The extension of the Covid restrictions came as grim news for businesses and workers across the UK. The increase in cases, driven by the Delta variant, meant there was little option but to delay the end of the Covid roadmap. However, the prevalence of the Delta variant was not an inevitability. A lax border policy allowed tens of thousands of people to enter the country from India potentially carrying the Delta variant. Now we have this delay that will be deeply damaging for businesses and will see many more workers lose their jobs.
We also saw the campaign to make the Covid Memorial Wall at St. Thomas’ Hospital become a permanent memorial to those who have sadly lost their lives to Covid-19. The wall has become a symbol of the scale of loss the UK has suffered during the pandemic, instantly recognisable by the thousands of hand-drawn red hearts. I have visited the wall myself on a number of occasions and it is a truly powerful experience. Every effort must now be made to ensure this memorial is made permanent.
There are also updates on a new fly tipping initiative launched by Birmingham City Council, Erdington’s bid to the Levelling Up Fund, the Erdington Labour Party’s ‘Hot Food for the Homeless’ day of action, and Witton Lodge Community Association’s Jobs and Skills Fair.
There are more on all of these topics below, but first a quick announcement:
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Extension of Covid measures
Last week, Boris Johnson announced a 4-week delay to the end of the Covid roadmap. This means the new end date for restrictions will be 19th July.
Given the current increase in cases it is right that the end of the roadmap be pushed back. We simply cannot afford for the NHS to be overwhelmed, which is a very real possibility given the pressures they are under trying to catch up through missed appointments over the course of the pandemic.
Furthermore, whilst the indications are that the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths has been broken by the vaccine rollout, we need to be sure this is the case and a delay in ending restrictions will allow more time for the data to be examined.
However, the question we must ask ourselves is why this has happened?
A delay was not inevitable. We have had a successful vaccine rollout thanks to the heroic efforts of our NHS, and we are further ahead in our vaccination efforts than the rest of Europe. However, we now have a much higher case rate than our European counterparts.
We know that around 90% of new cases in the UK are of the highly transmissible delta variant, which was first identified in India. Throughout the pandemic, the Government’s lax border policy has put the UK at risk by failing to properly protect against potentially Covid-positive travellers from entering the country, as is the case here.
For months, the Labour Party has been calling for stronger border measures to protect against Covid. As an island nation, we should be in a strong position to protect against variants, but sadly the Government has failed.
The decision to delay putting India on the ‘red list’ for 3 weeks after adding Bangladesh and Pakistan, despite cases and variants being equally or more prevalent in all 3 countries, was a crucial error. It allowed passengers from India to enter the country with minimal measures in place to reduce the risk of the spread of Covid in the UK, and this is why we have such high prevalence of the delta variant.
It has been widely reported that the reason for delaying adding India to the red list was because Boris Johnson wanted to strike a trade deal with India, and he believed restrictions on travel would hinder the chances of securing such a deal. To risk the UK’s recovery in such a way is disgraceful.
Now, with restrictions continuing, the economy will be unable to return to anywhere close to pre-pandemic levels. That means businesses will suffer and workers will lose their jobs, all because the Government failed to properly protect our borders. Boris Johnson has a lot to answer for.
Covid Memorial Wall
The Covid Memorial Wall at St. Thomas’ Hospital, across the River Thames from the Houses of Parliament, is a poignant reminder of the scale of loss we have experienced in the UK during the Covid crisis.
Thousands of bereaved families have visited the wall and added hand-drawn red hearts and messages in remembrance of their loved ones. It has become a place for people to come together, to reflect on the tragedy of what has happened, and to begin to heal.
There is now a campaign for the wall to be made a permanent memorial to those that have died and to be a place where families who have lost loved ones can come to remember and grieve for their family member.
I joined over 200 politicians in signing Afzal Khan’s letter calling on the Prime Minister to support the campaign for the Covid Memorial Wall in London to become a permanent site. I have visited the wall myself on a number of occasions, and, standing in front of the thousands of hand-drawn hearts, you truly understand the scale of loss this country has experienced.
People from all parties must now unite behind this cause and ensure the Covid Memorial Wall is made permanent.
Birmingham City Council’s Fly Tipping Initiative
There has been a growing problem of fly-tipping across Birmingham for some time. Inconsiderate people are dumping rubbish in alleyways, on playing fields, and anywhere else they think they can get away with it.
The scale of the problem is enormous. Before the pandemic, there were between 500 to 600 reports of fly tipping per week, that has risen to over 800. It is simply unacceptable for this volume of rubbish to be dumped on our streets and local residents should not have to suffer because of some people’s selfish actions.
Increased enforcement is of course important, and I know that Birmingham City Council are working alongside the Police to ensure that as many fly tippers as possible are caught and prosecuted. We must send a clear and unmistakable message that we will not tolerate this sort of behaviour.
However, when rubbish is dumped it is only right that action is taken to clean it up, so residents are not burdened with it. That’s why I welcome Birmingham City Council announcing £7.2 million worth of funding to clean up Birmingham’s streets. This will include £1.4 million to provide four vehicles, called Mobile Household Recycling Centres (MHRCs), that will be sent out onto the streets to clear fly tipping.
I know how many Erdington residents are becoming increasingly frustrated at the scale of the problem, and I hope this investment will begin to help address this issue.
Erdington High Street Bid to the Levelling Up Fund
In my last update, I wrote about how Birmingham City Council had approved plans to submit our bid for £12.7m to fund improvements to Erdington High Street.
The bid, made to the Levelling Up Fund, aims to transform Erdington High Street with measures to support local businesses, improve public spaces, and make it easier for people to move around the area safely. The funds 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.
I am pleased to report that the bid has now been submitted and we await the Government’s decision later this year.
I have been working alongside Birmingham City Council to develop this bid, and I truly believe it will help unlock the vast potential we have here in Erdington.
Erdington High Street, like many High Streets, has been in decline for some years. The economic, employment, and cultural opportunities this bid will provide will reinvigorate the High Street and make it a place our community can be proud of.
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.
Witton Lodge Jobs and Skills Fair
Erdington has an unemployment rate of 12.6%, which is twice the national average. The Covid crisis has only deepened the unemployment problems we face, and with the end of furlough looming, the situation could get even worse.
In order to combat this issue, we need ambitious local and community initiatives – like the North Birmingham Economy Recovery plan.
The latest initiative is Witton Lodge Community Association’s Jobs and Skills Fair, which took place on Thursday 17th June. The event was an opportunity for local people to hear about job and training opportunities available to people across North Birmingham, including here in Erdington.
I was delighted to be asked to open the event, and if you are interested in finding out more, you can re-watch the event using the link below.
Hot Food for the Homeless
Last year, it was estimated that over 20,000 in Birmingham were homeless. This is a truly shocking statistic that highlights the sheer scale of the problem we are facing.
It is important that we tackle the root causes of homelessness and support those living on the streets to get back on their feet and into a place of their own. But in the meantime, there are thousands of people right now living on the streets who need help.
That’s why, on Thursday 1st July, the Erdington Labour Party and the Kashmiri community are teaming up with Erdington Foodbank to provide hot meals for the homeless. Meals will be available at Six Ways Erdington Baptist Church between 12pm-2pm, so if you know anyone who is homeless and needs a hot meal then please let them know.
Full details below
As always, if you or anyone you know needs support throughout this difficult period, then please get in touch with me at email@example.com.
Jack Dromey, MP for Birmingham Erdington