I was absolutely delighted to see Kim Leadbeater elected as Labour’s MP for Batley and Spen in the early hours of Friday morning. On my frequent visits to the constituency in my role as Labour’s National Campaign Co-ordinator, it was clear that residents were responding to Kim’s local knowledge, and her message of hope and unity. Her win is even more impressive given the vicious attacks she was subject to from other parties. Batley and Spen comprehensively rejected the politics of hatred and division, and I’m looking forward to welcoming their new MP to Parliament! I know she will do all of us – and especially her sister, Jo – proud.
This week, along with the Labour Party, I’ve been calling for the Government to establish a new Building Works Agency. This proposed agency (consisting of government appointed engineers and experts) would be directly in charge of resolving the cladding crisis by going block by block; assessing the problems; commissioning remediation works; paying for them and signing off buildings as safe and sellable so that leaseholders can get on with their lives. This follows years of failed promises by the Government to make buildings safe and protect leaseholders from the crippling costs of remediation works. Hundreds of thousands of people are still living in unsafe blocks of flats four years on from the tragic Grenfell fire and millions are caught up in the wider building safety crisis. For too long the Government’s approach to the cladding issue has been piecemeal and plagued by delay. Hundreds of leaseholders in Birmingham Ladywood are still trapped in dangerous flats, and we do not have the luxury of time to fix this crisis. Government Ministers need to stop sticking their heads in the sand and take action to safeguard lives and livelihoods, otherwise the work will never get done. I will continue to do all I can to secure the reform we desperately need and make homes safe again.
We have had more evidence this week of the need for regulation around supported accommodation. The Guardian has reported on the blight of ‘supported’ accommodation, describing the disgusting conditions facing thousands of vulnerable people, reliant on benefits, sent to live in unregulated, hostel-style accommodation in neighbourhoods across Birmingham. These hostels are supposed to provide care and support for a range of people, for those with drug and alcohol dependencies, for those escaping domestic violence, and for those experiencing poor mental health. But without sufficient checks by councils or government agencies, that support is too often sorely lacking, causing misery for the residents and for those who live around the premises and often have to endure anti-social behaviour. Birmingham is at the centre of this burgeoning market, with unscrupulous landlords in this country to collect an estimated £184 million. This cannot be allowed to continue, and the Government must take action to ensure regulation is robust.
This week Labour have called for the Windrush Compensation Scheme to be taken from the failing Home Office and control to be handed over to a new independent body. The systematic mismanagement of the system by Tory ministers has led to just 687 people receiving compensation from an estimated 11,500 eligible. Tragically, 21 people have died waiting for justice. It is appalling that this is the way this Tory Government is treating people who came to a new country in the aftermath of the most destructive events of the 20th century to help rebuild Britain, and it reflects some deep-rooted problems. It is clear that we need a Race Equality Act to tackle the structural and institutional racism that too many in this country have experienced and that we need a real conversation within our society about the kind of society we want to be and how we get there.
It’s been fantastic to see the rollout of the vaccine continuing across the city with a number of ‘walk-in’ sites across Ladywood. Our NHS workers have been fantastic, and it is great to see so many people taking the opportunity to have the vaccine. Vaccines are the best chance for leaving behind lockdowns but only if we take them up in sufficient numbers and continue to follow social distancing while our bodies build up the immunity. So make sure when you get the chance for your jab you take it! Thank you to everyone involved in the rollout – your hard work is truly inspiring.
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!