Got an important question in virtually today about the return of Ipswich Town Fans to Portman Road. I visited the stadium last week where the club had been ready to welcome back 1,000 fans to a test event before the Government announced a nationwide postponement of fans returning.
I made the point to Jacob Rees-Mogg that this blanket decision is a disappointment for Ipswich when we have a relatively low rate of Covid-19 and our local club is confident it can welcome back a small number of fans safely. The club is an iconic feature in our town but it’s struggling and we need to get to a place where lockdown measures take local factors like this into account.
I’ll keep doing everything I can to support Ipswich Town through the challenges it’s facing
Our local pubs are at the centre of Ipswich’s economy and cultural life. Like many across our town I’ve had many great experiences in them and I feel personally connected to many of them. It was therefore very hard to hear from the landlord of the Belstead Arms in Chantry last weekend about how he had to watch his loyal customers leave the pub at the 10pm curfew and go and spend their money at the off licence across the road instead.
Ipswich has comparatively low levels of Covid-19 compared to the rest of the country and had the blanket national curfew come up for a vote in Parliament, I would have on balance likely voted against it. I support MPs taking more responsibility for these decisions which affect our constituencies and yesterday we secured a commitment from the Government to hold a vote on future measures wherever possible. The curfew won’t come into this though and that’s why I asked the Health Secretary today to keep it under continuous review with a view to lifting it as soon as possible.
Good to hear the Health Secretary commit to this today. Everything must be done to get the balance right between lives, livelihoods and liberties and I’ll keep doing everything I can to make sure Ipswich’s local interests are heard loud and clear when these difficult decisions are made.
This morning I asked the Transport Secretary to communicate very clearly to Highways England Ipswich’s expectation that a speed limit solution to the closures is in place before the next windy winter period. The closures of the Orwell Bridge grind our town to a halt and cause immense disruption to residents and businesses alike. And this was something that came across very clearly in the responses to my surveys in Ravenswood and Chantry recently. It was good that in response to my question the Transport Secretary did send the message very clearly to Highways England today that the timetable mustn’t slip.
He also mentioned the safety work being done by Highways England in a wind tunnel. This wind tunnel was closed due to Covid-19 but I was able to get the work prioritised after I sent a letter to the University in question. I’m glad the Transport Secretary is also expecting this on his desk by the end of this month. I’ve got another progress call with Highways England next month where I’ll be sure to raise the results of the wind tunnel work and the timetable. The pressure on Highways England to deliver must be kept up as we reach the crucial point in this campaign.
I share many of the concerns of beauty salons in Ipswich that they won’t be allowed to re-open on 4 July as expected at the same time as hairdressers and other businesses. And I raised this in the House today with Work and Pensions Ministers.
Many beauty salons around the county have sadly already shut their doors for good due to the hardship caused by Covid-19, and this has also caused a number of job losses. Beauty salons need to reopen as soon as possible to avoid more irreversible closures and more job losses, and the uncertainty over the July 4th date has only increased the challenges they are facing.
The beauty salons I’ve been in contact with, like the Beauty Academy in Ipswich, are already well-placed to reopen as they have high levels of hygiene and sanitisation as part of their procedures already. And I urged Ministers today to protect jobs in beauty salons, including by reconsidering the July 4th date. At the very least, local beauty salons need certainty as to when they will be able to reopen so they can plan effectively as businesses. I’ll keep raising this issue at the highest levels to get beauty salons this clarification as soon as possible.
I’m looking forward to going on a socially distanced bar crawl in Ipswich on 4th July to support our local pubs after the Prime Minister announced today that they will be able to reopen on that date.
As well as pubs, a number of changes were set out today to the lockdown which will allow people to see more of their friends and families, and allow more businesses to reopen their doors to customers.
From July 4:
Pubs 🍻 and restaurants 🍝 can reopen
Hairdressers 💇can reopen
Hotels and B&Bs 🏨 will also be able to reopen their doors.
2 households will be able to meet up in any setting with social distancing measures
If they can do so safely, other hospitality businesses and community centres will also be able to welcome back customers and visitors, they include:
Places of worship and community centres. 🛐
Outdoor gyms 🏋️
Museums and galleries 🖼️
Theme parks and arcades 🎢
And libraries and social clubs. 📚
The Prime Minister also announced that the guidance will allow people to keep a one-metre plus distance from each other when two-metre distances aren’t possible.
We must continue to make reducing the spread of Covid-19 our top priority and that’s why “close proximity” venues such as nightclubs, indoor gyms, water parkers, bowling alleys and spas will remain closed for now.
As long as we stay vigilant, this summer presents an unmissable opportunity for all of us in Ipswich to rally around our local businesses and support them with our custom. The support they have received throughout the lockdown has been essential but it’s just as important that they can reopen successfully and start to get back on their feet. I’m looking forward to visiting many of them as soon as I can.
Good news announced by the Chancellor at today’s press conference. I know this has been on the minds and a cause of anxiety for many of my constituents who are self-employed. I appreciate that sadly the various packages of support announced by Government don’t cover everyone but I am confident that today’s news will be a great source of help for many. Clearly at some point soon these support schemes will need to be phased out as we all get back to work but I think extending the scheme today was a sensible decision
Really positive visit to the Port of Ipswich this afternoon. Thanks to the amazing efforts of everyone who works at the Port they have actually had a rather busy couple of months. Massive amounts of timber has arrived at the Port due to significant demand and fertiliser has also been arriving in time for the Suffolk harvest. Over the past couple of months around 90 per cent of the key workers at the Port have still been coming into work to keep Britain trading, however clearly they have been working in a different kind of way as a result of the virus.
A significant number of my constituents work at Ports, whether at Felixstowe or Ipswich and I think they all deserve a massive metaphorical pat on the back for the work they have been carrying out over the past couple of months making sure that then when the time comes our local economy and agricultural sector can make positive strides.
I was glad to be able to join the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. I raised a number of issues, support for pubs, the self-employed and sole directors of limited companies. However a key local issue I raised was in relation to many of the different businesses in Town who haven’t quite been eligible for a number of different schemes. Many of the floating restaurants and cruising companies who work out of the waterfront have so far been badly impacted and none of the various schemes have supported them.
Today the Chancellor made clear that the local authority discretionary grants fund has the flexibility to cover these businesses, there had been some uncertainty on this point. I’m very glad about this, they are very important to our local economy, heritage and tourist sector. More detail to follow but positive signs
Following yesterday’s announcement by Government that there will be a £750 million fund to support the charitable sector today I wrote to every single charity in Ipswich encouraging them to get in contact with me if there is anything they think I might be able to do to support them. Yesterday’s announcement was welcome but crucial questions remain and its vital that this money gets to the charities who need it the most ASAP. There are a huge number of charities carrying out invaluable work often with highly vulnerable people across Town and as a result of the coronavirus many face an uncertain future due to the way in which their fundraising activity has been negatively impacted. As I said yesterday I’m glad that half of the £750 million is being reserved for small local charities that work with vulnerable people.
A significant number of you have written in to outline your concerns about the lack of support provided for the self-employed and freelancers. So far the economic measures announced by the Government haven’t really touched these groups and this is something I am very aware of. The Government has dramatically improved access to the benefits system for the self-employed, but clearly a lot more needs to be done. I understand that Treasury Ministers are currently working on a package of support for the self-employed and this support should be announced within the coming days. As the Member of Parliament for Ipswich I have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer making clear my views and that more support for the self-employed should be forthcoming.
I am well aware of the huge contribution that the self-employed make to Ipswich’s economy and I will do whatever I can to support you during this difficult time.