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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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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 Supports Shire FC Development

Shirehampton Football Club has been a source of community pride for decades and now seek to invest in their sporting grounds. The development plan includes additional seating and lighting so that more people can enjoy watching their local team. This infrastructure may also support the club’s ambitions to progress through their league.

Darren Jones voiced his support for the community project as increasing access to sporting facilities is a priority for Bristol and our local communities. Shirehampton has seen a decline in community assets, including the closure of its swimming pool and sports centres, so investment in its remaining facilities is especially important. It’s also important that this development balances community needs alongside environmental concerns, including light pollution.

You can read Darren’s full letter below:

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Stop ignoring child poverty, warns Darren to Chancellor

Following a disappointing Financial Statement from the Chancellor this winter, Darren questioned the Government’s commitment to eliminating child poverty.

Despite rates of child poverty increasing in the UK, the world 6th richest country, this winter’s financial statement does nothing to address the system causes of child poverty. The statement also fails to dedicate budget to helping families during the winter period that are suffering from in-work poverty.

Speaking in Parliament, Darren raised this issue to the Chancellor directly. You can watch the exchange here:

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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: