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
Responding to news that MG intend to cease assembling vehicles at the Longbridge site, Richard Burden MP said:
“MG’s decision to close its assembly line at Longbridge is hugely disappointing and I believe it is premature. I understand the business concerns that MG have surrounding costs of assembly at Longbridge, which have undoubtedly been aggravated by problems with the strength of the pound. However, more discussions should have taken place to explore alternatives and options before any decisions were finalised.
“Having spoken to the Government, I know they 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 pending such detailed meetings.
“I’m therefore disappointed that this announcement has been made in advance of those further meetings taking place. I’m pleased that MG want to continue their operation in the UK, including the successful Shanghai Automotive Technical Centre at Longbridge which is associated with MG. We can build on that and that is another reason why I think this announcement is premature. 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 my constituents, local business and the broader automotive industry.”
You can find out more about the announcement on the BBC, Birmingham Mail and B31 Voices
Some of you may recall, back in March, along with other MPs, I was pressing the Government to back-off on proposals which threatened to stop local councils and other public bodies from considering ethical factors when making procurement decisions: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/government-accused-of-launching-attack-on-local-democracy-with-new-council-investment-rule-a6786916.html
Originally published in Bromsgrove Standard – 5 August 2016
This is a diary piece of good news and of bad news.
During the General Election campaign last year, Conservatives in South Birmingham were rushing around claiming that Northfield was going to lose its swimming pool. Their claims were, of course, rubbish, as they well knew. Northfield pool was coming to the end of its life. The issue was not whether it would be replaced but where in the constituency this would happen. I guess they thought why let the facts get in the way when you are trying to win votes.
But the City Council don’t come out of this smelling of roses either. The good news is that they have commissioned a contractor to rebuild and operate the pool. The bad news is that what they are planning to do is well short of what they should be offering. Against my and local Labour Councillors’ advice, they opted to rebuild on the existing site, meaning they would have to close the existing pool while they built a new one. But they said the new one would be worth it. We argued that the space constraints on the existing site would limit what they could do, with the risk that the historic frontage to the building could be lost when people in the area want it retained. They said they would try to retain it.
We now know the result, they say they can’t retain the frontage because (guess what?) space constraints prevent it. Also, while the pool itself will no doubt be better than the last one, they can’t work out how to fit a sauna and steam room in what is meant to be a new state of the art leisure centre.
There were alternatives which could have built a better pool and leisure centre elsewhere in Northfield town centre and save the historic frontage of the current building. Birmingham’s Labour-led council should be commended for investing in a new pool for Northfield – something the Tories never did when they controlled the City. But I have seen for myself what other cities in Europe and beyond can achieve when regenerating public facilities like this. That Birmingham has shown neither the vision nor the creativity to approach the development of Northfield pool in a similar way is a real missed opportunity.
In February the Government announced new rules on public procurement without any parliamentary or public scrutiny. These rules appeared to restrict public bodies like local councils and universities from refusing to award contracts to certain companies based on ethical grounds and making their own choices to promote ethical trading and investment.
A few months ago I held a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament to press the Government on these changes. This was the first opportunity the House of Commons had to actually debate the Government’s plans. Indeed, they had not even announced them in this country at all. Instead, they held a joint press conference in Jerusalem to do so with the Prime Minister of Israel.
During the debate, which you can read about or watch here, I asked the Minister six questions to clarify what the new rules in the Public Procurement Notice would mean for public bodies and the UK’s foreign policy towards Israel and Palestine. After the debate I wrote to Matthew Hancock, the Government Minister who made the changes, to write back to me addressing each point. Read more