Message from Andrew Mitchell

9th October 2020

Covid 19

An additional 77 cases of Covid 19 have been registered in Sutton Coldfield for the week of 26th September -2nd October, compared to the revised figure of 94 for the week of 19-25 Sep. However there has been a delay in cases being transferred from the national system due to the problems with the data that were reported last week. As such, this figure is likely to be revised upwards and I will report again next week when I receive further information.

The 7-day case rate between 26/09-02/10 in Birmingham is now 126.6 cases/100K population, compared to 135.9/100K for the period between the 19/09-25/09 however this is also affected by the data lag. Over the 7 days leading up to the 02/10 of all community pillar 2 tests 9.1 % are positive, this is an increase from the previous week and higher than the regional average for the West Midlands as a whole which stands at 5.6 %

Testing in the community stands at 2,217 tests/100K population as of 03/10, which ranks 1st in the region. Birmingham now has seven operational walkthrough sites with a further 2 approved, one of which is focused in areas of high student resident population with a further site under investigation also for this purpose. The aim is to work towards a target of 15 local testing sites. In addition there are 2 fixed mobile testing units with a further 2 units in reserve cleared for deployment.

Business Support

Today the Chancellor has set out the next stage of our Winter Economy Plan. The Job Support Scheme (JSS) is being expanded to provide temporary, localised support to businesses across the UK whose premises are legally required to close as a direct result of Coronavirus restrictions set by one or more of the four governments of the UK. The expansion of the JSS will help businesses through the period they are affected by the restrictions. This is part of the Job Support Scheme, available to employers from 1 November 2020 for 6 months, with the scheme reviewed in January. Further guidance will be published in the coming weeks. Employers will be able to make a claim on a monthly basis online through gov.uk from early December 2020.

On 9 September, the Government announced the Local Restrictions Support Grant scheme. This scheme provided businesses which are forced to closed for three weeks or more due to a nationally imposed local lockdown in England with grants of up to £1,500 per three-week closure period.

The Government is now making this scheme more generous so that businesses receive up to £3,000 per month, and are eligible for payment sooner, after only two weeks of closure rather than three. The Government is also extending the scheme to include businesses which have been required to close on a national rather than a local basis, or which have not been legally able to reopen since the first lockdown in March.

Businesses will receive the following:

• For properties with an RV of £15k or under, grants to be £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks;

• For properties with an RV of between £15k-£51k grants to be £2000 per month, or £1000 per two weeks; and

• For properties with an RV of £51k or over grants to be £3000 per month, or £1500 per two weeks.

Local Authorities will continue to receive 5% of the funding which they received for the Local Restrictions Support Grant scheme as a discretionary fund, which the Government will encourage them to use to support business that have been legally mandated to close by the Government but are outside of the business rates system. Grants will be administered by Local Authorities, and eligible businesses will likely need to provide their details to their Local Authority to access this support.

Royal Sutton Coldfield updates

This morning I went along to visit local barber James Briggs who runs a pop up barber shop at our Town Hall and offers limited free haircuts to men and boys whose families are using food bank facilities and are struggling with household costs. Four of our Town Councillors from the Walmley Minworth Ward John Cooper, Tony Briggs, Terry Wood and Derrick Griffin have generously been sponsoring free haircuts today. Those that are able to pay can support the initiative by contributing £5 towards the project. Another good example of our community coming together and providing support to those that need it.

Andrew Mitchell meets barber James Briggs

Afterwards I visited Solutions2 UK Ltd, an award winning local business based at the Minworth Industrial Park. Solutions2 works within the exhibitions and events sector. For those of you that have been reading my weekly updates for some time, you will know that I have been concerned about the impact of the current restrictions on those operating with the exhibition and events industries. We have a large number of local businesses that work within the sector and the wider supply chains, and I have been highlighting their concerns directly with my Ministerial colleagues. Today I met Solutions2’s founders Marija Erzen and Trevor Nock alongside a number of their team who help to provide stand design and build solutions for businesses to use at exhibitions and live events. I was extremely concerned to hear about the desperate impact on their business and those like them. With live events paused and no clear start date for conferences and events to begin again, it is a matter of great concern across their sector and I will continue to press the Government on behalf of these businesses over the coming weeks.  

