Message from Andrew Mitchell

30th October 2020

Covid 19

An additional 257 cases of Covid 19 have been registered in Sutton Coldfield for the week of 18th - 24th October compared to an updated figure of 173 for the 11th - 17th October, based on data from Birmingham City Council’s public health division.

The 7-day case rate between 17th - 23rd October in Birmingham is now 224.8 cases/100K population, compared to 179.2/100K for the period between 10th - 16th October.

Over the 7 days leading up to the 23rd October of all community pillar 2 tests 12.3% are positive across Birmingham, this is an increase from the previous week and higher than the regional average of 9.8%.

Testing in the community has fallen in the last 7 days to 1,833 tests/100K population, which ranks 5th in the region however building work on the Lifford House, Stirchley covid-19 testing site has been completed and a testing pilot has begun.

There has been consistent increase in the number of people testing positive across all age groups under 65yrs, particularly in the 20-39 and 40-59 age groups in recent weeks. There has been a consistent rise in the case rate in the over 80yrs group too. Hospital admissions have steadily increased, ranging between 8 and 29 new cases a day at University Hospitals Birmingham Trust over the 7 days from 17th - 23rd October.

Royal Sutton Coldfield updates

This week I had a series of video conference calls and conversations about Covid 19 across our local area. I have remained in close contact with the Health Secretary, our West Midlands Mayor, the Leader of Birmingham City Council and with local MPs from across the Birmingham area. We remain very much in Tier 2 of the restrictions at the moment but with cases rising locally and across Birmingham we do have to prepare for some difficult conversations over the coming weeks. As I have repeatedly stated, I want to see a common sense approach taken to the Covid 19 measures and I remain very concerned about the impact of restrictions on mental health and our economy, however we must also do all we can to ensure that our local hospitals do not become overwhelmed and that we protect the most vulnerable members of our community.  

On Monday I spoke to Nick Barton, the Chief Executive of Birmingham Airport about the challenges facing our local airport and the sector more widely. I am also supporting the campaign to save tax-free shopping and airside tax-free sales. Airports rely heavily on the benefits of tax free shopping and many retail jobs at airports are supported by tax-free sales.

Today I visited New Hall Hotel & Spa and met General Manager James Wiseman and also met Carol Eustace the owner of Westfield Court Hotel.  With many weddings and large parties on hold and with travel restrictions in place, hotels are having an incredibly difficult time at the moment and both James and Carol discussed the difficulties facing the hospitality industry at the moment following a significant drop in occupancy rates.

This afternoon I met Becky Bews, the CEO of Age Concern Birmingham. Many older people have felt very isolated this year and the charity has helped significantly. Age Concern has worked with our Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council and other charities during lockdown to support vulnerable people. Despite facing funding challenges (which I have raised with my Ministerial colleagues) the charity helps in a variety of important ways as well as maintaining their Communitea Café.

In a welcome piece of good news this afternoon I opened Fairway Homecare’s offices in the middle of the Royal Town near the Cottage Hospital. Fairway are a local health and social care recruitment and training company. Their partnership with Embark Learning Care Academy and their Skills Lab offer face to face training and simulation learning.  They are working with the West Midlands Combined Authority and Walsall college to help train 500 health and social care professionals. Best of luck to the company for the virtual Great British Care Awards taking place tonight.

I will post some videos and further details of my visits over the coming days on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/andrewmitchellmp  and YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh1dcjrq62DwcP5ztQMoLWg

I have also received an update from Vodafone this week confirming that their customers can now access 5G in Sutton Coldfield, ensuring higher download and upload speeds, superfast connection and hopefully buffer-free viewing of streaming services.

Westminster news and Parliamentary business

Parliament is in recess this week however I continue to work on my Register of Births and Deaths Bill which is due to reach Committee stage before the end of the year. Committee stage is where a detailed examination of the Bill takes place, usually in a Public Bill Committee. I am also due to present a Ten Minute Rule Bill next month.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the future of the planning system in England. The Committee has also launched a short survey to accompany the inquiry, to gather people’s experiences of the planning process and their thoughts on proposed reforms to it. The survey is open until the 11th of November: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=nt3mHDeziEC-Xo277ASzSsBc9hscYRNFrbfHBkcg0ANUOE0xVzEzWkU5MDVWTE1OVFNJSzFSOFlNTy4u

Respondents to the survey will be able to put themselves forward to participate in a virtual public engagement event that the Committee is planning to hold on Thursday 26th November. This will allow the Committee to hear the experiences and views from a range of people across the country.

The Department for Education has launched a consultation on the Government’s proposals for the level 3 qualifications we believe are needed alongside T Levels and A levels. The consultation sets out detailed proposals to streamline the technical offer for 16 to 19 year olds alongside T Levels. For young people choosing academic qualifications, the focus will be on those qualifications that give the best preparation to progress onto high quality HE courses. The consultation is available online: https://tinyurl.com/y2s2gvbe

Over £150 million of funding has been allocated for more than 3,300 new homes for rough sleepers across England to provide a permanent place to live for some of the most vulnerable in society. Taken together, government spending on rough sleeping and homelessness this year is over £700 million.

New statistics show that nearly 6,000 extra officers have been recruited in the first year of the Government’s major police recruitment drive, with 292 new officers joining West Midlands Police.

Local Funding news and Events

£1.9 million has been awarded to 52 companies across the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area. The Pivot and Prosper Grant Fund was launched by the LEP as part of the first phase of the Step Forward campaign – a series of schemes set up to help support businesses in key strategic sectors. In Birmingham 25 businesses received a Pivot and Prosper grant, creating 53 jobs and safeguarding a further 162. In Sutton Coldfield, our Town Hall has benefited from funding to support its IT systems, improve decoration within the building and to help support staffing levels.  

Birmingham’s Hippodrome Theatre Trust, Museums Trust, Repertory Theatre and Performances Birmingham Limited have each received more than a million pounds from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund . The Government is determined to protect our arts and cultural institutions in these difficult times.

Sport England has launched a new £16.5 million Return to Play Fund to support groups, clubs and organisations who’ve been impacted by restrictions brought in to tackle Covid 19. Clubs and organisations can apply for funding via: https://www.sportengland.org/how-we-can-help/our-funds

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Thank you to my constituents who have raised questions about child hunger and the Government’s plans. I am responding to each email and letter as quickly as I can. Please be assured that the Government cares deeply about this subject much of the argument is about the way we tackle child hunger and not about the fact that we need to.

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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 andrew.mitchell.mp@parliament.uk

Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP