Climate lobby of Parliament
It was a very different climate lobby of Parliament this year. Instead of meeting constituents in person around Westminster, MPs were lobbied instead via a series of video calls. But the commitment of those lobbying their MPs was undimmed and the message from the organisers, the Climate Coalition, that “The Time is Now” was exactly the right one. With our country at a turning point as we build back from coronavirus, we have an ideal opportunity to rebuild in a way that is fairer, greener and more sustainable. Thank you to the many thousands who took part in the lobby.
Report of the Committee on Climate Change
The annual report of the Government’s independent advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, was a stark reminder of how much there is still to do if we are to meeting the target of net zero emissions by 2050 – a date which I believe needs to be brought forward 20 years, in line with what the science is telling us. I gave live interviews to both Sky News and BBC Radio’s The World at One in response to the report. You can hear the radio interview here.
I spoke on a similar theme at the virtual launch of the CPRE’s Post-coronavirus Countryside Regeneration manifesto. I talked about the need for a new right to a healthy natural environment – lockdown has brought home to us how vital this is for our physical and mental health. And for the need to transition to a wellbeing economy, where the indicators of success are not GDP growth but ecological health and human wellbeing.
Government’s “stimulus package” for the economy
We heard the Chancellor’s much-heralded plans for a “green recovery” this week, which fell well short of what’s needed to tackle the accelerating climate emergency, and barely merited being called green. While I welcome the home insulation plan, it barely scratches the surface of what’s needed. The cut in VAT in the hospitality and tourism sector is good news for Brighton and Hove’s economy - indeed it’s something I’ve been campaigning for over a number a years - but it should be made permanent. My speech in the debate on the Chancellor’s statement is here.
Earlier in the week, I presented the Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill to Parliament – the first attempt in the UK to legislate for a green new deal. If the Chancellor’s looking for a plan for a green recovery worthy of the name, it’s a good place to start.
The lifting of lockdown
The crowds on some of our most popular beaches during the warm weather were a reminder of how vulnerable Brighton and Hove is to a potential local outbreak of coronavirus. That could bring about the need to re-impose a lockdown, as has happened in Leicester, with disastrous impacts for the local economy which has already been so badly hit.
I wrote to the health and communities ministers about the particular challenges facing cities like ours in maintaining social distancing when it is so popular with visitors. We need to be able to protect public health, and the city needs the resources to do that. I’m concerned that early promises of Government support for local authorities have not been delivered on, leaving many like Brighton and Hove City Council facing a huge funding shortfall. My letters to the ministers is on my website here.
Brighton’s cultural and arts sector
I was pleased to hear the Chancellor announce a £1.5 billion package for the UK’s arts and cultural sector which is still facing a huge crisis as a result of the lockdown and social distancing measures. I spoke in Parliament during the debate on the Finance Bill about the cliff-edge being faced by many venues in Brighton and Hove when the furlough scheme ends, and how many in the sector who work on a freelance basis have fallen through the cracks of the Government’s support scheme. You can read news coverage about my speech here.
After the announcement of the funding package, I raised the plight of live music venues in Brighton with the arts minister, urging her to ensure that these venues get their fair share of the emergency funds. The minister told me she’d been to many of Brighton’s music venues herself, so I hope that she will deliver on her assurances. You can see our exchange here.
I was glad to become a Co-Chair of a new All Party Parliamentary Group which will work with those excluded from the Government’s current financial support mechanisms, like so many of the self-employed, to try to achieve change.
East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service
I spoke with the Chief Fire Officer of East Sussex Fire and Rescue to discuss concerns about the timing of the current consultation for the integrated risk management plan (IRMP) and worries that it could lead to reduced services. This was my letter to Fire Authority members. We also discussed other issues in the constituency related to fire safety, such as building safety in Brighton and the Pankhurst Avenue fire.
It’s since been confirmed by both ESFRS and the Fire Brigades Union that the Fire Authority is rewriting a number of proposed changes to how the service will operate in the future.
SEND meeting with BHCC
I’m very concerned about the additional pressures that the Covid-19 lockdown has placed on children with special educational needs and disabilities and their families. I had a video call with officers from Brighton and Hove City Council to discuss the gap between respite care available in the city, what is actually needed and - crucially – what it would cost to close the gap.
Last month I tabled an Early Day Motion calling for increased funding for respite care, a living wage for carers rather than Carer’s Allowance, and for respite carers to be treated as skilled professionals.
I joined the heads of the City’s Colleges and Sixth Forms for the annual meeting with MPs. We talked about the impact of Covid on the sector and the Association of College’s ‘REBUILD’ plan which is calling for more Government support to allow colleges to develop timely and effective responses to any local outbreak of the virus, and to minimise long term economic scarring.
Brighton Student Retrofit Project: What next after COVID-19
On Friday, I joined an exciting new group which is looking at retrofitting student properties in Brighton. UK homes are some of the leakiest in Europe, more than 10% of households live in fuel poverty and people are having to choose between staying warm or putting food on the table. We spoke about what a grassroots campaign on this could look like and how the city's MPs and Brighton and Hove City Council can support this agenda. I’m looking forward to working with this group over the coming months on this crucial issue.
BBC Radio’s Any Questions
I was one of the panellists on Radio 4’s Any Questions on July 3rd – though answering questions from my home, rather than in front of a live audience. The questions from around the country covered the lifting of lockdown, the changes to quarantine regulations, the prospects of a green recovery and China’s actions in Hong Kong. You can listen to the programme on the BBC Sounds website.
Like thousands of you around the country, I joined in the applause for the NHS on its 72nd birthday on July 5th, to say thank you for all those years of caring, never more so than in the past few months. It was a thank you too, to everyone who’s come together to help us get through Covid, not just key workers but every person who’s volunteered to help those in need and shown what society really means.