Campaigning to help make homes safe from dangerous cladding and to protect leaseholders from bearing the costs for a situation that is in no way their fault continues to be a major focus for me. The Government completely failed to address the cladding scandal in the Queen’s Speech. They have said for three years that they will make funding available to remove the dangerous cladding on buildings in Ladywood and across the country, but when you look into the details you see many leaseholders being left high and dry without any financial support. This is putting thousands of leaseholders at risk of financial ruin, whilst forcing them to remain in unsafe homes, unable to sell and forced to pay for security measures such as waking watches. The current funding is yet to be allocated to residents, and considerably more funding will be required to remove all dangerous cladding.
As my part of my campaign, I am calling on Birmingham City Council and the West Midlands Mayor to work together to block contracts being awarded to those developers involved in the cladding scandal. Lendlease entered a partnership with the Council to redevelop the Smithfield site – a £1.9 billion project. But buildings built by the company now owned by Lendlease still have safety defects which have not been resolved. Problems include cladding and other fire safety defects such as wooden balconies. The industry should not be allowed to forget the dangerous situation that they have created and the terrible impact it is having on people’s lives. It certainly should not be rewarded for it. Birmingham City Council need to rethink their partnership with Lendlease and find another company. The Smithfield site is a really exciting prospect for the city – we want it to be something we can be proud of and that can help regenerate the economy after the difficulties of Covid – it is simply not right that such a company should be involved.
I was recently contacted by a local primary school, where some parents free school meals voucher codes expired and could not be reclaimed. I wrote to the Department for Education to ask about the free school voucher scheme and have now received a reply. The supplier of the national voucher scheme, Edenred, has reported that 120,000 orders for vouchers had been placed by schools between January and March 2021 and that £93 million had been redeemed into supermarket gift cards for families. It has been suggested that there may be a number of reasons why free school meal voucher codes could have expired, including schools ordering them by mistake and forgetting to cancel them. Free school meals are a vital part of improving the equality of our education system and by extension society. The Government must be sure that vouchers reach all those who need them and that they are not refused the help that they need as a result of a technicality such as expired codes.
This week, Labour published a landmark Green Paper which contains draft legislation on ending violence against women and girls. This paper is an important step in tackling rising cases of violence against women and girls across the UK over the last decades. Last year, the number of female murder victims in England and Wales reached its highest level since 2006 – up 10% on the previous year. We know that Covid had a significant and negative effect on rates of domestic abuse, with 260,000 domestic abuse offences between March and June 2020 alone. Under the Conservatives, rape convictions have fallen to a record low, and across the criminal justice system victims of rape are facing delays of up to four years as a result of the record-breaking backlog in the Crown Courts caused by a decade of Conservative cuts and court closures. Labour’s Ending Violence Against Women Green Paper proposes a long-term, whole-system response that provides justice and protection for survivors as well as delivering effective prevention, tackles social attitudes, inequality and discrimination that underpins the abuse women and girls face. An approach focused on criminal justice alone would only act as a sticking plaster on underlying misogyny and inequality in society.
The Clean Air Zone will come into effect in Birmingham Ladywood on 1 June this year. Applications for the Birmingham Clean Air Zone Vehicle Scrappage and Travel Scheme are now open. Eligible workers can scrap their non-compliant car for either £2,000 travel credit with Transport for West Midlands or £2,000 off a car with Motorpoint. If you are the owner of a non-compliant vehicle and have been the registered owner/ keeper of a non-compliant vehicle since 10 September 2018, live outside of the Clean Air Zone but work at least 18 hours per week at premises based within it, or earn less than £30,000 a year, you can sign up for the scheme. To find out more and apply for the scheme, visit the website here.
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!