Campaigning to protect and improve public services in Norwich
Our public services are vital, and the Conservatives have run them into the ground.
Since 2010, combined funding for local services in Norwich and Norfolk has been slashed by well over £1,000,000,000.
I have been campaigning to protect and improve public services in Norwich because the fight for high-quality services is part of the collective fight for a better future.
Here is what I’ve been doing to protect our vital services in Norwich:
Save our community pharmacies
Our pharmacies are a vital first port of call for many people when it comes to seeking basic help and treatment. These pharmacies should be supported in the important work they do – offering advice, treating minor ailments and promoting healthy living – not restricted so that pressure on front line and primary care services is increased.
Community pharmacies have been hit hard by Tory funding cuts. I started a campaign to save our community pharmacies, following the news of a potential £170 million cut to support.
Since then, I have taken every opportunity to advocate for our pharmacies in Norwich to be kept open, as essential community hubs.
Many concerned local residents got in touch with me about the news that Boots want to close their pharmacy at UEA, Bluebell Road.
Roughly 17,000 students will have to travel to Dereham Road, Eaton or Longwater if they need help or assistance.
Councillor Emma Hampton and Norwich Labour Party president Laura McCartney-Gray and I called for Boots to reverse their decision to close their UEA store and will continue to campaign for proper pharmacy provision across the University Ward.
I distributed this survey to ask residents how they feel about the closure.
Read more about my campaign to save the pharmacy on Bluebell Road here.
I backed my constituents’ calls to halt the closure of Boots’ Bowthorpe pharmacy and wrote to the company’s managing director and NHS England calling for a reprieve.
After my letter, I was told that after the sale, there would still be a pharmacy in Bowthorpe, as the Boots pharmacy was sold to a new community pharmacy.
During the pandemic, where parts of the NHS had to be closed or restricted, pharmacies in Norwich continued to provide critical access to medication.
That’s why I visited Costessey Pharmacy on Norwich Road. I spoke to pharmacist Prabodh Devlukia and his wife Meena, who have been practising here for an amazing 30 years. They and their dedicated team explained to me many of the difficulties community pharmacies like theirs were facing.
Read my post about my visit to Costessey Pharmacy here.
A local UEA Pharmacy student, Sara, reached out to me to ask for help towards the cost of her final year tuition fees.
Back in Iran, her parents had saved enough to cover her university tuition fees – however, US sanctions against Iran have led to extreme devaluation of the currency and made these savings worthless.
Sara had been working at Vauxhall Street Pharmacy for the past two and half years in order to pay her living expenses, and she was on track to achieve a first-class degree.
After sharing her Crowdfunder on social media, many across Norwich donated, and Sara secured the funding she needed to complete her studies.
She told me that she could not wait to give back to the local community when she qualifies.
Concerned constituents got in touch to let me know how worried they were that the Lloyds Pharmacy on Colman Road was shutting down.
The pandemic showed us just how much we need reliable, community-centred access to healthcare and advice. As well as the impact on residents – many of whom will now have to walk unacceptable distances to access a pharmacy – closing pharmacies creates a false economy and increases pressure on already-struggling GPs, A&E departments and walk-in centres.
I stood with City Councillors Matthew Fulton-McAlister, Beth Jones and Roger Ryan, and County Councillor Dave Rowntree – against the closure of the Colman Road Lloyds Pharmacy. Together, we promoted a petition that reiterated the impact of this decision on the community: especially some of the most vulnerable residents.
Read more about our campaign to save Colman Road Lloyds Pharmacy here.
Following the news that Lloyds were closing nearly 200 pharmacies across the UK, I told the Eastern Daily Press that it is clear these store closures are a direct result of Government cuts and policy.
This is what I told them:
“I think this is a real warning signal from a part of the health sector which is essential. You don’t realise how important these pharmacies are until they have gone – for many people they are a lifeline.”
Even though we were not able to convince the Government to reverse their decision to cut their community pharmacy budget, I continued to campaign for local pharmacies across Norwich to be kept open.
