into Wales there is a strong likelihood that you will be fined.
On Monday, I made my debut at the (virtual!) Despatch Box in my role as a shadow Transport Minister. I welcomed the expansion of active travel, but quizzed the Minister on why the Government did not involve city leaders in its decision to relax lockdown measures, so they can prepare for a safety-led scaling up of passenger transport. Social distancing will greatly reduce the maximum capacity on buses and trains. If public transport isn’t available, people will flock to cars, exacerbating air pollution and congestion issues. Encouraging walking and cycling is crucial, but not everyone can get around this way. Here in Bristol, the City Council plans to completely pedestrianise the ‘old city’ within months, and on Wednesday I met with Cllr Kye Dudd, Cabinet Member for Transport, to discuss what is being planned locally, including proposals to create low-traffic neighbourhoods and to further roll out the successful ‘School Streets’ scheme.
Monday also saw the Environmental Audit Committee launch our inquiry into the energy efficiency of existing homes. Homes are responsible for around 20% of UK greenhouse gas emissions and around 29 million could benefit from efficiency improvements, yet the Government has not yet brought forward proposals to improve energy efficiency in existing homes. Improving energy efficiency in homes would not just significantly reduce our carbon footprint, but would also reduce energy costs for the millions that live in fuel poverty in the UK. It should be an urgent priority, rather than an afterthought and I look forward to hearing from experts in this field over the course of the enquiry about how we should best approach the changes we need to make.
On Thursday, I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bobby Norris from The Only Way Is Essex at Petitions Committee about his experiences of online abuse. While social media has been a useful tool for people to stay connected during the lockdown, there has also been a rise in trolling and other forms of online abuse. The Government urgently needs to move forward with its strategy to combat online harms. It’s clear that social media companies will not act alone. Bobby’s been very brave in speaking out on these issues, and it’s particularly timely that the session was taking place during Mental Health Awareness Week.
As many of you will know, I am a patron of the Music Venue Trust, and they’ve been doing stirling work over the past few weeks to try and protect our beloved independent venues from the financial effects of the Covid-19 crisis. Their #saveourvenuescampaign is 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. On Saturday, 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. Why not tune in this Bank Holiday weekend, and donate to help protect our brilliant Bristol venues?
My office remains reachable by phone or email, and as ever, please do contact us if we can help on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 0117 939 9901. Remember – stay home, save lives, and do keep washing your hands!