Message from Andrew Mitchell

15th May 2020

This is my eighth weekly message to my constituents and local residents across our Royal Town.

Much has happened nationally since I wrote my last message and the Prime Minister has outlined the next steps in our approach to dealing with the pandemic.

It is good news for the large numbers of constituents that have been in touch with me about individual outdoor pursuits like fishing- a sport that I have learnt recently that many in Sutton Coldfield pursue! You can read the latest guidance for what the new rules mean here.  Many people across our Royal Town are incredibly active and have been asking for a relaxation of these rules so I hope that the new exercise and travel rules will be helpful.

This week the Chancellor also confirmed that the Jobs Retention scheme will be extended. The Scheme has protected millions of jobs and businesses and the Chancellor has been clear that he wants to avoid a cliff edge and get people back to work in a measured way. This is something which many of us have made clear is essential. The programme will be extended until the end of October. Until the end of July, workers will continue to receive 80 per cent of their current salary, up to £2,500 a month. From the start of August, the scheme will be more flexible, and furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to contribute towards some of the costs of their salaries. More specific details will be made available by the end of this month.

Generally, the administration of the scheme has gone well which considering it was built in a few weeks is certainly to the credit of the technical teams behind the scenes. I have raised a number of specific cases with the Treasury and I continue to press for support for a number of local people with employment issues. I appreciate that this continues to be a very worrying time for many people.

The housing market is also beginning to open up again which I know will help many who have been in touch with specific concerns about moving house and also for the large number of students that have struggled with accommodation issues as well as local estate agents and property companies.

The Government’s scheme to support the self-employed opened for applications earlier this week which was ahead of schedule. Self-employed people can now apply for support and if they meet the criteria, they will receive a grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly trading profits, paid in a single instalment up to £7,500. You can find out more by clicking here.

We have also announced an additional £600 million of funding for social care to give the sector the support it needs. We have already provided councils with £3.2 billion of additional funding to help deal with the crisis and this additional funding will help continue to deliver frontline services and support to those who need it most. The fund will support measures to reduce staff movement between care homes, protect wages and provide training. It will also ensure that each care home in England will be given a named clinical lead to fast-track the care of residents and staff. I remain in close contact with a number of care homes across Sutton Coldfield. Those working in the care sector are doing a wonderful job in difficult circumstances. I continue to follow the situation closely when it comes to both PPE and testing which are both vital for those working in the front line.

In Parliament the vast majority of MPs continue to work remotely. After years of walking through the lobbies to cast my vote it was a slightly odd experience to vote from my lockdown office using my mobile phone this week. The Leader of the House of Commons is looking at the ways in which we can begin to return to normal over the coming weeks. The new system has been quite frustrating. Despite entering the ballot to speak in a number of recent urgent questions and statements the computer has not yet said yes. Many of the sessions are shorter meaning that MPs have less time to debate and hold the Government to account which is clearly my principal job as your Member of Parliament. While clearly social distancing must be observed by everyone including MPs in the chamber, we do need to ensure that Parliament functions properly. When fully functioning, the whole Parliamentary estate consists of several thousand people. As well as MPs and Lords there are hundreds of Parliamentary staff, clerks, librarians, technical staff, administration staff, security teams, cleaners, catering staff and postal workers. The estate is vast but also crammed full of people and clearly logistical decisions need to be taken to ensure that staff are able to work safely in the building.

Locally I know that there have been a number of issues with the re-opening of our town’s household waste recycling centre. This has not been handled well by the local authority. The queues of traffic have had a serious impact on nearby businesses and residents, and I have raised this issue with Birmingham City Council who are responsible for managing the site. I have also taken up a number of issues on behalf of small businesses who have faced delays in obtaining grants from the council. While often the news focuses on large businesses and big chains it is important to remember that our small businesses are the backbone of our town’s economy and support local jobs. As well as business grants and the jobs retention scheme a number of Sutton businesses I have spoken to are now making use of Bounce Back Loan Scheme which enables smaller businesses to access finance more quickly.

I am always keen to help you if I can so please do not hesitate to get in contact by emailing me on andrew.mitchell.mp@parliament.uk if I can be of any assistance.