Angela Smith MP recently joined a giant bumble bee and campaigners from the environment charity Friends of the Earth to draw attention to the alarming decline in UK bee numbers.
Angela was one of more than 125 MPs to show their support for Britain’s threatened bees. Last year Friends of the Earth launched its Bee Cause campaign, which has been backed by more than 80,000 people and calls for the Government to urgently to introduce a National Bee Action Plan aimed at saving our bees.
Bees are not only makers of honey, they are also crucial for pollinating crops and plants. A sharp fall in their number in recent years has led to growing concerns about the impact this may have on our local environment, farmers and the economy.
A study last year found that if bees disappeared it would cost British farmers at least £1.8 billion a year to pollinate their crops by hand – which would cause food prices, such as fresh fruit and veg, to rocket.
“I am extremely concerned about the rapid decline in British Bees. They’re not only an iconic part of our countryside; they play a vital role in pollinating our crops and flowers too.
Penistone and Stocksbridge MP, Angela Smith today saw Tory Ministers accept a Lords amendment that will allow polling stations to remain open if people are queuing to vote.
The change means that the terrible experience of some voters in Penistone during the last general election should not happen again.
People might remember that in some areas queues had built up and when the time reached 10.00pm the doors of the polling station were closed.
Commenting, Angela said;
“After, what happened at the last general election when a number of my constituents were denied their democratic right to vote it is pleasing that at last in future polling stations will offer the opportunity to cast a vote to those queuing at that time.
“In a modern democracy it is only right that those wishing vote and who have turned up at the polling station before the close of polls should be allowed to vote.
Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, today challenged the Chancellor George Osborne, in Parliament at Treasury Questions, on the unfair impact of the Government’s cuts on Sheffield and the major cities. Mr Blomfield highlighted the Fair Deal for Sheffield campaign which launched last week and calls for fair funding for Sheffield.
Paul Blomfield MP’s question to the Chancellor was:
Last Friday the Bishop of Sheffield, the Bishop of Hallam, other faith, community and civic leaders came together to launch a campaign for a Fair Deal for Sheffield.
Will the Chancellor recognise their concerns that the combined effect of his austerity programme, with unevenly distributed cuts and benefit changes that hit the poorest hardest, is having a disproportionate impact on our urban areas and our big cities?
And will he listen to these concerns?
The news that the government is to commit to building an high speed rail link connecting Sheffield to London and Leeds was today been welcomed by Angela, a former member of the influential Commons Select committee on Transport.
Commenting, she said;
“It is vital for the future economic development of the city region that South Yorkshire is connected to high speed rail and it is therefore pleasing the government has finally brought forward these plans. However, it has taken them over 2 years to come up with these plans, after all the work done by the previous government.
“Today in the Chamber I asked the Minister to separate the enabling functions of the necessary legislation from the quasi legal matters, which could help speed up delivery of a massively nationally important project. It would be nice if the government could respond positively on this.”
On the proposed sighting of the proposed station at Meadowhall, Angela said;
“While for Sheffield the preferred location of the station would have been Midland Station, I can fully understand why it is proposed to locate the station at Meadowhall.
Sheffield South East Labour MP, Clive Betts, today welcomed the Government’s announcement on HS2.
Clive Betts said:
“The government’s announcement on its intention to proceed with HS2 is welcome. It is an essential pre-requisite for the economic regeneration of South Yorkshire.
It is unfortunate that more than two years after inheriting detailed plans for the first phase of the HS2 route between London and Birmingham, legislation has still not been brought forward. Instead, we’ve had a botched consultation.
The government could make some amends by bringing forward legislation for the entire HS2 route in one bill during this parliament, rather than attempt to introduce a hybrid bill covering only the first phase of the line from London to Birmingham.”
On the proposal for the South Yorkshire station to be at Meadowhall, Clive Betts said:
“I can understand why it is proposed that Meadowhall should be the HS2 station for Sheffield and South Yorkshire. Of course, Sheffield Midland Station would have been the preferred location.
