Welcome to my latest Parliamentary newsletter. This covers local issues and developments as well as my actions in Parliament. As ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me on these or any other issues.
In Birmingham Northfield
The Boundary Commission published their proposals for changes to Parliamentary constituency boundaries in England. Under these proposals, Birmingham would be set to lose one Parliamentary seat overall. There would still be a constituency called Birmingham Northfield, but it would be very different to the current one. Read more
Originally published in Bromsgrove Standard – 30 September 2016
Many of you may have already heard the recent news that MG has announced they intend to cease assembling vehicles at their site in Longbridge. With the loss of around 25 local jobs, the overall scale of this is vastly different from when MG Rover stopped production over a decade ago – with the loss of over 6,500 jobs. But it still brought back memories and – whether you are one of 25 or one of 6,500 – losing your jobs is still losing your job. It did not have to be like this.
While I understand the business concerns that MG have surrounding costs of assembly at Longbridge, I am still hugely disappointed by this decision and believe it to be a premature one. Part of the problem here is that existing concerns over cost have undoubtedly been aggravated by problems with the strength of the pound and the cost of imports. As Professor David Bailey, of Aston University, has explained this week: “post-Brexit, the costs of import are much more expensive and there is uncertainty about the future. MG had hoped to use the UK as a launch pad for selling into Europe.”
More discussions should have taken place to explore alternatives and options before any decisions were finalised. In addition to discussing this with MG, I have been speaking with local Councillor and Birmingham Council Cabinet Member for Skills, Brett O’Reilly, as well as the Government. I know that they, like me, are willing to meet MG to discuss and explore options and help that may be available and I am sure the same will be true for the local authority and the Local Enterprise Partnership. That is why I have appealed to MG to delay this decision so that these detailed meetings can take place.
Let us remember though, that we are not talking about the end of the Shanghai Auto/MG operation at Longbridge though. The Shanghai Automotive Technical Centre will remain at Longbridge, with between 300 and 400 skilled engineers and others working there. In addition to this vital Research and Development operation, there will also be MG sales, marketing and after-sales staff working at the plant. We can build on that, but it is another reason why I think this announcement is premature as we haven’t been able to work with MG to explore all the options.
It is vital that MG get around the table with myself, government, LEP and Birmingham City council to try to find a solution. The voice of employees through their trade unions also needs to be heard. We need to do this in the interests of constituents, local business, the community and the broader automotive industry. While we may not be able to achieve the ideal outcome, we may be able to achieve a better one if all those involved work together to find constructive solutions.
Last week it was a pleasure to declare my support for the Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland’s ‘Count Them In’ campaign. This calls for questions on the Armed Forces community to be included in the next UK census.
There are over 6 million members of this community in the UK, but little is known about their exact numbers, location and needs. It is important that we know these statistics so that public bodies, local authorities, charities and the government are able to deliver the best services and support they can.
You can find out more about this campaign or sign up here: www.britishlegion.org.uk/census and using #CountThemIn
The initial proposals for boundary changes were published this morning by Boundary Commission England. They are only proposals and could yet be subject to change through the consultation and review periods ahead.
However, in terms of the proposals in front of us now, Birmingham would be set to lose one Parliamentary seat overall. Under the Boundary Commission’s proposals, there would still be a Parliamentary constituency called Birmingham Northfield but it would be different from the current one. The “building blocks” of Parliamentary constituencies are Council wards. In our case, therefore, the current Birmingham Northfield constituency is made up of the following Birmingham City Council wards: Longbridge, Kings Norton, Northfield and Weoley. Read more
This morning I asked the government about the problem of superfast not-spots in urban areas. This has been an ongoing issue that affects a number of constituents in Birmingham Northfield and many of you have been in touch with me about it.
I have been raising this in Parliament over the last year and have also met with internet service providers (ISPs), highlighting concerns about the lack of coordination to reveal and plug gaps in the upgrade to superfast.
I will continue to seek answers on this in Parliament from the government as well as liaising with Birmingham City Council and ISPs, urging all three to work together and do what is necessary to get superfast broadband to these not-spot areas as soon as possible.
You can watch my question and the government’s response here: