Welcome to my latest Parliamentary newsletter. This covers local issues and developments as well as my actions in Parliament. You’ll find updates on the bin dispute, traveller sites and other issues. As ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me on these or any other issues.
In Birmingham Northfield
Birmingham’s Labour MPs continue to press for a settlement to our city’s long-running bins dispute. As you’ve probably heard, a high court ruling restrained the city council from proceeding with a number of redundancies and this has enabled the industrial action to be suspended, pending a full court hearing in November.
It is vital that every effort is made between now and then to find a sustainable solution. Along with other Birmingham Labour MPs, I continue to urge the Council and the unions to settle the dispute in a way that is both fair to the bin crews and that delivers the kind of high quality service that residents are entitled to expect.
In the meantime, to clear the backlog that has built up, the Council have said that they are planning to visit every road in the next two weeks, with an aim to restore regular weekly collections after four weeks. They are posting regular updates about the areas from which they will be collecting each week here: https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/20009/waste_and_recycling/953/daily_missed_collections
New leader of Birmingham Labour Group
Congratulations to Councillor Ian Ward who has been elected as the new leader of the Birmingham Labour Group. The newly elected Leader will now be ratified as Leader of Birmingham City Council at a Full Council meeting on 7 November.
Councillor Ward, has been deputy leader of the Council since 2012 and is Chair of Birmingham’s 2022 Commonwealth Games bid – which has secured the UK’s nomination to host the Games. I look forward to working with Ian, first and foremost on the bin collection dispute – which Ian has emphasised the importance of resolving. You can read more about the Council’s new leader here: http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/new-labour-council-leader-elected-13690537
Unauthorised Traveller Encampments
As you may recall from previous reports, I have been calling for a review of the way both the City Council and Police responded to the increase in unauthorised traveller encampments locally in recent months. As a result, a summit is to be held at the start of October where senior Police officers, Council Cabinet members, senior Council officers and other local MPs will review existing strategies, and plan for the future, including learning from best practice elsewhere. This comes a week before a parliamentary debate on Gypsies and Travelers on October 9th, the summit will also give us the opportunity to feed ideas into national discussions on the issue.
Rollout of Universal Credit in South Birmingham
Alongside my constituency office team, I have been preparing to support constituents when the rollout of Universal Credit full service reaches South Birmingham in early November. Universal Credit is the biggest change to our welfare system in 40 years, replacing 6 other benefits with a single monthly payment for those out of work or on a low income. Citizens Advice have produced a useful guide to Universal Credit, you can read that here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/universal-credit/
However, I have some serious concerns that the introduction of UC at this time will cause extreme hardship for many people in Northfield, particularly due to financial burdens during the festive period. The DWP’s own evidence shows that more than 1 in 5 people applying for Universal Credit are waiting over six weeks for their first payment, and that many people say they are subsequently falling behind on their rent. In light of this, I have joined MPs from all sides of the House, in writing to the Government urging them to delay the roll out. You can read that letter here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/aug/06/delay-universal-credit-to-help-the-vulnerable
North Worcestershire Golf Course
In August, Birmingham Council’s Planning Committee refused an application by Bloor Homes for a 950 home development on the North Worcestershire Golf Course site. An earlier application by Bloor for a 1000 home development was withdrawn by the developer in March, just two days before it was due to be considered by the Committee.
Locally, there has long been widespread opposition to building on the Golf Course and the feedback I received from local residents suggested to me that many felt that the concerns they had expressed about the plans remained unanswered under the new proposals. City Planning officers again recommended refusal this time in line with the Council’s overall planning guidelines which preclude redevelopment of the site as unsustainable. Bloor Homes now have the right of appeal to a Planning Inspector appointed by the government. This article, published by B31 Voices, gave more information about some of the key arguments surrounding the planning application: http://b31.org.uk/2017/08/planning-committee-to-decide-on-golf-course-and-cinema-plans/
As debates about the future of North Worcestershire Golf course continue, the site has been hit by a series of vandal attacks recently, including a serious fire at the former Clubhouse which, as I write this report, appears to have been started deliberately. The Fire Service were quickly on the scene and rapidly tackled the blaze. Even so, it is clear serious damage has been done.
