The past two weeks have seen the vaccine rollout continue to gather pace, and it looks like we are on target to have offered the first dose of the vaccine to all those in the top 4 priority groups by Monday. A wonderful achievement for our NHS.
We also saw the sad news of the passing of Captain Sir Tom Moore, who inspired so many with his fundraising efforts.
There were also developments around cladding, more examples of Tory cronyism, and the calls for the Government to guarantee the financial support for businesses and workers are growing ever louder.
You can read about these in more detail below:
Captain Sir Tom Moore
Last week, we received the terribly sad news of the passing of Captain Sir Tom Moore. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.
Captain Tom was an inspiration to many across the country with his heroic fundraising efforts. He set out with the aim of raising £1000 for NHS Charities Together by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday. He had soon blown this target out of the water, eventually raising over £30 million.
This money provided vital support to front line NHS staff who have been under such immense pressure throughout the pandemic. His efforts have also inspired many others to do their own fundraising efforts, raising yet more money for our NHS.
His efforts will be remembered forever. Thank you, Captain Sir Tom Moore.
The Government this week announced £3.5bn of funding to remove unsafe cladding from England’s high-rise tower blocks. Whilst the funding is welcome and will mean that many tower blocks are able to be made safe, many problems still remain.
First, the amount announced is simply not enough. It is estimated that the amount required to fix all the cladding issues is £15bn, so there is over a £10bn shortfall in overall funding. This means that many of those people living in affected tower blocks will still either face paying significant costs to rectify the issue or continue living in an unsafe home. This is simply wrong.
Furthermore, the terms of the funding mean only those people living in buildings over 18m high will have to pay no costs. For those living in buildings under 18m, they will be offered loans to repair the unsafe cladding and pay no more than £50 per month. Why should homeowners have to foot the bill to make their homes safe when they have done nothing wrong?
Finally, it has taken far too long for this money to be forthcoming. It has been three and a half years since the Grenfell disaster and many residents living in tower blocks have been living in fear for far too long.
The Government must now fully fund all repairs needed to make all tower blocks across England safe. This has gone on far too long and lives are at risk.
There have been yet more revelations of shocking Tory cronyism throughout this pandemic. It seems that every week we hear of another multi-million-pound contract handed out to a mate of a member of the Cabinet.
This week, we discovered that a jeweller specialising in rare diamonds was handed a £2.5 million contract to provide PPE for the NHS. Another PPE contract, worth £14.4 million, was handed out to a firm owned by a family friend of Matt Hancock. The vast majority of contracts handed out during this pandemic were secured without tender, meaning there is no scrutiny whatsoever over how public money is being spent.
I, alongside my Shadow Cabinet Office colleagues, will be continuing to press the Government on this shameful cronyism. Rest assured, we will not rest until we get a firm commitment from Ministers that this practice will end once and for all.
Local efforts to encourage vaccine uptake
As the vaccine rollout continues at pace, it is vital that as many people take up the offer of a vaccine when they are offered it. Our best tool to defeat Covid-19 is the vaccine, and we need everyone to play their part to not only protect themselves, but everyone around them too.
The early indications are that there is good uptake of the vaccine, but in certain communities the rates of uptake are far lower than others.
In order to encourage uptake, I will soon be writing to 15,000 households across the constituency providing key information relating to the vaccines. I want every Erdington resident to be protected from this terrible virus, and I hope as many people as possible accept the offer of the vaccine.
I will also be working jointly with other members of the Erdington Task Force to work on other methods of increasing uptake across Erdington, ensuring we do everything possible to reach those who are vulnerable and hard to reach.
Care Home Survey
This week, I have written to every care home across Erdington to get another update on the situation they are facing. This is the third care home survey I have completed, and it is important for me to listen to care homes and their staff and ensure I act swiftly to resolve any issues.
Previous surveys have highlighted various issues such as PPE, testing, and even the supply of food. This survey is wide-ranging, but the focus is on the vaccination rollout. Care homes have been hit hardest by Covid, and the vaccine offers hope that residents will be protected, but also that regular visits from loved ones can resume.
I stand ready to support our care homes and their staff in every way possible. You can read my letter to care homes below:
Financial Support for Businesses and Workers
The financial support that has been provided to businesses and workers so far throughout the pandemic, many of these Labour pushed hard for, have saved many businesses from collapse and many workers from losing their jobs. However, many of these schemes are coming to an end shortly and the Government are yet to commit to extending them.
At PMQs this week, Keir Starmer pressed Boris Johnson on whether he would guarantee these schemes would continue past the date they are currently due to end. Boris Johnson failed to offer that commitment and many businesses and workers are left in limbo.
You can watch Keir question Boris Johnson on this by using this link.
As always, if you or anyone you know needs support throughout this difficult period, then please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Dromey, MP for Birmingham Erdington