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BIG JUMP IN WEST OF ENGLAND UNEMPLOYED

18,495 more West of England people are out of work since lockdown began according to new figures released today.

There are now 31,595 people in the city aged between 16 and 64 claiming unemployment related benefits.

The news came as national labour market stats showed the number of people reporting they had been made redundant rose to a record high of 370,000 in the three months to October.

Mr Norris, who has pledged to be a “jobs first” Metro Mayor, said “Not only are these worrying figures but we must remember that behind every number is a struggling family. Many families will be facing Christmas with worry and uncertainty.

I also believe that it is not a coincidence that redundancies escalated to record levels whilst the clock was ticking down to the end of the furlough first planned by the Chancellor before his last minute U-turn. I hope he has learnt from this and call on him to clarity right now ahead of the next furlough cliff edge in January.

The UK is now is the worst recession of any major economy and West of England people are counting the cost.”

Her Majesty the Queen: 1926 – 2022

Commenting on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II today (Thursday 8 September), Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “This is an immensely sad day. Her Majesty The Queen has been a constant presence during all of our lives and during so many periods of immense change, not just in the West of England and the UK but across the globe. She has been an exemplar who always put service first. It is almost unimaginable such a reliable fixture in our lives is no longer with us. As so many across the country mourn this huge loss, I send my deepest sympathies and those of residents of the West of England, to the King, the Queen Consort and everyone who loved this most remarkable woman”.

“PEOPLE WILL DIE”: ENERGY BILLS TO HIT £3,549 FROM OCTOBER – METRO MAYOR COMMENTS

Commenting on the announcement from Ofgem today (Friday 26 August) that the energy price cap will jump to £3,549 in October, Metro Mayor Dan Norris said:

“The country is galloping towards a winter emergency. Local people already struggling to make ends meet will be even more worried after today’s announcement.

“The government simply cannot allow people to suffer such a devastating increase in energy bills which we know will push over 55% of West of Englanders into fuel poverty. People will die.

“The government has a choice. Carry on letting oil and gas companies make huge profits whilst West of England families suffer with bills soaring this winter. Or do something about it.

“I urge whoever the next prime minister is to look again at Labour’s plan to freeze energy bills so households won’t pay a penny more for their energy bills this winter, paid for by expanding the windfall tax on oil and gas producers.

“Under my leadership, the West of England Combined Authority is doing all it can to cut energy bills for people in the long term, including by making our homes and businesses more energy efficient, but at a time of crisis like this it is the duty of the Government to step up”.

Butterflies and mini-beasts: Metro Mayor enjoys Blaise Museum buzzy bee fun

Metro Mayor Dan Norris got ‘buzzy’ as joined Blaise Museum for a day of fun, bee-themed activities.

With summer flowers now in full bloom, the Blaise estate became a hive of activity, with the Metro Mayor joining Head of Collections and Archives Ray Barnett and Bristol families for a fun day out to teach locals about the “power of bees, mini-beasts and butterflies” as well as other pollinator heroes.

The pollinator-pal Mayor took a peek into the secret life of bees as he visited the Blaise community garden chock-a-block with wildlife-friendly flowers, ponds and even a unique bee sanctuary, and home to pollinator superstars including honey and solitary bees, the marmalade hoverfly and the Batman hoverfly!

Mr Norris found out how to record wildlife and hunt for pollinating ‘mini-beasts’ himself with the Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre team before helping the museum take part in the 2022 Big Butterfly Count, the world’s biggest survey of butterflies. Blaise Museum were blessed with a bounty of sightings on the day, recording species including the Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral and Gatekeeper. This data will help with efforts to protect these beautiful creatures from extinction.

The Mayor even took the opportunity to enjoy craft and plant workshops and buzzing-bee stories with Michael Loader, the museum’s resident storyteller, designed to help Bristol’s next generation discover more about the important role pollinators play, including their special waggle dance.

The visit by the bee-bestie Mayor was to promote the West of England “Bee Bold awards”. The awards showcase the very best pollinator friendly local organisations, like Blaise Museum, in the West of England. Applications are open until 9 September. Mayor Norris, who has pledged to make the West of England the bee and pollinator capital of the UK, said: “Pollinators are precious. But so many are feeling the sting of habitat loss, pesticide use and the climate crisis. Support for our region’s hardest workers, who pollinate a third of the food we eat, is a real priority for the West of England Combined Authority I lead. This was a great day of fun, pollinator-themed activities. Blaise Museum really is a buzzing place and great example of a local group taking action to ensure our powerful little pollinators not only survive but thrive. I encourage all those ‘bee buddies’ that have not already done so to tell local people what they are doing to help pollinators by entering the West of England Bee Bold Awards today”.

RAISING A STINK: METRO MAYOR URGES ACTION AFTER WESSEX WATER FOUND TO HAVE PUMPED RAW SEWAGE INTO LOCAL RIVERS AND LAKES FOR “MORE THAN 565,000 HOURS”

Wessex Water spent more than 565,000 hours pumping raw sewage into the West of England’s waters since 2016, new figures obtained by Labour show.

