It was fantastic to visit the Curzon Street Site of the HS2 project here in Birmingham, where I met a number of apprentices who are benefitting from the project and the skills investment that it is bringing to our city. I spoke with members of HS2’s delivery team about the new Curzon Street Station and saw the huge amount of work being done to prepare the site for construction. The focus for me has always been about how the inward investment for Britain’s biggest infrastructure project will benefit my constituents, ensuring those who have been out of the workforce or need upskilling will be the first to feel the benefits of HS2 in our city. I’m pleased that after seeing progress so far, these calls are being heeded, and HS2 continues to have a sharp focus on employing people in our most hard-to-reach communities.
Residents in Birmingham Ladywood told me last week that they have been left behind by this Government and its Chancellor. Over 86 percent of residents responding to my snap survey thought the Government is handling the economy badly, with the same amount of respondents rejecting its £1000 cut to Universal Credit. Commenting on the Budget, a number of constituents were concerned about the cost of living and affording the planned tax hikes, adding “the Tories have thought only about themselves and their friends.” Others referenced abandoned pensioners following the scrapping of the triple lock, or the Government’s lack of a grip on the cladding and climate crises.
They are of course, right. Last month’s Budget does nothing for working people. It contained no plan to tackle the cost of living crisis but instead handed tax cuts to big companies like Amazon, and put taxes up on working families. The Government then rejected Labour’s plan to ease the pressure on households and businesses right now. We would abolish VAT on domestic energy bills for 6 months and we’d cut Business Rates next year to support people and businesses. But the Government said no. When I asked what the Government proposed my constituents do to get through the winter, the Minister said the Government has “got the policy right here”. I know many working families who are concerned about choosing between heating or eating will beg to differ.
I was delighted this week to join my colleague Afzal Khan in marking Islamophobia Awareness Month in Parliament, in conjunction with Amnesty International and the Muslim Council.
Last week, the new Housing Secretary, Michael Gove asked the Housing Committee why leaseholders should have to pay at all for the cladding scandal. He also described waking watches as a “rip off”, despite his Government being the one to insist on them in the first place. Whilst I welcome anyone calling out the Government’s poor performance on the cladding scandal, I am keen to see that we now have some results, not just rhetoric.
Rounding off the week, I thought it was really important to attend Human Appeal’s event to raise awareness of the Wrap Up Birmingham campaign, which seeks to support vulnerable people across the UK stay warm this winter. I donated an old coat, which will go to charities that support people who are homeless, refugees, children living in poverty and people fleeing domestic violence.