I would like to begin this week’s message by paying tribute to my longstanding colleague and friend Sir David Amess MP. I have known David since he was first elected in 1983 and our offices in the House of Commons were next door to each other. David was a great champion of animal rights and a hugely experienced MP who was respected across the House. Today’s news is a terrible shock and my thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.
Covid 19 & Vaccinations
An additional 380 cases of Covid 19 have been registered in Sutton Coldfield for the week of 2nd- 8th October compared to an updated figure of 344 for the week of 25th September- 1st October based on data from Birmingham City Council’s public health division.
In the 7 days up to 8th October, there were 2,904 cases in Birmingham equivalent to a case rate of 254.3 cases/100k population), an increase compared to 2,849 cases (equivalent to 249.5/100k population) in the previous week.
Over the 7 days leading up to 9th October of 26,246 PCR pillar 2 tests 2,967 (11.3%) were positive in Birmingham, the same positivity rate as England and slightly lower than the positivity for the West Midlands region.
Birmingham is 14th in the region for pillar 2 PCR tests rates, with 2,299 tests per 100k population. 46,996 LFD pillar 2 tests were also carried out.
The attached image shows the number of vaccines per age group for Sutton Coldfield from data published yesterday.
Walk-in appointments are taking place at a mass vaccination centres across the Birmingham City Council area for those aged 16 and over. Please check the latest availability via: www.birminghamandsolihullcovidvaccine.nhs.uk/walk-in over 16s can also continue to book in advance online as normal including bringing forward your second dose if your appointment is more than 8 weeks from your first vaccine: www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination.
From 24th October, fully vaccinated passengers coming into England from countries not on the red list will no longer be required to take a PCR test on arrival, with lateral flow tests used instead- making it both easier and cheaper for families to go abroad.
Royal Sutton Coldfield updates
I have had a number of emails over the last week expressing concerns about the Ramada Hotel being used as accommodation for asylum seekers. While obviously we must play our part in Sutton Coldfield in helping desperate people who seek asylum here, I am surprised by the lack of consultation and doubt that the Ramada is a particularly sensible place to take those that have an asylum application pending. As you would expect I am in discussion with the Home Office and Birmingham City Council to try to ensure this is a temporary measure.
On Tuesday I had a Zoom meeting with Sutton’s Amnesty International group to discuss a number of issues around the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill as well as the Human Rights Act and Nationality and Border Bill. Separately I also spoke to Reprieve, a non profit organisation about some of their concerns about the Nationality and Borders Bill.
Today I visited John Wilmott school to meet new students from Hong Kong and elsewhere. It is clear that the school is doing better and better and we are all so grateful to the staff and governors who are presiding over its increasing reputation.
I also visited the Shrubbery school to unveil a plaque and hear the school’s plans for the future after it was saved from closure earlier this year. It is clear that new investment and enthusiasm is serving the school well.
Later this afternoon I spoke to the brilliant sixth form at Bishop Walsh and tried to answer their suitably piercing questions!
I also met Adrian Harvey, Director of Suburban Inns (who run the Town House) to discuss their planning application for the redevelopment of the former Quality House building on the High Street.
Statistics published this week show that our local unemployment rate in Sutton Coldfield is now at 3.4% of the population aged 16-64, an improvement on last month but still higher than March 2020 before the first UK lockdown began. As with the national figures, unemployment levels are slightly higher for those aged 18-24 (5.3%) however September saw a drop of 25 claimants aged 18-24 in the Royal Town compared to August’s figures. National statistics released this week reveal that the number of people in employment rose by 207,000 last month, with job vacancies and wages also rising across the country.
The West Midlands has been named the country’s fastest-growing tech sector. Our region’s thriving digital industries are expected to create thousands of new jobs by the end of 2025. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/west-midlands-on-track-to-create-an-extra-52000-digital-tech-jobs-and-grow-by-27-billion
Andy Street and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) are championing our region’s tech sector and looking to harness new opportunities and jobs for local people as we build on our success so far. Three digital training bootcamps funded by WMCA will enable up to 40 local people to start a new career with global technology giant UST. The digital transformation solutions company which operates worldwide with FTSE 1000 and Fortune 500 companies has partnered with the WMCA to recruit local people. This is the first time UST has recruited from digital bootcamps in the UK, with the training specially tailored to ensure candidates have the skills needed to succeed. Those who successfully complete the training will be eligible for a three-month paid internship at UST, with the opportunity to become full time employees and be part of various digital transformation initiatives at UST.
