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Weekly update - 9 December


This week we’ve seen yet more U-turns from this latest Conservative Prime Minister. Whether it’s onshore wind, coal mines or housing targets; everything he said this summer is up for grabs for his backbenchers.

The Conservative Party promised the country it would build 300,000 houses a year. This week, without asking a single voter, Rishi Sunak broke that promise by scrapping mandatory targets. But this is nothing new. He is being forced into U-turning because rather than leading the country, he is too weak to stand up to his backbenchers. It means that once again it’s a case of Party first, country second. And that’s before we talk about the award of government PPE contracts that has seen Tory Peer Michelle Mone taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords.

 

Over 17,000 Patients Waiting a Month for a GP Appointment in Birmingham

I was shocked to learn that more people are waiting a month for a GP appointment than at any time since when records began in 2017.

17,181 people in Birmingham faced a wait of 28 days or more to see a GP in October alone. A further 57,570 people had to wait more than two weeks.

But I want to be clear, this isn’t the fault of our hard-working NHS staff. The number of GPs has fallen to a record low, leaving patients in a desperate scramble to be seen. Since 2013, 4,600 GPs have been cut by Conservative Governments.

These figures came to light just before I voted in favour of a motion proposed by the Labour Party to abolish the non-dom tax status. While the non-dom status allows some wealthy people who live in Britain to pay their taxes overseas, the abolishment of this will pay for labour’s plan to train a new generation of NHS staff. Labour would:

  • Double the number of medical school places, training 15,000 new doctors a year

  • Train 10,000 additional nurses and midwives every year

  • Double the number of district nurses qualifying each year

  • Train 5,000 new health visitors

Labour’s plan will see patients guaranteed a face-to-face appointment with a GP if they want one. While some patients prefer to hold appointments over the phone, many are frustrated at not being able to see their doctor in person. This is a common complaint I am hearing from residents in our constituency.

Labour is also pledging to bring back the family doctor, so patients can see the same GP each appointment if they choose to. Patients are increasingly unable to see the doctor of their choice, with two in every three patients rarely or never speaking to their preferred doctor, up from just half in 2018. Under Labour’s plans, GP practices will be provided with incentives to offer patients continuity of care, so doctors must take into account patients’ preferences.

The Conservatives have had 12 years to train the staff our NHS needs but instead, has left it with thousands fewer GPs. This is simply unacceptable, and it is patients in Birmingham that are left paying the price, too often in pain and discomfort.

Patients should be able to see the doctor they want, in the manner they choose, when they need to. Labour will put patients first and get them seen on time again.


 

Supporting the Midlands Rail Hub

This week I was pleased to join Midlands Connect in support of the Midlands Rail Hub. This is a game-changing project for our region which could deliver 14 million more seats on the rail network, faster and more frequent rail links for over 30 towns as well as bringing £200m worth of economic benefits.

These plans are the first signs of tangible 'levelling up' in the Midlands. The government talks a lot about levelling up yet, time and again nothing happens. They announced investment zones but then quickly scrapped them. If the government is really serious about levelling up the country, then it's got to actually provide the investment in the Midlands.

I recently visited Chester for the byelection. It took almost three hours to get there from Birmingham. If we want to attract further investment to our region that can’t be the case and we must be better connected. That means seeing through the Midlands Rail Hub that will not only be a huge relief for passengers but increase our capacity for freight.

 

Calling for answers at University Hospitals Birmingham

Last week I updated you about the allegations of bullying being made by staff at University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) and explained how I had raised this with their Chief Executive.

Since speaking on Newsnight about this last week, I have received over 30 testimonies from doctors and consultants at the Trust (staff from both past and present.) Some of these claims are deeply distressing and cannot be ignored.

This week I have continued to ask questions of the UHB leadership team and am yet to receive satisfactory answers. UHB has now announced plans for a three-pronged NHS inquiry into claims of 'toxicity and bullying' to be carried out by NHS Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board.

I'm very concerned that the Trust and the ICB are rushing into a review, deciding who to appoint, when what they should be doing is looking to do this in a very careful, measured way.

It needs to be a fully independent review, not something that sounds like an NHS tickbox exercise.

I am in discussion with the Secretary of State for Health, Steve Barclay MP, and have met with the new chair at UHB, Dame Yve Buckland, to raise concerns about both the allegations and the way in which the review is being conducted.


You can also catch me tonight again on Newsnight on BBC 2 at 10.30pm discussing the latest on this issue.


 

Labour sets out it’s stall for businesses

The Labour Party is the party of business. This week, Keir Starmer set out how we can work together to reboot our economy.

Labour hosted a business conference on Thursday which invited leaders from 350 businesses to meet with my frontbench colleagues and I. We spoke about how we can improve skills among the workforce and create long-term economic certainty.

But it’s not just big business Labour is seeking to support.

Last Saturday was the tenth anniversary of Small Business Saturday and I was pleased to meet with business owners in Quinton. Small Business Saturday encourages consumers to 'shop local' and to support businesses in their communities.

I’m delighted the Labour Party has pledged to cut to and will eventually entirely scrap business rates, replacing them with a new form of business taxation fit for the 21st Century. This would help level the playing field between online giants and bricks and mortar businesses.

