Tier and Share (Christmas with your family)/Tiers the Seasons to be Jolly (Careful)
The Government announced this week that Covid restrictions will be lifted so that families can reunite over Christmas. For five days, from the 23rd to 27th December, up to three households will be able to unite to form a festive bubble. These bubbles can’t be changed after they form, and families will not be allowed to visit hospitality, theatres or retail settings. I’d urge everyone to enjoy yourselves but please be aware that the dangers are the same on 23rd December as they were on 22nd, so please be mindful of the vulnerable.
On the 2nd of December we will be leaving lockdown and heading back into Tier 2. The restrictions will be similar to the ones we had before we entered this temporary lockdown on 31st October. Many of you have got in touch, keen to return to your place of worship, your gym and/or your favourite pub or restaurant and I am pleased that the government has listened to the representations I made on your behalf.
From the 2nd of December there will be:
- No mixing indoors with anyone outside your household
- The rule of six will apply outdoors
- Pubs and restaurants will close at 11pm
- Alcohol will only be served as part of a substantial meal
- Spectators allowed at sports events and live performances (numbers limited)
- Personal care including hairdressing allowed
I recently finished a fortnight-long period of self-isolation resulting from a notification) from the NHS Track and Trace app that said I had been in contact with someone who has since received a positive test. This was well-timed what with everyone else going into lockdown too, but was obviously personally challenging! Fortunately, most of my engagements were virtual anyway so I was still able to conduct them from home.
Croydon Council Finances
I have been working closely with the new leader of the council - Cllr Hamida Ali - and the Labour Group since the news regarding Croydon Council’s urgent financial issues came to light and I will continue to do so in the coming months and years.
The financial problems faced by the council have developed over many years. Ten years of austerity and the impact of COVID have both taken their toll, but it is also clear that mistakes have been made.
Cllr Ali, has appointed a new cabinet and their single focus is to ensure we find a way out of this situation. The section 114 notice means that the council will stop all new non-essential spending while an emergency budget is developed, and savings are identified. There is currently a shortfall in the budget of £66 million.
My priority, clearly, is to my constituents, and I have been talking to the council in some detail over some time – along with Croydon’s two other MPs – to understand the implications of the financial situation. I want to help develop solutions but recognise some very difficult decisions will need to be made. My two priorities for my constituents are to make sure the services supporting the most vulnerable are maintained, and to ensure the council gets the basic universal services right as well – such as collecting the bins and supporting the public realm.
The Chancellor failed to provide the support or clarity that people across the country desperately need. The UK has been hit harder than other economies – we are facing the worst economic downturn in the G7. The Chancellor has decided to allow councils to increase tax rates by up to 5%, which will hit people up and down the country. There was no clarity for businesses on what targeted support they will get when lockdown ends but restrictions continue. The Chancellor also decided to reward public sector workers with a pay freeze. This comes in the context of cuts to non-frontline services that will leave less police officers on the beat as they compensate for police staff job losses. I will continue to work with my Labour colleagues in the House of Commons to ensure that this government is held to account, and a future Labour government can right these wrongs and lead us to a more equitable and prosperous future.
Croydon Tram Crash
I was very sad to not be able to attend 9th November memorial to those who lost their lives in the Sandilands tram crash of four years ago due to self-isolation. Those we lost on that day continue to occupy my thoughts. I was grateful for Cllr Ollie Lewis for laying flowers on my behalf. Our community stands together in adversity and I remain so proud of the courage shown by the families of those lost as well as those who helped save lives on the day. I am continuing my work to ensure that a similar tragedy can never happen again and those responsible will be held legally accountable.
Labour’s amendment to the Fire Safety Bill passes in the House of Lords
In my role as Shadow Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, I have led Labour’s work on the Fire Safety Bill. When the Bill came through Parliament for the report stage and third reading, we tabled an amendment to try to force the Government to implement the vital recommendations in the Grenfell Inquiry’s phase one report. The amendment would have placed robust requirements on building owners or managers to share information with local Fire and Rescue Service about the design, and the materials of the external walls, to undertake regular inspections of individual flat entrance doors and lifts, and share evacuation and fire safety instructions with residents of the building. Shamefully, latest Government figures published in September show that nearly 80% of private sector residential buildings and nearly half of social sector residential buildings wrapped in Grenfell style ACM cladding have not the materials removed and replaced.
It was extremely disappointing that the Government decided to vote against Labour’s amendment, despite promising in 2019 that they would implement the recommendations “without delay”. I kept pushing the Government to improve fire safety and help the tens of thousands of people stuck living in unsafe blocks across the country and will continue to do so.