Over the summer I have been in touch with the Directors of the Golf Club – which still owns the site – over security concerns that residents have raised with me. They have told me that they had put in place additional security panes on the clubhouse before the fire, in addition to the 1.8m high steel fence that surrounds the site. No doubt recent incidents will prompt them to further review security arrangements. In the meantime, the Club directors have told me that if residents have immediate security concerns, they can get in touch by voicemail on 07492 853 891 or e-mail to email@example.com for a response within 24 hours.
EU (Withdrawal) Bill
Brexit has dominated discussion in Parliament since before the election. At the moment Parliament is debating what the Government has called its European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. Ministers say the main purpose of the Bill is to sort out how EU law can be incorporated into the UK at the point of us leaving the EU in order to make sure gaps are not left in people’s rights and protections.
As it stands, however, this Bill is not fit for that purpose. The Bill would put huge and unaccountable power into the hands of government ministers – including the power to decide the key terms of our exit from the EU – it would sideline Parliament on major decisions and put crucial rights and protections at risk. You can watch my speech on why I could not support this Bill at its Second Reading here: http://richardburden.com/2017/09/my-speech-on-european-union-withdrawal-bill/
In the weeks and months ahead, Labour will continue to make sure the government hear our reasonable and constructive concerns to either make changes to the Bill or to replace it with a different one that is fit for purpose.
Parliamentarian Road Safety Award
Over the years I have campaigned for better road safety, both locally in Northfield and nationally. It was a priority for me during my time as Shadow Transport Minister and it continues to be an important issue for me now. It was therefore an honour to receive the Parliamentarian Road Safety award from the charity Brake and Direct Line this week. I would like to thank Brake and Direct Line for selecting me for this award and for all the work they and countless others have done to work towards safer roads in the UK.
Much has been achieved but every person killed or injured on our roads is one too many. Northfield is currently rated ‘high’ for people killed on our roads, with pedestrians and motorcycle users at particularly high risk. Just this week, Government figures showed that road safety is actually trending in the wrong direction and getting worse. That should remind us all of our continuing responsibility to identify what more we can do to make the vision of zero deaths and serious injuries on our roads a reality.
Labour Party Conference
Earlier this week I was in Brighton for the Labour Party’s annual conference. I was able to meet with a number of organisations and charities as well as some delegates and residents from our own constituency. I also spoke at a few events, including one hosted by ‘Midlands Engine’ about the importance of proper Government investment, planning and infrastructure for our region. A big part of this is ensuring that opportunities and skills development are brought to the Midlands and that areas like ours aren’t left out because we are on the edge of the city. This is something I will be continuing to push for and work towards in the coming months and years and that will mean working with the Council, the Mayor and the Government to get what is best for the West Midlands and what our area needs.
New Leisure and Community Centres for Northfield
The Council have unanimously approved an application for a leisure complex, including a cinema, gym and restaurant, for Longbridge Town Centre. The proposed leisure development will occupy land adjacent to Smyths Toys store and it is hoped the complex will create around 140 jobs once completed.
During the summer I also opened Northfield Community Hub. Located on the first floor offices above the shops on Price’s Square on Northfield High Street, the Hub is a base for a range of community organisations from across the Northfield area, with a focus on volunteering opportunities and a signpost for local residents seeking advice and support. The great facilities would not be here without the dedication and hard work of so many individuals. So a big thank you to everyone who has helped along the way. You can find out more about the new hub in an interview I did with Made in Birmingham TV, you can catch that here: https://www.facebook.com/madeinbhamtv/videos/1940208382924899/?hc_ref=ARQIY_0yD8ZgZp2rD7AfgSIPp-JX9X_KV1YxWlle9ov7ZCbQzzJF7P1pFvOxgAPiiOE