The WMCA Thrive at Work scheme recognises companies for actively promoting their employees’ health and wellbeing and 50 local organisations have now been accredited with either Foundation or Bronze level in the scheme. Andy Street and the WMCA are calling for more employers to join the 460 businesses across the Midlands and beyond who have signed up for the free programme. Thrive at Work has four levels of accreditation, starting at the Foundation level and progressing on to Bronze, Silver and Gold levels. https://www.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/thrive/thrive-at-work
Westminster news and Parliamentary business
On Monday afternoon I was invited on Politics Live on BBC2 to discuss a range of topical issues including energy costs. The programme can be watched back online: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0010kns/politics-live-11102021.
Jo Coburn kindly referenced my new book towards the end which was published this week and is currently available in all good book shops and online! https://www.waterstones.com/book/beyond-a-fringe-2021/andrew-mitchell//9781785906985 I am shortly launching it in Sutton Coldfield.
I have written an article published by the Telegraph about the impact of cuts to our international development budget on programmes to clear landmines https://www.andrew-mitchell-mp.co.uk/news/cutting-aid-landmine-clearance-crazy-not-only-will-britain-lose-its-soft-power-advantages
Yesterday the NHS, working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care published a blueprint for improving access to GP appointments for patients alongside supporting GPs and their teams. Surgeries will be provided with additional funding to boost their capacity to increase the proportion of appointments delivered face to face, as part of a major drive to support general practice and level up performance. The measures, including a £250 million winter access fund from NHS England, will enable GP practices to improve availability. The investment will fund locums and support from other health professionals such as physiotherapists and podiatrists, with a focus on increasing capacity to boost urgent same-day care. This is in addition to £270 million invested over the previous 11 months to expand capacity and support GPs. https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/publication/our-plan-for-improving-access-for-patients-and-supporting-general-practice/
Sixty-five short and modular courses to help working adults upskill or retrain will start to roll out from later this month at 10 Institutes of Technology across England in sought-after STEM subjects as part of the government’s drive to plug skills gaps and boost access to more high-quality training alternatives. This will include courses such as Artificial Intelligence, Digitisation of Manufacturing, Digital Construction, Agricultural Robotics, and Cyber Security. The courses will be a blend of classroom and remote online study, and will vary in length from 50 to 138 hours. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/thousands-more-adults-set-to-benefit-from-new-technical-skills
Thousands of new homes will be built on underused and derelict land to help people onto the property ladder across England. Almost £58 million from the £75 million Brownfield Land Release Fund has been allocated to 53 councils around the country. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/thousands-of-new-homes-to-be-built-and-derelict-land-transformed. Meanwhile, locally, a multi-million-pound investment package to drive forward housing in Birmingham has been confirmed by the WMCA. The plans will transform another six acres of derelict land at Port Loop in Icknield Port Road, Edgbaston. Once complete, Port Loop will see 43 acres of derelict industrial land transformed into a new 1,150-home waterside district featuring two, three and four-bedroom houses, apartments, public and communal green spaces, cultural hub Tubeworks, and new spaces for walking and cycling along the nearby Old Main Line Canal.
Opportunities and Events
Applications are invited from community groups for a share of a new pot of funding which is being made available to help young people in the West Midlands ‘make-up’ for time lost during the pandemic. The deadline for first round community group applications is 29th October, with successful groups being invited to complete a second round form on 5th November before a second stage deadline of 19th November. www.nationalexpressgroup.com/foundation
A ‘one stop’ shop has been launched to give people the skills they need to secure a job at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The on-line portal has been set up by the WMCA to offer valuable information on training courses that are matched to Birmingham 2022 jobs. The Jobs and Skills Academy portal is part of the WMCA’s commitment to train more than 6,000 local people. https://beta.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/commonwealth-games-training-opportunities/
The West Midlands Tourism Awards 2022 are open for nominations until Wednesday 20th October. The 2022 awards will celebrate the success and resilience of tourism businesses across our region and promote the strength of the business and leisure tourism offer, its venues, people, experiences and accommodation. Eligible winners from the West Midlands Tourism Awards will automatically feed into the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2022 for the chance to be recognised as a national winner. https://visitengland-chapters.secure-platform.com/a/organizations/WES/home
The Royal British Legion has launched new ‘Teaching Remembrance’ educational resources created in partnership with the National Literacy Trust. The resources help children discover stories of those who served from Britain and the Commonwealth. The offer covers the whole of Key Stages 1 to 5. www.rbl.org.uk/teachingremembrance
ParentingSmart, a new website from charity Place2Be offers free practical advice for parents and carers on how to support children and manage their behaviour. It’s completely free to access and is full of tips and advice on a range of topics including transitioning to secondary school, meltdowns, and sleep difficulties. https://bit.ly/3AVMPX
The British Council is inviting collaborative proposals for arts and culture projects from India and UK-based organisations, festivals, and institutions for the India-UK Together 2022 programme to mark India’s 75th anniversary of Independence in 2022- 2023. https://www.britishcouncil.in/programmes/arts/open-call-india-uk-together
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