Today I voted against the 10pm curfew being applied at the national level and it applying in places such as Ipswich which have a very large hospitality sector and comparatively low levels of COVID-19. This is the first time I have ever voted against the Government in Parliament and it wasn’t something I took lightly. I was elected as a Conservative MP however I have always said that I will always make decisions based on what I believe to be in the best interests of my constituents and the Town and therefore its likely that from time to time, on occasions like today, that I may take a different position to that of my Party. In Ipswich we are in the position of having a very large hospitality sector and great pubs, restaurants and bars that employ thousands of my constituents whilst at the same time having very low levels of COVID-19 compared to other areas of the country. In addition to this I’m not convinced that the 10pm even makes a positive difference to tackling the spread of the virus. Often what we’ve seen is crowds of people all leaving hospitality venues at the same time and crowding together. All the time when I vote on big items as your MP I ask myself the question, “how does this impact my constituents, on balance positive or on balance negative?”. Having carefully considered the 10pm curfew and discussed with the hospitality sector here in Ipswich I decided to vote the way I did. The reality is that the 10pm is hurting our pubs, restaurants and bars just when they are looking to recover from the first national lockdown. Many of the jobs and livelihoods of my constituents are likely to be lost because of it. I fear it could be the difference to your local making it through this or not. The negatives it brings in my view at this moment in time far outweigh any public health benefits it brings. I was one of 82 MPs voting against the 10pm curfew today but it ended up comfortably passing so it continues but I made my stand. As you will likely already know Ipswich is in tier 1 meaning that things continue as they have been for the past few weeks with the 10pm curfew and the rule of 6 but other than that whilst be careful (hands, face, space) we can largely go about our business as usual. I must say I was a little surprised at quite how many other areas were in this category. Within this tier we have Ipswich and other areas with very low levels of COVID-19 but also areas with much higher rates that are teetering on being moved up to tier 2 such as London for example. It’s a shame that there couldn’t be a tier specifically for low Covid-19 areas where we could look at replacing the 10PM curfew, even an 11PM curfew would be a big improvement allowing restaurants and pubs that serve food a second sitting (this is what they’ve done in Northern Ireland). I am not cavalier about the threat posed by COVID-19 to public health and the lives of some of the most vulnerable within our Town. We need to do everything we all can to contain the spread of the virus. We also need to be alive to the fact that the level of COVID-19 is increasing in Ipswich and Suffolk and neighbouring counties. However, as I’ve previously stated, its critically important we get the balance right between protecting “lives, livelihoods and liberties” and it is my view that at this current time the 10pm for Ipswich doesn’t do this. Just this week we’ve seen the number of those out of work in Ipswich jump and jump at a higher rate that other surrounding areas and I think it would be fair to assume that at least some of this is to do with the size of our hospitality sector and how hard its already been hit by COVID-19.
With regard to the Labour Party’s position and the position of Sir Keir Starmer? They now want a second national lockdown and to close the entire hospitality sector nationwide for up to 3 weeks. Could someone please tell me how closing all the pubs, restaurants and bars in Ipswich will help those COVID-19 hot spots tackle the spread of the virus? The reality is that if we were to shut down all of the pubs, restaurants and bars in Ipswich right now many simply wouldn’t reopen and we should unemployment in the Town rocket to a degree never seen before. This Labour position would be terrible for our Town. There are difficult times ahead and as I’ve said before we need to be vigilant in playing our part as we have all already done to stop the spread of the virus.
This is a very challenging period for the Government and I have every sympathy for the Prime Minister who is desperately trying his best to balance the need to protect lives and livelihoods at the same time. He won’t get everything right and either will I however rest assured that whenever I take a decision its always in what I believe to be the best interests of the people I have the honour of representing, my constituents.
Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, has welcomed the Government’s decision to reverse course on its earlier plans not to extend the Free School Meal Voucher Scheme over the summer holidays. The Government announced today that a new £120 million Covid summer food fund would be set up to ensure 1.3 million children in the most hard-pressed families receive a food voucher worth £15 a week over the 6 week summer break.
The Government’s change of course follows a number of efforts made by Hunt and other parliamentary colleagues behind the scenes to stress the importance of these vouchers to families facing hardship during Covid-19 and to urge the Government to extend them over the summer holidays. Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford also made a high profile intervention in support of the extension of the Scheme yesterday.
