Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy 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.
As always, I will continue to try to hold the Government to account on all the issues I’ve mentioned here! You can email me at email@example.com, call on 0117 9399901, or write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.