This week I supported Labour’s motion to call on the Government to drop their plans to force local councils to increase council tax in the middle of the pandemic to meet the funding gap that the Government itself has created. A 5% council tax rise will add £88 to annual household council tax bills for the average Band D home in Birmingham Ladywood. At a time when people have lost jobs, are worried about their income, and are seeing their family finances tighten, this is unconscionable. The Government promised to do what was necessary to support councils and local authorities in their response to the pandemic. This support has not been forthcoming, and councils are now forced to make up the funding shortfall. This Government must step up and take responsibility, rather than pushing their failures onto families that are already struggling.
The Labour Party put forward a second motion this week, calling on the Government to protect all existing employment rights and protections, including the 48-hour working week, rest breaks at work, and the inclusion of overtime pay when calculating holiday pay entitlements, as well as introducing legislation to end “fire and re-hire” tactics. The Government refused to back our motion, refusing to commit to protecting our workers, so many of whom have been the hardest hit by this pandemic and who have continued to work in extremely difficult circumstances to keep the country going. The Tories clapped our key workers on doorsteps throughout the first lockdown; it is time they actually take steps to properly protect the rights of workers in this country.
I was pleased to meet with Jonathan Reynolds MP this week, the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, regarding supported exempt accommodation from a housing benefit perspective. It is important to consider the ethical implications of the lack of regulation in the exempt accommodation sector, which leaves vulnerable people without the support that they need to lead their lives. However, there is also an important consideration in how Government money is used and the value of money for taxpayers. Housing benefit that is intended to pay for added support for the vulnerable must be properly spent and accounted for – not wasted in a way that just creates more social problems.
Today I met with the Association of British Insurers, following up from the roundtable I held on car insurance and possible discrimination against BAME communities. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that discrimination within the car insurance industry exists but we need the industry to work with us to solve this. We understand that long-term biases can find their way into algorithms and that there can be unintentional discrimination, but we need the data and the cooperation of the industry to uncover these problems.
This week we marked Holocaust Memorial Day, a day to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions more killed under Nazi Persecution and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. It is a time also to confirm our support for the persecuted and to stand up for tolerance and against racism in our society and across the world. This year’s theme is ‘Light in the darkness’ – we can all choose to be the light and we must be brave, and we must stand up for what is right – even when it is difficult.
If there are issues you want 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!