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Chancellor should seek long-term solutions to fire up business recovery, Darren writes for The Times

Ahead of the March budget, Darren urged the Chancellor to address the long-term challenges the British economy faces beyond the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Business Select Committee, that Darren chairs, have published its recommendations for the Spring Budget focusing on fixing the flaws in the Chancellor’s pandemic strategy. The Treasury’s strategy at this stage in the pandemic will set the foundation of the economy that we rebuild in the coming years. Key inequalities have been highlighted in the Chancellor’s current plan, including gaps in support for new mothers and self-employed people, that will have knock-on effects in the years to come.

You can read the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy report here, and read Darren’s article in The Times here. Or read below:

Chancellor should seek long-term solutions to fire up business recovery

The financial support provided to businesses and workers since March 2020 has been unprecedented. However, as we reflect today in the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy committee’s pre-budget report, alarming gaps in support have arisen which the chancellor has a crucial opportunity to put right next week.

The eligibility criteria for financial support have resulted in discrimination between different types of worker. Self-employed workers were especially discriminated against compared to employed workers. Inequalities continue to be perpetuated, such as ineligibility for recent mothers who have taken parental leave. The chancellor should use this budget to help those workers who have not been supported so far — this is most likely the last chance to help them.

Our report also expresses concern about the long-term prospects for employment in our country. The impact of Covid is just one tectonic plate shifting the British economy, alongside Brexit and the net-zero transition. Retail and hospitality workers have been especially hit, with a disproportionate impact on women and young people. Potential job losses in key industrial sectors, such as automotive manufacturing, also raise significant structural concerns for the British economy and fears about the impact on employment prospects in the communities affected. The government’s recent skills white paper is welcome, but a wider cross-governmental approach to education, training and skills is needed, targeting support to the workers most affected during this pandemic.

In good news, we have welcomed the remarkable ability of businesses and workers to adapt and innovate during the pandemic. Digital transformation has taken place more quickly than we could have hoped. Building on these developments and innovations will be key for our economic recovery. However, many businesses have become saddled with Covid debts during the pandemic and they will need help. As we recommend in our report, the government should consider how best to help businesses invest in their own growth and job creation, and how to deliver improvements to productivity and decarbonisation in this new era of company Covid indebtedness.

Some businesses have been able to succeed during the pandemic, with some deciding to return public funds. Unfortunately, other successful businesses saw access to low-cost government backed finance as a commercial opportunity. We conclude that more transparency is needed about which companies received what public support.

Companies that acted in bad faith, by passing on state-financed dividends to wealthy shareholders or taking the cover of the pandemic to use approaches such as “fire and rehire” in restructuring their businesses, have clearly acted unacceptably. With reforms to company reporting and audit, and the Employment Rights Bill also on the government’s agenda, we should take a broader look at corporate governance and move the dial on what it means to be a good corporate citizen in the UK.

The pandemic has accelerated the pace of change for many workers, businesses and communities in a negative way. High streets across the country have seen a dramatic loss of retail businesses and, sadly, we are likely to see more retailers close their doors — not least because a solution to outstanding commercial rents has yet to be found. At this crucial time, there also seems to be confusion in government over the UK’s industrial strategy and the role the state should play in supporting the economy. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that government action and financial support is targeted effectively — we cannot afford to spend money everywhere, but the costs of not taking any action would be incalculable.

The budget must clearly set out a continuation of financial support measures for businesses and workers in line with continued public health restrictions, but the occasion also serves as a valuable opportunity for the chancellor to reflect on the long-term lessons for our economy. Will the budget set out a vision for Britain in the decade ahead, that understands the reshaping of the British economy now taking place, or will the chancellor stick to short-term announcements which fail to provide the confidence businesses and workers need?

Darren Jones is a Labour MP and chairman of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee

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WPQ: Are Key Workers exempt from Jury Duty?

On February 8th, Darren tabled a WPQ to the Minister of Justice about Key Worker exemptions from Jury Duty.

You can view the full exchange here. 

On February 16th, he received the following reply:

 

Hiring: Administrative Officer

Due to the increase in requests for help and assistance during the pandemic period, Darren is hiring an Administrative Officer for a fixed term period of 12 months for 20 hours per week to assist with the smooth running of the Constituency Office.

