The atmosphere in Westminster has been sombre following the tragic death of Sir David Amess last Friday and the passing of James Brokenshire during the conference recess. Both men were dedicated MPs and wonderful colleagues and my thoughts are with their families and those who were closest to them.
Earlier this week Prospect Housing published a landmark report into the exempt accommodation sector, detailing what must be done to protect vulnerable residents and rein-in unscrupulous operators. It found that the failing and highly flawed system is costing local authorities £1 billion per year. Unethical providers, some even linked to organised crime are seeking loopholes in legislation and regulation to boost profit and exploit vulnerable individuals. I have long campaigned for stronger regulation of the sector and in response to the report, I wrote to the new Secretary of State responsible for Housing, Michael Gove calling on him to implement the report’s recommendations in full across Government. The Government must take these findings seriously and close those loopholes to finally support the 106,000 people nationally who rely on this accommodation and support. You can read more about the report and my reaction to it here.
Birmingham’s housing sector was in the spotlight more than once this week, with the BBC reporting on the difficult conditions that leaseholders in the Islington Gates development have been forced to live in since their remediation works started. Whilst it is welcome the works have started, the plastic and scaffolding covering the building has blocked out a lot of light and the removal of the external insulation has made some flats incredibly cold and damp. As we head into winter, it is completely unacceptable for leaseholders to be stuck in flats that are not warm enough and have a risk of mould growing. I have been working closely with some of the leaseholders affected and I wrote to the company conducting the remediation works to ask about their quality assurance processes.
We are facing a significant cost of living crisis, after the Government chose to press ahead with the damaging £1,000 cut to Universal Credit whilst food and energy prices continue to soar. The cut will impact 25,900 households in Birmingham Ladywood, taking nearly £27 million from our local economy. On top of campaigning for the Government to cancel the cut, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to press him to come up with a plan to tackle rising prices, to ensure my constituents don’t have to choose between heating or eating this winter.
The Labour Party is the party of working people, and on Friday we proved that by supporting a Bill that would end treacherous fire and rehire practices. The Conservatives, of course, voted against it. Almost 3 million workers have been told to reapply for their jobs since the first lockdown in March, with Coronavirus being used as a smokescreen to erode workers’ rights, slash pay, keep wages and conditions low and increase value for shareholders. It cannot be right that those people who got us through the pandemic on the frontline and in their living rooms are now being repaid with weakened employment rights. Labour will continue to push for a better deal for workers, whilst holding this shameful Government to account.
Finally, I want to ask all children aged 13 and under who live or go to school in Birmingham Ladywood to help me with a winter card design to celebrate the festive season! I would love to see all your creations, which could be about anything – Winter, Christmas, Parliament or something completely different. I will be choosing the best design to go out as an e-card to all my residents on my mailing list – read here for further information!