On 5 June, Hunt penned a letter to the Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford MP, detailing his support for the extension of the scheme and highlighting its importance to many families in Ipswich undergoing severe financial pressure and struggling to make ends meet. Hunt’s letter also came in the wake of a study finding that one in four children in Ipswich are living in relative poverty.
Hunt’s correspondence on the 5 June followed an earlier letter which Hunt co-signed as a Member of the Education Committee on 13 May which urged the Minister for Children to look early on into what can be done to extend the free school meal voucher scheme over the Summer holiday.
Today before the Government’s new plans were announced, Hunt was ready to vote against the Government in a motion calling for money to be available to disadvantaged children over the summer holiday.
Following the Government’s announcement today, Tom said:
“I am pleased the Government has listened to the concerns raised and has decided to extend free school meal vouchers over the summer as part of a new fund. This is an issue I have been intimately involved in as a member of the Education Committee and I know that for many families in Ipswich these vouchers are an essential source of support during Covid-19.
“In my letter to the Minister for Children almost two weeks ago, I raised the fact that there are 3 million children at risk of holiday hunger in the UK and that many of them will be children in Ipswich. This is a scenario which must be avoided and I was ready to vote against the Government today on this issue. But I am glad the Government has listened and will now provide a £90 food voucher for the most disadvantaged children over summer.
“The Covid-19 outbreak has been an exceptional time and it’s important we are ready to implement exceptional measures to ensure that no child is left behind. We will be dealing with the impact of Covid-19 on children’s education for many more months and years to come and it would only have compounded these issues if we didn’t do everything it takes to ensure children come through the summer holidays well-nourished.”
The coronavirus is not just a health emergency but an economic one too. And this evening the Chancellor set out unprecedented Government intervention to match the exceptional health measures set out by the Prime Minister yesterday.
Many constituents have been in touch with me over recent hours and days to tell me of the concerns they have for their livelihoods in this difficult time. It’s absolutely vital that households and businesses are economically secure so we can all focus on our health and that of our loved ones.
When we emerge from this coronavirus outbreak as we undoubtedly will, we will need our local businesses and their hard-working employees to be at the heart of our recovery. This includes our local pubs, shops, restaurants and leisure businesses who are so much more than just the backbone of our local economy. They are focal points for our community and contribute enormously to the social cohesion of our town. If we are unable to support them with our custom, we must support them and their employees in whatever way they need in the meantime. The Chancellor has responded to this in his statement this evening as he announced the following measures:
A package of government-backed and guaranteed loans to support business worth £330 billion initially. This will be available to businesses to pay their suppliers, rent and salaries. The £330 billion will be expanded with no ceiling if necessary.
For small and medium sized businesses, this money will be made available through an extension of the business interruption loan scheme announced in the Budget. This scheme will make loans available of up to £5 million per business with no interest due for the first 6 months. This scheme will be up and running by the start of next week.
Pubs, clubs, retailers and hospitality and leisure industry venues with an insurance policy which covers pandemics will be able to make an insurance claim.
For those types of businesses without insurance and a rateable value of less than £51,000, they will be entitled to an additional cash grant worth £25,000.
All pubs, clubs, shops and hospitality and leisure industry businesses will be exempt from paying business rates over the next year.
The 700,000 smallest businesses in the country will now receive a cash grant of £10,000, up from £3,000 as previously announced in the Budget.
A 3-month mortgage holiday for home owners affected by coronavirus.
The eligibility criteria for statutory sick pay will be extended so more are covered. Businesses will be supported with the extra costs incurred.
And for those who are ineligible for statutory sick pay, access to the benefits system will be sped up. Those eligible for universal credit will be able to access advanced payments without visiting a job centre. Support will be available from the first day of self-isolation or sickness.
Whenever statements like this are made which will have such a significant impact on people’s livelihoods, there is a focus on the detail which sometimes takes more time to come out. Many small business owners have already contacted me about how they can access the cash grants which will now be worth £10,000 and I’m urgently looking to obtain further information about this. I am fully aware that time is of the essence for their businesses and I’ll be working directly with pubs, shops and other local companies over the coming weeks and months. I will be available to meet with landlords, local business owners and store managers to go in to detail about the specific challenges they are facing. If you would like to arrange a meeting, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I understand the urgency of the situation and the importance of certainty for all businesses and households. I am closely following all developments and will be updating constituents as soon as I learn more. It’s welcome for example that clarification has already been given that pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to offer takeaway and delivery services if they wish thanks to emergency changes in the planning laws.