If you would like to help Darren and his Constituency Office team offer Bristol North West the best possible service by ensuring administrative processes are happening efficiently, please consider applying for this role.

More Information:

Job Title: Administrative Officer

Working For: Darren Jones MP (Bristol North West)

Location: Bristol

Salary: £18,391 per annum (pro rata)

Job Details

Due to the increase in requests for help and assistance during the pandemic period, Darren Jones MP is hiring an Administrative Officer for a fixed term period of 12 months for 20 hours per week to assist with the smooth running of the Constituency Office.

The Administrative Officer will help the constituency team to:

• Set up new files for casework and policy requests on our case management system;
• Contact constituents to confirm address and contact details
• Respond to telephone enquiries from constituents
• Print and post letters to constituents as required.

The successful applicant will need to demonstrate:

• Previous administration experience
• Excellent writing skills
• Evidence of good customer service and a polite and respectful manner
• An ability to manage busy and competing priorities
• IT literacy (including Microsoft Outlook, Word and Excel and Microsoft Teams, Slack and Zoom)
• An ability to work proactively and independently

The role will be based in Bristol in the Constituency Office but initially, work will be undertaken from home due to Covid-19 restrictions. Line management and supervision will be primarily conducted over Slack and Microsoft Teams.

The role holder will be provided with an office laptop, laptop stand, screen, keyboard, mouse, headset and desk chair to facilitate working from home. Whilst working from home, a fixed allowance of £26 per month will be paid each month to contribute to additional utility costs.

If the role holder is unable to work from home, we may be able to provide access to our Constituency Office subject to our COVID-secure risk assessment.

Upon appointment you will be required to comply with the Baseline Personnel Security Standard, undertaken by the Members’ Staff Verification Office (MSVO). See Members’ Staff Verification Office (MSVO) page for further info. MPs generally pay staff in accordance with IPSA guidelines.

Closing Date: 25 February 2021

Interview/Start Dates

Interview date: Online interviews will be held in the week commencing 8th March 2021. If you are successful in being invited to interview, you will be informed by 4th March 2021.

Start date: 1st April 2021

Application Details:

Please e-mail darren.jones.mp@parliament.uk with ‘APPLICATION: Administrative Officer’ in the subject heading.

In the body of your e-mail, please explain how your work and/or other experience evidences the requirements set out in the role description. Please attach an up-to-date CV with references (references will only be contacted with your agreement).

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Constituency Office February 12th Weekend Closure

Please note that on February 12th and 15th the Bristol North West Constituency Office will be closed.

If you require urgent help while the office is closed, please email me directly at darren.jones.mp@parliament.uk with ‘Urgent’ in the subject heading. For all other enquiries, our team will respond to you once our office has re-opened on February 16th.

Bristol Support Contacts:

  • Bristol Mind (Mental Health advice): bristolmind.org.uk
  • NHS Urgent Mental Health Helpline: 0800 012 6549
  • We Are Bristol (Food supplies, medicine and essentials): 0800 694 0184
  • Bristol Citizen’s Advice (confidential advice for a range of issues): 808 278 7957
  • Childline (for people age 18 and younger): 0800 1111

 

 

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Darren warns British Gas against the use of Fire and Rehire tactics.

Today, Darren took evidence from Mr O’Shea, the CEO of Centrica PLC, the parent company of British Gas. Mr O’Shea was questioned on the use of controversial Fire and Rehire (Section 188) notices by Darren and the Business committee.

You can watch highlights of Darren’s questions to Mr. O’Shea here:

The Business Committee evidence session took place as Centrica was accused by GMB of ‘bullying‘ its 20,000 employees into accepting worse pay and working conditions during the COVID19 pandemic. So far 80% of Centrica employees have accepted these new employment conditions.

Darren wrote to Mr O’Shea in October 2020 asking for an explanation about the use of Fire and Rehire notices during the early stages of negotiations with trade unions. Darren cited this tactic as an ‘extreme measure’ and asked for transparency about how the decision to threaten workers with Section 188 notices was taken. You can read Darren’s letter in full below.