The start of a new year is an opportunity to reflect on the past twelve months and also a time for looking forward to the year ahead.
For many Bristol South residents 2013 was a tough year. More than half of all people currently living in poverty in Britain are actually in paid work. It’s clear to me that we need a Living Wage, allowing every worker to live with dignity. Many people in Bristol would benefit from the Living Wage and I hope that in 2014 every local employer will recognise the benefits of fair pay.
A significant event of 2013 for me personally was my hip replacement operation at Southmead Hospital. My recovery has been excellent and I want to pay tribute again to the outstanding care I received from our NHS and its hard-working staff. However, like many people, I fear we are heading back to the days of patients waiting on trolleys or in ambulances outside A&E.
Last June saw the selection of Karin Smyth, my successor as Labour candidate for Bristol South at the General Election in 2015. We will be working closely together and Karin has already been out and about in the constituency visiting community organisations, schools and businesses.
One of the biggest local issues of 2013 was the Mayor’s plan for Residents Parking Zones across the city. Thankfully he listened to the nearly 2000 people who responded to my survey and called a halt to his “one size fits all” approach. The Mayor is likely to re-launch proposals for parts of Southville soon and I will be pressing him to listen to residents’ views.
In December we saw Council planners give the go-ahead to the redevelopment of Bristol City Football Club’s stadium at Ashton Gate. Although opinions have been divided in recent years about the location of the stadium, my hope now is that when construction starts there will be jobs and training opportunities for our young people.
As we look ahead to 2014 I am very concerned about the impact of the £90 million budget cuts being forced upon Bristol by the Tory/Lib Dem Government. Some cuts have hit the headlines, but some of the nastiest are less well known– such as reducing children’s speech and language therapy or closing the respite care centre for disabled people. I’m especially worried that our Children’s Centres are under threat from cuts as surely every child deserves the best start in life.
We need to take a hard look at all spending to reassess its importance. People from all communities across Bristol must have the opportunity to engage with these decisions and I would be interested to hear your views.