We now finally know the ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown. On Monday, the Prime Minister announced his 4-step plan to ease restrictions, which aims to have all the restrictions lifted by 21st June. Overall, the timescale seems reasonable, but we now need the Government to go much further in supporting people and businesses.
We also had significant announcements on the return to schools and the exams process for GCSE, A-level and BTEC students and I continue to work closely with our local schools on both of these issues.
There are also updates on the future of GKN and JLR, Matt Hancock being found to have acted illegally over Covid-contracts, and continued work on challenging the flawed Government decision to reject Erdington’s bid to the Future High Streets Fund.
Finally, I have written to 15,000 households across the constituency to encourage them to take up the offer of a Covid vaccine when they are contacted by the NHS.
You can read more about all these topics below:
‘Roadmap’ out of Lockdown
On Monday, the Prime Minister has outlined the ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown restrictions – you can see a summary of the 4 ‘steps’ below.
I welcome the cautious approach adopted and the timescale on the whole seems reasonable, unlike the mistakes that were made last year that cost so many lives. However, I have concerns over the return to school, which must be handled correctly, and this roadmap must be accompanied with a range of financial support to ensure we do not see a surge in unemployment which would be deeply damaging to communities across Britain.
The Government must now announce:
- An extension of financial support for workers and businesses – including furlough and the self-employment support scheme
- Support for the 3 million people who have been excluded from Government support. They have waited too long.
- An expansion of self-isolation payments so people can afford to do the right thing
- An extension of the business rates holiday and VAT cut for hospitality, retail and leisure for at least 6 months
We cannot afford to undermine the vaccine rollout by being reckless at this crucial stage – this must be the last lockdown.
Return to School
The Government have now announced that schools will definitely return on 8th March. We all agree that we need to get children back into school, but it must be done safely.
The testing regime when first announced was met with dismay by some teachers, who were expressing concerns over getting all their students tested in time for the return. There was also concern over all year groups returning at once, which could lead to transmission amongst students.
I welcome the clarification from Government that schools will be able to stagger the return over a 2-week period, but it once again points to a chaotic handling of schools by the Department for Education.
We must get this right, and I urge Government to work closely with schools to ensure we have robust systems in place to bring children back safely.
It is welcome that Gavin Williamson has, at last, started to learn the lessons from last year’s exams fiasco. Teachers know their students and are better placed to award grades than an inexplicable algorithm.
We now urgently need further clarity over the appeals process to ensure they are conducted in a timely and fair manner, as well as clarity over how BTEC and vocational courses that require practical assessment are going to be conducted in a Covid secure way.
I will continue to work with local schools and ensure they receive the support necessary to award grades fairly. And crucially, to ensure their voice is heard.
GKN and JLR
The news that Melrose, the company who own GKN, are planning to close the Chester Road plant is deeply worrying. A company with a long history, having produced cannonballs used at the Battle of Waterloo and parts for Spitfires used in the Battle of Britain, GKN has been a key part of our local community for many years.
I am working closely with their Trade Union, Unite, as well as working cross-party in an attempt to find a solution that will keep the plant open and save the jobs of the 519 employees who work there. I am determined to do everything possible to secure the future of the plant.
On JLR, talks are continuing to secure the long-term future of the Castle Bromwich Plant. The announcement the company would be becoming an “all-electric” luxury brand by 2025, with every vehicle available in all-electric form by the end of the decade, is welcome in terms of tackling climate change, I am determined to ensure the long term future of the Castle Bromwich site.
I will be working with Jaguar Land Rover, the workers, Unite, and the Government to secure the long-term future of the plant and its workforce.
You can hear my update on these discussions here.
My letter encouraging vaccine uptake
With the vaccine rollout moving forward across the country, I have written to 15,000 Erdington households to encourage them to take up the offer of a vaccine when they are contacted by the NHS.
The letter, which covers a range of topics including clinical trials, side effects and the impact on transmission, was produced as part of the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce’s ‘Be Safe and Vaccinate’ campaign, which aims to encourage vaccine uptake by tackling dangerous misinformation that is spreading on social media.
Due to the now established link between poverty and Covid, I decided to target the most deprived areas of the constituency. This involved extensive work with local organisations to identify areas that ranked highest on the index of multiple deprivation and then matching this to addresses.
The reverse of the letter includes key information on testing, helplines for those in need, and how people will be contacted for their vaccination. You can read a copy of the letter below:
The High Court has ruled that Matt Hancock acted illegally by failing to publish details of Covid-contracts in time for them to be properly scrutinised.
There has been a great deal of scrutiny on the Government recently, particularly concerning contracts handed out without proper tender to companies who are seemingly unfit to fulfil those contracts. This court ruling will only add to the growing concerns.
The Government must now end this shameful lack of transparency and accountability and publish the details of the £2bn worth of contracts handed out to companies with close links to the Tories.
The public deserve to know how every penny of their money is being spent.
You can read more about it here.
Future High Streets Fund
Civil servants have admitted that they made errors when calculating Erdington’s bid for the Future High Streets Fund.
This errors meant the bid was wrongly rejected and our community lost out on vital funding that would have provided an economic boost to one of the poorest constituencies in the country.
It is outrageous that the people of Erdington will miss out because of a Government error. Along with Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, I am urgently seeking a meeting with Robert Jenrick to raise this with him personally.
I am determined to challenge this injustice every step of the way and secure the funding that Erdington deserves.
You can read more about this here.
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