With spring just around the corner, don’t the days just feel like they fly by? There’s always so much to do, and so few hours in the day. Imagine how the Government feels then, with about 4,000 EU laws that were retained after Brexit that now need to either be replaced or reinstated in UK law by the end of the year, or else most of them will be scrapped!
This is, of course, a problem of the Government’s own making, having set – and stuck with – this arbitrary deadline.
Hundreds of constituents have written to me since the start of the year to share their dismay that the Government is pushing forward with this proposed legislature – the ‘Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill’ – and the cliff-edge deadline of the end of 2023, which is known as the ‘sunset clause’.
Let me be frank: it’s a silly Bill. These laws include a lot of important protections: from food safety to employment rights and safeguarding the environment. I think we can all agree we’d quite like to keep these things.
Sadly, there’s nothing I can do to stop the Bill. I voted against it, and I voted for many amendments to try to improve it, but the Government got it through the Commons easily because of the Conservative majority in the House. However, given how much interest and confusion there is on this issue, I have decided to run a special Facebook Live Q&A to answer all your questions about the Bill on Tuesday 28th March, 7:30-8:00pm. There’s no need to book – just head to my Facebook page (fb.com/darrenjonesmp) at the allotted time to take part in the event.
Moving on to local matters, Bristol City Council has had to pass a difficult budget this month. Once again, the council grant from Westminster to Bristol does not cover the rising costs of pay, energy and service delivery. Because of that, we’ve seen another increase in council tax – not just to pay for council services, but to pay for social care, police and fire services, too.
It has also meant that the Council has had to raise money in other ways, including by expanding car parking charges to council-owned car parks that are currently free. This means the car park by the Westbury-on-Trym GP surgery in the centre of the village will see parking charges introduced from the autumn. I understand these new charges will be £1 an hour, unless you’re a Blue Badge holder.
This is something else I don’t want to see happen, and I tried to stop it from being introduced. But the perhaps understandable response that I got from the Council was this: what cut would you like to make elsewhere? Libraries? The parks maintenance budget?
Looking ahead to what else can be done, I have written to the Council to request that a review is undertaken in a year’s time to assess any negative impacts caused by introducing the charges and to consider whether the decision should then be reversed.
In other transport news, I met with Doug Claringbold, the Managing Director of First Bus in the West of England, in late January. In the meeting, I quizzed him on the problem of ‘ghost buses’; demanded to know if Bristol North West has drawn the short straw in being handed the fleet’s oldest buses; raised constituents’ concerns about unfair bus fares; and asked him if franchising buses is the answer. If you’d like to watch the interview, you can find an 8-minute highlights video pinned to the featured content on my Facebook page.
One of the key outcomes from the meeting was an assurance that we’ll see improvements to the reliability and punctuality of our bus services from April. Doug put this down to the success of the driver recruitment campaign, meaning the services that were cut in November could be reintroduced in April, and because First Bus is introducing new technology that will enable them to better timetable services.
It sounds promising. But, before I toot my horn in celebration, I want to put this claim to the test. On 1st March, I’m launching a campaign in which I’m asking constituents to log expected and actual bus arrival times for journeys starting from bus stops in Bristol North West. Let’s see if the data shows things can only get better from April onwards! Please help spread the word and start logging your journeys at www.darren-jones.co.uk/bus
As always, if you need my help or have a question, you can get in touch with me on e-mail at email@example.com, by calling my office on 0117 959 6545 or by writing to me at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.