The Chancellor was clear that today’s measures only represent one of several steps that will be taken as part of a comprehensive national effort to support our economy and I understand that a number of issues have yet to be fully addressed. This includes those private renters who have contacted me with their concerns about affording their rent if they become sick or have to self-isolate. The Chancellor has said he will make further statements soon about the issues faced by private renters and I’ll be following what this means for my constituents very closely.
The Chancellor emphasised today that he will do whatever it takes to support businesses and households through these exceptional circumstances. It’s now essential that this approach and the measures announced are realised on the ground in Ipswich. As the number of coronavirus cases reaches a point of rapid increase, we must get this right now. I will do whatever it takes as your MP to get businesses and households in our town the support they need.
Since my statement yesterday, I have also written to care homes and churches across Ipswich to offer my full personal support and the support of my office to many of the vulnerable people that they serve. I hope to be able to engage closely with these organisations to coordinate help for groups like the elderly. I’m setting up a service called ‘Talks with Tom’ to keep the vulnerable in self-isolation company over the phone and I’m also making myself available to help with things like shopping and dog walking. I’ll be working closely with charities and community groups like Age UK to ensure these initiatives are as effective as possible. If you would like to get involved, please do not hesitate to get in touch at email@example.com
Please continue to follow the latest health advice through the NHS’s website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
And once again, please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any coronavirus concerns. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
I will keep you fully updated as the situation develops.
Today (11/03/20) Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, welcomed the Budget delivered by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, which addresses many of the issues Hunt had called to be addressed.
In a joint piece with Peter Aldous, Suffolk MP for Waveney, in the East Anglian Daily Times on Monday, Hunt had called for action on business rates and a reduction in beer duty to support local pubs. Both of these issues were addressed in the Budget, as the Chancellor announced a formal review of the business rates scheme this autumn. This is a priority for Hunt as he fights in Westminster for more support for Ipswich’s town centre and a level playing field high street retailers in the face of big online shops.
The Chancellor also announced a temporary suspension on rates for small retailers for the year 2020/21. Business rates will be abolished for leisure, retail and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000.
On beer duty, Hunt’s EADT article reinforced the case he’d previously made in a Westminster Hall debate on Beer and Pub taxation on 5 February 2020. In that debate, Hunt highlighted Suffolk’s proud pub heritage and the fact that 1,500 jobs are tied to pubs in his constituency. He urged the Government to get “150%” behind pubs by cutting beer duty in the next Budget so landlords felt less like tax collectors and more like small business owners. The Chancellor responded in today’s budget with a freeze on every single alcohol duty for the coming year. He also recognised the vital economic and social roles pubs play in towns like Ipswich as he announced that the business rates discount for pubs will increase from £1,000 to £5,000. Hunt recognises this as a step in the right direction, however, he would still like more to be done.
Hunt was also one of 35 MPs who before the Budget had co-signed a letter to the Chancellor expressing serious concerns about any rise in fuel duty. Today, the letter was found to have been successful as Rishi Sunak announced that fuel duty will be frozen for the tenth year in a row. This is an important victory for the hard-working people, many of whom rely on private vehicles to get to get to work or to run their business.
Hunt also welcomed the creation of a £1 billion fund for the removal of “all unsafe combustible cladding” after his campaign to make public money available for the removal of the type of highly combustible cladding that was on St Francis Tower in Ipswich. He also acknowledges that leaseholders at St Francis Tower will be keen to see more detail about how this money will be spent before fully breathing a sigh of release. But it’s positive that the Chancellor referred to ‘all unsafe cladding’.
Before, public money was only available for the removal of aluminium composite material cladding, the type found on Grenfell Tower, and not the equally dangerous high pressure laminate cladding found on St Francis Tower.
As part of this campaign, Hunt had raised the exorbitant bills being faced by leaseholders in St Francis Tower for cladding removal in a Westminster Hall debate on 12 February 2020. He had concluded his speech by calling on the Government for fairness for his constituents in St Francis Tower.
