The horrific murder of Dea-John Reid shocked our community in Kingstanding to its core. For a 14-year-old teenager to be killed on our streets, and for racist language to be used in the attack, is absolutely appalling. I welcome that there were quick arrests and that 5 people have been charged, we must now ensure that all those responsible are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
The past two weeks have also seen the Government announce a derisory package of support to help children catch up on lost learning from the Covid pandemic. The amount announced was a tenth of the amount the Government’s education recovery commissioner for England said was needed, and he resigned as a result. A damning rejection of the Government’s plans.
There have also been developments on the Safer Streets Fund, Erdington’s bid to the levelling up fund, and the cut to international aid. And finally, 99-year-old Mary Harvey completed a sponsored walk to raise money for John Taylor Hospice. I was honoured to accompany Mary and you can hear all about her efforts in my update.
Murder of Dea-John Reid
The horrific murder of Dea-John Reid on College Road in Kingstanding sent shockwaves through our local community. The 14-year-old was chased by a group of men who used racial slurs before fatally stabbing him.
This level of violence towards a teenager is truly shocking and the fact that racist language was used in the attack is despicable. It demonstrates there is still much work to do in the quest for racial equality and we must now redouble our efforts to fight against prejudice in society.
I welcome the fact the police acted quickly and made a number of arrests. 5 people have now been charged in connection with Dea-John’s murder and all those responsible must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Our community must now come together to send an unmistakeable message that we reject hateful ideologies that seek to divide us.
I attended and spoke at the vigil to Dea-John that was held on College Road on Sunday evening and it was an extremely powerful and peaceful event. People of all races, ages and backgrounds were in attendance in a display of community unity and solidarity with Dea-John’s family.
My heart goes out to his mother Joan who has been left devastated by the loss of her son. I have offered her every support going forward.
Schools Catch-up Funding
Last week, the Government announced £1.4bn worth of funding to be spent on tuition provision and teacher training as part of its COVID-19 education recovery plan. Whilst money to help students catch up is welcome, this amount falls well short of the £15bn the Government’s education recovery commissioner for England, Sir Kevan Collins, had said was required. Sir Kevan felt so strongly that he resigned from his position, saying the amount announced “falls far short of what is needed”.
Education leaders are unanimous in saying that this amount is simply not enough to address the scale of learning loss experienced by pupils. It is also clear that the Government have failed to commit the same resources to ensuring pupils catch up as other countries. For example, the Netherlands has committed £2,500 per pupil and the US has committed £1,600 per pupil. The UK in comparison has committed just £50 per pupil.
If the Government is serious about helping pupils catch up, then it must go much further than it has.
Labour has also this week announced our Children’s Recovery Plan that will help our children learn in the post-Covid period. The plan includes:
- Breakfast clubs & after school activities
- Mental health support
- Training & development for teachers
- Tutoring & investment for children who need it most
- Free school meals over the holidays
Safer Streets Fund
I am delighted that Stockland Green has been awarded £432,000 as part of the Safer Streets Fund. The money will enable the Police to fit crime prevention tools such as additional street lighting and CCTV cameras to both deter criminals but also help catch them if they do commit crime.
Crime and anti-social behaviour have been growing problems in Stockland Green for some time. I have been contacted by numerous residents who are worried about their local area, many say they do not feel safe.
It is simply unacceptable that local people have to put up with this type of behaviour and everyone deserves to feel safe in their community. I hope this fund will help tackle these issues and improve the lives of Stockland Green residents.
I’d like to pay tribute to West Midlands Police, Birmingham City Council and local campaigners who have worked hard to secure this funding that will improve the lives of residents in Stockland Green.
Birmingham City Council to launch levelling-up bid for Erdington High Street
This week (8 June) Birmingham City Council approved plans to submit a bid for £12.7 to fund improvements to Erdington High Street. The money would come from the Government’s Levelling-up fund, I have been working closely with the Council in developing the bid.
If the bid is successful, the funds will be used to transform the high street, with measures to support local businesses, improve public spaces, and make it easier for people to move around the area safely. Money will also be invested in new housing, cultural, leisure and social activities for people of all ages, and creating better physical and social connectivity within the area.
The bid would also see the redevelopment of the former swimming baths into a Community and Enterprise Hub, redevelopment of the Central Square Shopping Centre including new flats, restaurants and cafes, and a new public square.
This ambitious bid to the Levelling Up Fund, if approved, will help us to unlock the massive potential we have here in Erdington. I’m pleased the plans have been approved by Birmingham City Council and am excited about the possibilities this will bring to our community.
We in Birmingham have now done our part. It is now up to the Government to show they are serious about levelling up by approving this bid.
International Aid Cuts
The Government’s decision to cut international aid spending by £4bn, from 0.7% to 0.5%, not only broke their manifesto commitment, but it also fails the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. The Government are retreating from their moral duty and people will lose their lives as a result.
The move also significantly reduces our influence on the global stage. Britain is the only country in the G7 who are cutting its aid budget, and, at present, the UK is the third-largest donor in the G7, but it will become the fifth-largest donor in 2021. Germany actually exceeded the 0.7% target last year and President Biden has indicated the US will increase their aid budget too.
MPs from across the House of Commons have condemned the move and there was an emergency debate on this issue on Tuesday. However, despite repeated calls to allow a vote on the issue the Government are refusing, fearful they will lose in the face of an embarrassing backbench rebellion.
It is fundamentally wrong that the Government would not only deny Parliament their democratic right to have its say on the proposals, but also turn it’s back on some of the most vulnerable people in the world and enact a policy that would see people lose their lives.
Mary Harvey Sponsored Walk
On Monday, I had the honour of accompanying 99-year-old Mary Harvey on her sponsored walk to raise money for John Taylor Hospice.
Mary has been a volunteer at Witton Lodge Community Association for many years, and she remains committed to serving her local community through her voluntary work. She is a fantastic lady who is full of vigour and passion for the place she lives.
The walk took place around The Ring in Perry Common and there was a crowd of local people there to cheer her on. At the end of her walk, she was presented with a medal by Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Sir David Thompson, who paid tribute to her and the work she has done in Perry Common.
The sponsored walk has so far raised over £1,000 for John Taylor Hospice and it was a fitting tribute to a truly wonderful servant of our local community.
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