New MP outlines his vision for the future of our area
Published on: 14 Sep 2017
Darren Jones was elected as our new MP for Bristol North West in June. The 30 year old from Lawrence Weston ousted Conservative Charlotte Leslie in the General Election with a substantial majority.
Back from his first few weeks in parliament, having raised a laugh during his Maiden Speech by declaring himself to be the “first ever Darren” to be elected into the House, he outlines his priorities for the constituency in the months ahead to readers of the Horfield Voice.
Darren Jones and his team are in place at offices in Westbury-on-Trym and the phone line is finally working. He’s ready to get into the detail of Brexit now but has found that there’s not much happening at Westminster until October.
Convinced that the Brexit vote crossed party lines within the constituency he says: “I think we did the best that we’ve ever done as a Labour Party in Stoke Bishop, and I can only think that is because of the Europe argument as it is a very strong Remain ward.”
“My gut feeling is that we won due to the top up of tactical voters who voted for me because of my pro-European credentials. I don’t think we would have won without them because Bristol North West has, until this election, has always gone with the largest party.
“Brexit affects researchers and academics at the University as well as European citizens who are the staff working at Southmead. We have big employers here who rely on the EU for trade.
“The first meeting I had as an MP was with Airbus executives who employ 4,000 people at their site just up the road from here. They make and ship the wings for their aeroplanes here in Bristol. Lots of people’s livelihoods are on the line with Brexit.”
One of the major problems that came up in the campaign was school funding. Darren explains: “Every single school in this constituency is facing really significant funding challenges. We need to campaign nationally because Head Teachers are struggling to keep up with the cost of running their schools.”
Libraries - especially funding - is a major issue and Darren is awaiting an answer from the government on a question that he’s tabled about it: “The challenge that I face with Library cuts is that I represent a large and diverse constituency - either way enormous amounts of the constituency are going to lose out.
“I’m organising a Libraries conference in this area with representatives from all the libraries, plus some examples of community operated libraries, and third party sponsors and stakeholders too. We need to look at the whole of the constituency, how can we use those three things to get the best out of the area.”
The local road network and transport solutions are an immediate problem to deal with, says Darren: “Transport will always be the top 1 or 2 issue for local people living here.
”We have three problems to deal with: the immediate problem on the roads network because of development, the final delivery of a proper inner-city rail network to free up the load on the road network and to make sure that the buses are getting to the areas that the rail network can’t get to and is funded properly.
“The road at the top of Henbury past the hospital is already a nightmare and it’s only going to get worse if you put down another 9,000 homes nearby. The BS10 group have been lobbying on this for a while and have good ideas on how you could fix that. We need to make sure the Metro Mayor understands that and it is my number one job for him.
“I’m going to continue Charlotte Leslie’s good work on the Henbury Loop line and inner city rail. Metro West 1 isn’t fully funded but there is no reason why we can’t get on with Metro West 2, which would allow the Henbury Line to be up and running.
“Many of our bus routes are deemed to be not operationally viable and I’m concerned that if budgets reduce, communities could end up once again being cut off from the city. That’s not just about older people being able to get into the villages around this constituency or into town, it’s also about young people being able to get to a Sixth Form, as it’s difficult without a car.”
Darren is involved with campaigns around families and childcare, looking at how the pre-primary provision suits working parents.
“Thirty hours a week is offered but it’s not fully funded and the supply isn’t high enough to be able to meet the need. There are also some odd rules about booking it in chunks of time, rather than around your working life,” he says.
Keen to build on the work of the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission Darren wants to set up a project to mentor young people by older people, sharing their wisdom on life, and reducing loneliness.
Affordable housing was also mentioned many times to him during the election. He is keen to challenge the government on their commitment to get rid of letting agent fees - ensuring that landlords are properly held to account and the rules are enforced against them.
The Mayor has started a licensing scheme locally whereby if a landlord doesn’t meet the requisite requirements then they are not on the list. Darren wants to see this scheme rolled out to places like Horfield and Southmead where there is a high number rental properties.
Developing renewable power locally has great potential Darren believes, and would like to harness the tidal range of the Bristol Channel and to pipe the heat out of the industrial space in Avonmouth into homes through district heating networks.
“This constituency has fantastic potential. It’s cheaper than gas and something that I don’t think is too hard to deliver,” he says.
“The challenge with all of this stuff - housing, transport, inter-generational issues - are that they are complex long-term, multi-faceted issues. My concern nationally is that the government isn’t in a place to be doing anything. The whole thing is focussed around Brexit. How on earth we are supposed to be able to scrutinise 12,000 pieces of EU law into UK law, and the trade deal, plus any constitutional framework we need, alongside all these other issues? I just don’t see how we can do all this effectively.”
Darren Jones MP will be writing a monthly column for the Horfield Voice from October. He can be contacted through the websiteDarren-Jones.co.uk, by writing to the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA or call 0207 219 2302.