It has been great to meet again with so many of you in November and December; I was really pleased to catch up with constituents both online and in person, and I am grateful to everyone who filled out my survey – it was a great response again this year.
I held in person and online meetings in every ward in the constituency, and also heard from students in our secondary schools. With many volunteers helping distribute copies of the survey across Sheffield Central, we reached over 30,000 homes – thanks again to everyone that helped; we couldn’t do it without you each year!
Just as I do every year, I will produced a further report in the summer to share with you how I have taken up your concerns in Parliament – you can read the most recent one here. If you feel there is something I haven’t covered sufficiently in this report, or there is something specific you would like to raise with me, do not hesitate to get in touch by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much like every other year our survey sought people’s views on their priorities for politics at a local and national level, asking that constituents share their ‘top three’ priorities for the country and for your community – and this year, for the first time, we broke down the local questions to target specific concerns in each of the five wards.
Nationally, as has been the case for the last few years, the most pressing concerns were the NHS, and the climate crisis, and inequality and poverty – alongside the cost of living which was provided as an option for the first time. Locally things look a little different with constituents raising issues I have consistently pressed both in Parliament and locally, and which I will continue to do. These included access to GP services, housing, quality of the local environment and bus services.
As always I was pleased that people used the opportunity to raise individual issues and personal problems, which I am following up individually but not sharing in this report – these included issues like housing and electoral reform.
The Big Conversation in numbers
As always the survey was completed online, by freepost or on the doorstep and we received almost 1,500 responses, which was a good sample and spread across the constituency. Given the situation in the country it is perhaps not surprising that the NHS and inequality & poverty were the top national concerns – followed closely by the cost of living and the climate crisis.
Locally, across the constituency as a whole, the main issues were access to GPs and dentists, the state of our bus services, and the quality of the local environment – with housing and crime and anti-social behaviour not far behind – all issues that I’ve been taking up from my casework over the last year and will continue to do.
For the first time, I’ve broken down the results by ward and you can see the different emphasis placed on the issues in different areas below.
Numbers by ward:
Alongside the other questions we also asked constituents in City ward some other specific questions, at the request of local Labour members. Although the numbers responding were a small sample, there was clear agreement on most of the issues as shown below.
NHS and access to healthcare
I am publishing this report with the NHS in crisis and industrial action, which was anticipated at the time of the survey, now taking place. Responding to the priority given to the issue, I have recently joined the House of Commons Health and Care Select Committee which will provide opportunities to press the issues raised during the Big Conversation.
Constituents raised NHS recruitment and retention, nursing bursaries and pay whilst others mentioned funding more generally and the huge amount expected from NHS staff with so little support. Locally, access to GPs and dentistry was highlighted by a huge number of people, as well as the effect poor access to these services will have on hospitals and the NHS more widely.
Mental health is raised a lot most years, and particularly by school students, and this year was no different. I highlighted Labour’s plans for more mental health spending and our pledge to have a counsellor in every secondary school. I took the opportunity to raise an issue flagged by a student with Ministers, which you can read more about here.
Taken together health and social care were a top priority for almost 30% of respondents and it was clear in discussions that the provision of properly funded social care was not only important in its own right, but crucial to solving many of the problems in our hospital services.
Inequality, poverty and the cost-of living
Inequality and poverty remains one of the most important issues to constituents, reflecting the deep divisions with a constituency that has some of the city’s wealthiest areas as well as our poorest. This will only be exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis which will impact most on those who will struggle to afford housing, energy, food and other basic costs.
Alongside a general concern about those challenges there were specific issue highlighted in different ways e.g. access to UC, PIP and other support. In some meetings we discussed local foodbanks and the need for more of them, which is not the direction we should be going in. We also spoke about unfair taxation, and Labour’s plans on the issue.
Every year the climate crisis is raised with me by so many people, and it is consistently one of the most important issues in the survey – and this year’s Big Conversation coincided with COP27 in Egypt. As well as general concern about the need to move faster to reduce carbon emissions, individual points covered wider environmental points like banning single use plastics.
Discussions covered the relationship between growth and the climate crisis, how we achieve sustainable growth, and how investment in renewables and home insulation can drive economic growth under Labour’s plans. On individual behaviour there was recognition that it is hard to give up things we have grown used to, and that there is a need to incentivise programmes that will help locally and nationally.
Bus services were a big local issue for many people, which was unsurprising given the recent route reductions by local bus companies – and there was lots of support for bringing buses back under public control. There were concerns raised too about the active travel schemes in Nether Edge and Crookes/Walkley, on which I have been working, and continue to work, with local Councillors to ensure people’s voices are heard. There was some concern about the impact of increased parking restrictions on access, and particularly in relation to disabled parking.
In both physical meetings and in response to the survey the need for more social housing and affordable housing was something constituents told me about, and many raised continuing problems regarding buildings caught up in the building safety crisis. These are points I am raising currently and will do so over the next year too.
On education, as on crime and anti-social behaviour, people raised a wide range of issues without a particular focus. On immigration and refugees there were also very different views, from those who felt that we were failing in our responsibility to those fleeing war and persecution to others whose focus was on reducing numbers.