After visiting the Vauxhall Street pharmacy and post office, I made a video highlighting the devastating impact of cuts to pharmacy budgets.
Pharmacies should be supported in the important work they do – offering advice, treating minor ailments and promoting healthy living – not restricted so that pressure on front line and primary care services is increased.
Watch my video about Vauxhall Street below.
Despite previously indicating that they had dropped their proposals to cut the community pharmacy budget, the government decided to impose these cuts.
I told the Eastern Daily Press:
“The return of these cuts shows just what a duplicitous, blinkered and out of touch government we’ve got.
Here in Norwich, 1000s of people supported my campaign to stop the budget for community pharmacy being slashed.
I was told time and time again what a senseless false economy this would be – giving thousands of pharmacy users in Norwich no alternative but to go to already struggling GPs, A+E departments, Out of Hours services or Walk-In Centres.”
Read what I had to say about the government’s U-turn here.
I met with pharmacists at Hurn Chemist on Unthank Road to discuss the government’s proposed cuts.
With the help of the local Norwich Nelson Ward Labour Party activists, we spoke to hundreds of people in the surrounding area about the cuts; it was clear from these discussions just how much residents value Hurn’s and the great service they provide.
Read more about my visit to Hurn Chemist here.
I joined Norwich Town Close Labour Party members, including councillor Emma Corlett, on the doorstep.
We collected signatures against cuts to the community pharmacy budget.
I also joined Wensum Labour Party members on the doorstep, campaigning to keep our community pharmacies open.
Read more about my visit to doorsteps across Norwich here.
Alongside local Labour members, I visited the pharmacy on Hall Road. We were there to discuss the problems facing Norfolk pharmacies following the Government’s plans for reducing funding in 2016/2017.
It was clear listening to the pharmacists that, once again, the government’s plans are ill-advised and poorly thought through.
Read more about my visit to Hall Road pharmacy here.
Save Wensum Lodge adult education centre
Wensum Lodge has been Norfolk’s home of adult learning for over forty years but now the Tory-run County Council has announced it wants to sell it. I have opposed the sale of the building without notice or consultation. With Labour councillors, I am fighting to save the complex for the community, and supporting emerging community groups to keep the complex functioning while a long-term solution is developed.
Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council has called the centre a “city and county icon”.
I have been campaigning alongside local Labour activists such as Jane Overhill, to save Wensum Lodge from County Council cuts.
I supported Thorpe Hamlet Labour Party Chair Jane Overhill in her application to make Wensum Lodge an Asset of Community Value.
I was very glad to hear that her application has been successful.
An Asset of Community Value means the community has six months to come up with a bid to purchase it.
Only then it can be put on the open market.
Read more about Jane’s success in the campaign to protect Wensum Lodge here.
I shared this petition from the Norwich Labour Party to protect the iconic Wensum Lodge.
I support Norwich Labour in their calls on Norfolk County Council to invest in Wensum Lodge, turning it into a cultural and economic asset, making best use of a historic building as a community focus for future generations.
Read more about the services offered by Wensum Lodge here.
Stop the rationing of healthcare: Save the SOS bus
The SOS bus is a night-time service for many across Norwich. Run by a team of excellent volunteers, the SOS Bus helps anyone in Norwich city centre on Friday or Saturday nights whose well-being is threatened by illness or injury, emotional distress or other vulnerability.
The SOS Bus also helps prevent unnecessary A&E visits and ambulance call-outs and frees up police time.
When I heard the bus was under threat from cuts from the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board, I launched a campaign to help save the SOS bus.
Read more about the services offered by the SOS bus here.
Following the news that local NHS chiefs were considering ending the funding for the SOS bus, I was asked for my thoughts by the Norwich Evening News.
This is what I told them:
“There is no doubt the SOS bus is being threatened with cuts because the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board (ICB) feels it needs to save money.
This is a rationing of healthcare – something which should not be needed in an advanced country in 2023.
There should not be any reason why we can’t have the bus and the other services the ICB is having to cut back on.”
Read more here.