Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
The local elections were a big success for Labour in Blaenau Gwent, with the party taking back control of the council.
Our brilliant local candidates worked hard and ran effective campaigns. I want to thanks Steve Thomas and team for all their hard work.
It was great to get out and about across the borough to lend a hand, and also to welcome fellow politicians such as Mark Drakeford MS, Wes Streeting MP, Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Jo Stevens MP and Carolyn Harris MP to help out.
Congratulations to all new and returning councillors and well done to those who won those seats that enabled us to win a majority and commiserations to those who came so close to winning a seat. It was a great team effort.
Across the UK the local elections Labour mark a turning point for Labour.
We won a number of councils that include important and symbolic parliamentary seats.
The BBC’s seat projection for a general election based on last week’s results shows that Labour would gain nearly 100 seats and be the largest party.
The BBC’s projected national vote share has us on a 5 point lead over the Conservatives – our largest since 2012.
This shows the phenomenal progress we are making.
It is our best local election performance in a decade and one that puts us on course to win the next election.
Of course, there is still much work to be done. Let’s get on with it.
The were many glaring omissions from the Queen’s Speech last week, the most obvious being any meaningful help for people struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis.
We needed a Queen’s Speech that would tackle the cost-of-living crisis, with an emergency budget including a windfall tax, something I have talked about many times now.
We needed a real plan for growth to get our economy firing, and a commitment to buy, make and sell more in Britain – again, something I have championed.
A decade of failed Conservative energy policy has left the UK’s energy system too weak. This government does not have any answers to the biggest challenge currently facing the UK.
The Queen’s Speech also failed to mention any new measures to help cut crime and anti-social behaviour whereas Labour has promised to be get police back on the streets and create crime prevention teams to crack down on repeat offenders, and tackle anti-social behaviour at its source.
The weakening of our armed forces as a result of the Tories’ chronic mismanagement of the defence budget is an issue I have challenged the Prime Minister over, and one that has become even more of a concern in recent months.
Despite there being a war in Europe, the Ministry of Defence was not mentioned once in the Queen’s Speech.
There are no plans to change defence plans in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and no commitment to look again at defence spending.
I was glad to see a mention of ‘access to cash’ legislation, something I first called for in 2019, have raised with the Leader of the House and have previously challenged the Chancellor about because I believe it is absolutely crucial for places like Blaenau Gwent.
However, it was disappointing that there was no mention of how the Government will be protecting face-to-face banking services, something we have seen being removed in parts of Blaenau Gwent and something that should be safeguarded.
I have been receiving a lot of messages from local people who are extremely worried about massive delays in receiving passports they need for upcoming holidays.
I’m concerned to hear this and have been very alarmed by how difficult it is proving to get hold of anyone at the passport office to help.
I raised it with the Home Secretary Priti Patel this week, urging her to get a grip on the issue and clear the backlog.
Her answer, that I should forward on any cases I might have to her, won’t provide much relief to anyone worried about having their holiday ruined by a passport not turning up on time.
I also raised it via an Urgent Question to the Home Office Minister setting out the mess the government has made of this.
After years of Covid, families finally want to get away this summer.
Instead, they are dealing with stress, uncertainty, long queues at the passport office, and hours on hold to helplines. And during a cost-of-living crisis, telling people to spend an extra £100 per person to fast-track their application is rubbing salt into the wound.
This was all avoidable.
The government had plenty of time to prepare for a boom in passport applications when travel restrictions lifted and has failed miserably to get ahead of it.
This chaos needs to be taken in hand urgently.
There have been some positive strides forward in my campaign to secure justice for steelworkers targeted by pension sharks in the pension scheme scandal of 2017.
I have been campaigning hard on this for four years now, and I’m happy with the progress that is being made but there are still questions that need to be answered.
I was glad to be able to question the financial regulator chiefs about how they dealt with the crisis scandal during a recent Public Accounts Committee hearing.
I spoke about how it affected a constituent from Ebbw Vale, and I raised important questions such as why has it taken so long to take action against those responsible, and why did it take so long to ban industry practices that saw advisers rewarded for giving bad advice?
You can watch the full hearing here: https://bit.ly/37IOZ3f
You may have heard about the police investigation that is taking place into the firm Medpro, which was awarded Covid contracts through the Tory party VIP lane.
As the Health Secretary told me in a written response recently, the company was awarded a contract worth more than £200m, so it is very troubling that the firm is now being investigated for fraud.
Of course, this is far from the first instance of a questionable Covid contract being handed to a business with ties to the Tory party.
An eye-watering amount of money has been wasted on useless kit. The latest information I have unearthed reveals that 4bn items of the PPE items still being held in storage is of no use for health and social care settings, and a further 1bn items are no use to anyone whatsoever and likely to end up being burned for fuel.
We have all heard the many examples of cronyism and profiteering that took place – something I was assured was not the case by former Health Secretary Matt Hancock in late 2020.
A few weeks ago, I asked the Prime Minister if he still stood by his former Health Secretary’s words.
You can watch his response here
I have been supporting Carolyn Harris MPs’ brilliant campaigning to improve menopause support, something I previously gave a short speech about in Parliament.
Thanks to Carolyn’s hard work, last year the government said it would “reset the dial on women’s health” but is now dragging its feet.
I recently asked for a statement assuring MPs that the government is actually serious about making the much-needed changes.
You can watch it here.
Thank you to Waundeg community flat for hosting my advice surgery last month.
After the disruption of the last two years, its great to be able to move these surgeries offline and attend them in person.
Please watch my social media channels for information on upcoming surgeries.
In the meantime you can always contact my office on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01495 313167 for help with any problems I may be able to assist with.
Six Mile Race
It was really great to run the Six Mile Race at Parc Bryn Bach to raise funds for the Hospice of the Valleys.
It was a brilliant event for a great cause. Thanks to the volunteers and staff at Hospice of the Valleys and Parc Bryn Bach for their hard work in putting on this event, and a big well done to all my fellow runners.