Jeff Smith takes part in Fast-a-thon Challenge to raise awareness of crisis in Syria

This Friday, Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith will fast as part of Syria Solidarity UK and Rethink Rebuild Society’s ‘fast-a-thon’ challenge.

The fast-a-thon campaign seeks to raise the profile of the 1 million Syrians currently under siege in Syria without access to humanitarian aid.  Any money raised will go to the work of Rethink Rebuild, a community organisation based in Manchester that runs community support groups for Syrians in Manchester and advocates on behalf of Syrians abroad.

Commenting on the campaign Jeff said: ‘I’m taking part in the fast-a-thon challenge to raise awareness of the daily suffering of the Syrian people. 

I hope my fast will act as a gesture of solidarity with Syrians across the world and I wish them all the best as they observe Ramadan.’

You can donate to Rethink Rebuild’s work via the crowdfunding page here.

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UK Votes to Leave the European Union – Comment from Jeff Smith MP

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As a Manchester MP and a Mancunian, I come from a diverse and proudly international city.

In the referendum on membership of the EU, Manchester voted to Remain by 121,823 votes (60.4%) to 79,991 votes (39.6%). I campaigned hard for a remain vote, and it’s bitterly disappointing that the UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union.

Hundreds of people have already contacted me about the call for a second referendum and over 4 million people have signed a national petition, which means it will be considered for a Parliamentary debate. I look forward to this debate and the opportunity to highlight the implications of this referendum for the country and for our communities.

We faced a Leave campaign that was fuelled by fear and lies about our NHS, levels of immigration and access to the single market.  These claims are now being exposed as Nigel Farage and Ian Duncan-Smith U-turn on the promise to give £350 million extra funding to the NHS and the Leave campaign admits that leaving the EU may not reduce levels of immigration.

I’m concerned about the impact that these lies and the Leave side’s poisonous campaign will have on our society.  I’m horrified to hear of attacks on immigrants in the past few days and following the disgraceful racist incidents we have seen in recent days, we should be clearer than ever that people from all backgrounds are welcome in our city.

We now need to be focused on securing the best future for the UK. 

In the light of the economic uncertainty cause by the vote, these are going to be difficult times for Manchester but our priorities must be to stabilise the local economy, ensure jobs are protected, and avoid further cuts to our public services. We must build city-city and region-region links in other EU countries to ensure that Manchester’s European links are maintained. 

We must reflect on the issues that were raised in this campaign such as low wages, the lack of social housing, insecure jobs and inadequate public services.

This result must galvanise us to provide a strong opposition to this Government and ensure that Manchester’s voice is heard in the negotiations.

I still strongly believe that our future would be best served by remaining in the EU, and while we must accept the result of this referendum, I will look carefully at any options that are available to undo the damage caused by the vote to leave.

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Jeff Smith warns Government against Further Education reforms driven by budget cuts

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Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith spoke in a debate in Parliament on the Government’s reforms to Further Education provision in Greater Manchester.

The Government is undertaking Further Education Area Reviews across the country, designed to ‘enable a transition towards fewer, larger, more resilient and efficient providers’. 

Greater Manchester is one of the areas undergoing a review and the Steering Committee is currently developing recommendations on the future of Further Education in the city region.

The process has been criticised as being led by efforts to cut costs as opposed to raising educational standards.  Jeff and other Greater Manchester MPs argued that the process focused almost entirely on merging and closing colleges to save money, instead of working with colleges to ensure that the needs of students and the local economy are met.

Speaking in the debate, Jeff said: ‘Further education plays a vital role in our local economies and our communities.  It can boost growth and drive social mobility. 

The Greater Manchester Area Review is a process that should serve the needs of students and the local economy, not the needs of the Government to cut budgets.

The Government is yet to come up with a convincing plan that will give us the confidence that we have a Further Education sector fit for the job of equipping our residents for the future.’

Read Jeff’s speech in full here.

 

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The Road to June 23rd: Remember to vote!