According to Labour’s analysis of data from the Environment Agency, the water firm spent 565,066 hours discharging sewage between 2016 and 2021 into the natural environment, including bathing spots such as rivers and lakes – spoiling areas of natural beauty and risking public health.

That figure is an increase of 1,999 per cent over five years, the analysis shows, a damning indictment of 12 years of Tory failure to hold water bosses to account.

But if it you thought it couldn’t get worse, Labour uncovered that while in 2016, the Environment Agency recorded 1,416 sewage spills in the region, by 2021 that figure had rocketed to 23,524. This equates to a shocking average of a sewage spill taking place every 50 minutes.

The Labour Party, which obtained the data under Freedom of Information laws, has warned that the full scale of pollution could be much worse.

Dan Norris, Labour’s West of England Metro Mayor, blasted successive Tory governments for allowing water giants to cut corners to “pump filthy raw sewage into our waters”. He said firms have failed to invest in better infrastructure to address the problem, preferring instead to pay dividends to shareholders and bonuses to top executives. He said: “The Tories continuing to allow water giants to cut corners and pump filthy raw sewage into the West of England’s waters isn’t just an attack on our precious natural environment, it’s a public health catastrophe. Local people shouldn’t have to worry about whether their local beauty spots are sewage infested. Enough is enough. Only Labour can clean up the 12 years-worth of Tory mess by ensuring water bosses are held legally and financially accountable for their recklessness with our rivers and lakes, and by toughening up regulations that allow the system to be abused.”

The new data comes amid revelations that the current zombie Tory government shelved sewage discharge reduction plans earlier this month – but has since u-turned due to public pressure.

Pets and the cost of living crisis

The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone and that includes our pets too.

Sadly the Dogs Trust says the number of owners speaking to them about giving up their dog has “risen to the highest levels” since 2014.

My cocker spaniel Angel and I thought this article from the BBC had some great tips:

Food

Animal charity the RSPCA found 78% of 4,000 pet owners feel the cost of living crisis is going to impact on their animals, with 19% saying they’re really worried about being able to afford to feed their pets.

According to veterinary nurse Shauna Spooner, from the PDSA vets charity, buying food in larger quantities will “generally be more cost effective”.

“A larger bag is going to save you a few pennies each day but it all adds up.”

Hopefully your moggy won’t realise there’s a cheaper brand in their bowl.

You should also look for cheaper brands or, if you’re feeling creative, you can make some pet treats at home, according to Steve Craddock from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

“There’s quite a few recipes out there. So things with using frozen ice, perhaps some fruit slices, but make sure it’s made right for your pet.”

You might think about feeding them human food as a way of saving money? But Dr Samantha Gaines from the RSPCA says not to do that.

“We would advise against feeding pets human food, as our pets have very specific needs.”

Health care

There is no NHS for pets so you should consider pet insurance, says nurse Shauna.

“It might seem a little counterintuitive, especially if your pet isn’t insured already as it will be a monthly cost.”

But she says it’ll be cheaper than the “expensive vet bill” you’ll get if there was an emergency.

And prevention of illness is also key.

“So this is vaccinations, flea and worm treatments, neutering as well, because that will prevent health problems later down the line,” says Shauna.

They might not thank you at the time, but preventing illness can help save money in the long-term

Dr Samantha says ordering online medications can be cheaper.

“In some situations your vet can write you a prescription, they will charge a small fee for that,” she says.

“What we would urge people though, is not to try and find shortcuts when it comes to medication.”

Do It Yourself

Instead of relying on buying everything new, you can do it yourself.

“There are lots of interactive feeders and toys that you can buy, but actually you can make these kinds of things yourself,” says Shauna.

Steve says you can get second hand goods too, but it’s important to make sure it’s safe.

“Make sure that it’s still usable, and that it hasn’t been damaged and therefore become unsafe.”

“We would also always suggest that all items are properly disinfected to prevent infection from one pet to another.”

Dr Samantha says there are resources online showing you what you can do at home.

“And it’s definitely worth having a look at charity shops, for example, which sometimes get pet goods donated.”

Pet sitting

Going to work to earn money but not having anyone to look after your pet – it’s a dilemma.

“An alternative to paying someone can be getting a trusted friend or family member to check in,” says Dr Samantha.

“Make sure you get the best price for doggy day-care rather than a personalised dog walker, which might be more affordable,” adds Shauna.

While Steve says you can “consider neighbours that might be able to or other dog owners in the area where you might be able to form a group between you”.

“I’ll have a short, bark and sides please”

Grooming

We all need a good trim every now and then – and some pets need it a bit more regularly.

Dr Samantha says “grooming is hugely important” but you can increase the time between professional visits.

One thing you can try and do is “groom your pet at home”, says Shauna.

“Research what kind of grooming your pet needs, and what tools you need to do that.

“Just make sure your pet is comfortable with it, and building them up to it, making it really positive with treats and praise.”