First and foremost I want to assure every Brent resident that I am dealing with more constituency cases than ever before and will continue to support my constituents. I am holding virtual surgeries and, as soon as we are able to ensure Covid-19 safe appointments, I will resume my normal weekly in-person surgeries across the constituency in places such as the Civic Centre and Willesden Library. I also aim to hold surgeries in Harlesden Library and other venues around Brent Central.
I, like many other people, have had to make changes to how my staff and I work and conduct our everyday interactions with each other and constituents due to Covid-19. I have had to make some difficult decisions and below I explain how I, as your MP, will need to work moving forward.
There were a number of considerations that have had to be taken into account.
Could the office in Willesden be made Covid-19 safe? I am afraid that the office was not a large enough space to be Covid-19 safe for my team or constituents and could not allow for adequate social distancing as per the government’s guidance.
In addition, all Members of Parliament are publically funded by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) which sets budgets, including for renting of office space.
When the office opened in 2015 it was just about affordable within the limitations of the authorised budget, but as time has gone on it has become increasingly unaffordable unless requests were made for extra funding. It seemed unreasonable to me to request additional funding for an office where my team are currently working from home, as per the instruction of the Speaker of the House of Commons, and in addition could not be reasonably made Covid-19 safe. With the lease up for renewal, I decided with a heavy heart that I had little option but to bring an end to this ultimately unsustainable situation.
Finally, whilst not the primary reason for its closure, is the continual security risk to everyone working within a very visible high street office. My staff have been attacked in the office, verbally assaulted coming and going from work, bricks have been thrown through the windows and the frontage has been smashed. I have had to work extensively with police and security staff to simply try and create a safe working environment for my employees. Many of these incidents were not made public in order to not encourage copycat attacks.
Sadly in recent months, the threat to myself and my staff has drastically escalated. Last month the police arrested one person and are currently pursuing others as I continue to speak out on key issues such as the impact of Covid-19 on the BAME community, the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. I continue to receive on an almost daily basis threats of violence and death threats.
I will never be threatened into silence and will continue to speak out and speak up for all of my constituents in Brent Central. The work that I do as your Member of Parliament will continue and the closure of the Willesden office will make no substantive difference to those individuals seeking my assistance. As previously stated, in the future my advice surgeries will continue from Willesden Library and Brent Civic Centre and I am also looking to expand the range of sites further to increase accessibility.
As always you can continue to contact my office in the normal ways via email on email@example.com. Please note that the new GDPR rules are such that we will need to clarify and confirm constituents’ information in writing and via the phone.
All post should now be sent to the House of Commons, Westminster, SW1A 0AA and all post received at the Willesden High Road office will be collected.
Please take care and stay safe, we have a long way to go before this pandemic is over. I’d also like to take the opportunity to say a big thank you to all of my constituents that are providing help and support to friends and neighbours during this difficult time.
Our Community is our strength.
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