Constituency Newsletter for February 2021
Hi Lewisham East – welcome to my newsletter! February has finally arrived after what felt like a never-ending January. Our days are getting longer and lighter, and though it has been snowing, we’ll soon see Spring flowers pop up around our neighbourhoods.
This is my monthly round-up of how I’ve been representing you in Parliament. I’ll cover the local elections, the ongoing vaccine rollout, and other important issues that will be affecting you and your families.
As ever, please contact me and my office (via the details at the top of this letter) if you are experiencing any problems you need help with. I am always happy to consider raising issues to the Government or other bodies on my constituents’ behalf.
Local Elections – Thursday 6th May
The Government are continuing with plans to hold local elections in May. In Lewisham East we will have a by-election in Catford South, and we will also have the elections for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.
This year more than ever we need to have a plan to vote. We cannot rely on being able to vote in person – whether due to illness, caring responsibilities, or a sudden requirement to self-isolate. It is advisable to register for a postal vote. You can also register for a proxy vote, although this runs the risk of your proxy also not being able to attend in person.
The current figures on vaccinations are encouraging. It’s now been reported that 12 million people in the UK have now received their first jab. This is a great cause to celebrate; but there are still many people to cover.
We must all play our part in bringing an end to this pandemic. That means following the lockdown regulations, wearing a mast, and importantly, taking the vaccine when we are invited to. I recently joined with MPs from across the political spectrum to raise the importance of getting your vaccine.
The vaccine is safe, tested, and effective. If you have any concerns about taking it, please speak to your GP so they can put your mind at rest. The sooner we are all vaccinated, the sooner we can reclaim the parts of our lives we miss the most!
New Cross Fire – 40 Years On
On January 18th we marked the 40th Anniversary of the New Cross Fire, in which 13 young Black lives were lost, and later another victim took his life. We must never forget the victims, who were innocently enjoying a birthday party, and whose families have never seen justice.
This fire devastated the Black community in Lewisham and was the spark for the long-term movement for racial justice in South London and across the UK. I was 10 years old at the time, and the memory stays with me. I wrote about my reflections for the South London Press.
I also spoke at the 40th Anniversary Memorial Service, which was extremely moving. You can watch the service in full here.
Adjournment Debate – Anoosheh Ashoori
On 26th January I was granted an Adjournment Debate to raise the issue of Anoosheh Ashoori, who continues to be unlawfully detained in Iran.
I was grateful to have the opportunity to share Anoosheh’s background, helped by his wife Sherry and his children Elika and Aryan. After 3 and a half years in prison, experiencing torture, solitary confinement, and Covid outbreaks – we must bring him home to Lewisham where he belongs.
The British Government continue to refuse to acknowledge Anoosheh’s status as a hostage being held for political leverage. I will not stop raising this issue in any way I can.
Parliament – Ambulance Services
In January I raised the issue brought to me by constituent Clive Toombs about the crisis in the London Ambulance Service. Whilst there are many issues that need attention, I made the point to the Health Secretary that leftover vaccine doses in hospitals should be made available to the Ambulance staff reporting to those hospitals. I have also been having conversations with the SE London CCG. I’m grateful to hear that progress has been made in this area since.
Parliament – Persecution of Christians in Nigeria
Following an event organised by the charity Open Doors UK, I asked the Church Commissioner what the Church of England is doing to support Christians being persecuted in Nigeria. This is following testimonies of women being abused, men being killed, and school children being killed – by Islamist militants in the northern part of the country. You can watch my question and the Commissioner’s response here.
Parliament – Long Covid
Long Covid has caused such misery for many sufferers of Covid-19. People can have long-term symptoms such as breathlessness, “brain fog”, and mental health issues. This of course has a huge impact on their ability to work, as well as look after themselves and their families. I spoke in a debate on this issue, and called for more Government funding for research.
Parliament – Cladding Debate and Stamp Duty Relief
Labour held an opposition day debate on 1st February to discuss the cladding crisis. The fear residents feel of living in homes which could burn down in the same way Grenfell Tower did is appalling. And to add insult to injury, leaseholders are still being charged by freeholders and management companies to pay for their own change in cladding.
It is not right or fair that leaseholders can buy properties in good faith, only to be charged with extortionate costs for waking watches, service charges and insurance – as well as the prospect of paying for new cladding. This is causing my constituents health issues as well as financial problems.
This scandal has gone on long enough, and we are determined to bring an end to it. Please do get in touch with me if you need my support on this issue.
I also spoke in a debate to call on the Government to continue the Stamp Duty Land Tax Relief and Mortgage Holidays, for the next financial year. This would help many more people to buy their first homes, or downsize, in this very difficult economy. The need for relief like this has not diminished since last spring; it has only grown.
Parliament – Women in Prisons and International Justice Issues
This week I have raised issues facing women both here and abroad. In Justice Questions, I asked the Secretary of State what his department is doing to support women in prisons during the pandemic. The Government’s own statistics show that the rates of self-harm in women’s prisons have increased by 8% in 2020, and this is just one indicator of the mental health crisis for women.
I also took another opportunity to implore the Government to take serious action against China, as their campaign of human rights abuses continues. Reports from the BBC this week show that Uyghur women are subjected to extreme sexual assault and torture in their prison camps. It is high time we acknowledged that this is a programme of genocide and it must be stopped.
Coronavirus Help and Support
- General information on Coronavirus
- Covid-19: Keeping Lewisham Safe
- Health support for residents
- Housing and homelessness advice
- Business support
- Service changes due to COVID-19
Other available advice:
- Citizens Advice Lewisham
- Lewisham Foodbank – Please note changes to services
- Age UK Lewisham & Southwark
- Government business advice – Support Helpline (0300 456 3565 Mon – Fri, 9am to 6pm)
- HMRC Tax Support Helpline – (0800 024 1222, Mon – Fri, 8am to 4pm)
Domestic abuse and Mental Health support:
- Athena Domestic Abuse Support Lewisham
- Mind – Bromley, Lewisham, and Greenwich
- Samaritans – Call 116 123 – 24/7 free from any phone
I will be holding my monthly surgery on Friday 12th February, 10am-12pm, over Zoom. To secure a slot, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief summary of your concerns including your full name, postal address and contact number. Please attach any relevant documents.