The heartless cut to Universal Credit came into effect this week. To go through with this cut at the same time as inflation is pushing up prices and energy bills are soaring will see many more families fall into poverty. It is simply wrong to cut £20 a week from some of the poorest in society and we have been pressing the Government to cancel the cut.
I have also written to Michael Gove calling on him to make a decision on the Erdington High Street bid to the Levelling Up Fund. This funding is essential if we are to give the people of Erdington a High Street they can be proud of once again. We made the application back in June, but we are still waiting on a decision. If the Government is serious about levelling up, then they must invest in places like Erdington.
There are also updates on the Labour Party Conference, Boris Johnson meeting with the Covid bereaved families, my visit to Kings Rise Academy, and Ralph Barlow Gardens coffee morning.
More on all of these topics below, but first a quick announcement:
Tory Cut to Universal Credit
The cut to Universal Credit will come as a hammer blow for many families across Erdington who are already struggling financially due to the growing cost of living crisis.
Just as energy prices are soaring, inflation is pushing up prices, and rent and house prices are skyrocketing, the Government is cutting £1,040 from some of the poorest in society.
In Erdington, there are 17,060 families, including 10,813 children, who rely on Universal Credit. This cut will now mean that many face heart breaking choices such as whether to buy food or put the heating on this winter.
Child poverty has already dramatically increased under this Government, and it is set to increase further this winter as household finances are stretched to breaking point. 63% of working age families in Erdington claim Universal Credit, this decision will have dire consequences for many of them.
It is simply wrong for the Tories to press ahead with this cut despite the warnings that it will push more people, including more children, into poverty.
It’s not too late. Boris Johnson must do the right thing and cancel this heartless cut that will be devastating to families across Erdington this winter.
My letter to Michael Gove on Erdington High Street
Erdington High Street is badly in need of investment. We have submitted a £12.7m bid to the Levelling Up Fund that would transform our High Street and provide a much-needed financial boost.
This bid is the second attempt to secure investment in Erdington High Street after an application to the Future High Streets Fund was rejected on boxing day. This came as a bitter blow to our ambitions to revitalise our High Street. Despite this setback, we were not deterred, and we have now submitted this fresh bid.
If the Government is serious about ‘levelling up’, then places like Erdington should be prime candidates for funding. We are rich in talent here locally, but if we are to unlock the vast potential in Erdington then we need investment.
However, despite submitting the bid in June, we still do not have a decision from Government. A requirement of the fund is for part of the money secured to be spent in this financial year and, with just over 6 months remaining, time is of the essence.
I have therefore written to Michael Gove urging him to approve the Erdington bid as soon as possible so Birmingham City Council can get on with the job of delivering a High Street the people of Erdington can be proud of once again.
Labour Party Conference
Last week, the Labour Party held our first in-person conference since the Covid pandemic hit and it was a fantastic opportunity for members, delegates, and elected representatives to come together to discuss what direction we will go in as a party.
I attended a number of debates on a range of issues including Kashmir, the Police Service and Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice. I also chaired a seminar of the major automotive companies, the SMMT and Unite. The passion of our members and their unwavering commitment to improve the lives of people both here in the UK and abroad was clear to see, and it was brilliant to be back discussing and debating some of the most important issues facing our society today.
There were a number of important announcements made at conference, including Labour’s commitment that everyone who needs it will get mental health treatment within a month. For far too long, people have had to suffer with mental ill health for long periods of time due to ever-increasing mental health waiting times. Mental health is as important as physical health, and Labour will make it a priority.
There were also welcome commitments on Policing. Neighbourhood Policing has been decimated under the Tories. We have lost over 2,000 Officers in the West Midlands alone and people are growing increasingly frustrated at Police not being able to attend when they need them. The Police are doing their best, but there are just not enough of them to deal with the growing problems of crime and anti-social behaviour. Labour will put Police back on our streets, so they are there when we need them.
Conference came to an end with Keir Starmer’s excellent speech outlining his vision for a better Britain under a Labour Government as we move out of the Covid pandemic. Work, care, equality and security are the values that Labour will stand by. Our country needs real leadership, and that’s exactly what we’ll get with Keir as Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson meeting with Bereaved Families
On Tuesday last week (28th September), Boris Johnson finally met with families from Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, 398 days after first agreeing to it. I have worked with the families throughout to secure what they hope is a breakthrough.
The fact it took him so long is outrageous. Hundreds of thousands of families have lost loved ones throughout the pandemic, many of these may have been prevented if different decision were taken by Government. It would surely have been right for the Prime Minister, who is ultimately responsible for crucial decisions taken during the course of the pandemic, to meet with the families and see the devastating impact of those decisions long before now.
One such person is Jane Roche, from Castle Vale, who lost her dad and sister 5 days apart from Covid. She has been utterly determined to hold the Government to account and, despite her grief, has spoken brilliantly about the need for a public inquiry.
Five of the group met with the Prime Minister, who promised to appoint a Chair of the inquiry before Christmas, which is welcome. However, what bereaved families want more than anything is for the public inquiry to begin immediately. They want answers as to whether their loved one’s death was preventable and they want to ensure that mistakes are never repeated so more families do not suffer the same grief they have experienced.
He must listen to the voices of bereaved families and begin the public inquiry as soon as possible.
Kings Rise Academy
It was fantastic to visit Kings Rise Academy to speak to the School Council who took me on a tour of the school. Their knowledge of the school and the initiatives that are being taken, such as the food bank collection, were extremely impressive.
We then sat down to discuss the issues they cared about, ranging from racism to the importance of art and music. They were passionate about the key issues facing our society today and I enjoyed talking through these complex but crucial issues with them.
I was also honoured to cut the ribbon and officially open the new Early Years Playground. This is a fantastic facility that generations of children will be able to enjoy.
One aspect that really impressed me was the school’s plan to connect their students to history. After the school recently discovered a former teacher, Major Freddie Fineron, fought and died in World War Two, they have built their school hero into their history curriculum. This has clearly enthused the children as every single student knows something about Major Fineron.
What shone through from the visit is the dedication, commitment, and passion of all the staff at Kings Rise. They truly have the children’s best interests at heart and do everything they can to provide them the best possible start in life.
They can be very proud of what they are doing.
Ralph Barlow Gardens Coffee Morning
It was lovely to pop into Ralph Barlow Gardens coffee morning last Friday and speak with residents and staff. Some had lived and worked there for almost 20 years and it was remarkable to hear their stories.
The pandemic has undoubtedly been hard, with visits limited and residents confined to the complex. The sense of community they have there is something that is very special and will have no doubt helped residents through an incredibly difficult time.
I’d like to pay particular tribute to the fantastic staff team who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to support vulnerable residents. Thank you for all you’re doing, I know how much it means to the residents.
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