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Photo by user 'Roger Kidd', sourced from Geograph and used under Creative Commons License.

I think it’s safe to say that it’s been an incredibly difficult year for all of us – but that does mean that when it comes, good news feels so much brighter!  I am delighted to hear that Heartlands Academy in the constituency has been shortlisted in the Secondary School of the Year category in the TES Awards 2020. This is a fantastic achievement for the staff and students of the Heartlands community and a reflection of the hard work and dedication of everyone. I know that the staff have done an incredible job to get students back in a safe school environment and are putting in place safeguards that recognise the new challenges that come with schooling right now. Well done to all of you and the best of luck in the awards!

I have been contacted by a number of constituents who have reported difficulties in accessing the EWS1 forms needed to sell or re-mortgage their properties as a result of the cladding scandal. I have previously submitted Written Parliamentary Questions on this issue, but this week wrote to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, for clarity on this matter. I would like to know what conversations the Government has had with mortgage lenders to ensure that leaseholders are able to access the requisite forms and are not being further punished for a situation that is not of their making. Despite raising this issue previously with the Government, I have yet to see any evidence that they are working to improve the situation and am growing ever more frustrated that full and proper answers and solutions are yet to be forthcoming.  The situation is simply not acceptable – but I’ll keep working until we get answers.

I joined a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee this week to discuss Home Office failings around communication with local authorities over asylum seekers being housed in hotels in their areas. Many local authorities and MPs from across different parties have complained to the committee that the Home Office were not engaging with them over decisions to house large numbers of asylum seekers in their areas. We tackled the Permanent Secretary and Second Permanent Secretary a couple of weeks ago over the lack of communication and were told that they were doing their utmost to engage but would look over existing cases. Sadly, communication has not improved and has even, in the case of Stone Road, worsened. A number of coronavirus-positive asylum seekers were transferred to Hammersmith without the Home Office informing the local council, who only found out about the outbreak when they went in and carried out their own health checks. It is appalling that this was not considered serious enough for the Home Office to ensure the timely and accurate sharing of information and we are still awaiting an explanation for the significant failures on their part.

I have written to the Chancellor this week after constituents contacted me with concerns about the plans to reduce support for the self-employed from 70% to 20% of their income from November. For those who are already struggling to make ends meet, this has compounded their financial concerns for the winter. Birmingham already has one of the highest unemployment rates across the country, and with the city centre being home to many hospitality and events businesses, there are concerns that that rate will sky-rocket over the winter. The self-employed offer so much to our local community as well as the local economy.  The Government must prioritise public health, but there must then be an understanding of those who are negatively impacted by the measures that are put in place to stop the spread of the virus – and plans put in place to ensure that they are supported through the crisis until such a time when they can safely reopen and start working again.

If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing 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!

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