Welcome to my latest Parliamentary newsletter!
Space prevents the newsletter covering all of what I have been doing over the past month. However, hopefully it provides a flavour of some of the local issues I have taken up as well as my actions in Parliament. You’ll find updates on Northfield Leisure Centre, the Windrush Generation and other issues. As ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me on these or any other issues.
In Birmingham Northfield
Local Elections Pride of Longbridge
On Thursday 3 May voters across Birmingham will be going to the polls to vote on councillors to represent them on Birmingham City Council. Birmingham City Council is divided into small sections called wards which are represented by at least one elected councillor. The Northfield constituency that I represent in Parliament is also broken down into several wards.
Unlike previous local elections where only a third of City Council seats have come up for election each year, boundary changes mean that this time, Birmingham’s entire Council is up for election.
In recent years, Birmingham City Council has suffered the largest cuts in local government history. In that period our Labour-run Council have done their upmost to prioritise the services most important to local residents. Our Labour Councillors in Northfield have stood up for our area against Tory cuts and will continue to do so if elected. We also have some great new candidates standing in areas of Northfield constituency that currently have Conservative councillors. There will not be another local election for another four years so more than ever, our area needs Labour Councillors as champions of our local community. You can read Labour’s manifesto for Birmingham here.
Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm and you can find your polling station here. This information will also be provided on your polling card. Remember though that you do not need to take your polling card with you to vote so don’t worry if you can’t find it!
You can find the details of all the Labour candidates standing in Birmingham here.
Bournville Gardens Health and Wellbeing Centre
Many local residents will be aware that in Autumn 2016 approval was given in principle by NHS England for a new Health and Wellbeing Centre on the Bournville Village Trust College Green development on the site of the former Bournville College on Bristol Road South.
Last month the business case for the Centre was approved by the local Clinical Commissioning Group. The Project has been earmarked for £2 million of funding from NHS England, however delays by NHS England in revising some of its own rules and procedures are still delaying the release of the funding that is needed for the go ahead of the new centre.
It would be a ridiculous and unacceptable state of affairs if a project which everybody agrees is both needed locally and is in line with the strategic priorities of NHS England ends up jeopardised because of delays in the NHS’s own procedures. This is a point I have made to Ministers and this month I wrote to the Chief Executive of NHS England for assurances that if these delays continue a way will still be found to make sure this project can go ahead.
Pride of Longbridge
This month as part of the annual Pride of Longbridge event, former MG Rover employees, MG Rover and Austin enthusiasts, community groups and local residents came together to celebrate our pride in Longbridge.
Unfortunately conditions in Cofton Park were too wet to drive on which meant that unlike in previous years cars were unable to access the park. Despite being ‘scaled down’ due to the wet conditions, hundreds of cars with a Longbridge link and visitors descended around Cofton Park to celebrate the heritage of Longbridge’s proud car industry.
Every year Pride of Longbridge is a highlight in our local calendar. This year was no different. It was a fantastic celebration of why Longbridge has been so synonymous with the motor industry and an important reminder that by respecting our community’s heritage, we can continue to build our community’s future.
Opening of Northfield Leisure Centre
The opening of the new Northfield Leisure Centre is now just weeks away. The Birmingham Community Leisure Trust team are working around the clock alongside builder contractors and equipment suppliers to put the final touches to the building. A precise opening date is yet to be confirmed but the team hope to open the doors to the public during the second week of May. I will be letting constituents know on social media as soon as the opening date is confirmed.
If you have any queries about the new Leisure Centre you can get in touch with the Birmingham Community Leisure Trust team either by visiting them in their temporary offices upstairs in The Black Horse Pub between 10am – 6pm Monday – Friday and Weekends 10am – 2pm or by calling 0800 6125 210.
The Windrush Generation were invited to the UK to rebuild our country in the post-War period. They have been here for decades, worked and paid taxes, set down roots and created families of their own. Yet they have treated with utter contempt and disrespect.
In recent weeks I have been contacted by several constituents who are part of the Windrush Generation. The UK is their home but the way they and their children have been treated by the Government has been shameful and has caused immense distress to the people concerned. The now former Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said the Windrush cases were a result of procedures and processes getting in the way of understanding people, and that is exactly what has happened here.
