Mail-out July 20th 2020
This summer, with lockdown eased and flexible responses in place to respond to any local increases in Covid, many constituents are looking forward to a break at home or a holiday here in the UK or abroad. As your MP, constituency work continues and follows several months of dealing with the many consequences of Covid as well as the normal business of our local area.
When I was first elected as your Member of Parliament in December, I anticipated tackling a number of challenging issues locally and in Parliament. That was certainly the case when the country faced a nationwide lockdown and a level of disruption to our daily lives unknown in generations.
From contacting constituents and our consular teams overseas, as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office undertook the herculean task of repatriating stranded British nationals, to helping individuals and businesses access Government funding as a vital lifeline to try and mitigate the worst of the economic uncertainty, it has been a year like no other.
I am grateful for the information and concerns which a great many of you have shared with me during my regular surgeries, or in my postbag. I look forward to speaking with more residents in person as circumstances allow.
Please see below for some helpful information, links, and contact details, as well as an update on some of my recent work in Parliament.
Continuing to work hard on behalf of residents in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner under unprecedented circumstances.
Local Council Information
At a local level both Hillingdon and Harrow Councils are continuing to deliver support to our community. To access their information pages concerning the local response, and to find out more about assistance you can access, please visit the frequently updated pages on their websites here:
Community Support for Residents of Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner
I would once again like to thank volunteers across Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner who have supported our community. The community response during lockdown was exemplary – I spoke with several local voluntary organisations which were created in response to the lockdown to support neighbours and the vulnerable.
Your local Councillors are among these volunteers. From running small errands, getting shopping or picking up prescriptions, they have been a great help to some of the most vulnerable in our community.
If anyone would like to speak to someone or access support, our local Councillors and Conservative Association can make that happen by matching you with individuals and groups who can help.
If you would like support or know someone who may need support, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01923 822 876.
Back in March I announced that I would be changing the format of all future surgeries to telephone-based for the foreseeable future, in line with social distancing advice, to protect ourselves and those most vulnerable in our community.
I am continuing to host regular telephone surgeries for constituents, and I have been listening to your concerns and priorities. From speaking with residents at these surgeries, as well as via my inbox, I am aware that there are a wide range of topics of interest in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner. I would like to assure you that, as your MP, I am available to provide the support that I can and to hear your views.
If you would like to make an appointment, please telephone: 01923 822876, or email: email@example.com
Covid: Updated Guidance
Many of you will have heard the Prime Minister’s announcements this morning. We have come a long way since March and from 1 August the Government will again update the advice on going in to work. On that date most remaining leisure venues will also reopen; a significant marker of the progress we have made.
Looking ahead at incoming new rules: a face covering will become mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England from 24 July, as the Government has growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps to stop the spread of the virus. From 24 July, people will be required by law to wear face coverings in those premises and the police will be able to issue fines of up to £100 if people do not comply. It is vitally important that we all continue taking these small steps that can help us restore our way of life.
Fortunately, outdoor sports facilities, competitive grassroots sport, open-air performances and beauty businesses will be able to return on Monday. Many of the nation’s beloved theatres and performance venues are also getting back up and running, as outdoor theatres, opera, dance and music performances resume.
Beauty salons, nail bars, tattoo and massage studios, physical therapy businesses and spas across England have been able to reopen, with strict measures in place to ensure the safety of both workers and the public.
The Government have also announced that outdoor pools will be able to reopen, followed by indoor gyms, pools and leisure centres on 25 July. The Government has published guidance with input from industry bodies, Public Health England, and the Health and Safety Executive, which includes advice to leisure facilities on cleaning, social distancing and protection of staff to help get venues back open safely.
All of these developments are conditional on the progress of the virus. If we remain vigilant and act responsibly to manage the current level of risk, then there is every good chance that we can continue on this trajectory towards a freer existence once again.
Covid: Support Available
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been a lifeline to many, and last month the Chancellor set out how the scheme will operate in the months ahead. It is vital that as we reopen our economy, we support people back into work in a measured way. With this in mind, the Job Retention Scheme has been extended until the end of October – by that point, the Government will have provided eight months of support to British people and businesses. From July, the scheme will start to change. Workers can be brought back to do some part-time hours, and from August employers will be asked to contribute a small amount towards the cost of wages, although nothing will change in that employees will continue to receive 80 per cent of their salary, up to £2,500 a month. From now, only employees that businesses have successfully claimed a previous grant for will be eligible for more grants under the scheme. This means they must have previously been furloughed for at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March and 30 June 2020. For the minimum 3 consecutive week period to be completed by 30 June, the last day an employee could have started furlough for the first time was 10 June.
The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to protect small businesses through these difficult times as part of the national effort in response to coronavirus, including:
- a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme–extended until the end of October;
- deferring VAT and Income Tax self-assessment payments for the self-employed;
- a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs);
- a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England;
- small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief;
- an expanded business grants fund scheme, which is aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs. The Government has asked local authorities to prioritise businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief, and bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates;
- grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000;
- the Bounce Back Loans Scheme–a 100 per cent government-backed loan scheme that enables small businesses to borrow up to £50,000 and access the cash within days, interest-free for 12 months;
- the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank, with no interest for 12 months. The Government has also announced measures to help people with the cost of living during this unprecedented time. Self-employed people can benefit from a three-month mortgage holiday, deferring the next three months of VAT tax, deferring income tax self-assessment payments due in July 2020, alongside further measures to protect renters and to help people with their energy bills.
