The past two weeks have seen the announcement of Rishi Sunak’s latest budget. Quite simply, this Budget does not go anywhere near far enough to support our community in the recovery from Covid. We need bold and ambitious action, and this Budget does not deliver it.
We have also seen the issue of Nurses pay come to the fore with the Government only proposing a measly 1% increase. Nurses are understandably furious with this decision and I plan to hold the Government to account for failing these heroes.
There have also been developments on GKN, and myself and their Trade Union, Unite, met with Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, on the proposed closure of the plant.
There are also updates on the return to school, a year on from the first Covid death was announced, and the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce’s ‘Be Safe and Vaccinate’ Campaign.
You can read about these in more detail below, but first I’d like to pay tribute to a dear friend who passed away this week:
In memory of Gordon Snelgrove
I’m deeply saddened to say that our long serving Labour Member and activist, Gordon Snelgrove, sadly died on Tuesday evening in John Taylor Hospice after a battle with cancer.
Since my election as MP for Erdington in 2010, I grew extremely close to Gordon and I could not have performed my role as effectively as I have without his constant and unwavering support.
Gordon was a wonderful man who was decent, sincere, and so hard-working. He cared deeply for our community and this was evident in his tremendous support for John Taylor Hospice over many years.
Gordon will be sorely missed and we will always remember him.
On Wednesday 3rd March, Rishi Sunak delivered his latest budget. What we needed was a budget that supported the country as we rebuild from the greatest crisis we have seen since the Second World War.
The simple reality is the budget announced by the Chancellor fails to deliver for Erdington.
There is nothing to deal with the worryingly high levels of local unemployment, and whilst the extension of furlough is welcome, the decision to delay the announcement will have unnecessarily cost many jobs that could otherwise have been saved.
A major omission from the budget was the deeply disappointing failure to announce a much-needed Gigafactory in our region that would help secure the long-term future of the West Midland’s automotive sector.
There’s nothing in this budget to at last support all of those who have been excluded from Government support for over a year. Nothing on reforming social care, a sector that has been hit so hard by this pandemic. Nothing on self-isolation payments to prevent the spread of Covid and reduce the risk of another deeply damaging lockdown. Nothing to support our schools who have endured extra costs due to Covid. And nothing to reward our key workers for their heroic efforts throughout this pandemic.
This is a budget that will be remembered for what’s absent rather than what’s been announced.
Read more about my budget reaction here
GKN meeting with Kwasi Kwarteng
Ever since Melrose announced they were planning to close the GKN plant on the Chester Road, I have been working tirelessly to find a solution that would keep the plant open and secure the future of the 519 workers who work there.
Working together with their Trade Union, Unite, we have been offering our unconditional support to the workforce who were stunned by this unexpected announcement.
I have also raised this issue numerous times in Parliament, including securing a meeting with Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The meeting took place on Thursday 4th March and I’m pleased to say that the initial discussions have been positive. However, what we now need to see is the various stakeholders, including the Government, Melrose, and Untie, coming around the table to seriously discuss ways in which we save the plant from closure.
I also raised this crucial issue in the Budget debate, and you can watch that here.
The decision by Government to only increase Nurses pay by 1% was absolutely appalling.
Nurses have been on the frontline in the fight against Covid-19 and have been through so much over the past 12 months. They have consistently put their lives at risk to save others and they should be properly rewarded for their sacrifices.
The 1% announced by Government is in fact a real terms pay cut. This is simply no way to treat these heroes who have given so much.
I, along with my Labour colleagues, are determined to fight this injustice every step of the way and stand up for Nurses up and down the country. I have raised this issue in Parliament, and you can watch this below, and I have signed a letter from the Leader of Birmingham City Council, Ian Ward, calling on the Government to reconsider and to give our Nurses the pay rise they deserve.
Rest assured, I will continue to speak up for Nurses across Birmingham and Britain until they get what they deserve – a proper pay rise.
You can watch my question in Parliament here.
And you can read the letter from Ian Ward here:
Return to school
Schools across Erdington returned from Monday. Throughout the pandemic, I have supported getting children back into school as soon as possible – so long as it is safe.
Undoubtedly, being out of school has disproportionately impacted children from deprived backgrounds the hardest. There have been numerous challenges for schools, parents, and students to overcome, including access to the internet and the availability of laptops and tablets to work on. But our schools have risen to the challenge and have provided exceptional support to families across our community.
I want to pay tribute to the fantastic work that has been done throughout the pandemic by schools in offering the very best education possible to children in the most difficult of circumstances. I recognise that teachers have gone above and beyond to support their students and I know I speak for the whole of our community when I thank them for all their efforts.
I believe now is the right time for schools to return, but it must be done safely, and the necessary support must be offered to all schools to facilitate a safe return.
I’m pleased to say that it appears the return is going well so far, and I am in constant dialogue with local schools to identify any problems and I stand ready to intervene in their support whenever necessary.
Once again, thank you to all our schools, teachers and support staff here in Erdington for the excellent work they have done throughout the pandemic.
Covid – 1 year on
Friday 5th March marked one year since the first Covid death was announced in the UK. In that time, many families have lost loved ones and each death is truly a tragedy.
I cannot put into words just how heart-breaking it has been to see and hear the many stories of loss from across our community. The impact of Covid-19 has been devastating.
I am working with the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Campaign to hear their stories and to see what action can be taken to both get the answers they deserve and honour their loved ones.
They are calling for a public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic. I fully support their calls and am determined to work with them going forward to ensure this takes place. We must learn the lessons from what happened and vow never to allow it to happen again.
We will remember all those who have sadly lost their lives to Covid-19.
The Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce’s ‘Be Safe and Vaccinate’ Campaign
The Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce’s ‘Be Safe and Vaccinate’ campaign is going from strength to strength, tackling dangerous misinformation and encouraging Erdington residents to take up the offer of a vaccine when contacted by the NHS.
I am proud to be involved with this campaign and the Taskforce, including writing to over 15,000 Erdington households providing key information on the vaccines.
I would urge every Erdington resident to accept the offer of a vaccine. It will save lives.
Read more about the Be Safe and Vaccinate Campaign here.
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