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 – 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.
Three weeks ago it all felt so different. Britain had not yet voted to leave the European Union. The Pound had not plummeted. The Bank of England had not yet had to step in to steady the situation. The Prime Minister had not announced his resignation and the UK’s major political parties had yet not appeared to be in turmoil.
None of us have lived through anything quite like this before and nobody can know what lies ahead. As we now try to navigate a new course through the uncharted waters which lie ahead, though, here are some markers that I believe should guide us.
You have until 23:59 tonight to register to vote so that you can have your say in the EU Referendum. Registering only takes a few minutes and this is the last chance you’ll have. Even if you’re not sure about voting or what your decision is, at least register so that you have the option to vote two weeks from now – you may regret not being able to vote!
This is a moment where you control the country’s future and every vote will count. Unlike a General Election, there are no “safe seats” in this referendum. Don’t worry if you don’t have your national insurance number, in most cases you can still register without it.
On 23rd June, every one of us will have the chance to decide for ourselves whether to cast our votes for or against Britain remaining in the European Union. It is a big decision and it is a tough one. Talking to people around here in the last few weeks, though, I know that people are getting really fed up with the bitterness and backbiting that has often disfigured the debate. People also tell me how frustrated they feel when both sides bombard them with what they claim are “facts” but which are so contradictory that they end up creating more fog than clarity.
Like you, I have one vote on June 23 and, like you, I’ll vote for what – as an individual – I think is right for the future of our country.