Paul Blomfield, Member of Parliament for Sheffield Central, has welcomed confirmation that High Speed 2 will be coming to Sheffield but has expressed serious concern about the proposed location of the station at Meadowhall.
There will be a Ministerial Statement on today’s HS2 announcement in Parliament at 3.30pm when Paul Blomfield intends to challenge the Minister on these points.
Paul Blomfield MP said:
“This is the biggest investment in the railways north of London for 120 years, so we’ve got to get it right. The case for HS2 is about improving connectivity between our great cities. We need centre-to-centre links. An independent study has shown that a city centre station would bring between £2bn and £5bn billion more into the local economy, compared to Meadowhall, and create 6,500 extra jobs. I’m disappointed Ministers have ignored this evidence and I’ll be continuing to make the case for the station to be at the heart of our city.
This week Angela signed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, in doing so pledging her commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who died during the Holocaust.
Sunday January 27th will mark the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp which is the site of the largest mass murder in history. In the weeks running up to the day, the Holocaust Educational Trust placed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, giving MPs the chance to honour those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust and encouraging constituents to work together to combat prejudice and racism today.
In signing the Book of Commitment, Angela paid tribute to those who perished during the Holocaust and honoured the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people about what they endured, through the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Outreach programme.
Campaign and People’s Petition to be launched on Friday, 25th January.
Sheffield MPs, Faith Leaders, representatives of the Voluntary and Community Sector, and trade unions are coming together to call for A Fair Deal for Sheffield.
The ‘Fair Deal for Sheffield’ campaign is being supported by a wide range of Sheffield’s faith leaders, the voluntary and community sector, unions and local politicians. On Friday 25th January at 1pm they will be launching a People’s Petition for fair funding for Sheffield, which challenges the Government’s unfair distribution of public spending cuts to city services. There will be a campaign launch and photocall outside the Town Hall.
The Fair Deal campaign highlights the unfairness of the Government’s cuts on Sheffield, compared to wealthier areas which are receiving much lower reductions in funding. The people’s petition calls on the Government to give Sheffield and South Yorkshire the fair funding that we deserve. The Fair Deal briefing document sets out the background to the unfairness of the Government’s cuts on Sheffield.
The government plans to change planning rules in the UK which will put our green spaces at risk. Changes to the Growth and Infrastructure Bill also include a measure to reduce the number of places that could be protected as a village green. Communities care greatly about village greens and by introducing restrictions in this Bill the Government further undermines localism and will antagonise communities. This measure will threaten valuable village greens making them easy targets for developers but will do very little to address the full scale of our housing shortages. There is also no mention of the effects of this planning free for all on the environment or climate change.
Councillor Jack Scott, cabinet member for Environment, Recycling and Streetscene said:
“This Bill has not been thoroughly thought out and would be bad for Sheffield.
The measures included in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill completely undermine local democracy, threaten our local environment, and do nothing to tackle climate change.
The Government’s £5.5 million cut to Sheffield’s council tax benefit, nearly £1 million more than originally predicted, will mean that families living in a Band A property will have to pay at least £4.32 per week in council tax.
The cut comes following the transfer of council tax benefit to local authorities with a significantly reduced budget. The cuts leave the council with no option but to reduce Council Tax Benefits or make further cuts to other services, in addition to the cuts that are already proposed as the council tries to deal with £50 million of cuts in 2013/14. The funding shortfall left by the cut to council tax benefit was expected to be £4.6 million but this has now increased to £5.5 million following the Local Government Finance Settlement.
The new scheme, set to be approved at a Full Council meeting next week, will come into force for April 2013.
The scheme will mean a 23% cut across all working age recipients. The Government have been criticised for hitting hardest councils in the most deprived areas of the country whilst authorities in the wealthiest areas of the country will receive a smaller cut.