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February/March Newsletter

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Birmingham Northfield

North Worcestershire Golf Course

Residents living close to North Worcestershire Golf Course will know that at the end of February, Bloor Homes withdrew their planning application to build on the golf course. However they have now said they will be submitting new proposals shortly. In their latest notice they have said their new proposals are aiming “to address the concerns raised during the determination period. The amount of housing has been reduced and additional public space is now proposed.”

Locally, there has long been widespread opposition to building on the Golf Course and this has been reflected in cross party opposition amongst elected representatives of the area too. The City Council’s current Planning framework also opposes redevelopment and, had Bloor proceeded with their recent application, Planning officers were recommending refusal by the Council’s Planning Committee. Last year, the Government’s Planning Inspector also reviewed the overall Plan or Birmingham and also said he was not persuaded of the case to overrule the City Council’s policy in opposition to building on the site.

Bloor Homes are hosting a public consultation event next week. I would encourage local residents to go along and let Bloor know your views. Details here: Thursday 16th March, 1pm-7:30pm, Hollymoor Community Centre, 8 Manor Park Grove, B31 5ER.

Schools Funding

The news that we feared from the Government has been confirmed, Birmingham schools are set to lose a staggering £20m in funding under the Government’s so-called ‘fairer funding’ formula. Despite the challenges we face in Birmingham and the incredible work done by many teachers, teaching assistants and support staff in our schools, only 7 out of our 400 schools will not see their budget cut. In cash terms, it is reported that some of our secondary schools could lose as much as £225,000. That’s thousands of pounds that could and should have been being spent in the classroom and on the young people in our community.

Two of the hardest hit schools under the proposals are West Heath Primary and Turves Green Boys’ School, both of which are in our constituency. I know how hard staff are working in these schools to offer the best quality of education and guidance to our local children. Head teachers and school governors are already having to make difficult decisions on budgeting due to stagnating funding settlements from this Government. News of these cuts will damage the quality of education on offer to our children and their future life chances. I’ll be doing all I can to work with other Labour Birmingham MPs to support schools and staff in our city to reverse this deeply disappointing and harmful proposal.

Birmingham City Council Consultations

Birmingham Council are currently undertaking a number of consultations with local residents and organisations. This is an opportunity to have your say on issues as diverse as emission standards, cycling, parking, speed limits outside schools, early years education funding and many more! I encourage you to take part in any of the consultations that you are interested in or that affect your local area. You can find the consultations and take part here: https://goo.gl/gt6ezG

Northfield Volunteers Event

Last month I was delighted to get together at a Northfield District Community Network with volunteers and others in the community. This was a great opportunity to show appreciation to show appreciation to the dedicated and selfless volunteers in our community. Without these individuals, so many of the great facilities, events, services and support in Northfield would not run. I want to once again thank all of those who give so much to our community.

In Parliament

The Budget

Philip Hammond delivered his Budget Statement on Wednesday. As expected, it did nothing to address the problems created by seven years of austerity. There was nothing to deal with the living standards crisis – only worsened by the Government’s decision to cut housing benefit for 18-21 year olds – and it didn’t do enough to solve the state of emergency in our NHS and social care system.

Perhaps the biggest headline has been the Government breaking their own manifesto commitment not to increase National Insurance, hitting low and middle income earners with a £2bn tax bill. People who are self-employed will be hit particularly hard. And, of course, being self-employed doesn’t necessarily mean you are wealthy. It includes those who are struggling to start up their own business, who freelance and often have an unsteady income and no paid holiday or sick leave. Theresa May has already begun to backtrack on this decision as Labour have been pressing the Government on how it will affect people. We will continue pressing the Government on how their decisions are making the lives of ordinary people so much more difficult.

One of the better parts of the Budget was a promise by the Government to boost investment in the Midlands through what it calls the “Midlands Engine” project. That is good news and it is not before time given the scant attention our region has received from this Government compared to London and the South East so far. But it is only going to work if the Government is consistent. It is no good Ministers saying they are backing the Midlands if at the same time they are hitting Birmingham City Council with the biggest cuts in local government history. Those cuts hit jobs and the local economy as well as threatening the services on which local people rely. Also, if we are going to achieve the scale of change to the road, rail and air transport infrastructure that can truly transform the economy of the Midlands, investment has to be long term, not simply a tap that can be switched off as quickly as it is switched on. This is a point I made to Ministers in the debate on the Budget this week.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Two weeks ago the Government snuck out a change to disability benefits through the PIP scheme. This would see an estimated 160,000 disabled people – particularly those suffering from mental health conditions – not being able to access the full support a court judgement had ruled they should be entitled to. This amounts to an effective cut of £3.7bn. But instead of listening to what the courts told them, the Government have just said they disagree and rushed through changes which they claim “clarify” the rules. The reality is though, that people will lose the support they should be getting. These proposed cuts are on top of those already underway, estimated at £28bn and affecting 3.7m disabled people.

Last week I pressed the Government on how PIP has never been sensitive or flexible to those with mental health conditions and that the Government’s actions may result in people with those conditions being unfairly treated. You can see my question and the Minister’s answer here: https://goo.gl/eFCKgr

International Women’s Day and WASPI

On International Women’s Day this week, I met with WASPI campaigners from Birmingham in Parliament. As many of you will personally know, women born in the 1950s have been impacted unfairly by the way changes to the state pension age have been made. The Budget this week was an opportunity for the Government to address some of those concerns, but they did not do so.

There is plenty for us to be proud of when it comes to the road to equality for all women, but there is still so much left for us to do and many issues to be addressed both here in the UK and overseas. You can see more about WASPI here.

Transport

As part of my role as a Labour Shadow Transport Minister, I have been contributing to debates in Parliament and putting questions to the Government on a number of issues, like the Volkswagen emissions scandal: https://goo.gl/hRyqgv.

I also responded for Labour in a debate on road traffic law enforcement. The debate was an opportunity to highlight the importance of road safety and to press the Government on how they will be addressing the rise in road casualties. The cuts to the numbers of police dedicated to road traffic and safety undermine the Government’s aims to address this rise. You can see my speech here: https://goo.gl/CG793y

I am also leading Labour’s response to the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill, which is currently being considered by the House of Commons. The Bill introduces measures around automated and electric vehicles among other issues. You can see my contribution to Parliament’s first debate on the Bill here: https://goo.gl/WLPBxV

Commons debate on Israeli Settlements in Palestine

On 9th February, the House of Commons voted in favour of a motion that calls for Israel to immediately halt building settlements in Palestine and called on the Government to take an active role in facilitating talks to achieve peace. This followed from UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that was passed in December 2016. These Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and expanding at an alarming rate. The more they expand, the less likely it is that there will be a two-state solution. Palestinian land is shrinking and being carved up so that it currently looks like a Swiss cheese on a map.

As Chair of the Britain-Palestine All-Party Parliamentary Group, I spoke about the growth in settlements, the impact they have on Palestinians and how we need to act now if we want to save the two-state solution. You can see my speech in the debate here: https://goo.gl/IjgBmn