July Parliamentary Newsletter
Welcome to my latest Parliamentary newsletter! If you think a friend or family member may be interested in receiving my regular updates they can sign up here.
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 the South Birmingham bus network, Brexit and other issues. As ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me on these or any other issues.
I hope you all have a lovely and restful summer.
In Birmingham Northfield
Future of North Worcestershire Golf Course
Residents living close to North Worcestershire Golf Course will know that Bloor Homes have submitted a revised Masterplan for the site ahead of the Public Inquiry being held by the Planning Inspector in October. I am working alongside new Northfield Labour Councilor Olly Armstrong to make sure that the comments and concerns of local residents are heard. Earlier this week we hosted a community meeting to discuss the plan and any potential alternative ideas that residents may have for the site.
Some residents have expressed concerns that Bloor’s representatives had asked for comments on their revised Masterplan by 23rd July. It’s important that local residents have time to digest what the developers have put forward before responding and I wrote to Bloor’s representatives to ask if they will be flexible in relation to responses they receive around a week after their requested date. Bloor have since confirmed to me that they will move back the date by which they have asked for feedback on their latest plans to Monday 30th July.
You can view the amended Masterplan here and local residents can submit any comments to Olivia.Morris@harrislamb.com. Bloor have said that they will send any responses they receive to the City Council and Planning Inspector to be considered as part of the Public Inquiry. Local residents should also be aware that Birmingham City Council are continuing to maintain their opposition to the development of the site. It is has been clear from my discussions with residents that whatever happens from now on, any decision needs to truly involve the views of local residents. You can read more about Bloor’s revised Masterplan on B31 Voices here.
South Birmingham Bus Review
You will hopefully be aware that National Express have announced changes to some bus routes in and around South Birmingham. These changes came into force last Sunday and include small changes, such as timetable amendments, as well as some larger route changes. You can find out details of all the changes here.
National Express believe these changes will help to provide faster, more reliable, and more punctual journeys. However, many residents will undoubtedly be concerned about the impact that some of the changes will have on their local bus routes and ability to get around. Lots of constituents have contacted me with concerns about some of the changes and I am in regular contact with National Express to share the concerns of constituents. In addition to the representations I have made, it is important that local residents also submit any comments they have to National Express. You can do this by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or Customer Relations National Express West Midlands, 51 Bordesley Green, Birmingham, B9 4BZ. Likewise you can contact their Customer Care team on 0121 254 7272.
I know that many residents are particularly concerned that the 98 bus is to be replaced by the X20. I have written to National Express specifically on this issue to emphasise the strength of feeling expressed by local residents about this change. I have been told by National Express that they recognise that they won’t get everything right with the bus network review and are open to reviewing the network changes. I am stressing to National Express the importance of listening to residents’ concerns and reviewing the changes that have been introduced to see where things are not working as well as they should be.
Nursery School Summit
This month I attend a summit on the future of Birmingham’s Nursery Schools for local nursery school leaders and parents groups. This gave them the opportunity to discuss and challenge the funding cuts facing our nursery schools with Birmingham Labour MPs and Councilors.
The quality of early education provided by our nursery schools can help transform lives, providing children with the best start in life for their future development. What was clear from discussions around the summit was that concerns about long-term funding for maintained nursery schools from the Government risk having a serious impact on nurseries all across Birmingham. Local head teachers are warning that a lack of funding risks affecting the quality of local children’s education and future life chances. We are calling on the Government to put in place a long-term funding solution that recognises the true costs that nursery schools face.
Minister and community advocate leaves Northfield for pastures new
A Northfield minister who has been an active community voice and advocate for several years has this month left our city for pastures new. Reverend Dave Tubby represents the very best of what makes our area tick. Dave has been the minister at Northfield Baptist Church in Bristol Road South for five years. In addition to supporting his congregation, Dave has actively supported many others in the wider community. He has always spoke passionately for our area and has been a shoulder of support to so many different people, regardless of their faith.
