First some good news, while we’ve sadly lost the Royal Sutton Coldfield Observer, serious discussions are taking place about a replacement which would be every bit the equal of the Observer which we all miss so much.
Over the last week the position in respect of Covid nationally has deteriorated with a steep rise in the number of infections and of deaths. However in Sutton Coldfield the number of those infected has reduced for the second week running from- 55 to 33 to 26. Clearly if this trend continues I will be able to argue for the Royal Town to be removed from the lockdown measures imposed across the Birmingham local government area. In the meanwhile it is clearly important that we all continue to abide by the restrictions. I was interviewed about this on Channel 4 two days ago. You can see the clip here.
Yesterday the Chancellor announced our Winter Economy Plan – the next phase of our planned economic response to Covid 19.
Our Job Support Scheme will directly fund businesses to protect viable jobs and people’s wages through the winter. We have also acted to minimise the strains on companies’ cashflows so they can focus their resources on supporting employment. Pay as You Grow will cut Bounce Back loan repayments by almost half by extending the loans to 10 years, the extension to our temporary VAT cut to Spring 2021 will support vulnerable hospitality and tourism businesses, and our new payment plans will allow companies to defer VAT and tax liabilities for a further year.
The Job Support Scheme will open from 1 November, and run for six months until the end of April 2021. Employers can use the Job Support Scheme as well as claim the Jobs Retention Bonus. Employers now have three options: use the £1,000 Jobs Retention Bonus as a reward for bringing people back off furlough, bring people back on shorter hours and claim the wage subsidy under Job Support Scheme, or they can do both – if they bring back an employee who was on furlough, even on shorter hours, and they are still in post by January, the taxpayer will help pay their wages during that period and provide a £1,000 bonus.
I am very conscious that there are business sectors - well represented in Sutton Coldfield - which will not benefit from this. In particular the impact on businesses operating in the exhibitions and events sectors. Many businesses operating in the events industry or the supply chain for large conferences and exhibitions have found the past few months very difficult and with a delay to the resumption of large scale conferences, I know that many business owners are deeply concerned about the future. In the summer I wrote to the Department for Business to highlight a number of specific concerns that were raised by local businesses. This week I asked a question directly of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, about the additional support for the exhibition and events industry and what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
A number of related issues have led me to ask further questions this week (you can see these questions here https://bit.ly/2HkUuY2)
On Wednesday I spoke in a Statement about the end of the transition period. Our highly effective West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and I are very concerned about the future of the automotive industry which provides many high end jobs within the Royal Town- directly and indirectly. I highlighted points about the importance of just-in-time supply chains and removing tariffs on finished goods and components in those supply chains, which are particularly important for many manufacturing businesses here in the West Midlands. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBi5QDYk6Ns
I remain very concerned about rising unemployment and the impact particularly on young people and the over 50s. Young people who have recently entered the jobs market or are looking for their first job are finding it particularly hard. Entry level recruitment has been paused in many industries and the types of jobs that many young people seek have also been cut, especially in the hospitality industry. I am also concerned about older workers, those that have been made redundant are finding it hard to secure another job or find re-training opportunities in later life.
Recently published figures show that 2,300 self-employed people in Sutton Coldfield have accessed £6,300,000 worth of Government grants through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme’s second tranche. These grants do not need to be paid back and will help to cover lost earnings. This is in addition to the support given to self-employed workers through the first grant – worth £9,300,000 in Sutton Coldfield.
Birmingham City Council has been awarded £595,000.00 from the Government to continue providing interim accommodation and support to people at risk of homelessness. The funding is part of the Next Steps Accommodation programme, which aims to build on the success of the Government’s efforts to provide emergency accommodation for rough sleepers during the pandemic. Earlier this year, the government launched their ‘Everybody In’ scheme that asked councils across the country to ensure that rough sleepers had a safe space indoors to protect them from the impact of coronavirus. Birmingham City Council offered accommodation to everyone who was in need of housing. This was accepted by more than 140 people, including both rough sleepers and those with no access to public funds. Since that time, of the 73 rough sleepers helped, more than 50 have moved into more permanent accommodation, 10 are in temporary accommodation and are looking for permanent housing and 10 people have moved in with friends and family.
I am also pleased that a concerted effort from the local MPs and councillors across Birmingham to widen the regulations affecting childcare so that informal arrangements with grandparents are included have been successful. I raised this specifically in a House of Commons statement last week with Matt Hancock. I know the importance of this locally to many families and I am pleased that the Government changed its mind.
In previous years many of us attended Macmillan Cancer Support coffee mornings. Now in its 30th year, the charity fundraiser usually sees millions of pounds donated to help support people affected by cancer. The money raised helps fund Macmillan services including Macmillan Nurses and their free support line. Due to coronavirus the event is facing a 71% income drop. Today I am raising a mug and supporting their virtual coffee mornings which are still taking place across the UK. More details are available on their website: https://coffee.macmillan.org.uk/
As your MP I am here to help. If you feel I can assist with any concerns, please do not hesitate to get in contact by emailing me on email@example.com