The Chancellor’s announcement of a £27 billion fund for the Strategic Road Network was also welcomed by Hunt as details emerge that improvements to the A14 Copdock junction will be part of this. The fund also includes a £2.5 billion allocations to fill up existing potholes and stop new ones from forming too. Improving road services and pavement services around Ipswich has been a focus for Hunt since his election as he personally visits streets across Ipswich to report potholes to the County Council. By working closely with Suffolk County Council Leader, Cllr Matthew Hicks, progress has already been made, including with the resurfacing of the pavement at Denton Close.
While it’s pleasing that many of Hunt’s priorities for Ipswich have been reflected in the Budget, Hunt still intends to speak during the Budget’s continuation debate over the coming days. It is vital that the investment issues facing Ipswich and Suffolk are represented specifically, having not received fair funding across the board over the years. This includes money for schools and education, Suffolk Constabulary and infrastructure.
Following the Budget, Tom said:
“Of course, this Budget will be talked about in relation to coronavirus and I welcome the strong measures the Chancellor to support our economy through this difficult time. The announcement that Statutory Sick Pay will be paid from the first day of absence is a particularly important step to give people reassurance when in self-isolation.
“As well as robust action on coronavirus, there are many positive developments in this Budget and we’re beginning to see real progress on many of the campaigns we have been working hard on. I am pleased to see the Chancellor has heard our concerns about ensuring ordinary people are not overburdened by taxes. The complete suspension of business rates for small retailers this year, and his commitment to a wide review the business rate scheme later this year, are crucial steps as we continue to fight for a vibrant town centre in Ipswich.
“The freezes in all alcohol duties and fuel duty also underline our efforts to ensure tax burdens do not fall on too heavily hardworking people. Before the budget, I co-signed a joint letter urging the Chancellor not to increase fuel duty and I spoke in Parliament about the need for Ipswich’s pub sector to be shown more support. I’m pleased that these messages are cutting through.
“It’s also good news that £1billion will be made available for the replacement of all types of dangerous cladding. It was unfair that St Francis Tower residents had to face exorbitant fees for the removal of the highly combustible cladding on their building just because it wasn’t the same type as that found on St Francis Tower.
“I will continue to digest the detail of this Budget and I intend to set out what it means for Ipswich and Suffolk in the ongoing debates on it next week”.
Tom Hunt calls for the Commonwealth to be at the heart of Britain’s global future
Yesterday (09/03/20), Tom Hunt, Member of Parliament for Ipswich, spoke passionately in Parliament during the debate a general debate on ‘The Commonwealth in 2020’.
Hunt was quick to call out the Labour Front Bench which used the debate on the Commonwealth in 2020 to raise the negative aspects of the British Empire. Hunt was clear that the Commonwealth today was not a legacy of empire but a voluntary community of equal states working together for their common interest.
This community stands in stark contrast to the “outdated and undemocratic model” of the European Union which seeks the power to coerce Member States, and which former EU Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, likened to the creation of a new ‘empire’. This is of course an organisation which the vast majority of Labour MPs voted against leaving.
Hunt identified the Labour Party’s “incessant need to prioritise apologising for our country” as a key reason for the breakdown in their support among patriotic voters.
Hunt was keen to move the debate towards the future and the rekindling of the UK’s long-neglected relationship with its Commonwealth partners. And he highlighted that increased trade should be at the heart of the UK’s efforts to re-engage.
Free from the protectionist EU bloc which restricted our ability to trade with our historic partners, the UK can now play a full role in the Commonwealth’s target of boosting intra-Commonwealth trade to £1.5 trillion by 2030. This means striking the trade deals which the EU often failed to get over the line, including with India.
Hunt highlighted that the Commonwealth includes some of the world’s fastest growing economies, and with 60% of the Commonwealth’s 2.4 billion population under the age of 30, he said the opportunities for mutually beneficial trade are “enormous”. Especially given the fact we already share the legal, linguistic and cultural norms which make the foundations of good agreements.
Hunt acknowledged that these shared bonds don’t just exist between the countries of the Commonwealth but they live in the hearts of the peoples of the Commonwealth too. On this note, he told the House of the great contributions of Commonwealth-origin people to life in Ipswich. He paid tribute to the dedication of Ipswich’s Indian community who fill many of the roles our local NHS, as well as the Bangladeshi Community which is home to some of the town’s most successful entrepreneurs and the Bangladeshi Support Centre which helps vulnerable people of over 50 different nationalities.
