Parliamentary Newsletter – February 2016


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Welcome to my first newsletter of 2016. This newsletter goes through some of the most recent developments and initiatives I have been campaigning on including protecting funding for the Birmingham-based Illegal Money Lending Team who prosecute backstreet loan sharks and calling for the safeguarding of local council’s rights to ethically invest.

Also in the news are the ongoing council ward boundary proposals and forthcoming news on the EU. In addition you can find out about my ongoing work as a Labour Spokesman on Transport and the other work I’m doing locally including about the future of Birmingham’s post-16 years education and the proposals to build housing on the North Worcestershire Golf Course. I am also promoting fundraising efforts by a number of local champions across Northfield.

Before you read on, I wish to say a quick welcome to Cllr John Clancy, who took over from Sir Albert Bore in January, as the new Leader of Birmingham City Council. John is now responsible for running Europe’s largest council and I wish him all the best. He’s already started energetically, and is supporting the Birmingham Mail’s campaign #NoMoreBrumCuts, which seeks to get a better funding deal from the UK Government. Scroll to the bottom to find out more.



As you may have heard, the national Boundary Commission has been reviewing the number of Councillors there should be on Birmingham City Council in the future and the boundaries of the areas from which they should be elected to represent. Those areas are known as “wards” as I am sure you know.

I have been writing to communities organisations and other local groups encouraging them to review the options being proposed. It’s important as many local people as possible have a say on how you define your local community, including the names of wards.


You will see from my website that I and the Labour Party have made a number of suggestions about the names of wards. Provided these are accepted, given the framework that the Boundary Commission has established i.e. smaller wards represented by 1 or 2 not 3, it seems much of what they are suggesting make sense.

Follow the above link, to find out what is happening in more detail and to let the Boundary Commission have your views on what you agree and disagree with. Remember its as important to tell the Commission about the things you agree with as well as things which you want changed. Don’t delay, though. All comments have to be received by the Boundary Commission by February 8.

Over Christmas, the Independent on Sunday reported about the Government’s plans to stop councils divesting from trade and investments they regard as unethical.

I believe this will prevent councils pursuing goals like community cohesion, environmental sustainability and human rights in line with the best practice of the progressive private sector. It’s called corporate social responsibility. The right ethical investment decisions in the long term are often also the right business decisions.

In recent years, dozens of local councils have passed motions to take an ethical stance. Here in Birmingham, the City Council used its procurement relationship with Veolia to successfully encourage them to end investment in projects linked to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank.

As Chair of Parliament’s All Party Group on Palestine, I am working with MPs across all parties urging the Government to rethink on these silly proposals.

Just before Christmas, I called on the Government in Prime Ministers Questions (PMQs) to stop their cuts to the England Illegal Money Lending Team – based in Birmingham.

RB chamberThe national organisation which prosecutes illegal loan sharks has helped over 24,000 loan shark victims since its 2004 launch. However the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, was planning to cut its budget, putting the service’s ability to continue effectively in doubt.

You can watch my question to the Chancellor, who was standing in for Cameron at PMQ’s on my website, here.

*** UPDATE: Following my question at PMQs and a coordinated campaign by Trade Unions and the Sunday Mirror, the Government has agreed to no longer cut the service. There remain concerns over its long term future, but for now it looks like its safe. Read about how we got the Government to change their mind here! ***

As I circulate this Newsletter, much of the media attention is focused around the UK’s renegotiation with the European Union. Please keep a look out for an update I will be sharing with local people soon. Watch this space…


Since my appointment as Labour’s Shadow Transport Spokesman for Aviation, I have been keeping pressure on the Government on improving road safety and supporting the development of cleaner and greener cars and fuels.

take offHowever at the top my pile has been helping to develop Labour’s aviation strategy – across the country, airports are key job providers and drivers of economic growth and it is vital the Government supports the sector appropriately. Over the last few months, a key issue has been whether a new runway is built at either Heathrow or Gatwick and I spoke for Labour in day-long parliamentary debate, calling for a decision to be made, along with calling for other measures to support other International Gateways across the country – including Birmingham International. You can watch my speech here.

Unfortunately just before Christmas the Government delayed their decision until the summer. I wrote an article for the New Statesman about why such a delay is no excuse for doing nothing. Passenger numbers will continue to grow, and we must also think about how to make aviation more sustainable and environmentally friendly.


The Labour Party are continuing to take a lead on this issue which affects far too many people in our communities. Sarah Champion, the Shadow Minister for Preventing Abuse and Domestic Violence has made a formidable start in her new position.

photoSarah has been leading a campaign that calls for an end to violence against women, and making sure the issue receives the attention it requires. Too many cases of domestic and sexual abuse go unreported every day and aren’t confronted.  More must be done to ensure that survivors of all kinds of abuse are helped – particularly girls and vulnerable women.