As chair of the Northfield Stakeholders’ Group, which brings together community groups and stakeholders from across Northfield, Dave has also played a key role in the broader journey to build pride in Northfield as a place of creativity where local people make things happen. On behalf of the Northfield community, thank you to Dave for your dedication and service, and all the best for the future.
Legal Aid for families of the victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings
You will recall from previous newsletters that I have been calling for legal aid to be granted to the families of the Birmingham Pub bombing victims. 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. When I have made this point on several occasions to Ministers, they have tried to wash their hands of responsibility, saying that the refusal of Legal Aid was all down to the Legal Aid Agency.
This month the Government have however announced that as part of their review into legal aid, they will be conducting a call for evidence on the provision of legal aid for inquests. This provides the families of the victims the opportunity to share their experience and I hope that the Government will listen to the concerns raised. I will continue to work alongside the families to make the case for the importance of the availability of legal aid to ensure bereaved families can fully understand and take part in inquests.
Brexit White Paper
This month the Government released its Brexit White Paper which sets out the sort of relationship the UK Government wants with the EU after Brexit. It has taken over two years since the referendum for the Government to reach the stage where it can attempt to agree a position on the basics of our future relationship with the EU. However, the White Paper has unravelled within days with Cabinet resignations and concessions on the content of the Paper.
With only a few months left until Brexit negotiations are supposed to conclude, the government is once again in crisis with divisions in the cabinet and Conservative Party out in the open. These proposals look like a failed attempt to put a sticking plaster over a divided Cabinet and Conservative party. They do not represent the comprehensive plan for jobs and the economy that Britain needs.
Two years on from the referendum and the Government still has no credible or coherent plan for Brexit. Labour is offering a clear alternative. Earlier this month Labour pressed the Government to change course by tabling a series of amendments to the Government’s Taxation and Trade Bills. These amendments included measures to require the Government to establish as a negotiating objective the UK’s participation in a customs union with the EU and measures to enhance scrutiny of future UK trade deals. Unfortunately the Government did not accept these amendments but Labour will continue to set out our vision for a Brexit deal that works for Britain.
Brexit and the motor industry
All the evidence suggests that the terms on which Britain leaves the EU will be of key importance to jobs and living standards of people in the UK for many years to come. The stakes are particularly high for the automotive industry which is an industry on which hundreds of thousands of jobs up and down the country depend on. It is also an industry that brings in £77.5 billion every year in revenue and which makes up almost 10% of manufacturing output.
In Parliament this month I set out why it is so important that we get the approach to Brexit right in order to maintain the health of the UK automotive sector. It is one of the sectors of British industry most closely integrated with the EU and the emergence of any barriers to frictionless trade or additional bureaucracy after Brexit risk seriously damaging the industry.
The automotive sector is another example of where the Government’s plans for our future relationship with the EU just really will not cut it. I regularly meet with representatives from the automotive sector, and in the past month I have met with Jaguar Land Rover and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the warnings the industry have made about the damage of a bad Brexit deal are serious. Even at this last stage, I am urging the Government to listen to the voices of industry. This is about the livelihoods of people in the West Midlands and in other parts of the UK.
NHS at 70
This month the National Health Service turned 70. On 5 July 1948, the NHS was established by the Labour Party against all the odds to deliver healthcare for all – based on need, not ability to pay. The National Health Service is one of Labour’s greatest achievements and over the years it has deservedly become a national treasure.
The historic birthday was a great opportunity to celebrate the achievements of one of the nation’s most loved institutions, to appreciate the vital role the service plays in our lives, and to thank the hardworking staff who make up the NHS. It also provided an opportunity to recognise that the challenges facing our health service are some of the greatest it’s faced in its history. The future of our NHS is too important to neglect it in the way the Government has done in recent years. People deserve better. That is why the Labour Party have set out our plans to top up NHS spending growth to around the amount of 5% which is required by our NHS. We set out our plans – and how we will pay for them – in or manifesto last year. You can find that here and here.