On Monday, the issue of unsafe cladding returned once again to the House of Commons. The Department for Housing, Communities, and Local Government was asked about a loan scheme to fund the removal of cladding on buildings under 18 metres. The Minister responded that funding would be targeted at the highest-risk buildings, while lower-rise buildings with a lower risk profile would gain protection from the costs of cladding removal through the long-term, low-interest, Government-backed finance scheme through which leaseholders would pay no more than £50 per month. This is all very well, but the Government have said time and time again that leaseholders would not be made to pay for the failures that were not of their making. Those in homes under 18 metres are living with the same financial pressures, the same anxieties and fears of their families living in unsafe homes, and the same fears for their future prospects as those living in buildings over 18 metres. It is unconscionable that they should be made to pay for the failures of others. The Government must ensure that their commitment to leaseholders is upheld. It is the very least they can do.
We found out this week that five of the ten constituencies with the highest unemployment rates across the whole of the UK are in Birmingham. In some parts of the city, nearly one in seven people are now looking for work and in Ladywood, 13.6% of the population are looking for work. That’s 14,435 people, an increase of 5,620 over 12 months. Once again Ladywood has to face the grim reality that we have some of the worst unemployment figures in Birmingham and the UK. We cannot lose sight of the fact that each one of these numbers represents a family who now has to face the nightmare of no work. Unemployment has become endemic in our community and this is not only the fault of the Covid pandemic. This is not the fault either of the neighbourhoods with high unemployment, but instead demonstrate the underlying weaknesses imposed on us by an economy that is not functioning correctly. We used to have the beacon of light which was the retail and service sector in the City Centre, but the pandemic has robbed us of this thriving hub of employment. The Government says that they want people to retrain and reskill to find work, but for months now our city has been hollowed out of these jobs. Asking people to search for work that doesn’t exist is madness. The Government’s plan for recovery from the pandemic must focus on job creation and support. Without jobs, there can be no recovery.
We also had the news this week that Prospect Housing plans to close in the summer. This comes as no real surprise to us considering the regulator deemed it ‘non-compliant’ last year but the priority now must be to house the 16,00 vulnerable people at risk of homelessness when Prospect closes for good. Exempt accommodation company chiefs are even warning that residents in exempt accommodation remain at risk of exploitation and a lack of adequate care. Even those companies working with the regulator are finding it impossible to navigate a broken system ripe for abuse by shameless profiteers driving down standards of care. I have been campaigning tirelessly and will continue to do so to ensure statutory reform is implemented immediately to raise standards in exempt accommodation. It cannot be right that housing providers only have to play by the rules if they want to. When we are dealing with people’s safety, it must be protected in law.
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!