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Tomorrow, the UK will be going to the ballot boxes to vote in the EU Referendum. 

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that we are safer when we work with our European allies, that workers rights are guaranteed by our membership, and that an economic shock caused by a vote to leave could damage our public services.

That’s why I’ll be voting to Remain in tomorrow’s elections, and I hope you will too.

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Jeff Smith meets St Catherine’s School Eco Warriors

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Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith visited St Catherine’s School in Didsbury last week to meet their Eco Warriors team and discuss environmental issues in the local area.

As part of the Eco Warriors’ campaign to encourage walking to school, the students at St Catherine’s have been undertaking an environmental survey to identify the main barriers that prevent children from walking to school.

The children found that dog fouling near the schools was a big problem and asked Jeff if he could help them. 

Jeff contacted Manchester City Council to let them know about the survey findings and the Council provided an extra bin along with stickers to attach to lampposts in the area reminding owners to clean up after their dogs. The school is also running a competition for the children to design a leaflet to distribute to local residents about the issue.

Following the visit, Jeff said: ‘It was fantastic to see the students taking such a keen interest in their local environment, and acting to make it better.

I wish them all the best with their campaign and look forward to seeing the result of the leaflet competition!’

Read more about the Eco Warriors at St Catherine’s School here.

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The Road to June 23rd: The Economy and Public Services

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On June 23rd, voters across the country will decide on the future of our relationship with the European Union.  This is a crucial moment in our nation’s history and I’m convinced that we are better off in the EU.  Our membership of the European Union helps us to provide the public services that we all rely on.

If we vote to leave the EU on June 23rd, the majority of economists, the Bank of England and Trade Union leaders agree that there will be an economic shock and possible recession.  The Institute for Fiscal Studies has predicted that economic growth is likely to fall, household incomes will decrease and the Government will receive less income from tax receipts.  This would be disastrous for our public services as they depend on a strong economy and continued investment. 

We are already seeing our public services stretched to the limit.  Whether it’s the worst ever A&E waiting times or more people being forced to use food banks than ever, the Conservative Government has chosen to balance the books on the backs of the most vulnerable.  The last thing our public services need is a recession caused by leaving the European Union and a Conservative Government with a track record of cuts.

That’s why I’m joining the Royal College of Midwives, the Chief Executive of NHS England Simon Stevens and the Royal College of Physicians in saying that our public services will be better off if we remain in the EU.   I agree with Simon Stevens when he says that ‘it would be very dangerous if at precisely the moment the NHS is going to need extra funding actually the economy goes into a tailspin and that funding is not there.’

Voting to remain on June 23rd is vital if we are to properly fund our NHS and other public services in the years to come.

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Jeff Smith shows support for Carers Week 2016

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Jeff Smith MP today pledged his support to carers across Manchester as part of the national Carers Week 2016 awareness campaign.

There are 6.5 million people in the UK who care for a partner, relative or friend, of which over 8,300 are in the constituency of Manchester Withington.

The seven charities driving Carers Week 2016 are calling on individuals, organisations and services throughout the country to improve the lives of carers by building ‘Carer Friendly Communities’ – encouraging all parts of the community to support carers both in their role of looking after loved ones and as individuals.

The call comes after research for Carers Week revealed that a combination of inadequate support from local services and a lack of understanding about caring from wider society is having a negative impact on carers’ health, wellbeing, relationships and finances.

Commenting on the campaign, Jeff said: “Carers make a huge contribution to our society, providing vital and often hidden support to friends and family members.

That is why I am supporting Carers Week 2016 and encouraging services across Manchester to think about what more they can do to help meet the needs of carers and make our communities more Carer Friendly.”

Emily Holzhausen, who leads the Carers Week partnership, said:  “With an ever increasing number of families taking on caring roles for older, ill or disabled loved ones, it is great to see MPs showing their support for carers.

While carers have told us that it makes a huge difference when they are recognised and supported by their local services and communities, too many carers tell us they struggling to balance caring with other areas of their lives.

