This week saw the return of the Fire Safety Bill to the House of Commons. I voted in favour of the amendment to this Bill because almost four years on from the Grenfell tragedy, the Government’s building safety plan is still failing to get remediation works off the ground. Meanwhile leaseholders in my constituency are paying out hundreds of thousands of pounds in waking watch fees and skyrocketing insurance premiums, while living in fear with the knowledge that they are in unsafe buildings.
This vote could have protected leaseholders from astronomical costs. Instead, Conservative Ministers once again, voted down these life-saving measures.
Before this vote, I wrote to Lord Greenhalgh, the Government’s Building Safety Minister, to point out that while they say building owners and industry should volunteer to make buildings safe without passing on costs to leaseholders, that is not what is happening on the ground. Hemisphere Apartments in Edgbaston has several fire safety issues that require urgent remedial work, estimated to cost £13.8 million – roughly £40,000 per flat.
Like the 100 other buildings in Birmingham, last year they applied to the Government’s Building Safety Fund but are yet to receive a penny of funding.
The longer the Government wrings its hands about how to get remediation works moving, flat owners are being driven closer to the brink. That is why we needed the Government to back legislative change to properly protect leaseholders this week. Once again, the Government let my constituents down.
Tuesday marked one year since England entered its first national lockdown and so it was only right that we took a national day of reflection to think about the huge sacrifices that have taken place during this time.
In the last year, over 126,000 people have died from Covid-19 and approximately 2,800 of those were from Birmingham. My thoughts are with all of those who have lost loved ones during this pandemic.
Birmingham City Council, working with community groups, this week released concept images of what a series of COVID-19 memorial community gardens across Birmingham could look like. They are designed to recognise the fact that the virus has affected all parts of Birmingham and will provide an important space to remember and pay tribute.
While we need to reflect on these huge losses, we also need to know what has happened with the handling of the pandemic. One of the devastating questions that so many bereaved families have been asking is, could more have been done to prevent these deaths? Families deserve to have answers which is why I was pleased to see that Keir Starmer has stepped forward to call on the Prime Minister and demand a public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic as soon as restrictions are lifted.
An inquiry is important to give families answers but it's also vital that we learn from any mistakes made so that they are never repeated. We saw how quickly this pandemic spread across the world. An inquiry will make us better prepared in the event of any future pandemics that may arise and prevent the same devastating affects from happening.
This week I was fortunate to be contacted by the NHS for my Covid vaccine. I was so pleased to visit Harborne Medical Centre to have the Astra Zeneca jab. Thanks to all the dedicated staff and volunteers at the centre, the process was seamless, and I was in and out the centre in minutes.
I was so grateful to have my vaccination and I would encourage everyone to have theirs as soon as they are offered it. This is how we will help to keep each other safe as we soon begin the move out of this national lockdown.
If you’re eligible, please book your vaccine as soon as it is offered to you. You can do so on the button below and watch my video at the vaccine centre here.
And finally, this week my family got to say hi to the new Commonwealth Games mascot, Perry. Perry has clearly taken his name from Perry Barr, where the transformed Alexander Stadium will host the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies as well as the athletics events.
Personally, I can’t wait for the Commonwealth Games to begin next year and for us to be able to see sport first-hand and for some of our fantastic athletes to be competing right here in Edgbaston at the cricket stadium.
But the Games isn’t just going to be about the 11 days of sport. Birmingham 2022 will be a region-wide celebration of the power of art and culture to bring people together and is looking to disrupt the region’s cultural sector and inspire lasting change.
Keep up to date with what’s planned for the ambitious arts festival here. If you’re a budding artist, part of a social group or community groups, a social organiser, heritage group, artists collective or a musician and want to get involved or speak to the B2022 team to offer your ideas or to ask about opportunities, email me at email@example.com and I can help to put you in touch.