The news that Erdington High Street will not receive any funding in the first round of Levelling Up Fund bids was deeply disappointing and it is incredibly frustrating that we continue to be overlooked for Government support. The solid bid contained £43m worth of match funding, all from private investment, which meant it comfortably met the match funding requirement of the Fund. The fact Government would once again deny one of the poorest communities in the UK the funding necessary to transform the High Street is simply outrageous and flies in the face of their ‘levelling up’ rhetoric.
The recent lobbying scandal involving Owen Paterson has once again called into question the Government’s integrity. Not only was the Tory MP found to be in breach of the MPs code of conduct by a cross-party Parliamentary committee, the Prime Minister and fellow Tory MPs attempted to change the rules to protect their colleague. However, after widespread condemnation they quickly announced a U-turn, before Owen Paterson resigned as a Member of Parliament. This whole saga has undoubtedly further dented the British public’s faith in politics and the Government should be ashamed of how they have behaved.
We also got the devastating news that GKN/Melrose were going ahead with the closure of the Chester Road plant. We have campaigned tirelessly to save the plant from closure since the announcement was made, but it became clear that Melrose had absolutely no intention of changing their mind and closure was inevitable. I will continue to support the workforce in every way possible and with Unite we will now try and find an alternative industrial use for the site to ensure that we retain as many high skilled, well paid local jobs as possible.
There are also updates on my reaction to the Autumn Budget, Little Amal’s visit to Erdington, and Mary Harvey’s 100th birthday.
More on all of these topics below, but first a quick announcement:
Erdington’s bid to the Levelling Up Fund
The Government has announced that Erdington High Street will not receive any funding under the first tranche of Levelling Up Fund bids. The news comes as a bitter blow for Erdington, and the decision is outrageous and inexplicable.
The Erdington bid, which was submitted by Birmingham City Council and drafted in conjunction with key local stakeholders and the local community, contained £43m of private investment, almost double the amount of the other 3 Birmingham bids combined, meaning it comfortably met the match funding requirement as per the terms of the Fund.
The announcement is the latest snub Erdington has received from Government, after a bid to the Future High Streets Fund was rejected on Boxing Day. It has raised serious questions over the Government’s claims to be committed to ‘levelling up’ if they are willing to deny one of the poorest constituencies in the country of much needed investment.
Following the announcement, I have urgently sought clarification from Government over the reasons the bid was unsuccessful and requested a meeting with the Minister responsible, Michael Gove. I will not stop until Erdington receives the funding it needs to give our community a High Street we can be proud of once again.
You can see my letter to Michael Gove below:
It is outrageous Gov't decided not to grant #Erdington £12.7m of funding under the Levelling Up Fund, despite there being almost double the amount of match funding for our bid than the 3 other bids in #Birmingham combined, all of which were approved.
Ministers must explain why. pic.twitter.com/dpQS6JcpYx
— Jack Dromey MP (@JackDromeyMP) November 2, 2021
Owen Paterson Lobbying Scandal
We had the ludicrous situation this week where, on Wednesday, the Tories voted to scrap the rules relating to paid lobbying by MPs to save Owen Paterson from facing a suspension from Parliament and a potential by-election, but then on Thursday, after A major public backlash, they performed a U-turn and decided not to go ahead with their attempts to bypass parliamentary rules.
This saga began when the Commons Standards Committee found last week that Owen Paterson broke the rules regarding MPs lobbying on behalf of companies who pay them. He was paid £112,000 by two companies and then went on to lobby Government for changes that would benefit these companies, something that is strictly prohibited to maintain the integrity of decisions made by Parliament.
Following this ruling, there was scheduled to be a vote on whether the standard punishment, a 30-day suspension from Parliament, was to be applied. Outrageously, the Tories, rather than condemn his actions, voted not to uphold his suspension and change the system for investigating breaches of Parliamentary standards. This included setting up a new committee to investigate Parliamentary standards that would run alongside the current cross-party committee. Labour rightly refused to play any part in a separate committee, undermining any legitimacy it may have had.
The backlash from the public and opposition parties alike was huge.
The negative reaction to this decision was such that on Thursday the Government were forced into a dramatic U-turn. The Tories announced they were scrapping their proposals and that a vote would be held on whether to suspend Owen Paterson after all.
Then, on Thursday afternoon, Owen Paterson announced that he was resigning as an MP. Ultimately, this was the right outcome, but it has exposed how little the Tory Party value integrity.