The problems faced by the Windrush Generation however go well beyond people who came here from the Caribbean. In the Commons I raised the case of a constituent who was born in a Commonwealth country to Polish refugees from Nazism, has lived in this country since 1951 and has served in the Grenadier Guards, but he was turned down for a UK passport.
The Government have rightly apologised to the Windrush Generation but the people concerned need action not just words. Those who came to our country from the Commonwealth are British citizens and deserve to be treated as British.
It is deeply troubling to see rising antisemitism and race hate both in the UK and abroad. Incidents of antisemitism both in the Labour Party and society at large are completely unacceptable. We all share a common responsibility to confront and eradicate antisemitism. However the Labour Party have been too slow to respond to antisemitic incidents in recent years and must do much more to tackle antisemitism.
Earlier this month there was a debate on antisemitism which took place in the House of Commons, the debate was heavily oversubscribed with many more MPs wanting to speak than there was time available. As one of those who missed out I have written an article outlining roughly what I was planning to say which you can read here.
Decisions about the circumstances in which UK forces should be sent into action are amongst the gravest that any government can take. In a modern democracy, government also has a responsibility to listen and the elected Parliament should not be cut out of the process that precedes those decisions being made.
The Prime Minister could and should have consulted Parliament before involving UK forces in air strikes on Syria. In the Commons I stressed to the Prime Minister the importance of Parliament being consulted before taking military action and the urgent need for a broader international strategy to help protect civilians from the kind of carnage inflicted on Aleppo and Eastern Goutha over the past year. You can watch my question to the Prime Minister here.
I also put out a statement in response to the US/UK/French airstrikes on Syria.
Legal Aid for families of the victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings
You will recall from last month’s newsletter that I led a debate in Parliament on Legal Aid for the families of the victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings. The families are contesting a ruling by the Coroner that suspects cannot be identified during the reopened Inquest into the Birmingham Pub Bombings. They won their case in the High Court. The Coroner has lodged an Appeal as he has every right to do. While the Corner will receive public funding to present his appeal however, the families are being denied Legal Aid to defend the judgement of the High Court.
As public funding has been made available to the coroner, it can therefore only be in the interest of justice that both sides should have equal resources to present their respective cases. This seemed to be lost on Ministers in last month’s debate and I have again pressed Ministers to set up a special fund to cover their legal costs, following the example of the Hillsborough inquests.
Many of you will know that in recent months I have been calling for the Government to intervene in the hostile takeover bid of GKN. GKN are an engineering group making automotive and aerospace components with a plant based in Kings Norton.
Under our existing narrow takeover laws, Ministers are able to intervene in a takeover bid under Section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002 where a bid raises national security concerns. GKN Aerospace, including its Kings Norton plant, make specialist components for military as well as commercial aircraft so this bid involved issues of national security.
The Government however gave the green light to this takeover and the Melrose takeover of GKN was approved by 52% to 48% after 20% of the company had been snapped up by hedge funds. To me this further underlines why reform of the UK’s Takeover Laws is urgently needed to defend the public interest and safeguard the long term future of our industrial base. In the Commons I put to the Business Secretary that short-term interests should be excluded from making decisions on takeovers and that the public interest test expanded.
The NHS is one of the issues I am most contacted about by local people. Many local people are understandably very concerned at the state of the NHS under this Government and I would like to take this opportunity to update you on some of the action I have taken in recent months in support of our NHS.
I have supported a Labour motion calling on the Government to release extra funding for the current year to combat the winter crisis in our NHS. I have stood with our NHS staff and demanded that NHS staff get a fair deal and the pay rise that they deserve to help close the gap created by successive real-terms pay cuts. In the Commons I have also raised with the Government the impact that a lack of resources for mental health services is having on patient care in Birmingham.
This year marks 70 years since the birth of the NHS, established by the Labour Party against all the odds to deliver healthcare for all – based on need, not ability to pay. The pride and commitment we feel towards the NHS is stronger than ever. But the challenges facing our health service are some of the greatest it’s faced in its history.
All this is why we desperately need a new approach to our NHS to provide staff with the resources to deliver the standards that patient deserve, address the crisis in social care and provide patients the modern, well-resourced services they need for the 21st century. The future of our NHS is too important to neglect it in the way the Government has done in recent years. People in Northfield deserve better.