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“Support our pubs now, or risk losing them for good,” says Darren Jones

Darren Jones joins with 24 MP to call for urgent support to protect pubs from the economic fall-out of Coronavirus restrictions.

Thriving pubs are a source of pride throughout Bristol and are vital community assets worth protecting. Earlier this Month, Darren urged the Chancellor to extend much-needed financial support to protect pubs by cutting Beer Duty. While pubs and hospitality rebuild from this pandemic, they need support in meeting their overheads. By changing the Pubs Code to allow pubs to renegotiate rents, the Government would finally starting meeting their promise to protect pubs and the livelihoods connected to them.

Steps such as these are necessary to prevent the closure of more pubs in Bristol North West. Sadly, the Eastfield Inn was forced to close after 9 years of doing business in Henleaze. The small business Minister needs to come forward now and announce a policy to halt further closures.

You can read the full letter sent by Darren and other MPs below:

 

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Fix the flaws in previous budgets so Britain can recover and grow, Darren writes to Chancellor

The Spring Budget, expected on Wednesday, March 3rd, will be the Chancellor’s last chance to help the millions of people that have been unfairly excluded from COVID support so far.

Ahead of the budget, Darren wrote to the chancellor outlining the steps that need to be taken to protect livelihoods in Bristol and set the country on the correct path to recovery and growth. These recommendations come after consultation with constituents excluded from covid support, businesses struggling in lockdown and industry leaders.

Darren’s letter calls for action to:

  1. Extend support for those excluded from COVID support including self-employed and new mothers
  2. Finally put in place a multi-year funding plan for nurseries, maintained nursery schools and early years learning.
  3. Keep the £20 uplift in universal credit for families hit hard by this pandemic.
  4. Extend that uplift to unpaid carers, currently receiving only £67.50 per week.
  5. Revamp their business communications strategy so that Bristol’s businesses are not left in the lurch or bearing the cost of more COVID adaptations if we see another COVID case spike.
  6. Target extra support to retail and hospitality, including a cut in beer duty to support our pubs and restaurants.

You can read the full letter here:

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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Fix Free School Meals and implement a child poverty action plan, Darren Jones writes to Prime Minister

Following the latest Free School Meals scandal which revealed widespread problems with child food parcels, Darren wrote to the Prime Minister demanding action. With millions of children asked to learn from home during the winter spike in COVID cases, families across the country have been supplied with inadequate and unnutritious food parcels by outsourced catering companies, instead of supermarket vouchers.

Parents are the best judge of which foods their children will eat, and the Government’s approach to Free School Meals shows a disregard for the serious issue of child poverty in the UK. The standard of food parcels offered to some families is not only a national embarrassment but deeply offensive to parents struggling to provide for their children during a pandemic that has cost one million jobs so far.

An example of a 10-day food parcel received by parents.

During the previous Labour governments, two million children were lifted out of poverty. Yet since 2017, there has been a 52% increase in children living in destitution in the UK. Darren raised the lack of a child poverty strategy in any of the Chancellor’s economic policies during the last Financial Statement and this admission remains unaddressed.

Darren followed up his letter to the Prime Minister by giving an assessment of the Government’s dismissive attitude towards child poverty on Channel Four News, January 12th. You can read Darren’s letter in full below:

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Darren welcomes Bristol University’s COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Handbook

The successful roll-out of the COVID19 Vaccination is critical to saving lives, halting the pandemic and getting our lives back to normal.

As with every important scientific advancement and high-profile Government initiative, concerns have been raised about the safety of the vaccine and the Government’s roll-out plan. The vaccine is safe, and Bristol University has published a handbook about the vaccine and how to identify vaccine misinformation. There is an overwhelming global scientific consensus among medical experts that vaccines are the best way to fight infectious diseases and each of the approved COVID19 vaccines successfully passed rigorous tests of safety and efficacy during their development process. The COVID19 Vaccines are highly effective at protecting against the virus, and a speedy, fair roll-out is in the public interest.

Darren has been briefed by medical and scientific experts about the Coronavirus and the vaccines throughout this pandemic. You can see information about the roll-out of the vaccine below, and a guide to COVID19 Vaccine misinformation. If you have not yet received your vaccination appointment, please wait to be contacted by the NHS. Darren is working with Labour colleagues to ensure that everyone who needs a vaccine gets one, and the NHS has committed to a nationwide vaccination roll-out.

nhs vaccine roll out

 

Where and how will vaccinations take place?

In Bristol, vaccination sites have been set-up throughout the city. This includes a super-vaccination centre at Ashton Gate Stadium.

You’ll be invited to book an appointment for vaccination when it is your turn. If you’ve already received your letter confirming eligibility, you can book online here.

Vaccinations appointments will be carried out at:

  • GP Surgeries
  • NHS Hospital Hubs
  • Care Homes
  • At super centres, including conference centres and sports stadiums.

You can find information about the safety of the vaccine and the mild side-effects you may experience here (NHS).

How to spot and deal with vaccine misinformation.

Unfortunately, vaccine misinformation has been created and spread by fake-experts. This is a common and expected reaction to medical advancements, like vaccinations.  There’s a lot of money to be made in spreading misinformation and it can be hard to spot. Below is a guide on common myths about the COVID19 Vaccination, and how to counter them.

