May I wish all my constituents a Happy New Year.
I regret to report today that there has been an increase in the number of cases recorded across the Birmingham conurbation with 1295 new cases recorded.
An additional 407 cases of Covid 19 have been registered in Sutton Coldfield for the week 26th December- 1st January compared to 262 for the 19th- 25th December based on data from Birmingham City Council’s public health division.
The 7-day case rate between 26th December- 1st January in Birmingham is now 500.8 cases/100K population, compared to 301.4/100K for the previous week.
Over the 7 days leading up to 1st January, of 23,519 PCR pillar 2 tests, 5,998 (25.5%) were positive, higher than the regional and national averages.
Birmingham ranks 12th in the region for pillar 2 PCR tests, with 2,060 tests per 100k population. Over the 7 days leading up to 1st Jan, of 3,176 lateral flow tests were also carried out.
Hospital admissions range between 35 and 88 new cases a day at University Hospitals Birmingham Trust over the 7 days from 26th December- 1st January.
Royal Sutton Coldfield updates
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK and together with the Pfizer/BioNTech inoculation the vaccination programme is rolling out quickly with well over 1.3 million jabs administered so far.
In our area we are a little ahead of the national average for getting vaccines into arms for the vulnerable groups. Today we have also received confirmation that the Moderna vaccine has been approved too, with supplies expected to arrive in the spring.
I have received a number of emails and letters from constituents and I am glad to read that quite a lot of people have been either vaccinated or offered an appointment. For those that are still waiting, I have raised a number of specific points with the Department of Health about our local supply and spoke to Matt Hancock last night to receive reassurance about the continuity of supply.
On a cross party basis we have written to the Secretary of State for Health to highlight a number of concerns about the local rollout and to stress the importance of ensuring that statistics are published at a constituency level so we can closely monitor the numbers. This is not only so I can give my constituents the accurate and up to date answers they deserve, it is also to ensure that we identify early on pinch points and blockages so that they can be immediately addressed. I spoke about this on various national outlets and appeared briefly on BBC WM’s breakfast show this morning (from about 1 hour 11 minutes in: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p091hn13 )
I remain in close contact with our local public health team regarding the logistical challenges that are involved in such a large programme. I am keen to see a greater number of sites used locally to speed up the process and ensure that people do not need to travel too far to have a jab. There are 3 sites in Sutton Coldfield where are jabs are currently taking place: Falcon Lodge, Poplars Surgery and Good Hope Hospital. Millennium Point is the mass vaccination centre for the region and it goes live on Monday.
Birmingham and Solihull CCG has launched a Covid 19 vaccination website which includes a frequently asked questions page as well as information for people who have been invited for an appointment. https://www.birminghamandsolihullcovidvaccine.nhs.uk/
I would like to thank our local schools, teachers, parents and pupils for their generosity over recent weeks. Local students, parents and staff have collected donations to help struggling families and homeless people over the winter period. Thousands of items have been donated to the food bank at the Sutton Coldfield Baptist Church to be sorted and distributed by Donald Campbell and his brilliant team who do so much to help vulnerable people across our community. Further details are available on the Sutton School Life website: https://suttonschoollife.co.uk/2021/01/07/mp-praises-caring-sutton-schools-for-making-thousands-of-donations-to-good-causes-over-winter/
I would also like to congratulate the five local residents of Sutton Coldfield who were named in the New Year Honours list. We are lucky in the Royal Town to have so many community spirited individuals and it is uplifting to read some of the stories behind the awards, with recognition for services to healthcare and education featuring prominently.
Network Rail has provided some information about planned repairs which will take place from 16 January until April inside Sutton Coldfield railway tunnel which is located just north of Sutton Coldfield station (and indeed under my Sutton Coldfield home!). The work will ensure the tunnel remains safe however it must be undertaken while trains are not running. Work will take place every Saturday night from 10pm until 8am. Though the majority of work will be carried out within the tunnel itself a temporary compound has been set up within the station car park and will remain in place until 12 April. I have been assured that Network Rail will make every effort to minimise noise. Any residents experiencing urgent problems as a result of the project can call Network Rail’s 24-hour national helpline on 03457 11 41 41. I will also raise any concerns that emerge directly with Network Rail.
