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WERA HOBHOUSE MP Annual Report 2020

Dear Bath residents,

This year has been incredibly tough for everyone. Many of us have been separated from our families, have had to deal with financial difficulties, and indeed tragically have lost loved ones. The recent news of an effective vaccine brings hope to us all, and is a reminder that this detached way of life is temporary.

Throughout the pandemic I have been amazed by demonstrations of solidarity and kindness shown by our city. When the pandemic first started, thousands of you signed up to volunteer to deliver food to people who could not visit shops.

Front line workers dealt with unprecedented situations, and our city rallied behind them. Charities and organisations throughout our city have made sure that people are fed, and people have generously donated to make sure our third sector organisations can do this work.

It truly is an honour and a privilege to represent Bath, and thank you to everyone who voted in the 2019 General Election, and who re-elected me as your MP. I am as determined as ever to fight for progressive, caring and liberal politics in our city, and in our country.

As we move towards Christmas, and the New Year, I urge everyone to continue to look after one another, wear masks, and remember that we will get through this together.

Best wishes,

Wera

2020 BY SECTOR

TOURISM

Covid-19 has been enormously challenging for Bath’s tourist sector. Our tourist attractions are a large source of income for B&NES Council, and Covid-19 has meant less money for vital services for our residents and local businesses struggling to earn enough to keep going. Bath MP Wera Hobhouse has backed the £5 million ‘Escape the Everyday’ campaign, which highlights the quality destinations, visitor attractions and experiences on offer in the city and across the UK.

She has also spoken in the House of Commons, championing Bath’s credentials as an international tourism destination, and outlining the challenges the city has faced since the onset of Covid-19.

In her first 'Community Conversation', she brought together senior representatives from the sector to discuss how to reopen the city to tourists:

EDUCATION

Our city’s education community has been put in an incredibly difficult position over the last few months. Our educators have had to make sure that they are able to keep our young people safe, from nursery children all the way up to university students.

Throughout the pandemic, Wera has remained in close contact with teachers and union officials alike, relaying their messages and concerns to the government. In May she put pressure on the government to properly explain what protective measures would be put in place when schools reopened, and fully supported B&NES council in their safety driven and collaborative approach.

She has also been campaigning in the press and in Westminster for the re-installation of the National School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme, which the government suspended in March when schools shut. She has also been vocal in her opposition to the extension of the school voucher scheme throughout the summer holidays.

Wera maintains close ties with Bath's two universities and monitors the issues that affect them, their students and staff and our city as a whole.

Wera hosted a 'Community Conversation' with leading figures from Bath's education sector discussing how to safely keep schools and universities open.

BUSINESS

Businesses in Bath have faced massive difficulties staying afloat since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Wera has joined a campaign with Bath business leaders, urging Bath’s resident’s to buy local. Wera said: “We are facing an unprecedented economic crisis. I have been campaigning tirelessly to support Bath businesses and employees and the self-employed.”

“But our hospitality, leisure and retail industries are still facing hugely challenging times and without further support, many of our well-loved businesses might not survive. The fight to ensure that these important sectors survive is ongoing. Bath's unique small shops are one of the most treasured elements of our beautiful city. Many of them have been community mainstays during the pandemic, going above and beyond to serve our residents in creative and thoughtful ways. They need our support.”

Wera also hosted a 'Community Conversation' with senior figures from Bath's business community looking at how we can future proof Bath's economy.

THE ARTS

Here in Bath, we treasure our thriving cultural sector. It's part of our DNA and has been a magnet for talent and visitors alike. Through the pandemic, Wera lobbied the government on behalf of the arts sector in Bath, encouraging them to provide a much needed support package for the industry.

As part of this lobbying effort, she coordinated a cross-party letter to Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg urging him to provide time to address this issue in Parliament.

Ultimately, arts organisations in the city received £2.2 million in funding to alleviate the worst effects of the crisis.

In February, Wera organised the Bath Arts conference with Arts Council England. It was the first event of its kind, with 100 participants representing many groups from the local arts community taking part. Many organisations fed back that relationships built at the conference helped them through out an incredibly difficult year.

SPORTS

Bath is lucky to have such a wide offering of sports clubs and venues, catering to fans of all ages and interests. Sports clubs are community hubs, which play a central role in our city’s social life. Wera, who has taken the concerns of Bath’s sporting communities to Parliament, said:

“I am concerned that our sports clubs have not been allowed to open alongside our arts venues for example. Government policy seems to have focussed on Premiere League clubs, and completely ignored clubs like Bath City.”

“If we are able to open our theatres safely, then why can’t football clubs open their terraces in a covid secure manner? It strikes me as deeply classist.”

Wera has also supported Bath Rugby during the crisis. She wrote to Oliver Dowden - the Culture Secretary – asking for further support for Premiership clubs. Bath Rugby and other Premiership clubs are losing between £750,000 and £1m per month, through lack of crowd receipts.

Issues facing Bath's sporting venues and clubs were highlighted in Wera's latest 'Community Conversation'.

CASEWORK

This year, Wera and her team have completed over 7,700 items of casework. Since Wera was elected in 2017, she and her office have completed over 23,000 pieces of casework. These can be anything from helping residents with their benefits, to assisting people with complex immigration cases.

Here is a word cloud taken from Wera's case work software, indicating what residents have written to Wera about since she was elected in 2017. The larger the word, the higher the correspondence on that topic.

Wera commissioned students at Bath Spa University to create an animation describing her role as MP for Bath. They did a brilliant job!

POLICY SUCCESS: MENTAL HEALTH CHECKS FOR NEW MOTHERS

Since shortly after she was elected in 2017, Wera has been backing the #HiddenHalf campaign, fighting for a dedicated six week mental health check-up for new mothers.

