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Photo by user 'Peter Barr', sourced from Geograph and used under Creative Commons License.

On Thursday of this week, the new national lockdown restrictions came into force. Once again, people are being asked to stay at home, to work from home if they can, and to not meet people outside their households unless they are in a support bubble. As before, you can still leave the house to access medical care and if you have worries about any symptoms that seem concerning, please do seek medical advice – the NHS is still there to help with illnesses other than Covid and it is really important that people do not risk letting issues get more serious before they seek help.

These lockdown measures are due to end on 2 December, but we must do all we can to ensure that we play our part in reducing the spread of the virus. We should continue washing our hands frequently, wearing a face covering on transport and in shops and other public indoor spaces, and maintaining social distancing. For more information on these new restrictions, visit the Government website.

With the second wave of coronavirus wreaking havoc in our communities, our economy is really starting to struggle. I have signed a letter to the Chancellor this week asking for additional support for the hardest hit sectors. Our hospitality, visitor economy, and live events industries, and all the businesses in their supply chains are really struggling and we need an enhancement of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, and wider approaches that will reduce pressures on businesses, including tax credits and further VAT reductions. If we are to recover from this pandemic, we need these businesses to be ready to reopen as soon as the public health situation allows it. If we allow all of these viable businesses to fail as a result of circumstances outside of their control, we will have no impetus that will get our economy working again. They need and deserve this support. You can read more about this in I Am Birmingham.

On Thursday, the Chancellor finally announced that furlough will be extended through until March 2021.  Although this is another(!) welcome u-turn, it has come too late for many people who have already lost their jobs.  Rishi Sunak’s last minute changes of mind have left businesses out of pocket and there is a real and growing sense of frustration that his Government seems to constantly be playing catch-up.  They must do more to prevent a jobs crisis.

We have finally had an answer this week from the Health and Social Care Department for questions that were submitted back in July. The actual answer is not as important now in November as the fact that it has taken the Department so long to answer. I appreciate that there is a pandemic and the Health Department are juggling many different issues, however, MPs are the people chosen to represent their communities and need to receive answers to their questions in a timely fashion. We have to understand what is happening in our communities and in order to play our role in opposition appropriately, to challenge the Government and push them to perform better – and to do this we need to have the relevant information.

We will mark a very different Remembrance Sunday this year as England goes into a full national lockdown. There will be no traditional march past the Cenotaph, but there will be a Government-led closed ceremony that will be televised. Despite the chaos around us, I think it’s a really important day to mark and to take a few moments to remember and honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country. It is also important that we do not forget to honour the service of our Armed Forces personnel today and that of our veterans. We have seen so much professionalism and dedication from our servicemen and women during this crisis and I will also be thinking of all of them this year.

This evening I will be attending a mini conference on the private rented sector hosted by Councillor Sharon Thompson, a Cabinet Member for Housing at Birmingham City Council. The problems of the lack of regulation in this sector have been consistently highlighted in casework I’ve been receiving and dealing with for a number of months. I will be raising queries with Sharon around litter and fly tipping, antisocial behaviour, and the general appearance and upkeep of properties. Everyone deserves to live in a safe, warm, and decent home and neighbours deserve to feel safe and happy within their communities. These rights hang on the supply of suitable rented accommodation, managed and maintained properly by individual landlords and letting agencies. There is more to be done in this sector to ensure that landlords and agencies are providing an adequate service to tenants as well as the wider local community.

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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