In my message this week I promised to update you on my third Royal Town Priority - our Town Centre. In the last few weeks, I have been able to report good news on investment in the Town Hall and the Cottage Hospital. Now, I have exciting news about the town centre.
The Town Centre – a top priority
We all know the challenges facing our Town Centre. Its regeneration is a top priority for us all, and I am conscious of how frustratingly long it is taking. It is little comfort that most other towns are also grappling with similar problems, because of changes in shopping habits. We all simply want to see our own town centre thrive.
Thankfully, here in Sutton we know what to do, and it is set out in our Town Centre Masterplan. Successful regeneration is about creating a broader offer with a mix of cafe society, national and local retail, boutique stores, community services and heritage amenities. Above all, we need more footfall and more homes – properties of different shapes and sizes to breathe new life into the centre of our town.
I’ve been working hard with councillor Simon Ward (who is, like Andy Street, a distinguished businessman whose experience is extremely helpful) and the Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council he leads to drive the masterplan. Along with Andy – who is such a brilliant supporter of Sutton – and our own Birmingham City Council conservative councillors, we are striving to deliver a new Town Centre fit for the next 100 years and beyond.
In difficult and frustrating circumstances, your Sutton Coldfield Conservative team is driving this vital agenda. The Masterplan is in place to draw investment. It is working.
Progress so far
The securing of £25 million of Government taxpayer money last year for vital infrastructure development was a major step in this process. Then, the Gracechurch Shopping Centre saw the arrival of new owners, investing money and bringing vision and ambition. Their plans, which will soon be the subject of significant local consultation, are coming on apace. I hope to be able to report back soon on progress with the long-delayed plans for the Red Rose Centre too, following my discussions with Sainsburys.
However, today I want to reveal further good news. Thanks to the work of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) led by Andy Street - delivering once again for the Royal Town – we have secured another major investment for our town centre’s future.
A huge vote of confidence in our town centre
The WMCA has agreed to invest a significant sum – potentially around £10 million – in our town centre, specifically to support the regeneration of the Gracechurch.
This multi-million-pound investment will help ensure that work begins quickly, once the consultation process has been completed. It really is a significant vote of confidence in the regeneration of Royal Sutton Coldfield town centre.
What’s more, we have also been given a first glimpse of how the Gracechurch could look, in the attached image above. Watch this space for more news in the weeks ahead.
I’d like to express my huge admiration and gratitude to Mayor Andy Street for his further support for our Town; never has the benefit of having a senior international business leader as our regional mayor been so eloquently demonstrated.
We all want our town centre to flourish. We are winning the investment that can make that happen.
Time is running out to have your say on policing in the West Midlands and Sutton Coldfield.
An important message on the future of local policing, and our Police Station in Sutton.
I know many residents are deeply concerned about the future of West Midlands Police, especially with crime doubling under the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and the terrible plan to close our Police Station in Sutton Coldfield, which I have always opposed in the strongest possible terms.
That is why back in November our brilliant Mayor Andy Street asked the Home Office to approve a transfer of powers from the PCC to the Mayoral office, giving the Mayor oversight over policing - as is currently the case in London, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire.
This would allow the West Midlands Mayor to tackle crime across the West Midlands and support residents across the whole region including in the Royal Town.
Andy Street has also said that if he is re-elected in May, and is given these powers, he will immediately halt the closure of our Police station (and 30 others across the region) while he looks at each one in detail.
I have huge admiration for our local Police Force and the fantastic officers who work so hard to keep us safe. However, it is my personal belief that the PCC model has clearly failed to hold West Midlands Police to account – crime figures have doubled in the West Midlands in the last seven years.
It is too easy to blame this on issues of funding. Everywhere in the UK has faced similar financial challenges, yet our region is seeing a more acute rise in crime rates that others are not.
What’s more, in recent years our Force has seen an increase in funding, with recruitment significantly boosting Police numbers.
It’s my personal view that it’s time to transfer these powers to the Mayor – but it’s also vital that we get your view on this incredibly important subject.
The Home Office has launched the consultation on the transfer of the PCC powers to the Mayor, so that they can hear the views of local residents and push for the best course of action to ensure effective Policing across the West Midlands and indeed, the Royal Town.
If you would like to respond to the consultation and make your thoughts and concerns heard, please follow the link below where you can tell the Home Office your priorities for West Midlands Police and your perspective on the West Midlands Mayor-PCC Merger:
The closing date for the consultation is January 31st.
As your local MP, I will continue to monitor this situation very closely and will always push to make sure residents' concerns are heard and ensure effective policing throughout the Royal Town.
Our campaign session last weekend
Last weekend Mayor Andy Street and I and a very large team of local people including our hard-working conservative Royal town councillors and Birmingham City Council conservative councillors fanned out across Walmley and Minworth to deliver questionnaires on behalf of myself as your MP and Andy. Knowing clearly your views helps us to represent your interests as effectively as possible.
It will come as little surprise that there is thinly concealed fury and dismay that the Labour Birmingham City Council administration has bankrupted the council and now expects our council taxpayers in the Royal Town to bail them out.
Two prominent Sutton Coldfield business leaders join force to lead Kids’ Village
I am delighted to share news that two of Sutton Coldfield’s most well-known business figures, Doug Wright MBE DL and Paul Faulkner, have teamed up to take on roles as Chairman and Interim CEO of the Kids’ Village charity.