For many women, giving birth is a defining trauma which can linger for a lifetime, but until recently, new mothers were left with very little mental health support.

Following an extended campaign alongside NCT, UK’s largest parenting charity, NHS England has announced that all GP practices will get funding so that mothers get a dedicated six week postnatal check-up to discuss their health with a GP or healthcare practitioner.

Wera said: "This is a fantastic outcome for parents across Bath, and the country. Postnatal mental health issues are not a new phenomenon and are not uncommon. It’s time to remove the stigma, encourage new mothers to discuss their emotional well-being, and provide them with the mental health support they need.”

“That is why last year I introduced legislation to ensure women are getting proper mental health advice and treatment as part of their six week new mother check-up. To allow mental health to be sidelined is a dereliction of duty of care to both new mothers and their babies.”

“I am very pleased that, a year on from tabling this legislation, NHS England has decided to make the change."

PATCHWORK FOUNDATION: MP OF THE YEAR AWARDS

Wera Hobhouse accepted the prestigious Patchwork Foundation MP of the Year Award. She highlighted the need for greater female representation for a more inclusive politics.

Covid-19 underlines the stark social inequality in Britain, and MPs urge policymakers to ensure they are listening to usually unheard voices.

The Patchwork Foundation honours MPs on an annual basis recognising those who have worked hard to support the most disadvantaged communities through their policy making or campaigns they have supported. MPs are chosen by the public and an independent panel of judges in a variety of categories.

Awarded for her integral role in seeing through the Voyeurism bill, which outlaws upskirting, the judges praised Wera for her tenacious campaigning and cross-party efforts to ensure the bill passed through the Commons.

OUR FUTURE IN EUROPE

Brexit has happened, and the fight for a People’s Vote was lost at the election last year. Wera was elected twice on an unashamedly Pro-European platform, and her views have not changed. Wera said: “My passionate belief is that the UK is better off as a proud member inside the EU than an irrelevant outsider.”

“It is my democratic right, and yours, to speak out against the vast amounts of damage that Brexit has already done to our country, and will continue to do so when the transition period ends on December 31st.”

“European Union membership is a possibility that can become reality whenever the British people choose to elect a majority of MPs ready to pursue that goal.”

“However, the chances of that happening after the next general election are slim. As pro-Europeans, we need to play the long game and must prepare our hearts for the possibility that it may take a decade or more.”

“I will continue to hold the government to account for this disastrous nationalistic project, and speak up for Bath which is a bastion of liberalism and internationalism. I am a European, and I will never deviate from singing my pro-European values from the rooftops.”

SPEECH: "For me, we don’t only leave the EU. We leave behind an ideal. I was brought up in post-war Germany - recovering from the ravages of a brutal dictatorship. Britain was a beacon of democracy, liberal values and respect for every human life. This image of Britain has faded in the last three years."

FIGHTING FOR PROGRESS

Wera Hobhouse is committed to using her role in Parliament to fight injustices, and speak for a forward thinking brand of progressive politics.

In her previous role as Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Climate Crisis, she ensured that the party committed to opposing all forms of fracking in the United Kingdom. Locally, she supported B&NES Council in introducing the first clean air zone outside of London.

She has recently taken over the Justice, Women’s and Equalities Brief. Wera said:

“This Government is obsessed with trying to create a 'culture war' and normalise divisive, inflammatory rhetoric. The consequence of this is that extremists feel more empowered than ever and marginalised groups find themselves targeted. I look forward to fighting to make Britain a more fair society where underrepresented groups can have difficult public conversations without fearing for the safety of their community."

"My number one priority remains representing the people of Bath. I am confident that my new role will give me greater scope to do this and that my constituents will support my fight for a more equal and just United Kingdom."

CAMPAIGNS

Wera is lobbying the Secretary of State to divert heavy traffic along the A350, rather than allowing it to cross Cleveland Bridge. Click below to sign the petition.
Wera launched the B&NES Holiday Hunger Appeal with 3SG to make sure no child goes hungry in our city over the winter. It raised over £50,000 in a week! Click below to find out how the money is being spent.

GET INVOLVED IN THE CONVERSATION

Wera has led many important conversations in our city over the last year, including hosting community conversations with leaders in different sectors and industries in Bath.

In the wake of the awful murder of George Floyd in the United States, and the subsequent invigoration of the Black Lives Matter movement, Wera has given a platform to black voices in Bath.

In June she organised the Black Lives in Bath Community Conversation in collaboration with Imperial Voice Radio. The event saw people from the city’s black community share their experiences, which was then turned into a two-hour special programme that you can listen to here.

During Black History Month in October, Wera continued the conversation with black people from Bath with the aim of increasing understanding of issues surrounding race and identity within communities in our city. You can watch those here:

If you would like to keep up to date with the conversation in Bath, sign up to Wera’s mailing list.

GET IN TOUCH

"A large part of my job as your Liberal Democrat MP for Bath is helping you with any problems that you may be facing. I take this very seriously, and have a team behind me to tackle your problem, no matter its size. If you think my team and I might be able to help you, then please do get in touch!" - Wera Hobhouse MP

Surgeries: Wera holds weekly surgeries. Please contact the office using the details below to arrange an appointment.

Email: office@werahobhouse.co.uk

Phone: 01225 307024. Phones are answered between 12 noon and 4pm, Monday to Friday, however you can also leave a voicemail and someone will get back to you.

Address: Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, 31 James Street West, Bath, BA1 2BT.

If you would like to help Wera fight for progressive, caring and liberal politics in our city, and in our country, please volunteer or donate.

Cover photo : Caz Holbrook, Other portraits: Clive Dellard

Published and promoted by Ali Gourley on behalf of Wera Hobhouse & Bath and North East Somerset Liberal Democrats, all at 31 James Street West, Bath BA1 2BT.