Hunt pointed out that the relationships between Commonwealth citizens, including those in Ipswich, is often best captured by our shared love of cricket. Wearing his All-Party Parliamentary Cricket Group tie, Hunt called for a big screen in Ipswich town centre to show the next cricket World Cup. He said: “We need to embrace the festival of cricket to a far greater extent than we have in the past.”
Cricket was however not the only sport raised however, with DUP MP Jim Shannon intervening in Hunt’s speech to quiz him about Ipswich Town’s recent form in the third division. Hunt agreed with Shannon, whose eldest son supports Ipswich Town, that recent performances have indeed been disappointing and that Town’s fortunes seem to be taking a turn for the worse after Tom saw them beat Lincoln four weeks ago.
Coming back in his speech to the fraternal bonds which unite the peoples of the Commonwealth, Hunt urged the Government to waive fees for Commonwealth personnel who have served in the UK’s armed forces. At present, there are over 4,700 Commonwealth servicemen and women serving in all three branches of our military. But after serving at least four years, those of them which wish to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain here are faced with charges of £2,389 per person. That means if they are part of a family of four, they face costs of over £9,500 just to stay in the country they’ve served.
Acknowledging “those who sacrifice so much for our country”, Hunt called on the Government to drop the exorbitant costs, saying “If anybody should not be considered a foreigner in our country, it is them”.
Following his speech Tom said:
“Our exit from the European Union gives a historic opportunity to make up for lost time in the Commonwealth. As part of the EU, we were trying to create artificially in Europe much of what already exists between Commonwealth nations, such as our shared history, language, culture, legal system and much else.
“While I don’t think these bonds have been forgotten by the people of the Commonwealth, the importance of them has not been reflected on the nation state level as we’ve been tied into the EU.
“That’s why I set out in the Chamber a positive vision for how we can re-engage with our Commonwealth partners. And this has to start with trade. India for example is growing at around 7% a year but the EU has failed to reach a trade agreement with India since talks started as far back as 2007. Building the deals with countries like India which the EU couldn’t has to be our ambition if we are going to deliver on the opportunities Brexit has presented.
“These deals should of course be grounded in the bonds shared between the people of the Commonwealth. And I told the House how these bonds are lived every day in Ipswich. We benefit greatly from many Commonwealth citizens and Commonwealth-origin Brits who have made Ipswich their home. Their contributions to both our local economy and the wellbeing of others are invaluable.
“It’s high time that we put the human aspects of the Commonwealth at the heart of policy and a new post-Brexit immigration system will be an important part of that. We must send a clear signal to Commonwealth citizens around the world that we will not go on prioritising immigration from certain countries arbitrarily and everyone should be given an equal chance to come here.
“If we are to make exceptions in our immigration rules, then it should be for the Commonwealth troops who come to serve in our military. Often leaving their families far away, these Commonwealth personnel put themselves in harm’s way to fill the shortages in our forces. Given their sacrifice, it’s entirely unreasonable that they should face costs as high as £9,500 if they want to settle here with their family after serving at least four years on our behalf. I urged the Government to waive these exorbitant fees in spirit that Commonwealth people should not be considered foreign to one another.”
Tom Hunt makes case for fairer police funding for Suffolk before joining bobbies on the beat
Yesterday (05/03/20) at Business Questions, Tom Hunt called on the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, to set aside time for Parliament to debate the Police Funding Formula which currently leaves Suffolk Constabulary underfunded and which doesn’t reflect the crime problems Ipswich is facing.
While Hunt welcomed the 54 extra police officers for Suffolk as part of the Government’s boost to police spending, he was also clear this does not yet go far enough.
Hunt raised the tragic case of Richard Day, who was fatally attacked on St Matthew’s Street in Ipswich last month, as he underlined the need for more police on the streets in Ipswich. He called on the Government to review Police Funding Formula and address police numbers in Suffolk so that further such tragedies can be avoided in the future.
The importance of a greater police presence in key parts of the town has also been brought to fore recently after the burglaries at the Emilia Hair and Beauty Studio on Great Colman Street, and at Willys & Millys café on Northgate Street. Hunt has been clear that crime and anti-social behaviour is the number one challenge facing Ipswich and these break-ins are another reminder of this.
Given the importance of getting policing right, Hunt has joined the Parliamentary Police and Fire Service Scheme where he will spend 15 days of the year working on the front line with junior police officers. He’ll join them on nightshifts and patrols, and see how they train and investigate crime. He will also have the opportunity to work with armed police, dog and helicopter units as well as traffic officers.
