Olivia's January newsletter.

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

The start of 2021 has been a rollercoaster. Whilst the roll-out of the vaccine has brought a lot of hope, the continued lockdowns have taken their toll. Hundreds of you have gotten in touch about a range of issues, from Covid-19 support, free school meals and public sector pay, to environmental and food standards, and workers rights. I am continuing to press the government on these issues and more.

My office and I are doing everything we can to support Hallam residents through the third lockdown. I’ve compiled a list of groups in our constituency and nationally working to support people. But as always, you can contact me at olivia.blake.mp@parliament.uk and my team and I will do everything we can to help.

In Hallam…

• This week I launched a project with my constituents to create a Hallam Citizens’ Climate Manifesto, which we can take to the government ahead of the COP26 UN summit later this year. the next 9 months I will be holding a series of (virtual!) Climate Assemblies with Hallam constituents on a range of topics including nature and biodiversity, international justice, a green industrial strategy, and a democratic and just transition. I hope each Climate Assembly will be an opportunity for Hallam residents to discuss what action we want to see come out of the summit, as well as decide what steps we want to take here in Hallam to implement a post-Covid green recovery.

Don’t miss our first event this Thursday 4th February, where we will discuss how public transport should be transformed to tackle the climate emergency. You can sign up here.

• After a constituent got in touch with me about the effect of the pandemic on their brewery, I have been working with campaign groups SIBA and CAMRA to call on the government to provide more support, and reverse the proposed cuts to Small Brewers Relief. I have tabled a parliamentary motion to raise this issue.

• I am continuing to call the government out on their public sector pay freeze, which will affect 12,200 people in Hallam, the second highest number in England! I am doing everything I can to speak up for public sector workers, and make sure those that have done so much for our constituency, and city, during this crisis are not the ones made to pay.

• Along with other Sheffield MPs,  I have signed a letter to the CEO of Ofqual calling for urgent clarity on technical and vocational examinations. Those studying vocational qualifications have been left in the dark and this must be addressed.

• I spoke at Sheffield Labour for a Green New Deal’s event, discussing how our city can tackle the climate crisis by building a local Green New Deal. You can watch the event , and my contribution, here and you can find out about future events here.

• After Sheffield Cladding Action Group got in touch, pledged my support for the #EndOurCladdingScandal campaign, calling on the Housing Secretary to address this crisis and make sure no leaseholder is forced to pay through no fault of their own.

Olivia pledges support for the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign.
Olivia pledges support for the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign.

In Parliament…

• When the Government’s Trade Bill returned to the House of Commons, I voted for vital amendments to protect our NHS, maintain standards, defend human rights, and ensure scrutiny in future deals. The government voted down all of these amendments. You can see my full statement hereI also joined We Own It’s campaign to stop our NHS being sold off in secretive trade deals.

• The Environment Bill also returned to Parliament this month. I put my name to a number of amendments including an amendment to enshrine in law a responsibility on the government to end the decline of the #StateofNature in England no later than 2030, and an amendment to ban neonicotinoids. You can read my full statement on the Bill here. I have also tabled a question to ask the government what assessment the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made of the risk of bladder cancer from working with dangerous chemicals such as acetamiprid, cypermethrin and glyphosate.

• I have been continually holding the government to account over the roll out of the vaccine. I have signed a letter calling for occupational prioritisation for key workers during the second phase of the roll-out, so we can protect our frontline workers. In response to changes in guidance to the vaccination programme, I organised a joint letter from 40 MPs to the government, and spoke to the BBCI also put questions to senior civil servants during a Public Accounts Committee session.

• While the government continues with its failed model of outsourcing vital support to private companies, resulting in families across the country receiving completely inadequate food parcels, I have been campaigning for the Right To Food to be enshrined in law, so no government can get away with what this government is. I have also written to Gavin WIlliamson calling for free school meals to be provided during the February half term.

• When the government once again refused to cancel the cut to Universal Credit planned for April this year, I wrote to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey to ask her to urgently re-think this plan.

• The government’s piecemeal response to Covid means the hospitality sector has been forced to continually operate in a volatile and uncertain environment – without adequate support. I have written to the Minister to call for extra support for the hospitality sector.