However, significant damage has already been done to public confidence in Government and in politics more generally. We need a Government that is committed to transparency and restoring public trust in politicians, something Boris Johnson and the Tories are simply incapable.
There is now talk of Owen Paterson receiving a peerage. This would be absolutely outrageous. MPs should not be rewarded with a seat in the House of Lords if they are found to be in breach of the MPs code of conduct. Boris Johnson must rule this possibility out once and for all, otherwise it risks further damaging the integrity of our democratic system.
Decision by GKN/Melrose to close the Chester Road Plant
It was confirmed last week that the GKN/Melrose are closing the plant on the Chester Road. This decision is devastating for the 519-strong workforce and the local community.
We have done everything possible to try and save the plant from closure, getting all the key stakeholders around the table, including the workers’ Trade Union, Unite, Government Ministers, the Mayor of the West Midlands, the Leader of the City Council and many more. However, it became clear that Melrose had absolutely no intention of considering alternatives to closure.
What cannot now be allowed to happen is for the plant and the 519 strong workforce to be thrown on the scrapheap. This plant is a site of British manufacturing excellence with a world-class manufacturing capability. The skill and experience of the workforce is irreplaceable and the envy of many in the industry.
It is utterly shameful that GKN/Melrose have chosen to close the plant and turn their back on this loyal workforce. The loss of 519 good, well-paid jobs in an area of high deprivation – the fifth most deprived constituency in the country – will be a hammer blow.
The closure of the plant by GKN/Melrose is a betrayal of the British national interest. Never again can our manufacturing base be left so exposed to the greed and short-termism of private equity-style firms who have no interest in the long-term strategic interests of the British automotive industry.
After 70 years, production will be exported to Poland and France. And to add insult to injury, during the weeks of COP 26, GKN-made parts for British cars will now travel on supply chains hundreds of miles longer and from countries still reliant on coal for their energy.
While the company have chosen to walk away, I firmly believe that the Chester Road site can have a bright future through an alternative use being found. I will continue to work closely with the workers’ union, Unite, the Government, the Mayor of the West Midlands and the Leader of Birmingham City Council to explore this option. The workers can be assured of my unrelenting support to leave no stone unturned to keep production going and protect manufacturing in the West Midlands.
The closure of the GKN plant in #Erdington is not just a loss for our community, but for the automotive industry as a whole.
As we move towards an electric future, we need a supply chain in Britain, employing workers in Britain, manufacturing in Britain.
My question to the PM👇 pic.twitter.com/Licqu75Djk
— Jack Dromey MP (@JackDromeyMP) November 3, 2021
My reaction to the Autumn Budget
The Autumn Budget shows the Chancellor to be completely out of touch with the mounting problems facing working people in Birmingham. While supermarket shelves go empty, energy prices soar and the cost of petrol hits record levels, the Chancellor handed a tax cut to bankers and cut alcohol duty on the price of champagne.
The Chancellor had the gall to herald a ‘new age of optimism’, but it is working people who will pay the price for the choices he made at the Budget with a National Insurance tax rise and a Council Tax hike also around the corner.
And yet again, the Government have talked big on ‘levelling up’, but they have still failed to deliver the much-needed funding to regenerate Erdington High Street. They have let down one of the most deprived communities in Britain.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Labour would put working people first. We would tax fairly, spend wisely, and turn our economy around by investing in well-paid, skilled work right here in the West Midlands.
Little Amal in Erdington
It was fantastic to welcome Little Amal to Erdington. Her 8,000km journey has taken her through many countries, raising awareness of the plight of refugees.
It was heart-warming to see thousands come out to welcome her to our community.
Erdington is home to a vibrant and diverse community, and we must never turn our backs on those who are fleeing persecution and are scared for their lives.
It was a pleasure to host you in Erdington, Little Amal.
For more information on The Walk, visit: https://www.walkwithamal.org/
Mary Harvey’s 100th Birthday
Two weeks ago, Mary Harvey, a truly remarkable woman, celebrated her 100th birthday.
Mary has been volunteering with Witton Lodge Community Association for decades and has helped countless Erdington residents with her passion, dedication and commitment.
She is truly one of the most decent people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Birmingham has been blessed to have such a wonderful resident for all these years.
It was an honour to attend her party. Happy birthday Mary!
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