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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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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:

 

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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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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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Constituency Office Winter Closure

Between December 24th and January 4th, our constituency office will be closed so that my small, hardworking team can take a well-deserved break.

If you need urgent assistance during this time- please contact me directly on email(darren.jones.mp@parliament.uk) with ‘urgent’ in the subject line. We’ll pick up all other enquiries when our office re-opens on January 4th.

On behalf of my constituency office, thank you for your support this year and Merry Christmas!

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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.”