• The last month has shown us how important access to the internet is, if young people are going to be able to continue their education. The Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, published a report calling the government out on the litany of failures, which have meant rural areas could be locked out of gigabit broadband for years to come. I wrote a piece for Politics Home about this and also spoke to the BBC and Sky radio. I have also signed a letter, calling on internet providers to help make sure no young person is left without internet access.

• Myself and Lilian Greenwood, as Chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Groups on SEND and Deafness have written to the Education Secretary about the huge impact of Covid on deaf children and young people in school. I have also signed a letter calling on the government to improve Erasmus+’s replacement, the Turing Scheme, so we have a proper exchange programme for students now and in the future.

• Despite the government’s U-turn on closing schools to help lower transmission, they have failed to extend this to nurseries, putting early years workers in harm’s way. I wrote to the Education Secretary to ask for the rationale behind exempting nurseries from lockdown 3 measures, and I spoke to ITV Calendar and BBC Look North about this issue. I will continue to campaign until the guidance is changed.

Olivia on ITV news.
Olivia on ITV news.

• I wrote to the Minister for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care to ask her to suspend the new targets for NHS dentist practices, which I fear will be impossible to meet during Lockdown 3 and will only threaten the sustainability of NHS dental services and result in urgent care being de-prioritised.

• Unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to speak in the debate on Long Covid, but you can read here what I was planning to say. We need to stop treating Long Covid like a peripheral issue, and instead invest in research, improve care pathways and publish statistics on how many people are suffering from this long term illness.

• I have written to Transport Minister Grant Shapps calling for him to reverse the decision to cut Transport for the North’s budget by 40%. Addressing the already existing disparities between regional funding for transport is vital to tackle regional inequity and address the climate emergency.

• Many of my constituents are rightly angry that they have lost just over 75% of the money they were owed due to the Equitable Life scandal, the figures quoted to me are shocking and run into 100s of £1000s. I wrote to RIshi Sunak to once again, urge him to pay my constituents – and all the victims of this scandal – the money they are owed.

• This month the Labour Party forced a vote in parliament on UK employment law. It’s astonishing that a Government which claims to want to ‘build back better’ is now floating further attacks on working hours and sick pay, and has remained silent on banning reprehensible fire and rehire tactics. You can read my full statement here.

Get involved!

Supermarket delivery charges: I have joined campaigners at Independent Age to call on highstreet supermarket chains to suspend delivery charges and reduce minimum spends for priority slots – so those at risk aren’t penalised for following guidance. I spoke to BBC Yorkshire about this campaign and have tabled a question to the Minister. If you want to join the call, you can write to the supermarkets and encourage them to make this change:

Friends of the Loxley Valley have launched a fundraising drive to fight plans for the Loxley valley township. They are appealing for donations to help us ensure local concerns are voiced effectively at a planning inquiry hearing later this year.

Forge Dam: I was really pleased to hear that Forge Dam will undergo a £300,000 heritage and wildlife restoration. Forge Dam is an important wildlife habitat for Sheffield, and it will be wonderful to see it given a new lease of life. Friends of the Porter Valley Sheffield still have a bit more fundraising to do – if anyone would like to make a donation or become a member you can do this from their website:

Every child online: It’s been nearly a month since schools closed for the third national lockdown. Yet thousands of pupils are still unable to access online learning. Please sign Labour’s petition to get every child online:

Dates for your Diary!

• 30th January: Stocksbridge & Upper Don Labour Party – Tackling the Climate Emergency in Penistone and Stocksbridge.

• 8th February:  Sheffield Libraries – Finding Queer Histories in the Archive

• 10th February: Sheffield Labour for a Green New Deal – Community wealth building.

• 18th February: Sheffield Labour Students – The Labour Party, Criminal Justice and the Police

• 1st March: Sheffield Libraries – Sanctuary in Sheffield: How Sheffield Became a Cosmopolitan City.


Thank you for reading my newsletter. If you would like to share it with your neighbours or friends in Hallam, you can share the sign up link with them here.

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!

Olivia Blake

MP for Sheffield Hallam

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