Over the course of the scheme, Hunt hopes to gain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges police officers face every day. He will bring back what he has learned in Parliament to hone his case for getting on tough on crime and seeing more police resources in Ipswich.
Following his intervention in Parliament, Tom said:
“I won’t stop making the case for more money to be spent on the police in Suffolk. The brutal attack on St Matthew’s Street and the break-ins we have seen in the town centre recently highlight again why a greater police presence is needed in Ipswich.
“That’s why I pressed the Government to move ahead with a review of the Police Funding Formula which determines how much money each police force receives. In its current form, the Formula doesn’t reflect the challenges we are facing in Ipswich.
“Officers in Suffolk deal on average with more crime investigations and incidents compared to the average officer from a metropolitan area. And this is despite the fact we have the 3rd lowest police staffing numbers per 1,000 residents when compared to all other forces in the country.
“The Police Funding Formula must be reviewed to take this into account. It’s an essential step if we are to make Ipswich safer and prevent further serious crimes like the attack on St Matthew’s Street.
“To get further to the heart of this issue, I’ll be joining the police on the front line for 15 days over the year as part of the Parliamentary Police and Fire Service Scheme. I’ll be working closely with junior officers to see the challenges they face every day and how we can better support them in their role keeping us safe. I plan to bring what I learn back to Parliament as I continue to make the case for greater police funding and a zero-tolerance approach to crime.”
Tom Hunt raises Ipswich’s Bridge Ward in Parliament as he calls for more support for left behind communities
Yesterday (04/03/20) Hunt met with representatives of the Local Trust to discuss Bridge Ward in his constituency. The meeting followed new research from the Local Trust which found that Bridge is one of the 206 most left behind wards in the country.
To indetify ‘left behind’ areas, the Local Trust looked not only at economic indicators but social factors as well. These include connectivity, how active the local community is and the number of places where the community can meet and socialise.
Following the meeting, Hunt set out in the House of Commons what this means in terms of people’s health in Bridge. In Bridge, healthy life expectancy at birth is around 5 years lower than the national average and deaths from cancer are over 25% higher than the national average. Long-term illnesses for those aged over 65 are also 10% above the national average.
To address this, Hunt called on the Government to create a £2 billion Community Wealth Fund to be targeted specifically at areas like Bridge. The Fund would redirect existing money, currently sitting dormant in assets like bonds and shares, to the most deprived communities over a 10 to 15-year period. The money would be targeted locally, with local residents taking the lead on how the money is spent.
Hunt has resolved to work with Local Trust and other MPs to move these plans forward. And he has pledged to support to a new All Party Parliamentary Group on left behind neighbourhoods which will develop detailed proposals to take to Government.
Following his intervention, Tom said:
“I have spent a great deal of time in Bridge and I’ve shared many positive conversations with residents there, but there is a sense that the area is not fulfilling its full potential. New research from the Local Trust has also highlighted that Bridge has been left behind.
“A lot has now been said about levelling up the country but now it’s to time get on and do it. That’s why I’ve called on the Government to create a Community Wealth Fund which will target investment specifically in areas like Bridge. Crucially as part of the plans, residents would be at the heart of the decision making process when it comes to how the extra money is spent.
“It’s vital that we focus our energies on places which haven’t had enough support in the past and empower local residents to have a voice on the future of their communities. I’ll be working hand-in-hand with the Local Trust and other Members of Parliament over the coming months to see this happen.”
Yesterday, Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, intervened in the House of Commons debate on the Police Grant Report to demand fairer funding for Suffolk Constabulary.
The Police Grant Report is how Parliament approves the central police funding allocation for each force every financial year. This year the Government is pumping an additional £1.1 billion into policing nationwide with Suffolk receiving up to £9.2 million extra.
While this additional funding is welcome, only £152 is spent per head of population on policing in Suffolk, compared to a national average of £192 per head. And if Suffolk received the national average funding, Suffolk Constabulary’s budget would be increased by nearly £30 million.
Hunt intervened in the speech of fellow Suffolk MP, Peter Aldous, to make clear to the Government that Suffolk should not be perceived as a sleepy county which doesn’t have real issues when it comes to crime. He said that this should be addressed as part of a review to the police funding formula. At present, the police funding formula is opaque, complicated and disproportionately hits rural forces. This includes rural forces which have to police large towns like Ipswich. Ipswich faces many of the same serious crimes more commonly associated with urban areas.