I attended an event in Parliament with Kate Green MP, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, and Sarah Champion MP. I subsequently put a number of questions to the government on: women’s refuges, raising awareness in schools about domestic violence, and schools providing support and guidance for pupils who are victims.

cfdbI recently sent out the fourth edition of my Animal Welfare Round-up. This covered a number of issues, including the dog meat and illegal wildlife trades.

If you would like to be included in future Animal Welfare Round-up newsletters by email, please let me know and I can add you to the mailing list.


Just before Christmas I wrote this article about a Government review into Further Education (FE) or post-16 education in Birmingham and Solihull, which is looking at the organisation and role of our area’s colleges, including Bournville College.

As part of our area’s review I, with other Birmingham MPs of all political parties, have met the Review Commissioners along with College representatives to discuss the review’s approach and emerging options. It is vital the Commissioners listen to MPs, Unions and other community groups, who recognise the central importance of colleges in the community.

The review is due to end soon and it looks like there are suggestions of merging Bournville with another college. Whatever the result though, Bournville is vital to expanding apprenticeships and providing local people – young and not so young – with the skills and opportunities they deserve. It is also a cornerstone of the regeneration of the Longbridge area. So we must all stand up for Bournville College and more importantly for maintaining opportunities for people in our area.



A local 6 year-old girl called Gracie has started up her own fundraising campaign to raise money in memory of her great-grandfather. She has been growing her hair for a few years with the aim of looking like Rapunzel – which she certainly does!

Gracie is such a wonderful example of care and compassion in our community. You can find out more about her campaign here:


As some of you may be aware, St Nicolas Place had a large amount of lead stolen from the roof, leaving the building vulnerable to more severe damage. A fundraising campaign has been started to try and urgently replace the roof.

St nicSt Nicolas place is a group of historical Tudor buildings on The Green in Kings Norton. It serves as a valuable resource within the community as a meeting place as well as a heritage site. A number of groups use the facilities for community activities and discussions. It is also home to Victorian Tea Rooms.

There were a number of lead thefts from the roof last year and it now desperately needs replacing to prevent internal damage caused by leaking water. And of course it would be lovely to see it restored to maintain the beauty of the building and area!

As I wrote this newsletter it looks as though the cold weather has finally arrived, so I wanted to let you know about a winter advice and support article I wrote on my website. I did this in order to encourage people to take advantage of available help, support and techniques for keeping energy bills low and heat efficiency high.

There are a range of financial support schemes and grants available for people to use. It is worth spending ten minutes checking if you’re eligible for them or not. Aside from that, there are also some tips for everyone at home to make sure your homes are warm and efficient.

Similarly, I would encourage those struggling financially with bills and the cost of living to check whether they are entitled to any benefits. You can check your entitlements by using this online benefit entitlement check tool. If you or anyone you know is struggling with the distress caused by bad housing, inadequate living conditions or other housing issues, Shelter are always available to provide free, confidential and impartial advice.

Just before Christmas I visited Northfield’s local Trussell Trust B30 foodbank. I then wrote an article for the Huffington Post about my visit as well as foodbanks more broadly. The seemingly relentless rise in foodbank use is evidence that something is fundamentally wrong with the way Britain operates at the moment.

The fact that the tax credits and benefits system are causing a lot of this hardship makes the situation even more shocking and unacceptable. In-work poverty is a reality too many people in our local community and country live through every day. When the government turn their back on these people, it’s the charities, foodbanks and communities who have to pick up the slack.

I want to thank all those who give and to all those who volunteer.


Residents living near North Worcestershire Golf Course will know that, along with the local Labour teams in Longbridge, Northfield and Weoley, I have been calling for local opinion to be heard in relation to the future of the North Worcestershire Golf Course off Frankley Beeches Road. The last update on my website is here.

Bloor Homes, who want to build on the site of the Golf Course, held a public exhibition of their proposals last week and I know many of you did your best to get along. You can see the proposals put forward by Bloor here.

Along with Cllr Andy Cartwright and other Labour Councillors, I have arranged another opportunity for the public to give their views at a meeting of the Longbridge Ward Committee at: 6.30pm, 3rd March, Meadows School, Bristol Road South, B31 2SW.

That part of the meeting will be open to all residents who may be affected by the development, not only those who live in Longbridge Ward. Other members of the local Labour team – including Brett O’Reilly, Julie Johnson and Carole Griffiths – will be on hand to listen to what residents have to say.


#NoMoreBrumCuts – West Midlands MPs are fighting for a fair deal for Birmingham
Birmingham has already been hit by the biggest cuts in local Government history. But due to further Central Government plans, the City Council will have to make cuts of around £258 million over the next four years on top of the £567 million annual savings the council has already made since 2010/2011. This includes £90 million in spending cuts next year alone.

The city has been hugely disadvantaged by the Government funding formula in comparison to David Cameron’s own area which has benefitted from real terms increases.

Our Police Service and Fire and Rescue Service have already been hit enough. Conservative cuts on the scale proposed will put social care, emergency service and the protection of the most vulnerable at risk. Birmingham needs a fair funding deal now.

Show your support. Vote in the Birmingham Mail poll by clicking here.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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