This week the Labour Party used Opposition Day Debates in Parliament to force votes on two huge issues that are affecting Edgbaston residents.
Our first motion was to cancel the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit that is coming in April. 152,732 people rely on UC in Birmingham, including 11,418 in Edgbaston.
Coming at the height of the coronavirus crisis, this cut could drive a further 730,000 children into poverty according to analysis by the Resolution Foundation.
Families have made huge sacrifices this year. In my view it is wrong to make the poorest households shoulder this burden.
The second motion Labour proposed was on supporting children and young people who are currently missing out on school. Our motion was to guarantee the full value of Free School Meals over the holidays, ensure access to remote learning, and to compel the Education Secretary to set out a timetable to achieve this with weekly progress reports.
Regrettably, the Government abstained on both votes.
Nevertheless, I am determined that our constituency is heard on these issues. That is why this week I have written to every headteacher in our constituency to gather information on the current gaps in remote learning for young people in our area.
I also spoke about the campaign to #CancelTheCut on the BBC earlier this week. You can watch by clicking below.
Last week I wrote to the Business Secretary about Birmingham’s bars and pubs with my suggestions on how to support this important sector.
Going to the pub is one of our great national pastimes. The oldest pub in the UK dates back to 793AD, an estimated one in four couples report first meeting in the pub, and they were deemed so important as to be allowed to stay open during air raids in the Second World War.
500 jobs in Edgbaston rely on pubs and bars making it through this crisis, but policies like the wet pubs grant leave cities like ours behind.
With several critical deadlines approaching – including the end of business rates and VAT holidays, and repayments for Government-backed loan schemes – it is crucial that hospitality gets the support it needs so it does not face a cliff edge of insolvencies and redundancies.
Last summer, the Prime Minister told people that it was their ‘patriotic duty’ to go to the pub. I suggest that it’s now the Government’s patriotic duty to ensure their survival.
On Politics Live this week, I was asked about reports that the Home Secretary Priti Patel disagreed with the Government’s failure to secure the UK’s borders against Covid last March.
Instead, the Government was once again too slow to take action. It took until June last year for the Government to introduce quarantine policies and until only this year to require international travellers to test negative for Covid before boarding to reenter the UK. Only last month the Transport Secretary announced exemptions from quarantining for ‘high value’ business flyers!
We know that the spread of dangerous new mutations of Covid, such as the South African variant, pose a serious risk to British lives. If Priti Patel raised concerns about this in March last year, it begs the question: why was she overruled?
On Thursday, we launched our Exempt Accommodation Working Group made up of 50 Edgbaston residents, police and local stakeholders. A moneyspinner for bad landlords, this sector is causing misery for much of our community and is failing the people it is meant to support.
I am committed to building this campaign with an eye to national reform, and am committed to working with Cabinet Member Cllr Sharon Thompson and the Council to make that happen. If you are interested in getting involved, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The world breathes easier
The inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris this week was a wonderful moment, marking an opportunity to turn the page on the darkness and the divisions of the past four years. I was delighted to watch some of the ceremony and see Kamala Harris sworn in as the first woman and first Indian-American to hold the office.
In his first acts as President, Mr Biden signed executive orders to rejoin the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, cease withdrawal from the World Health Organization and end the Muslim Ban.
I look forward to working together with the new administration to tackle the greatest global challenges we face.