It's devastating that in Tory Britain, when you need the NHS, it is no longer there for you and can’t be relied upon in your moment of need.
37,000 patients with heart attacks and strokes waited over 3.5 hours for an ambulance in December alone. In the West Midlands, the average waiting time for an emergency response from the ambulance service is 1 hour and 31 minutes. These are people who have life-threatening illnesses and are in urgent need of emergency medical attention.
There are too many heart-breaking stories of people left waiting for ambulances because of the lethal chaos the Tories are presiding over. The Prime Minister is showing no leadership to tackle the crisis in our NHS and he's too out of touch to see the pain of families. The longer we give the Tories, the longer people will wait for the care they need.
More broadly, I have continued to raise issues regarding our local NHS with Government ministers and media. For example, you saw me last week writing to the health secretary concerning dentistry and you may have seen me talking to Newsnight regarding the issues at University Hospitals Birmingham with allegations of bullying and toxicity.
You can watch my interview with Newsnight here:
The death of the Government’s Levelling Up agenda
Yesterday, the Government announced the second round of their Levelling Up funding bids. The city of Birmingham saw no money being given from Government to tackle inequality and deprivation despite it being placed 7th on the most deprived local authority in the Government’s official measure for English local authorities and neighbourhoods.
Birmingham City Council had submitted five bids worth £82million with the backing of their constituency MPs. The Edgbaston constituency bid that was submitted, sought to inject a total of £20 million which would have funded a range of new community and cultural facilities. This included money for a community hub at the former Quinton Police Station building to provide support for youth provision and local training and reskilling.
What’s clear is that instead of working for meaningful change and true levelling up, the Conservatives are once again putting their party first and the country second. The biggest regional recipients are those where the Conservatives are most vulnerable to losing marginal seats to Labour. It’s not fair or right that London gets £151m while Birmingham receives nothing.
It takes an extraordinary arrogance to expect us to be grateful for a partial refund on the money they have stripped out of our communities and for Birmingham, it is even worse as we received nothing.
This money would have made a real difference to people’s lives, particularly in Quinton. We understand the needs and gaps in our communities around youth provision, getting people back into work, early years support and where so many people are struggling with the cost of living crisis. The Government has let all these people down.
More mould and damp in Birmingham homes
You may have seen the Housing Ombudsman report that was released this week after concerns were raised about their complaint handling and compensation process.
The report is based on complaints made to Birmingham City Council that were brought to the Ombudsman for investigation over a six-month period from March 2022. The Ombudsman identified four key themes and set out a series of recommendations concerning repairs, record keeping, complaint handling and compensation. Birmingham City Council has engaged with the Ombudsman throughout and accepted it got things wrong and there is a need to improve.
In order to make some of these improvements, we must be clear about the challenges the council faces in order to bring forward the right solutions. Richard Blakeway, the Housing Ombudsman, stated in his report how Birmingham is not alone in facing these challenges, and there are lessons for the wider sector from this report.
Over the last 13 years, Birmingham City Council has had their workforce halved, has been made to pay £51m in fire safety measures following the Grenfell tragedy and has the responsibility for managing the largest housing stock in the country with an average age of over 70 years. These are significant obstacles to overcome which no other local authority has faced at the same scale.
But where has the government been on any of this? We are in the midst of a national housing crisis. Yet, they offered no financial support to local authorities following Grenfell which has meant money that would have otherwise been spent on improving people's homes has been spent on safety measures. Conservatives crashed the economy making the demand for social housing even greater and increasing the burden on councils. And when I wrote to the Housing Secretary two months ago to raise my concerns around damp and mould in residents' homes, only when I raised his lack of response with media, did Michael Gove bother to reply.
What we need now is a government that is proactive and that cares. I'm proud of Labour's fully costed plan that would work with local councils like Birmingham to insulate 19 million homes saving a further £400 on energy bills, get 1.5 million first time buyers on the housing ladder and, build more high-quality, affordable homes and reform the private rented sector.
Fix my street
Flytipping, streetlights breaking, broken paving slabs and graffiti are frequent issues, among others that blight our wonderful city. When I’m out in the constituency, I often come across these types of problems. The tool I use to report them and get these issues fixed, is the Fix My Street App. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
This is an app which is available for anyone to download. It’s easy to use and once you have reported an issue, it immediately alerts the local council of the issue so that they can come out and fix it.
This week in Parliament there was a debate regarding the arbitrary detention of British national, Jagtar Singh Johal.
It has been four years since the Indian authorities took Jagtar off the streets and detained him without trial. Yet, the crimes for which he has been accused carry a possible death sentence.
International human rights charities including Reprieve and Redress have expressed concerns about Jagtar’s torture and mistreatment in India.
Ministers say the UK has “raised” Jaggi’s case with the Indian authorities at least 29 times, yet four years on he is still no closer to justice. Does the UK government have no influence, or is it just asking the wrong questions?
As Chair of the APPG for British Sikhs, I have been leading a cross-party group of parliamentarians in support of the FreeJaggiNow campaign, calling for fairness, justice and due process in Jagtar’s case.
We must see an end to this arbitrary detention now.
Preet Kaur Gill MP
Birmingham Edgbaston covering Bartley Green, Edgbaston, Harborne and Quinton