You can access the full handbook on the COVID19 Vaccine here– it’s designed for parents, nurses, journalists, students, policymakers and anyone that wants to know more.

 

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Darren urges Government to avoid another Arcadia/Debenhams collapse

Following Arcadia entering administration and putting thousands of jobs at risk, Darren called on the Government to urgently support the retail sector, including retail supply chains.

Darren wrote to the Secretary of State for Business, Alok Sharma, asking the Government to outline their plan to support large retail businesses and their complex supply chain of smaller and independent businesses. The collapse of large retailers like Debenhams has a devastating effect on local communities and both the people directly employed by the stores and those within its supply chain network.

Darren asked Paul Scully, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, to do more to support the small businesses caught in the storm of large retail collapses.

DJ UQ Arcadia BEIS

Commenting on the stress placed on businesses by Government’s COVID induced recession, Darren called for a taskforce to be set up to limit further damage to livelihoods:

“It has been a dark week for bricks and mortar retail in the UK. While many will point to issues relating to the management record and business models at Arcadia and at Debenhams, there is no doubt that Covid-19 has hit the high-street hard and, sadly, looks likely to bring job losses and store closures to many communities across the country. I hope the Secretary of State will come forward with more detail on the support the Government will provide to the retail sector.

The Government should be doing more to bring stakeholders together to find a solution to commercial rent debts as well as support for small businesses in the retail supply chain. I hope the Secretary of State will look again at setting up a Retail Taskforce with tenants, landlords, banks, supply chain businesses and Ministers to find solutions before more damage is caused.”

 

 

 

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Bristol wins multiple NHS Regional Awards

Bristol has repeated its strong performance in this year’ NHS Parliament Awards with 4 regional winners announced!

In November, NHS regional teams across England announced the individuals and teams chosen as regional champions in the NHS Parliamentary Awards 2020.

The champions – including NHS volunteers, patients, local council health teams and the creators of extraordinary digital innovations – will now vie with each other for a national award to be presented at a special ceremony in the Palace of Westminster in July.

Darren nominated individuals and teams across seven categories, with a special focus made to teams that have helped Bristol during this pandemic. Four regional winners were announced with three working at the NHS North Bristol Trust and one team recognised for the successful GP/Community Pharmacy pilot making it easier for patients to be referred over the phone.

You can read details about each nominee here.

From more than 700 entries submitted by almost half of all MPs in England, senior NHS experts have chosen seventy outstanding nominations, which exemplify the best of what the NHS and its partners do day in, day out.

Speaking about the success enjoyed by those nominated this year, Darren praised teams and individuals for their contribution to healthcare in Bristol:

“It is a delight to see so many hard-working teams from the North Bristol NHS Trust being shortlisted for their excellence in patient healthcare; mental health care; future NHS innovation; and primary care. Along with the whole of Bristol North West, I’m so proud to see these contributions recognised once again at this year’s NHS Parliamentary Awards and we wish all of the teams the best of luck for the final awards.”

Well done to GPs and Pharmacists across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire for making the shortlist for this year’s Excellence in Primary Care Award. Successful pilots like the GP Community Pharmacies scheme improve healthcare across the country and I’m proud that the Southmead and Henbury practice in my constituency had completed the most GP to Pharmacist referrals during this pilot. Congratulations to everyone involved, and I wish you the best of luck in the next stage.”

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Don’t struggle alone. Darren launches winter Foodbank appeal

Following his meeting with the Bristol North West Foodbank in October, Darren launched an appeal encouraging those suffering from food insecurity to access their local foodbank.

This year, foodbank usage has increased in Bristol but the Trussle Trust are concerned that many people that need help are still not able to access it. Bristol has a well-established network of foodbanks that are able to meet increasing demand caused by food insecurity and the North West Foodbank has been using local champions to reach people suffering from food insecurity in silence.

Widespread support for the Free School Meal campaign and an increase in local donations to foodbanks shows that foodbank users should not be put off a perceived social stigma. Darren has urged anyone that is struggling to maintain a varied and healthy diet to seek a referral to a foodbank.

To access a foodbank, you simply need to be referred by your local Citizen’s Advice or GP using the voucher system. 

If there is someone in your life that may be struggling with food insecurity, please encourage them to access a food voucher. Help and support is available.

Watch Darren’s appeal here:

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Darren takes evidence from Metro Mayors about COVID and Levelling Up

Darren took evidence from England’s Metro-Mayors about the value their office adds to their regions.

Following the dramatic confrontation between central Government and the Manchester region over a lack of localised lockdown support this Autumn, Darren asked Metro-Mayor’s about their approach to connecting central and local government.

Darren and the Business Commitee took evidence from Bristol’s Conservative WECA Metro-Mayor Tim Bowles, and other regional Metro-Mayor’s:

  • Rt Hon Andy Burnham, Mayor, Greater Manchester Combined Authority
  • Jamie Driscoll, Mayor, North of Tyne Combined Authority
  • Steve Rotheram, Mayor, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

While most Metro Mayors were able to explain in detail the role their office plays in securing funds to level up their region and maximise the impact of local leaders in ther region, some struggled to find examples of where they’d been effective during their time in office.

You can watch the whole evidence session here.