This week, Boris Johnson confirmed that all Covid restrictions would be lifted on 19th July. With cases rising rapidly, it seems a risky move by the Government to remove all restrictions that have supressed Covid transmission for so long now. For example, the decision to end the requirement to wear masks and to end all social distancing will surely only lead to a further increase in cases. We all want to see the end of restrictions as soon as possible, but our recovery from Covid must not be put at risk recklessly.
We also got confirmation this week that the Government intends to cut the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. This uplift has been a lifeline for almost 6 million people throughout the pandemic. By cutting it, the Government are pulling the rug from under the feet of some of the most vulnerable people at the time where other Government support is also being withdrawn. It is estimated that up to 500,000 people will be pushed into poverty as a result of this cut. The Government must think again.
There are also updates on the GKN rally held in Sorrel Park, Erdington Labour’s Hot Food for the Homeless event, the campaign to secure long term funding for England’s Maintained Nursery Schools, and England reaching the Euro 2020 final.
More on all of these topics below, but first for a quick announcement:
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The end of restrictions on 19th July
This week, Boris Johnson confirmed that all Covid restrictions would be lifted on 19th July. This includes the wearing of masks and social distancing regulations, as well as the reopening of nightclubs and the removal of all limits on the attendance of events.
Whilst we are all eager for restrictions to be lifted, the way in which the Government is throwing caution to the wind seems reckless.
We know that cases are increasing, and whilst this hasn’t translated into hospitalisation and deaths in quite the same way as it did during the first two waves of Covid, it is still reason for concern. The main threat to our Covid recovery has always been new, vaccine resistant variants, a risk that is increased every time Covid is transmitted from one person to another. It is therefore essential that we limit transmission as much as reasonably possible.
That’s why the lifting of all restrictions designed to protect the community against Covid seems so reckless. We know that simple things like wearing a mask in crowded spaces and social distancing massively reduces the risk of transmitting Covid. To end these and leave it up to ‘personal choice’ risks seeing an even bigger spike in infections than we are already seeing.
Furthermore, the news the Government is considering charging for lateral flow tests is also deeply concerning. We need people to do the right thing and get tested, especially as we see case numbers climb ever higher. It is simply wrong for barriers to be introduced that will prevent people getting tested. This, combined with the failure to introduce proper self-isolation payments, is evidence of reckless policies by the Government that is putting our recovery from Covid in jeopardy.
Cut to Universal Credit
The Government has confirmed that the £20 uplift to Universal Credit will be scrapped at the end of September. The uplift, first introduced in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, has been a lifeline for many families over the past year and the cut will plunge hundreds of thousands into poverty.
In Erdington, we have twice number of people claiming Universal Credit than the national average, and they are about to lose £1000 each under the Government’s plans. At a time of growing economic uncertainty, especially given the withdrawal of Government economic support, this risks adding untold suffering to many more families.
To make matters worse, the Government are making the cut under the pretence that it will “help people back into work”. They are choosing to ignore the fact that 39% of people claiming Universal Credit are working, so this will affect many working families as well.
There is cross-party opposition to the cut in Universal Credit, with prominent Tories joining Labour’s calls for the Government to think again. They must now reconsider and cancel the cut to Universal Credit.
On Wednesday, the workforce of GKN and their trade union, Unite, held a rally in Sorrel Park to take a stand about the proposed closure of the GKN plant on the Chester Road.
I have spoken often about the campaign to save the plant from closure, and we have secured meetings with Government Ministers and debates in Parliament in an attempt to save the plant and the jobs of the 519-strong workforce.
The workers and Unite worked hard on creating an alternative proposal that would save the plant from closure, but Melrose have rejected this and informed the workforce they are still intending to close the historic plant that has stood at the heart of Erdington for over 50 years, exporting production to Poland and France.
It is fundamentally wrong that, at a time when there is much focus on the need to protect our domestic manufacturing base, this plant should close. Moreover, the move towards electric vehicles makes the domestic manufacturing specialisms we have at the GKN plant all the more important.
We must do all we can to protect the GKN plant from closure. The fight goes on!
Hot food for the homeless
Last Thursday (1st July), the Erdington Labour Party and the Kashmiri community teamed up with Erdington Food Bank to provide hot meals to those in need.
Over 150 hot meals, which were delicious chicken curry, snacks and water were handed out to those using the food bank and to local homeless people.
It took place at Six Ways Baptist Church in Erdington, which is just off Six Ways island and is where the food bank takes place every week between 12pm and 2pm.
Initiatives like this are so important as they provide vital support for those in need at this difficult time. It was wonderful to see community supporting community and I am proud to have played my part.
Maintained Nursery Schools Funding
England’s almost 400 maintained Nursery Schools provide an excellent start in life for tens of thousands of young people. However, the long-term future of these Nursery Schools has been in doubt for some time.
Back in 2016, we launched the campaign here in Erdington to save these Nursery Schools from closure. That campaign grew nationwide and we even led a march on Downing Street that ultimately secured a short term funding solution.
Now, these Nursery Schools are once again under threat of closure and we need a long term funding solution that will secure these vital early years establishments well into the future. It is not right that they face the threat of closure every year.
This week, the APPG on Nursery Schools, of which I set up, launched our campaign to secure their long-term future, along with Teaching Unions such as the NAHT, the NEU, Early Education and Unison. We will not stop until we have secured the long-term future of these vital schools that are the jewel in the crown of early years provision.
England Reaching Euros final
And finally, I want to say a massive congratulations to the England football team for reaching the final of a major tournament for the first time in 55 years.
Throughout the tournament, they have shown determination and grit and they have brought joy to millions of people around the country. They are the best of modern Britain, reflecting our country’s diversity. In what has been a very difficult time, England’s progression through the tournament has offered hope and a welcome lift to the nation’s spirits.
On Sunday, I hope they are able to go one step further and secure a historic victory.
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