This week we have seen the introduction of new measures across the Birmingham local government area to help stop the spread of Covid 19. In spite of the figures going the wrong way nationally, the provisional indications locally are that these new measures have had a beneficial impact. The infection rate across the Royal Town has gone down from 55 to 33. We will have to wait until next Tuesday to see if this trend has continued. I am keen that these restrictions on our everyday life should continue for as little time as possible but as a community we must take the best medical advice and we must continue to abide by the rules in particular the rule of 6, the wearing of masks and social distancing. No one wants to see an East German style stasi regime where people inform on their neighbours. It is incumbent on all of us throughout Sutton Coldfield to be sensible and responsible.
Here is a list of frequently asked questions and answers helpfully provided by Birmingham city council’s health experts.
On Tuesday I spoke in an Urgent Question in the House of Commons on Coronavirus and I raised a number of points on behalf of my constituents. I have been concerned to read of the difficulties that some people have faced accessing tests – including 4 doctors from Ley Hill Surgery and I highlighted this problem directly with the Secretary of State for Health. I also spoke of my support for an exemption in the new local restrictions for informal childcare arrangements. The current measures mean that grandparents living apart from their grandchildren can no longer provide childcare and I know that this is having a significant impact on many local families. Obviously the solution to this is not easy. I also asked for further details to be published of Covid 19 infection rates by both local government wards and by postcode areas. The more local and accurate the information, the more limited will be the necessary restrictions. I have uploaded a video of the Urgent Question on my YouTube channel.
I have also submitted a number of Written Parliamentary questions on the subject of testing and childcare arrangements. I have had a response to one of my questions about childcare which you can read here. It is important that the Government considers fully the impact of childcare arrangements on working families. I will continue to push the Government on this issue and also on points which have been raised with me about the impact of whole year groups being sent home to self-isolate for 14 days. We really need to ensure that children are only out of school if absolutely essential. I hope there will be further government guidance on this shortly.
Alongside Covid 19 enquiries, the single largest topic filling my inbox this week has been Brexit and the Internal Markets Bill. At the time of writing, I have replied to everyone that has emailed me about the votes this week. I outlined my thoughts in some detail on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 for those that are interested to know more about where I stand on the proposed legislation. I have also put my name to Sir Robert Neill’s amendment. I always do my best to support the Government in every way I can but I’m afraid for any government to break international law is not acceptable.
This week I caught up with Nazek Ramadan the Director of Migrant Voice to discuss matters relating to Coronavirus as well as the team at Reprieve to discuss the Government’s Overseas Operations Bill. I spoke to the Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer MP about the Bill too. There are legitimate concerns about the treatment of anyone involved in torture. There can never be any tolerance of torture at any level and I am grateful to the Minister for accepting and articulating his point.
On Tuesday we had the virtual launch of the Midlands Engine All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). It is very important that the Midlands Engine ups its game and works closely supporting the brilliant work that Andy Street is carrying out across the West Midlands in support of our economy, jobs, transport and housing.
Local highlights of the week
In the fine weather over last weekend I spent time delivering important surveys to local residents while careful to maintain social distancing, along with members of our Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council and local Conservative councillors who represent our interests on Birmingham City Council.
Along with your local councillors we have made sure that the cycle lane down Brassington Avenue which in my view constituted a hazard for cyclists, pedestrians and motorcars is dismantled. We need better facilities for cycling in Sutton Coldfield and I note that Simon Ward the leader of the Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council has made it one of his priorities for the renewal of our town centre.
This afternoon I joined other MPs from across the Greater Birmingham area to discuss the current restrictions, infection rates across the West Midlands and what more we can do locally to support residents and businesses.
I was pleased to hear that a Caudwell Children’s project called “All Roads Lead to Alexander” has been provided with funding following a collaboration between the Olympic legacy funder Spirit of 2012 and Birmingham 2022. The project will deliver music workshops for young disabled people and their families in Sutton Coldfield as well as Ladywood, Sandwell and Perry Barr. 1,000 people will take part in workshops and around 80 will tell their story of links and ties to Commonwealth nations and territories, culminating in a performance during the Birmingham 2022 Cultural Programme.
For those not surprisingly frustrated this weekend by the local restrictions may I recommend the 6 part series on BBC iPlayer A Suitable Boy. Wonderful viewing.
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 email@example.com
Photo: Andrew Mitchell MP with Cllr Ewan Mackey