On 17th November Labour’s amendment to the Fire safety Bill was passed in the House of Lords. I had originally tabled this amendment in the Commons and am grateful to Lord Kennedy of Southwark for tabling it in the Lords. This amendment should never have been controversial; indeed, I am disappointed that it was even necessary. However, this is a good step towards finally implementing some of the outcomes of the first phase of the inquiry into the Grenfell Tragedy. I hope that the Government will see sense upon its return to the Commons and accept the amendment.
Protections for Police Officers
The loss of Sergeant Matiu Ratana in September continues to inform a renewed focus on the protection of our police officers. This month I met with Lissie Harper to discuss her campaign for Harper’s Law – for higher compulsory sentencing of killers of emergency workers - after the tragic and death of her husband. I also met with Nick Bailey, sadly injured by the Novichok attack on the Skripals by the Russian Government in Salisbury, and talked to him about how those who put themselves in harm’s way in the line of duty can better be supported.
I spoke in the Protection for Emergency Services Westminster Hall debate, demanding that the Government take up the recommendations of the Metropolitan Police’s Protect the Protectors campaign as a priority. In addition, I stated that the Government should prioritise:
1. Increasing the police workforce
2. Addressing and better understanding attacks on police officers
3. Tackling sentencing to provide stronger penalties for those who attack emergency service workers
4. Providing better protective equipment for first responders
5. Ensuring that police officers have the proper legal protections for tactical pursuits on the road
6. Introducing the police covenant as soon as possible.
Police and Crime Commissioner election visits
I have continued my series of virtual visits up and down the country to the brilliant Labour candidates for the upcoming PCC elections. It’s been a pleasure to meet the driven and exceptional candidates and members of the local police departments. I look forward to continuing them in the weeks ahead.
An informative discussion on police jobs and services in Humberside and the devastating effects that government cuts have had over the last decade.
Other highlights in parliament
Unfortunately, I was unable to contribute to a debate commemorating Remembrance Day due to my self-isolation and the inflexibility of Speaker of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg MP. I took the opportunity to call upon the Government to allow MPs who are self-isolating (temporarily or longer-term) to represent their constituents at this vital time. I find it astounding that those who have medical reasons for self-isolation, and indeed their constituents, are being punished for this.
Shadow Chancellor visit St Mary’s Croydon School
I was honoured to host Rt Hon Anneliese Dodds MP as she visited the incredible St Mary’s School that is at the heart of our community. We spoke to the wonderful students and headteacher Patrick Shields to hear about the impact of yesterday’s Spending Review on teachers and teaching assistants. They highlighted the impact that it will have on them, despite the great and underappreciated lengths they have tirelessly gone to in order to keep education running safely over this challenging year.
Labour List’s ‘In Conversation with Sarah Jones MP’
It was an honour to be invited to an evening of questions from Sienna Rogers. It was great to get a chance to communicate with Labour Party members directly at such a well-attended event.
Run to Rebuild
21st November I hosted a training session for aspiring Labour councillors and was joined by the new leader of Croydon Council, Cllr Hamida Ali, Abena Oppong-Asare MP, as well as others from the world of local government. Sessions focussed on how to overcome the issues faced by people who are BAME, LGBTQ and women when entering local politics.
Croydon Cladding Forum
I brought residents across Croydon who have been impacted by the ongoing cladding crisis together alongside fantastic campaigners from UK Cladding Action and a very knowledgeable representative from Leasehold Knowledge Partnership. We discussed what I can do to help those affected, how those that want to can get involved and answered questions from the floor about specific leasehold agreements and situations. I will continue to push the Government to move further and faster on fire safety.
Virtual Pub Visit
I attended a lively and well-attended event organised by CAMRA to highlight the needs of local pubs in light of the challenges that they have faced during lockdown, as well as the social and economic trends of recent decades. I have written to the Chancellor to raise their concerns and will keep pushing for targeted support for businesses that are struggling through this crisis.
The Time Is Now
I continued my regular meetings with local climate activists and representatives of campaigning organisations. If you would like to be involved in these meetings, I would be delighted to have you along.
I have been lucky enough to meet (both virtually and, excitingly, sometimes in real life – albeit at a distance) young people from Croydon during a series of school visits. It’s been great to get their perspective on the issues we face today and to remind them of the power of political engagement to make positive change.
As usual, I have been assisting my constituents with an array of queries, problems and complaints. The uncertainty and economic hardship that has resulted from the COVID economy has been a continued concern for many constituents, as has the uncertainty surrounding the extension of the eviction ban. I will continue to listen to my constituents’ concerns and provide assistance wherever possible.
Rules are changing regularly around COVID restrictions. Please check for up-to-date announcements at www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
For local information, contact Croydon Council at www.croydon.gov.uk/coronavirus.
For help from me, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or ring 0208 191 7066 (10am- 2pm and 2pm-4pm – Monday – Friday).