Helen challenges the Minister on outsourcing during the pandemic

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the Tories have awarded large government contracts to their friends and donors. We have expertise in our local NHS and public health teams, but companies with no track record of delivery have been hired for billions of pounds to run Test and Trace and supply PPE, leading to chaos. You can see my question to the Minister here>>

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Support for families over the school holidays

Earlier this week, the Government finally gave in to pressure and committed to providing much needed support for low income families through the school holidays. I welcome the increased funding for food charities and local authorities and the expansion of the holiday food programmes, but this came too late for many families abandoned by the government over the October half-term. The Labour Party brought forward a plan a month ago to continue funding for families eligible for free school meals through the holidays, but the Government shamefully voted this down, whilst Tory backbenchers treated families in poverty with contempt.

Our local councils, Lambeth and Southwark, and many community groups across Dulwich and West Norwood, inspired by Marcus Rashford’s campaign, stepped up to fill the gap in support. But in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, feeding hungry children should not be up for debate and it should not be a postcode lottery. I will continue to call on the Government to reverse their damaging cuts to welfare support and tackle the growing levels of child poverty in our country.

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Remembrance Sunday 2020

This Remembrance Sunday it has not been possible to gather for public acts of remembrance in the usual way. I laid wreaths at several of the memorials in my constituency of Dulwich & West Norwood. Our history is rich, varied and full of many moving collective and individual stories.
The memorial in the garden of St Stephen’s South Dulwich commemorates parishioners who lost their lives in both world wars.
The memorial at Herne Hill station was installed last year by the Herne Hill Society to remember residents of Herne Hill who died in WW1, the culmination of a history research project involving students from Charter North Dulwich which uncovered individual stories street by street.
The sundial memorial on the Vincennes Estate commemorates those who served with the French Resistance during WW2 including Violette Szabo an extraordinary young woman from Lambeth who was murdered in the Ravensbruck concentration camp.
The African and Caribbean War Memorial on Windrush Square in Brixton commemorates the thousands of men and women from Africa and the Caribbean who served with British armed forces in WW1 and WW2.
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Helen leads debate on Royal Mail services in SE22

Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March, I've received so many reports from constituents in the East Dulwich area who have not been receiving regular postal deliveries, sometimes for two or three weeks at a time.
When Royal Mail announced the closure of the Silvester Road delivery office in 2017, I warned that this would be a disaster for residents in the SE22 postcode area. The company put profit before public service and sold the Silvester Road delivery office for more than £7m.
I pay tribute to all our postal workers who have been working very hard throughout the crisis in very difficult circumstances. They are being let down by working conditions which are not fit for purpose. This week, I took this issue to Parliament.
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Helen speaks in debate on Black History Month

I am proud to represent one of the most diverse constituencies in the UK. This month is Black History Month, and as we celebrate the immense and enduring contribution of black people to the UK over two thousand years, I am continuing to call on the Government to reform the history curriculum. Every student should learn the UK’s history of migration, including colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade; so that every child can find their own story in the history they learn.

Black Cultural Archives, the only national organisation dedicated to the collection, preservation and celebration of black British history is based on Windrush Square in Brixton in my constituency. BCA should be afforded the status of a national museum and archive, and I called on the government to make this commitment.  Black history is British history and it should be taught all year round.  You can watch my speech here >>

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Helen challenges the Prime Minister on financial support for workers in lockdown areas

Today I challenged the Prime Minister on the inadequacy of the support provided to people who are unable to work due to coronavirus restrictions, which sits in stark contrast with the vast sums of money he is happy to spend on private companies delivering failing services. The Government’s Job Support Scheme will only provide two-thirds of wages to staff if a business has been forced to close. But families are still required to pay 100% of their rent or mortgage and bills. In London, I know that many businesses will be facing difficult choices as Tier 2 restrictions lead to a loss of customers and many are desperately worried about how they will pay staff if they are forced to close.

At the start of this crisis, the Government promised to do whatever it takes to see the country through this crisis, but the Chancellor has now decided to abandon viable sectors across the country. We will face a tsunami of unemployment with all of the hardship and desperation that brings, unless the government urgently changes course and delivers the support families and businesses need. You can watch my question here>>

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Helen speaks in debate on planning reform

Our planning system has a vital role to play in tackling the housing crisis and addressing the climate and ecological emergency, but instead of seeing planning as a valuable toolkit for these critical challenges, the Tories see planning as red tape to be swept away as far as possible.  The Government has announced plans which amount to a devastating overhaul of our current planning system. These proposals would end the democratic voice of residents in decisions on planning applications, whilst extending the range of building that can take place without any planning permission at all, allowing developers to turn offices and shops into cramped, substandard housing.

Across Dulwich and West Norwood, there is an urgent need for high quality and genuinely affordable social housing. This can only be delivered through a planning system which establishes an ambitious vision for our country, sets high standard for design and environmental performance, and protects the buildings and spaces which local people value. Here is my speech from last week’s debate on planning in Parliament >>

https://youtu.be/shHA1VXuMbQ

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Helen speak in debate on reform of the planning system

Our planning system has a vital role to play in tackling the housing crisis and addressing the climate and ecological emergency, but instead of seeing planning as a valuable toolkit for these critical challenges, the Tories see planning as red tape to be swept away as far as possible. The Government has announced plans which amount to a devastating overhaul of our current planning system. These proposals would end the democratic voice of residents in decisions on planning applications, whilst extending the range of building that can take place without any planning permission at all, allowing developers to turn offices and shops into cramped, substandard housing.

Across Dulwich and West Norwood, there is an urgent need for high quality and genuinely affordable social housing. This can only be delivered through a planning system which establishes an ambitious vision for our country, sets high standards for design and environmental performance, and protects the buildings and spaces which local people value. You can watch my recent speech below >>

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Helen calls on the Prime Minister to fix the delays in processing EWS1 certificates

For three years since the terrible tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire, the Tories’ approach to building safety has been shambolic.  Over the past year, I have been contacted by many constituents trapped in limbo, facing financial difficulty and unable to sell their home because mortgage companies now require a certificate, known as an EWS1 form, as a condition of lending on buildings which have external cladding. 

The problem comes because it is almost impossible to obtain an EWS1 certificate at present for the vast majority of buildings, resulting in many flats in buildings with cladding being un-sellable.  It is essential that the Government makes sure that every home is safe, but the current system isn’t doing that either.

The Government must act to stop this scandal which is causing misery for hundreds of thousands of people across the country. You can watch my question to the Prime Minister here>>

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Statement on Permitted Development Rights expansion

Our planning system is critical for delivering on some of the most important challenges we face.  The urgent need for new homes to address the housing crisis and the urgent need to tackle the climate and ecological emergency, decarbonise our economy and protect and enrich our natural environment.

To meet these challenges, we must have a planning system that establishes a strong vision, sets high standards for design and environmental performance, gives strong protections to the buildings, spaces and landscapes which people value, and actively supports the involvement and engagement of a diverse range of voices in decision-making.

Yet the Tories are not concerned with reforming the planning system so that it can address these urgent challenges.  They are applying the usual natural Tory instinct to deregulate, regarding the planning system as red tape to be cut through, rather than as a valuable toolkit which must be further improved to secure genuinely progressive, sustainable planning outcomes, particularly in terms of the provision of new genuinely affordable homes to rent and to buy.

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