Lockdown in the UK began on 23rd March 2020. A lot has happened since then. There is no denying that Coronavirus has caused extreme disruption to all our lives. Coronavirus has also taken too many lives, too soon. And as the rate of transmission declines, it is essential that we all remain very vigilant.
When I was elected as the member of parliament just over half a year ago, I could never have anticipated this situation that we have all been recently facing. My top priority during this difficult time has been helping constituents. From volunteering at the food distribution hub to helping my team resolve queries raised by constituents, Wolverhampton South West has been – and continues to be – the centre of my attention.
As we start to think about preparing for life after lockdown, I want to make sure that the places we visit are clean and safe. In a recent contribution to this blog, I observed that I have seen significantly less traffic on our roads while the Government’s guidelines on social distancing have been in place. On my daily jogs as part of the Government’s exercise allowance, I have also noticed a lot less fly-tipping – an issue that those who know me well will know has been one of my key priorities during – and indeed, well before – my time as the MP. If you do see any incidents of fly-tipping, please be sure to report it to the appropriate authority, the City of Wolverhampton Council, at https://www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/environment-and-climate/fly-tipping
I made a pledge during my election campaign to work with residents to clean up the streets and to make our communities a better place to live in. As part of this, I set up ‘Stuart’s Street Cleans.’ These regular volunteering sessions have brought together many individuals from different backgrounds around one common endeavour: to tidy up our streets! While this seems like a simple thing to do, it is my personal belief that tidier communities are an essential ingredient that helps to create happier ones. My desire is to schedule more sessions once it is safe to do so. I encourage anyone that would like to take part to contact me.
During my election campaign, I also campaigned for Wolverhampton’s tips to remain open seven days a week. The City Council made the difficult decision to close these sites to minimise social contact during Covid-19. I am pleased that they have now confirmed they will re-open the Shaw Road Household Waste Recycling Centre in Bushbury. This is after it has been closed for nearly two months. From 1st June, the site will be open for seven days a week from 10 am. I encourage all visitors to follow social distancing, to only make essential trips, and not to visit if any resident or their household has symptoms of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, serious and organised waste crime is estimated to cost the UK at least £600 million each year. To tackle this issue, a new taskforce that is dedicated to tackling serious and organised waste crime was launched in January 2020. For the first time, the new taskforce (the Joint Unit for Waste Crime) brings together law enforcement agencies, environmental regulators, HMRC, and the National Crime Agency. It is part of the landmark Resources and Waste Strategy. This strategy will overhaul England’s waste system and ensure that those responsible for producing damaging waste take greater responsibility and foot the bill.
There are also many things that we can do in our everyday lives to reduce waste. We can reduce food waste by buying only what’s necessary and using leftover ingredients; we can mend and repair things at home and for our neighbours; and we can use less plastic when shopping by buying bags for life. Indeed, figures show that more than 15.6 billion fewer bags have been handed out by the seven main retailers since the plastic bag charge was introduced in 2015. There is much more we can do to create a safer, cleaner Wolverhampton. I can’t wait to play my part and hope that you will join me in this endeavour.