It’s been another busy week of virtual working. On Monday I was pleased to be able to speak in the debate on the cladding scandal. Our Shadow Housing Minister, Thangam Debbonaire, called on the Government to act urgently and prioritise buildings requiring remediation, provide upfront funding to ensure work commences immediately, and to protect leaseholders and taxpayers from the cost by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis. This scandal has wrought emotional and financial devastation upon constituents who live in affected buildings. The human impact of this crisis on leaseholders is horrendous. The stories of anxiety and panic as well as the financial struggles that so many of you have shared with me are truly heart-breaking, and the Government have not yet offered the scale and range of measures necessary to meet the full impact of this crisis. I have been writing to Ministers and officials at MHCLG and the Treasury, as well as the Financial Conduct Authority, ever since these issues came to light in Birmingham Ladywood, but to no avail. It is clear to me that the Government needs to step in to sort out the insurance costs issue, because there seems to be little relationship between the interim measures that leaseholders are paying for, such as very expensive, state-of-the-art alarm systems, and the cost of the insurance premiums that they are being quoted. Despite many Conservative MPs standing up to share stories of their affected constituents, they refused to vote in favour of the motion. It is disappointing, of course, but we will continue to pressure the Government to take action on this scandal.
This week I’ve been running a campaign in our community on the dangers of the vaccine disinformation being spread by the far right, which is threatening the health and safety of families across Birmingham. Vaccines are safe – they have gone through rigorous testing procedures and are being administered at mosques across the country. We know the far right hate those from different backgrounds, but you can do your bit to tackle their hatred and their bile by spreading the word that the vaccine is safe, and pledging that when the vaccine is offered you will take it in order to keep your friends and your families safe.
I signed a cross-party letter this week to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in support of wedding venues and the wedding industry as a whole who are struggling due to Covid measures. 60,000 businesses and 400,000 workers across the UK rely on this industry and many are at risk of collapse, despite record bookings for 2021 worth £25 billion. The sector is in urgent need of information about the year ahead, to allow them to start planning. Confidence is a key element in calculating what steps they will need to take and this needs to come from the Government. They also need an urgent cash injection that will support them until they can get back up and running again, to keep employees supported, rents paid, and venues maintained. This sector contributes hugely to the economy, local and national, as well as providing moments of joy for people in the UK – they will be sorely needed after the year we’ve had.
I have been hugely disappointed by the weak response of the Government to the educational crisis facing our children. Under current guidance, if a household does not have access to remote learning equipment or the internet the child can be considered to be vulnerable and therefore eligible to attend school. However, that this is a little-known and poorly publicised aspect of the current lockdown rules mean that some of the 5,000 children in Birmingham who don’t have access to a computer may be left behind. The Government is relying on schools and colleges to inform parents of the support on offer, which can lead to a postcode lottery of information. This is simply not right – and frankly, if the Government hadn’t bungled the roll-out of laptops to schools, we would not be in this situation in the first place! We need a renewed focus on education and skills during the remainder of the coronavirus pandemic and that means that the Government should take a lead on providing families with information on how to access education. We are all keen for schools to reopen as soon as it is safe for them to do so but waiting for that moment will be too late for too many children. They need access to education now.
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.