Andrew Mitchell visits Solutions 2 UK Ltd

This afternoon I had the opportunity to welcome Tina Swani the new Chief Executive of the Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust. Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust made grants of nearly £1.4m to local causes and cultural activities in Sutton Coldfield during its last financial year and has 46 Almshouses occupied by around 50 residents in Walmley. The Trust supports a broad range of organisations and activities that share a commitment to making a positive impact to the lives of the communities in our Royal Town and we had a useful conversation about matters of local interest. I am very grateful to the Trust for their brilliant work throughout the Town.  

Schools continue to face a number of challenges in these difficult times and I visited both Plantsbrook High School and Town Junior Primary School this afternoon.

At Plantsbrook I spoke to Headteacher Tracy Campbell and you will shortly be able to see a video of our chat, likewise at Town Junior School. Both schools are doing brilliant work for their students in trying circumstances. Virtually all their students are back and it is a huge credit to the staff that they are so determinedly insuring that the younger generation in the Royal Town are getting a rounded education.

Yesterday I spoke on a panel event at the University of Birmingham which discussed the future of international development. The event was recorded live and if it sounds of interest you can watch the session back online here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=611440122861655

Arrangements for Remembrance Day will be very different this year. Holy Trinity Parish Church has announced plans for their Remembrance Day service. Their service is going ahead however Covid-19 restrictions mean that it will be an invitation only event with the morning streamed live to their Facebook page so that local people can join in. You can find more details on their website: https://www.htsc.org.uk/our-church/remembrance-day-2020/ we are in discussions at the moment about the role of the British Legion and the Town Council as well as the Sea Cadets who mount the parade around the memorial and further details will be available shortly.

I received some welcome local funding updates this week from the Football Foundation. The charity has awarded a number of local teams funding from the Premier League's Matchday Support Fund including Sutton Coldfield Town FC, Boldmere St Michaels FC, Boldmere St Michaels Women FC and Paget Rangers  FC. The funds will help our local teams cover some of the costs of adjustments that need to be made to safely cater for the return of players and supporters.

Westminster news and Parliamentary business

This week in Parliament I once again urged the Health Secretary to avoid implementing any further local restrictions. I have remained in very close contact with our West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and with Birmingham City Council’s leadership team and public health officials about our local infection rate. I am very keen that we avoid any further restrictions and indeed that we work to try to ease the additional measures that we have seen introduced as soon as it is possible to do so. I want to see a common sense approach taken to the restrictions. You can watch my intervention with the Secretary of State here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v19M10JBdcw

I also spoke in an Urgent Question about the Horizon Post Office scandal and in the Second Reading of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill. I have uploaded my contributions on my YouTube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh1dcjrq62DwcP5ztQMoLWg

Details of my Registers of Births and Deaths Bill have been published in the House of Commons. This Bill (very much made in Sutton Coldfield following the closure of our registry office) will reform the way in which births and deaths are registered in England and Wales, moving from a paper based system to registration in an electronic register. Since 2009 all birth and death registrations have been captured electronically in parallel with the paper registers. The Bill will remove this duplication of processes by removing the requirement for paper registers and introduce an electronic register for the registration of births and deaths creating a more secure system for the maintenance of birth, still-birth and death register. The reforms of the birth and death registration system are expected to lead to net savings of £20m over the next decade and I hope will pave the way for an easier registration system for my constituents often at a time at great upset. More details about my Bill can be found here: https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2019-21/registersofbirthsanddeaths/documents.html. Second reading will take place next Friday.

Party Conference season has felt rather strange this year without the same raft of events, speeches and fringe events. Many sessions went online this year and on Wednesday I joined an Institute for Public Policy Research roundtable discussion which looked at the post-Brexit immigration system.

Last weekend I appeared on Radio 4’s Week in Westminster to discuss recent political events, the Government’s response to Coronavirus and the renewal of the Coronavirus Act: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qjfq

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Tomorrow is World Mental Health Day. While mental health problems can affect anyone, any day of the year, tomorrow is a particular opportunity to focus on mental health and I am keen to highlight the resources that are available on Mind’s website including tips for wellbeing and details of sources of support: https://www.mind.org.uk/get-involved/world-mental-health-day/

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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 andrew.mitchell.mp@parliament.uk