Today I have had some important discussions about the Langley development which is behind schedule. In particular the discussion centred on ensuring that the full public infrastructure investment (schools, medical premises, roads and other community facilities) are funded in an effective and timely way. These discussions are ongoing and a major planning application is imminent.
Zoe Toft, Chair of FOLIO Sutton Coldfield has been in touch to highlight FOLIO’s new project with Holocaust survivor, Agnes Kaposi. Agnes was born in Hungary and started school just at the outbreak of World War II. Many of her family were murdered in the Holocaust, together with half of million other Hungarian Jews. With the blessing of Agnes, and as part of https://horizonsfestival.uk FOLIO will host two creative writing workshop in response to her testimony (http://foliosuttoncoldfield.org.uk/be-the-light/) and tomorrow evening they will have a public Q&A with Agnes which is open to everyone: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_rBjOGhkpQj6HAxX9XfPT7A . The project has been enabled by CORE Education Trust’s Echo Eternal (https://echoeternal.uk/), a commemorative arts, media and civic engagement project, inspired by British Holocaust survivor testimony to promote respect and understanding between different communities. As part of their broader work, Echo Eternal also works with survivors of the genocide in Rwanda. This April will mark the 27th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide during which nearly a million Tutsi people were killed. The lack of international response to the slaughter was unforgivable and it is incredibly important that the testimonies of Holocaust survivors such as Agnes Kaposi are heard so that we can ensure that these atrocities are never repeated. I have put my name to a backbench business application for a House of Commons debate on Holocaust Memorial Day and hope to be able to speak on some of these issues in more detail if the debate is granted.
It has been announced this week that Paul Faulkner is leaving his position as Chief Executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) after 6 years with the chamber. I would like to thank Paul (who is a friend as well as a constituent) for all his work supporting the business community across the Greater Birmingham area.
Westminster news and Parliamentary business
Parliament will return next week after being recalled twice over the festive period, firstly to approve the Brexit deal and secondly to approve the new lockdown restrictions that have been introduced nationally. I am raising a number of specific points with my Ministerial colleagues about the impact of the restrictions on local families and businesses. It is vital that we protect the most vulnerable members of our community and ensure that our local hospitals are not overwhelmed. I do however remain deeply concerned about the impact of the measures on mental health and the economy.
The major debate on Monday will be about Britain’s role in the world. We should all be mindful that Covid will never be beaten here until it is beaten everywhere. Our future wellbeing cannot be divorced from the future wellbeing of others all across the world. In addition, the Financial Services Bill is due to come back to the House of Commons next week and I have had several discussions with Ministers and parliamentary colleagues about certain aspects of the Bill including elements relating to economic crime as well as an amendment that I am supporting which seeks to require the FCA to have regard to findings of genocide by the courts and UN-mandated investigations when making rules for investment firms. While some parliamentary bills can be admittedly rather dry, the Financial Services Bill is an important piece of legislation and I will be closely following its progression next week.
The Home Affairs Select Committee has announced a new inquiry into the violence and abuse experienced by retail workers. As part of this, the Committee has launched a public survey to give retail staff the opportunity to discuss some of these issues in more detail so that the committee has a better understanding of the difficulties faced by those working in shops. The past few months have been particularly difficult for retail workers and I would encourage anyone who works in retail to submit their views. The survey is available online. I and my team have continued to support constituents throughout the festive period and I have also submitted a number of Written Parliamentary Questions. The Parliamentary system means that while questions can be tabled during parliamentary recess they are not published until the next sitting day. As well as writing to Ministers and raising questions in person or in the House of Commons chamber, written questions are another useful way of raising concerns with Ministers and their departments. I have submitted questions on a range of subjects including highlighting the importance of support for hospitality businesses during the new national lockdown.
Finally may I thank the numerous constituents who have so kindly enquired about the progress of my new knee. It is now three weeks old and doing well. The quality of care and professional support I received from our local NHS has been nothing short of stupendous.
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