Self-Employed Income Support Scheme
The Government has launched the Self-Employed Income Support scheme, ahead of schedule, to make sure that people who work for themselves are getting the financial support they need. Through the scheme, self-employed people are able to claim for two grants – one covering the period of March to May, and the second covering June to August. For the first period from March, the Government will pay self-employed people across the whole of the UK who have been adversely affected by coronavirus a taxable grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the last three years, paid out in a single instalment, and capped at £7,500 altogether. A second grant is now also available, covering the time up until August. In this case, eligible self-employed people can claim support worth 70 per cent of their average monthly trading profits, capped at £6,570 in total. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant in order to receive the second; for example, they may only have been adversely affected by coronavirus in this later phase. In order to qualify for this support, covering either or both periods, you must have trading profits of less than £50,000 and HMRC will ask you to demonstrate that the majority of your income comes from self-employment and that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. You must also have filed accounts for 2018-19 before 23 April 2020 to qualify. If you are eligible, you can apply online by visiting this page.
Small Business Grant Scheme:
This is a hugely challenging time for businesses, especially for the smaller firms that are at the heart of our local community in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner. I am therefore thrilled that 1,264 business properties in Hillingdon and 659 business properties in Harrow have already received grants as part of the Government’s Small Business Grants Scheme, which is helping to protect businesses and people’s livelihoods. I am very grateful to both Hillingdon and Harrow Councils who have been working flat out to ensure these vital funds get to hard-pressed business owners. I welcome the Government support at this time, and I will continue working with colleagues to ensure that support reaches those who need it wherever possible.
I published an article with further details on my website, which can be accessed here.
At the excellent Woodman pub in West Ruislip with proprietor Steve, who welcomed me at their Macmillan coffee morning in December.
Schools and nurseries in September
Protecting the health and safety of the British public is, and must always be, our number one priority. That goal has guided the Government’s actions so far, and will continue to do so, both now and in the future. I can assure you that the Government will do nothing that puts our children and their teachers at risk. I hope to see children back in schools as soon as possible–being back with their teachers and their friends is so important for their education and their wellbeing. As you may know, the Government has now said that children in early years settings, and in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 can return to school, based on all of the evidence, including the Government’s five tests. The welfare of children and staff is at the heart of all decisions being taken on this issue. The Government is giving schools the detailed guidance and support they need to put appropriate protective measures in place, which include ensuring pupils do not attend if they, or a member of their household, has symptoms of coronavirus, as well as minimising contact and cleaning surfaces more frequently. Class sizes will also be reduced and we will ensure pupils stay within these small, consistent groups, creating a protective bubble around them. All school staff and children, and their families, will be able to be tested for the virus, meaning that test and trace approach can be taken to any cases which occur. This phased return is in line with what other European countries are doing to get their own schools, colleges and nurseries back. Taken together, these measures will create an inherently safer system, where the risk of transmission is substantially reduced–for children, their teachers and also their families. As the Education Secretary has said, every one of us wants the very best for our children and we know how stressful this time has been for many families. The Government’s approach is based on the best scientific advice, with children at the very heart of everything it does. For the very latest guidance and most up-to-date advice, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus
As the Government begins to slowly and cautiously lift some of the restrictions, it has now determined that the 5 tests against which it judges its ability to ease some measures are currently being met. Based on all the evidence, it has begun the phased re-opening of primary schools, with Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 now able to return to school. Secondary schools are now able to begin to provide some face-to-face contact time for Years 10 and Year 12.Parents should contact their children’s school for more information on when, and how, their children will return, if they are in one of the year groups listed above, and if headteachers haven’t already been in touch to discuss the reopening of their specific school. Priority groups (children of critical workers and vulnerable children) of all ages should continue to be offered a place and strongly encouraged to attend. Guidance and support are being provided to schools to ensure that both children and teachers are kept safe.
Busy in Parliament
Making my maiden speech in the House of Commons.
I continue to serve as a member of the Education Select Committee and the Finance Committee in the House of Commons. Additionally, I serve as a Chair, Co-Chair, or Vice-Chair on several All Party Parliamentary Groups, including: the APPGs on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity; London; Housing and Planning; Refugees; and Migration.
Since my maiden speech in January, I have been pleased to contribute to a wide range of debates in the House of Commons Chamber. I have spoken out on behalf of our constituency on subjects ranging from adult social care and Universal Credit, to air quality and emissions protections in the Environment Bill. I have also contributed to debates on divorce, rail fares, income tax, and support for children - especially the most vulnerable in our society.
I have been working with my Committee colleagues to hold the Government to account and to ensure that, particularly in the case of the Education Select Committee, providers are supported as schools continue opening up more fully. Locally, I have been in close contact with our headteachers and I will continue to feedback their concerns and experiences to my colleagues as we approach the beginning of the next academic year.
You can see me questioning the Rt. Hon. Gavin Williamson MP, Secretary of State for Education, in the Chamber a couple of weeks ago, on the subject of protecting against any risk to children in September here.
As the country opens up again, and we gradually return to enjoying the activities we once took for granted, we can all take forward with us from this period an appreciation for our local environment in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner.
I hope you have the chance over the next few weeks to spend time with your loved ones. I shall look forward to speaking with you again soon.