This charity is aiming to raise £5million to build the UK’s first holiday village offering respite breaks for critically ill children and their families. They have already secured planning permission on 30 acres of land just outside of Lichfield, and are now looking to raise the profile of the charity – and the funds – in order to build the Village. If you would like to learn more about Kids’ Village then please contact Paul directly at email@example.com or visit their website www.kidsvillage.org.uk
Afternoon tea at The Cancer support Centre for St Giles Hospice
I am supporting the afternoon session on Monday 5th February 2-4pm to help raise funds for The Little Princess Trust and St Giles Hospice.
It is being held at the St Giles Hospice, Cancer Support Centre, Lindridge road, Sutton Coldfield. B756JB.
International Development Committee
On Tuesday I gave evidence before the International Development Select Committee in the House of Commons on two current inquiries they are conducting. The first, on how Britain should focus on improving the lives of people with disabilities- something the government is intent on doing both in the UK and abroad in very poor countries. And secondly, the work we are doing to help small island developing States, some of whom as a result of climate change are in danger of disappearing beneath the waves. With many of these island states, Britain has a long history and connection.
If you would like to watch the session, you can do so here:
General debate on the situation in the Red Sea
On Wednesday evening, I wound up on British action against the Houthis’ illegal attacks on commercial shipping and British and American warships in the Red Sea.
If you would like to watch the debate, you can do so here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/044eafaf-34db-40b7-a474-6a98729b3689?in=15:30:13
Freedom of Religious Belief
In the debate today in the House of Commons on Freedom of Religious Belief, I spoke on behalf of the Government to endorse our view that there should always be a Statutory Religious Envoy appointed to stand up around the world for persecuted minorities: whether they be Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.
Freedom of religious belief is under threat all around the world and this Bill which I spoke up for, and which was a conservative manifesto commitment at the last election will help ensure that voices are heard in support of religious freedom in positions of authority around the world.
You can watch it here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/08c82790-4f19-4c5e-8ca4-6d8c201e0e9c?in=14:06:37
Dog Meat PQ
In answering questions every now and again, a minister may escape from the bureaucratic stranglehold of Whitehall mandarin speak and say that they really think!
Visit to Jenner Institute and meet with the Covid heroes
This week I visited the Jenner Institute in Oxford as part of my ministerial work on pandemic preparedness.
It was a deeply humbling experience to meet those who discovered and invented the Covid vaccine and who are now working towards making malaria history through these two brilliant new vaccines R21 and RTSS.
Around 1000 children under 5 and pregnant mums die entirely needlessly EVERY DAY from malaria and thanks to geniuses at the Jenner institute our generations have the power to do something about it.
Holocaust Memorial Day
Tomorrow is Holocaust Memorial Day, a day when we remember the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust under Nazi persecution, and the genocides and destruction which have followed more recently in Cambodia in the 1970s, Rwanda in 1994, Bosnia 1992 and Darfur in 2003. This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day marks the 30th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
These days saying ‘never again’ when we have seen 3 genocides in the last 30 years in Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur seems a bit hollow. Nevertheless, we must strive to ensure that ‘never again’ has more meaning and more commitment.
M42 and M6 closure warning ahead of major HS2 works
Motorists travelling through the Midlands are being advised to plan their journeys with a series of overnight closures planned on the M42/M6 Link for HS2 works.
A series of new viaducts are being built to carry the new HS2 line over the M42/M6 which will link the proposed new Interchange Station and Curzon Street Station.
"To ensure the work takes place safely there will be a series of temporary overnight road closures from Wednesday 24 January to Friday 2 February each weekday night between 9pm and 5am.
The closures will be in place from the M42 southbound at junction 8 to the M6 northbound at junction 4a. Drivers are advised to follow the official diversion signage and to make sure they leave additional time for their trip.
There will be a clearly signed diversion route via the westbound M6 and M42.
NDSU External Funding Update – January 2024
31 January 2024 - The 7Stars Foundation – (https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/nNjMCwVJBfG7QPQ6i9Z6fB?domain=the7starsfoundation.co.uk) - Grants of up to £2,500 to charities supporting young people, aged 16 years and under, across the UK to further the potential and opportunity of children and young people who are surviving abuse, at risk of or experiencing homelessness, caring for a loved one, and challenged by addiction (either personally or through a member of their family).
31 January 2024 at 23:59 - Canoe Foundation- (https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/SFArCxnKDC1y0B08fw57yH?domain=canoefoundation.org.uk/) - Grants of between £500 and £10,000 are available for paddling clubs, community groups, charities, parish councils, and Local Authorities across the UK for canoeing, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding projects for access and environmental related improvements.
4 February 2024 - Dan Maskell Tennis Trust- (https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/VWNjCyoLEurgWJWDTNPVej?domain=danmaskelltennistrust.org.uk/) - Grants of up to £1,600 for a group, club or project are available. to help disabled people in the UK to play tennis through the purchase of wheelchairs, tennis equipment and grants for coaching.
8 February 2024 - Congregational and General Charitable Trust Grants- (https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/SeEvCzvMGfM3BnBDSwYnNA?domain=candgtrust.org.uk/) - Grants of between £1,000 to £25,000 are available to support the provisions and repair of church buildings, particularly those of the United Reformed and Congregational denominations.
MMR immunisation and measles awareness
Measles is circulating in the West Midlands, and the MMR vaccination provides the best protection against measles.
Please be aware of measles symptoms: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles/
If you think you or your child may have measles, contact your GP practice but do not visit unless instructed, as measles can spread to others easily, and 1 in 15 children can develop serious complications, such as meningitis and blindness.
For protection against measles, contact your GP practice to get your MMR immunisations.
Learn more: https://bit.ly/46QPPn1
Please see below the visits scheduled for the week commencing 22nd January of the BCC Mobile Household Recycling Centre.
• Thu 01/02/2024, Avery Road B73 6PX, 07:00 - 12:30, Sutton Vesey