It takes a village
From the earliest evidence of
human habitation in these British Isles on the shores of the River Avon near Shirehampton to the eighth-century monastery of Westbury-on-Trym, granted by King Offa of Mercia, to the Roman settlements at Sea Mills and Lawrence Weston, and the Domesday reference to the parish of Henbury, and now, so I am told, to the first ever Darren elected to this House of Commons, Bristol North West is an historic and fascinating constituency.
This excerpt is taken from my maiden speech to Parliament in 2017. I wanted to share my love for my home area, and to celebrate the rich history of the many villages that make up Bristol North West.
In modern times, these villages have developed their own identity and unique charm. Retaining such a strong sense of village life in the suburbs of a major city isn’t something that is commonplace elsewhere in the UK – and it makes me proud to be Bristolian.
That’s why I’ve launched a campaign to cultivate and celebrate the charm of village life across Bristol North West. And what better place to launch the ‘It takes a village’ campaign than at the recent Westbury-on-Trym Village Show!
I would like to thank the organisers for creating such a wonderful community event, which is now in its 43rd year, for allowing me to launch my campaign as I opened the show – and for giving me the honour of selecting ‘The Best in Show’.
My ‘It takes a village’ campaign follows on from a Constituency Assembly that I held earlier this year, in which 50 constituents from across Bristol North West were selected to take part based on area, age, gender, race and other demographics to reflect the constituency as a whole.
The Constituency Assembly revealed distinct differences in how people from different areas in Bristol North West feel about where they live and what changes would make the biggest difference to them. (There’s a highlights video about the Constituency Assembly on my YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/@darrenjonesmp)
Building on this event, I now want as many people in Bristol North West to get involved. Let’s discuss each village and community individually and the local issues that matter to you.
The campaign will culminate back where it started, with the Henleaze & Westbury Park Village Meeting on 7th March 2024 and the Westbury-on-Trym Village Meeting held shortly after on 9th March 2024. In the meantime, please share your views on the online survey, which you can find at darren-jones.co.uk/villages
In other local news, I was delighted to attend the opening of the University of Bristol’s new Dental School, alongside fellow Bristol MPs Thangam Debbonaire and Kerry McCarthy.
We now have the best dental school facilities in the country, ramping up the number of dentists the country needs.
Members of the public without a dentist will be able to get free dental treatment by undergraduate students, under the supervision of qualified clinical dentists. However, due to overwhelming demand, they have temporarily stopped accepting new patients. I’ll let you know when this changes.
It’s no wonder there’s so much demand given the problems people in Bristol continue to face in accessing NHS dentistry. I’ll be addressing this issue at an upcoming dental summit that I’ve organised.
On 5th October, health leaders and dentists from Bristol North West will discuss what can be done to improve access to NHS dentistry. Seven dental practices have agreed to attend the summit, so I’m dubbing it the D7 Summit! This is a closed meeting, so I’m afraid you won’t be able to attend. But I will share details of the outcomes in my next column.
Ending on some personal news, I’m thrilled Keir Starmer has asked me to join Labour’s frontbench to serve as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Thank you to everyone who has sent their congratulations – it means everything to know that I have your support.
After 13 years of economic mismanagement by the Conservative Government, being asked to hold Ministers to account on how they spend money on health, education and other public services is an important job, and I appreciate Keir’s trust that I am the right person to do it.
To take up this role, I have had to step down as Chair of the Business and Trade Select Committee. I have loved chairing the Committee, and I’m proud of the increased public engagement we have had in our work. It has been gratifying to hear from people from across the country, who have expressed their thanks for our work and told us they feel well represented in Parliament. That is exactly as it should be.
On this point, I want to reassure everyone in Bristol North West that this change in national role will not affect any of the local services my team and I provide, nor the events we host to hear from you.
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.