This week I have written to over 2500 constituents in private tower blocks over 18 metres with the help of BrumLAG. The Government’s Building Safety Fund is closing for applications at the end of this month and while there have been more than a thousand applicants, in Birmingham take up remains worryingly low. This scandal is not of leaseholders making – they could not decide the safety rules governing the building of tower blocks and yet they are the ones who are having to deal with the fallout. We want to see as many leaseholders as are eligible receive the financial support that they need and deserve. For more information on the fund and how to apply, visit the Government website here.
I have also recently written to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs regarding the Clean Air Zone in Birmingham which was due to go live this year. I fully support the implementation of the CAZ in Birmingham, believing it will be transformative for our environment and for our economy. It will be a huge force for good – crucially improving the quality of the air we breathe. We need a green agenda for Birmingham, particularly as part of the post-Covid recovery, but the city needs time to plan for CAZ and in the current economic and medical climate, we need to delay its implementation until at least Summer 2021. The CAZ will be vital to support some of our most disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, but its implementation must not put their economic recovery at risk. I’ve set out my concerns for the Secretary of State, and I look forward to hearing back from him about how the Government will address them.
Along with many other Labour Party colleagues, I have joined the ExcludedUK All-Party Parliamentary Group which, working with the #ExcludedUK organisation, aims to represent the two million people across the UK who have fallen through the gaps in the Chancellor’s support packages. The newly self-employed, freelancers, and those denied furlough are just some of the three million who have been left without support during this pandemic. This is an unprecedented situation, but we need to give all our small, local businesses the best chance of recovery in order to support the recovery of the country as a whole. That’s not going to happen if three million people are excluded from the support and their businesses are left to fold. These are hard-working people who pay their taxes and who contribute to their local communities in a myriad of different ways – we will miss them if they continue to fall through the gaps and disappear from our economy. I look forward to working with the new APPG to make sure that doesn’t happen.
It’s been great over the past week to see more businesses reopening in Birmingham. I am looking forward to visiting some of our independent shops and talking to business owners, and I would encourage all residents to use their local shops and help them get back on their feet. We have a vibrant local economy here in Birmingham and I hope that we can all work together to ensure that our valued local businesses pull through this difficult period and get back to normal. From Saturday, wearing face masks will become obligatory in shops, including supermarkets, and shops will be able to refuse entry to people who do not comply. Wearing face masks may be uncomfortable at first, but it does significantly reduce the risk of contracting the virus. Of course there are exceptions – children under 11 are exempt, as are those with a physical or mental illness, impairment, or disabilities. But, just like social distancing, wearing masks is another step we can take to protect ourselves and others and help stop the spread of the virus. It’s important everyone who is able plays their part.
As ever, if you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0121 661 9440. My team and I will do everything we can to help constituents in these difficult times. Keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!