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:
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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!
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.”
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."