Olivia speaking at a rally.
Olivia speaking at a rally.

Welcome to my regular newsletter, keeping you updated on my work as your Member of Parliament. 

I wanted to wish you Season’s Greetings and a very Happy New Year! I hope this email finds you and your loved ones well, and that you have managed to have some form of safe celebration over the past few weeks.

Once again, the last month has been a roller coaster for families, communities and businesses across Hallam – from the announcement of a vaccine, to the continued lockdown restrictions. I’ve been busy holding the government to account over their support package for pubs, their failure to secure a Brexit deal, and much more.

Usually this time of year I’d want to be out on the doorsteps and high streets chatting to the people of Hallam and hearing about what changes you’d like to see in 2021. Unfortunately that’s not been possible, but I have continued to meet (via zoom!) with campaign groups, business owners and local NHS leaders to hear about what more I can do.

This month also marked a year since the general election, and my first year as MP for Sheffield Hallam. I’ve done my absolute best to represent you, campaigning on everything, from Covid support to the climate crisis, and I plan to keep doing so in 2021.

Read on to find out what else I’ve been up to, and hear about how you can get involved.

In Hallam…

  • I’ve helped secure important changes to NHS rules so that pregnant women are allowed one person with them at all times during maternity appointments, labour and after birth. I have written to our local hospitals to ask how they plan on implementing these new rules, and will continue to campaign on this until they do. I first raised this issue when my constituents got in touch earlier this year, and I have spoken out about my own experience in Parliament and on Radio 4.
Star headline: Pregnant women can be supported by their partners...
Star headline: Pregnant women can be supported by their partners...
  • I met with the Managing Director of First Bus South Yorkshire and Midlands, to discuss sustainability, plans to modernise the bus fleet, and to raise how rules to mitigate Covid have affected blind and partially sighted passengers.
  • I spoke at SYMAAG’s Annual General Meeting about the devastating effects of the government’s discriminatory and racist rhetoric and policies – and the need to create the just system we want to see from the ground up.
  • I met with Sheffield Health and Social Care Chair and CEO, along with other Sheffield MPs, to discuss the pandemic and how we can support local mental health services.
  • After speaking at Labour for a Green New Deal’s event about the need for a radical plan to address the dual nature and climate crises, I met with local activists to discuss their ongoing campaigns to build a Green New Deal in Sheffield.
  • Thank you to every young person in Hallam who entered my Christmas Card Competition! Your entries were amazing – and have brought me (and hopefully others!) lots of joy during what has otherwise been a difficult few weeks.
Year 9 student James
Year 9 student James's entry to my Christmas Card Competition.

In Parliament…

  • Lots of local pubs and restaurant owners in my constituency are worried about what the next few months will mean for their businesses. I shared their concerns with Treasury officials and called on the Department to provide more support for hospitality businesses.
  • I challenged the government over their so-called “oven ready” trade deal and their failure to guarantee environmental, agricultural, animal welfare or food standards; parliamentary scrutiny; a commitment to human rights; or protections for the NHS in future trading relationships.
  • I’ve held the government to account over their disastrous housing policy. I questioned the government over their failed Starter Homes programme – which saw none of the 200,000 promised homes delivered and I wrote a piece for The House outlining the desperate need for a clear roadmap to end the cycle of failed housing policies. I also challenged Robert Jenrick MP over proposed green belt building targets and asked him to confirm they won’t be imposed on Sheffield.
  • I welcomed the news that the Health Secretary changed the Covid vaccine priority list, after I raised this issue with him earlier this year. Now people at very high risk from the virus, who were made to shield, will be given the same priority as the over 70s. Thank you to my constituents who got in touch to raise this important issue. I will keep holding the government to account over this – to make sure the vaccine is rolled out quickly and fairly. I also tabled an Early Day Motion to celebrate the international efforts of thousands of scientists, researchers & clinicians from across the globe in developing treatment, testing and vaccines for Covid-19.
  • I’ve signed a letter calling on British Gas to take away the fire and rehire threat to British Gas workers and get a negotiated agreement with GMB Union. I signed another letter calling on the government to help vulnerable refugee children safely reach the UK and a joint letter to Priti Patel urging her to halt the deportation of Black British residents to Jamaica. The Government must learn the lessons of the Windrush scandal and end the hostile environment.
  • During a Westminster Hall debate on the effect of Covid on people with learning disabilities, I raised a number of issues with the government and called on them to put those with learning difficulties at the center of their Covid strategies. For too long, those most affected by the pandemic have been given the least thought.
  • I sponsored Labour MP Ian Byrne’s Early Day Motion calling for the Right To Food to be included in the National Food Strategy, to make it a clear obligation on governments now and in the future. With 10 million people in the UK suffering from food insecurity urgent action is needed. I questioned the government over their Free School Meals programme, and I will keep campaigning over the coming months to hold the government to account over this.
  • In my role on the Public Accounts Committee, I questioned government officials over their long-term environmental goals, and specifically their long overdue strategy for restoring our peatlands, helping to lock carbon into the ground, and provide a vital natural solution to the climate emergency. I also questioned government officials over their procurement of PPE for frontline workers.

Get involved!

  • NHS pay: A few weeks ago I was really pleased to join Nurses United and NHS Workers Say No’s Rally For Wellbeing. It was a great event with amazing speakers. You can get involved by signing their petition for a proper pay increase for NHS staff here:
  • Moorland burning: Following my debate on moorland burning lots of you got in touch to ask questions about this practice and its effect on the climate and ecological emergency. I put these questions to peatland expert Richard Lindsay. You can watch his answers here, and if you can, please share the Q&A with your friends and family to help spread the word!
  • Workers’ pay: Local campaign group Sheffield Needs A Pay Rise have run some really impactful campaigns in our city this year. You can read about what they’ve done here, and get involved by contacting their Facebook page.
  • Workers’ rights: Sheffield UCU are currently fighting for casual staff at the University of Sheffield to get the same recognition from the University that other staff are getting. If you have Twitter, please retweet the thread to help grow support for the campaign.
  • Nuclear ban: Sheffield Creative Action for Peace are holding a Covid compliant event at Sheffield Town Hall in January to mark the UN’s Nuclear Ban Treaty moving into law. If you’re interested, pop the date in your diary and find out more here.
  • COP26: MedAct have launched an open letter calling on the Government and the COP26 Leadership to commit to ambitious and historically accurate emissions reductions, cancel all new fossil fuel extractive projects, and guarantee a Fossil Free COP26.

Thank you for reading my newsletter, and as always, please get in touch if there are issues you would like me to raise or campaigns you would like me to get involved with in 2021!

Olivia Blake

MP for Sheffield Hallam

Olivia Blake
Olivia Blake's signature.
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