Today following a meeting of the Government’s senior medical advisors, a further measure has been introduced for the Greater Birmingham area.
I think in the circumstances namely that Covid levels are rising in our part of the West Midlands, these amendments to the regulations are reasonable.
Local residents must not meet people they do not live with in their home or garden unless they are in a support bubble. A support bubble is where a household with one adult joins with another household. Households within a bubble can still visit each other, stay overnight, and visit public places together.
This requirement is more stringent and supersedes the ‘rule of six’ announced by the Prime Minister earlier this week. Maximum attendance numbers for life events such as weddings and funerals will remain the same at 30.
This is disappointing news for all of us here in Sutton Coldfield. The figures consistently show that central Birmingham has significant numbers of new infections but here in Sutton the numbers are much lower. However, they have risen.
I would like to see a more targeted approach to lockdowns to avoid areas such as the Birmingham local government zone being treated as one homogenous area. That is why last week I tabled a Written Parliamentary Question asking the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will publish Covid-19 testing data by postcode. I have received a response that doesn’t really answer the question so I will continue to push this point with my Ministerial colleagues.
Over the coming days I will continue to try to ensure that we get the balance right between supporting our freedoms and our economic activity and protecting the health service and those most vulnerable.
As things stand, I do not believe that there is a case for any additional measures in the Royal Town.
What is clear is that we all must abide by this new additional regulation if we are to control the rate of infection and protect our loved ones and vulnerable members of our community.
I remain hopeful that if we all do our bit and with enhanced local testing that we will start to see the rate of cases fall locally and across Greater Birmingham but it will require a community effort.
Concerns have been raised locally both about testing capacity and the opening of a new Covid-19 test site in South Parade in the car park opposite Plantsbrook School. I hope that the new centre will improve access to tests in Sutton Coldfield but I appreciate that local residents have expressed concerns. I raised a number of queries with the health authorities and received the following reassurances:
“There are no walk-in appointments as this is an appointment only testing site for people who can walk or cycle to the appointment….. We are clear there is not a significant risk from people walking to appointments, this is outdoors and very low risk and passing someone in the street is not a vector for transmission…. Our experience of the walk-through site in Villa Street which is next door to a school has shown that there is no evidence of interaction between students and those coming for an appointment, nor is there any wider risk to the local community from these testing site locations. There are increasing numbers of walk-through testing sites across the city and no evidence of them presenting any risk to the local community from the individuals attending them.”
Local Highlights this week
I have had a meeting with the Police and Crime Commissioner where I have again emphasised the importance of not closing Sutton Coldfiled’s Police Station.
If you have not already signed the petition which I have launched with Jay Singh Sohal, the Sutton based candidate in next year’s Police and Crime Commissioner election and you agree that the station should not be closed, please sign: https://www.savesuttoncoldfieldpolicestation.co.uk/
Today I visited Little Sutton primary School where I met Head Teacher Rachel Davis and Susan Thompson the School Manager. They are both doing a brilliant job and have got all their children back into school.
I was most impressed by the dedication and professionalism both in keeping the children learning throughout the last 6 months and in getting them all back to school so fast. With grammar school tests taking place this weekend I would like to send my best wishes to all local pupils sitting the entrance test.
Afterwards I popped over to Bark Doggy Day Care & Groomers on Wylde Green Road to meet Oliver Long and Amber Tonks who have been in business for 3 years. Oliver and Amber updated me on how their business has developed. Great to heat that they are doing well as so many families have adopted new pets during the recent past.
Back in the office, I met Phil Arkinstall who is the new President of Sutton Coldfield Chamber of Commerce as well as Managing Director of ArkMedia in Boldmere. With businesses continuing to face significant challenges we had a useful discussion about local priorities and the Chamber’s plans for the months ahead.
It was also good to catch up with Nigel Waldron who runs Power Minerals, an iconic local company which takes by-products from powerplants nationwide and sells it to other businesses to make cement thus contributing to building new homes (preferably in the right places, I hope).
This week I spoke in the remaining stages of the Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill which includes proposals to create a power of arrest, without warrant, for the purpose of extraditing people for serious offences. I emphasised the importance of an international rules-based system and expressed my concerns about an asymmetric and unbalanced treaty process; unlike in the US, a person in the UK has no right to insist on probable cause before being extradited.
Earlier this week I attended a virtual meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the West Midlands, the meeting was focused on future prosperity for our region and it was interesting to hear from speakers from leading organisations in the region including Midland Heart, HSBC and Steelite International.
The Friends of Holy Trinity Parish Church are running a virtual 'Heritage Open Day' tomorrow from 11am over on their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/HolyTrinityChurchSC) , with videos posted between 11am-2pm to give everyone the opportunity to explore the history of Holy Trinity. The films will remain on Facebook afterwards and some will be archived on their website.
The group has also published a new book, Holy Trinity, Sutton Coldfield: The Story of a Parish and its People 1250-2020 which can be bought online here: https://webcollect.org.uk/fhtsc/subscription or from the church car park tomorrow morning between 10am and 11am. I am looking forward to picking up my copy tomorrow.
I am keen to support local groups and charities so please let me know if you have any not-for-profit events or meetings coming up that you would like me to publicise.
As your MP I am here to help. If you feel I can assist with any concerns, please do not hesitate to get in contact by emailing me on firstname.lastname@example.org