By working together during Carers Week we have a huge opportunity to make our communities more Carer Friendly and make a difference to those who contribute so much”.

Thousands of events are taking place across the country this week, and thousands of people have already pledged their support for carers online. To find out more about events in Manchester visit www.carersweek.org

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The Road to June 23rd: The European Union and the Environment

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On June 23rd, voters across the country will decide on the future of our relationship with the European Union.  This is a crucial moment in our nation’s history and I’m convinced that we are better off in the EU.  Our membership of the European Union makes us better able to tackle international cross-border issues like climate change.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the world we leave behind to our children and grandchildren.  Along with issues such as securing workers’ rights and international people smuggling, our success in tackling climate change depends on our ability to work closely with those around us.  Whether it’s air pollution or threats to migrating species, the effects of climate change cross borders and demand an international response.

The European Union has been at the forefront of this international cooperation by setting some of the most ambitious climate targets in the world.  By 2030, the EU has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels and to producing at least 27% of its energy through renewables.  The European Union Natura 2000 program is the largest network of conservation areas in the world, covering 18% of all mainland Europe.

As a result, both the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the World Wildlife Fund have both called for Britain to remain in the EU to help protect our environment. They argue that ‘the UK’s membership of the EU has benefited nature and the environment in ways that would be hard to replicate if we left’.

More than that, if we vote to leave the EU, we’ll be relying on David Cameron and the Tories to protect our environment.  From cancelling £1 billion worth of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology investment to cutting subsidies for solar power and supporting fracking, this Government’s record on environmental protections is not promising. 

Almost all environmental activists and charities agree that separating from the EU would leave the UK tackling the greatest global issue of our time isolated from the rest of the world. 

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Jeff Smith meets stars of the future at Northern Lawn Tennis Club

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Jeff visited the Northern Lawn Tennis Club last week for a trophy presentation as part of the annual Aegon Trophy.

Every year, the Northern Lawn Tennis Club plays host to an array of talent that this year included young British hopeful Liam Broady and flamboyant American Dustin Brown who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbledon last year.  The Davis Cup (pictured above), won last year by Andy Murray and the British team, was also on display at the tournament.

Jeff joined Lawn Tennis Association President Cathie Sabin to present the Quorn Family Tennis Cup, a national community tennis event to encourage families to use their local tennis clubs and eat healthily.

Jeff Smith said: ‘It’s great to be here again on a beautiful day in Didsbury for the annual Northern Lawn Tennis Club trophy.

British tennis is in fine form at the moment and it’s been fantastic to catch some of our younger talents that will make up the Davis Cup squads of the future.’

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Jeff Smith supports community-led solar panel project in Greater Manchester

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Withington MP Jeff Smith voiced his support for the Greater Manchester Community Renewables project – established by some of his constituents in Manchester Withington - to increase the number of solar panels on Greater Manchester’s buildings.

 

The Greater Manchester Community Renewables share offer hopes to encourage local residents to invest in the city’s sustainable future.  Through buying shares, residents will become members of GMCR and receive interest payments according to the performance of the scheme.  The repayments are projected to be 3.5% in 2018, rising to 5% in 2024.

 

The project is currently aiming to put solar panels on three primary schools and a community building in Greater Manchester.  It’s estimated that these installations will generate 100,000 kWh of clean electricity each year, saving around 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide in the first year alone, while any surpluses will go towards other eco-friendly projects around the city.

 

Commenting on the scheme, Jeff Smith said: “This is a very worthwhile community venture, which will hopefully contribute to Greater Manchester leading the way in community-led renewables projects. 

 

This share offer is a way to give Manchester residents a stake in the sustainable future of our city, but it will depend on the community getting involved and becoming part of the project.

 

I am pleased to promote Greater Manchester Community Renewables and I‘d encourage residents who are interested in investing, and supporting renewable energy, to check it out’

 

Find out more about the scheme and how to invest here, and follow them on Facebook or Twitter @WeAreGMCR.

 

 

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