The final week of Parliament sitting is always a busy one, and this week was no exception! Amidst the flurry of meetings and events, I wrote to the Health Secretary about measures that will be in place to protect those who are immunocompromised following the removal of restrictions in our day-to-day lives. I have recently been contacted by a number of constituents concerned that in rushing to remove all measures at once, whilst infections soar, the Government has not taken into account the risks to those who are immunocompromised. I know that many want restrictions to be eased and I know how challenging this year has been with restrictions on visiting friends and family, but often those living with conditions that impact their immune system, or that prevent them from taking the vaccine, have been forgotten when it comes to conversations about safely reopening the country. They would like to see the Government following their own scientific advice which shows that current protections such as masks, ventilation and maintaining working from home, would help bring down transmission and hospitalisations.
This summer has been the light at the end of a long tunnel for many who have found restrictions difficult, particularly over the winter months. While we all enjoy the summer break, we need to remember that it is still not business as usual; Covid rates are rising across the country and we still need to be considerate of others, particularly those who remain vulnerable to Covid and Long Covid. Please consider continuing to wear a mask in indoor spaces, especially that people cannot avoid going to, such as shops and on public transport. Please also continue to social distance where you can and wash your hands regularly.
This week the Building Safety Bill took its first meaningful step through Parliament. But like all bills before it, we already know this will be a toothless piece of law that does little to tackling the Cladding Scandal. We need legal protections to ensure that millions of pounds of building safety remediation costs are not passed onto innocent homeowners and tenants. I have asked the Government a series of Written Questions and the replies have been shocking. Too many leaseholders still live with unsafe Waking Watch fire patrols.
I asked the Government if they produce a list of authorised providers as it appears to be an unregulated Wild West. Despite a long response, the simple answer was ‘no’. I also pressed to see if they have a list of businesses providing Waking Watch fire patrols – because you’d think it would be monitored. Of course they don’t! Instead of giving a full response the Government just bundled the response with another. Now, the Government rely heavily on the fact that their regulations mean those using Waking Watch are responsible for safety. So, I asked what assessments they have done of the relative safety of patrols vs. fire alarms. The answer? Bundled with others. Waking Watch patrols are costly to Local Authorities. The Government keeps telling us they are keen to keep public finances in order. So, you would expect them to know how much is being spent on patrols. Turns out they don’t know. The Government announced they will extend protections from substandard building work from 6 to 15 years. You’d think this would be to protect more leaseholders. But they haven’t undertaken a review into how many Cladding Scandal buildings will be covered. The Government recently wrote an open letter to building companies warning about K15 insulation. I wanted to know what additional action they have taken to ensure the message got out as a letter tucked away on a website is a job half done. Turns out nothing. There are many more examples of a Government gripped by inertia on the Cladding Scandal. Today’s Bill will be another opportunity missed putting leaseholders at risk of financial ruin and forcing them to live in unsafe homes. Rest assured; I’ll continue to push for reform.
As we reach the end of the school year, I want to say a huge thank you and well done to all the hardworking teachers and teaching assistants. It has been an incredibly challenging year; having changed from face-to-face meetings and appearances in Parliament to virtual, I cannot imagine the difficulties involved in motivating and inspiring young people when they are not in front of you. Then, when returning to school, teachers have welcomed back pupils with enthusiasm despite perhaps having their own health concerns and dealing with the added restrictions in school that have made life challenging! You have done an incredible job supporting our young people – I hope you are now able to take some time for yourselves, relax and recharge, and enjoy some of this sunny weather!
I am launching my Summer Survey so that I can hear from constituents about the issues that concern them. I want to hear your opinions about litter in your neighbourhoods, traffic, and housing issues. This will help inform the Parliamentary work I undertake to ensure that I can represent the views of Ladywood to the UK Government and question them on the policies they are introducing that will impact on constituents’ concerns here in Ladywood. Take the survey 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.
This is my last weekly round-up before the summer, but you can keep up to date on my summer survey and other news on my Twitter feed and Facebook page.
Keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!