Labour’s plan will also tackle the £20bn late payments crisis affecting SMEs. The Federation of Small Businesses has recently said that proposed Labour plans to help small businesses get their unpaid invoices paid on time are “exactly what the UK’s 5.5m SMEs need”.

With more than £20bn in unpaid invoices outstanding at any one time, the delay is costing small businesses £684m.

It was wonderful to visit local businesses like Coffee and Café @ 268 in Quinton, who have faced massive adversity and hardship trying to set up their new business, and now face further challenges like unfair business rates, supply chain issues and soaring energy costs.

Local businesses want a reliable partner in government that will listen to their concerns and take real, practical steps to help them thrive. Labour has a plan that will make a real difference for business owners looking to get on, both immediately and in the long-term.


 

Calling out the ONS on the disappearance of Sikh community in 2021 census

As Chair of APPG for British Sikhs I wrote to Ian Diamond, the UK’s National Statistician, to question the ONS decision which as essentially relegated the Sikh community from a legally protected ethnicity to an optional religious tick box in the 2021 census.

The implications of the omission of the Sikh community as an ethnicity are serious. Sikhs face significant disadvantage in multiple areas of life, including education attainment, employment and health outcomes.

The Government’s Race Disparity Audit looked at 180 data sets across government and found no data on Sikhs. This is why the community-led campaign to see Sikh designated as an ethnicity is so vital.

In my letter which was co-signed by the Vice-Chair of APPG, Caroline Nokes MP, we outlined how “by the UK Government’s own admission, most public bodies collect data in line with the Census ethnicity question and not the religion question, therefore do not collect data on Sikhs.” I also expressed how, “too often policymakers ignore and forget the Sikh community”.

It is ridiculous that following the 2021 census we find ourselves in a position where we still don't know the basic information of how many Sikhs live in this country.

These huge gaps in data have severe consequences for my community. The ONS were warned that the absence of a Sikh ethnicity tick box would make Sikhs invisible to policymakers. We must understand how many Sikhs live in the UK and recognise their needs in order to address existing inequalities.

The optional religious tick box is not acceptable and the ONS must stop hiding behind it. Sikh ethnicity is established in case law and as such, public bodies have a duty when it comes to offering suitable provision. Without this crucial information, the ONS is setting these public organisations up to fail in their duty.

 

News from around the constituency

Much is happening right across the constituency and here’s a quick round up for you.

This Saturday the fabulous Edgbaston Artisan Market returns to Greenfield Crescent between 10am-4pm. If you have any presents you need to buy or simply want to take in the Christmas spirit, head on over.

In Quinton, following Ofsted’s visit in October, concluded that Four Dwellings Academy continues to be a “good” school. I want to pass on my congratulations to all the staff at Four Dwellings Academy. I know how hard they have worked over the past year to take positive forward steps and the work they continue to put in make improvements. Keep up the good work!

The Mobile Household Recycling Centre is returning to the constituency on the following dates and times if you have any household waste to get rid of. All of the visits will last from 7am – 12pm on the day advertised.

  • 15/12/2022 Balden Road B32 2EP Quinton

  • 22/12/2022 Ferncliffe Road B17 0QG Harborne

  • 23/12/2022 Roundlea Road B31 1DB Bartley Green


After calling for a special community meeting, I am pleased to say that there will be a dedicated Ward Forum in Edgbaston to learn more about the proposed development for student accommodation at the former The Trees Public House. The meeting will take place in the main hall at Edgbaston Community Centre, Woodview Drive at 7pm. Birmingham City Council is giving away almost £500,000 worth of grants to support projects which are providing food to Birmingham residents. Food projects across our constituency are doing important work in supporting residents with the cost of living crisis. That’s why your Labour-run council has made cash grants of £4,800 available for 100 organisations across the city. These organisations include:

  • Foodbanks

  • Food clubs

  • Food pantries

  • Social supermarkets

  • Community cafés

Each organisation will receive £800 per month for 6 months to support them. The money will be mainly for buying food, but it can also be used for hygiene products, baby food and formula, and pet food where appropriate.

If you are from or know of an organisation that is eligible for this grant, please find more information here about how to apply. https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/emergency-food-aid-fund

And finally, in the next few weeks, my next constituency-wide newsletter will be hitting doorsteps. This edition will focus on the cost of living crisis, what your next Labour Government will do to tackle it and some of the help and support that’s currently available.

I know that many of you will be getting ready for Christmas. However, if you have an hour or two to spare and are able to help me by delivering some leaflets, I would be most grateful. I also run a weekly doorknocking session every Thursday. If you would like to join me doorknocking or would be able to deliver some leaflets, please contact me by emailing preetkaurgill4edgbaston@gmail.com

 

Calling all volunteers to support with my reading programme

Do you have any spare time to volunteer as part of my reading programme for schools? This is a valuable project to support literacy development in schools and will see volunteers sitting with students to support them with reading.

Sessions are every Friday morning between 08:35 – 09:00. Volunteers will need to either already have, or be willing to undertake, a DBS check. If you can spare some time, I would appreciate any support that you can offer.

If you are interested in the programme, please contact me on 0121 392 8426 or email preet.gill.mp@parliament.uk



Best wishes,





Preet Kaur Gill MP

Birmingham Edgbaston covering Bartley Green, Edgbaston, Harborne and Quinton

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