Due to rising levels of Coronavirus infection in the Birmingham area, rules have tightened to prevent further spread of the virus. Separate households are no longer able to mix, either in homes or private gardens. The restrictions will not affect schools, public transport, or workplaces, and do not stop groups of six people from different households from sitting together in pubs and restaurants. We still must ensure that, for all of us who are able, we continue to maintain social distancing when we are out and about and wear a face covering in shops and on public transport. I recognise that the new regulations will be frustrating for many of us, but the rising cases underline that the threat of Coronavirus is still very real. We all have to do our bit to help protect ourselves, our families, and our communities.
We understand that a revised launch date for Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone could be announced within weeks, however we need additional support from the Government to support a smooth transition to the CAZ and stimulate activity that would make existing business vehicle fleets and private vehicles compliant with the CAZ. I wrote to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice MP, to highlight the importance of a car scrappage scheme for non-compliant vehicles registered in, or in the immediate vicinity, of the CAZ. This would help Birmingham City Council meet its obligations on air quality and also ensure that those bearing the brunt of a looming recession and who are concerned about job and financial security are not hit by new charges to travel around our city. We are all keen to move towards a greener Birmingham, but we must ensure that support is in place for residents so that they are not penalised for doing the right thing.
I wrote an article for Politics Home this week on the continued mismanagement and outsourcing of our Prison Service which is failing both the taxpayer and prisoners. The 2018 report on failings at Birmingham prison was utterly damning with its shocking accounts of prisoners living in squalor and degradation, but the Public Accounts Committee published last week shows that not enough has changed in its wake. 10,000 new-for-old prison places were promised by 2020. Just 206 new places have so far been delivered and prisoners continue to be held in unsafe, crowded conditions that do not meet their needs. We also found that proper investment is needed in the female estate to ensure that female offenders do not become further marginalised, living far from home and family and facing the highest levels of self-harm across the prison estate. Budget cuts have decimated the ability of the prison estate to operate efficiently and adequately, and privatisation has once again ended up wasting public money and undermining vital services. Reoffending costs the economy £18.1 billion every year and the management of the prison estate is crucial in tackling this.
I am delighted to have joined the Covid Recovery Commission’s Policy Panel to help inform critical policy-making as we seek to bounce back from this crisis. The Commission will aim to examine the impact of the Covid pandemic on the levelling-up agenda and will work to support higher productivity levels, encourage business investment, and promote a culture of innovation across the UK. It’s clear that we do not want a return to the way things were before Covid struck. The economy was only working for a few and in our recovery we want to see everyone included in plans to improve educational and professional attainment, to improve incomes and raise living standards, and to support a greener UK.
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 are of course subject to many of the same challenges and restrictions as other families in Birmingham Ladywood at the minute, but we 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!