The importance of this debate was underlined for Hunt as he brought to the House’s attention the attack on St Matthew’s street in Ipswich on Saturday night. This is the type of serious crime which Suffolk needs resources to help prevent and solve.
In a further intervention, Hunt was also clear that extra funding was only half the solution to safer streets. The police must also have the right priorities when tackling crime. Hunt said: “the police should spend far less time hounding members of the public for what they may or may not think on societal issues, such as in the case of Harry Miller and Humberside police, and far more time taking the side of the law-abiding majority and cracking down on the activities of Extinction Rebellion activists that we saw in Cambridge last week”.
Hunt was referring to the case of Harry Miller who had police turn up at his place of work to “check his thinking” for his tweets online about transgenderism. He was told his tweets would be recorded as a “non-crime hate incident” even though he had not committed a crime. The police’s initiative in this case stands in stark contrast to the police’s inaction on Extinction Rebellion activists who have been able to shut down cities with near impunity.
Following his interventions yesterday Tom said:
“It is with immense sadness that we have now learned that the man fighting for his life after being attacked on St Matthew’s Street has now died. I raised this incident in Parliament as it really underlines the importance of getting better funding for our police and getting more police out on the streets.
“I welcome this Government’s commitment to increasing police funding, including the £700 million for 6,000 new police officers. Yet this is also an example of how Suffolk goes under-resourced.
“My understanding is that Suffolk will only get 54 of the 6,000 extra officers despite the fact that Suffolk has the third lowest staffing numbers relative to population when compared to all other forces. The importance of fair funding is why I intervened in Parliament, alongside other Suffolk MPs, to put the case to the Government that our County’s police need more resources.
“Ultimately, the police funding formula needs to be reviewed as it disadvantages rural forces. This includes rural forces which cover large towns like Ipswich and which deal with serious crimes more commonly associated with urban areas, like the St Matthew’s Street attack on Saturday night.
“I was also clear in Parliament that additional funding is only one part of making our streets safer. We must allow the police to prioritise protecting law-abiding people and solving real crimes. The resources we give them should not be spent reporting people for non-crime hate incidents because they happen to hold different views on societal issues.
“We have already seen fringe elements in our politics use the police to try to besmirch those that just happen to disagree with them. This must be avoided at all costs if we are truly to win public support in our efforts on law and order.”
Tom Hunt MP – “I am disappointed that the public consultation launched today indicates that the new Orthopaedic Centre for elective surgeries will not be based in Ipswich. Since the merger with Colchester Hospital there have been some positive developments; most notably that a brand new £35 million state of the art Accident and Emergency department will open its doors to Ipswich residents in 2022.
In my second speech in Parliament, I made it clear that I would take on a “watchdog” role to ensure that Ipswich benefits as much as possible from the merger with Colchester Hospital. I said that if it’s the case that the Orthopaedic centre is based in Colchester then it’s imperative that there is not a negative impact on Ipswich. Our hospital currently has a first class reputation and service when it comes to orthopaedic surgery. However, I do have concerns that the proposed changes could negatively impact the quality of this work; concerns which need to be addressed during the consultation.
I appreciate that assurances have been made that all appointments for Ipswich residents, other than the actual surgery, will take place at Ipswich Hospital and that any emergency surgery will continue to take place at Ipswich Hospital too. What is unclear is how the immediate post-operative care at Colchester Hospital will differ to the experience that patients have currently.
The reality is that many people in Ipswich are worried that the merger with Colchester Hospital could start to negatively affect our hospital. It is imperative that first class surgeons continue to choose Ipswich Hospital as a place they want to be based. It is early days when it comes to fully assessing the merger of Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals although there have clearly been some teething problems.
Following my speech in Parliament I have held discussions with a Health Minister and have invited him to meet me in Ipswich to discuss these matters.
When it comes to the interests of Ipswich residents, I will always speak directly to make sure we get the support and services that people expect. I know how important our hospital is for the town and I will do everything as the MP to support it. The Government is well aware of my determination on this issue and I look forward to welcoming the minister to Ipswich very soon.”
Today (12/02/2020) Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, gave a speech in the Westminster Hall debate on leaseholders and cladding following numerous calls for help from residents of St Francis Tower in Ipswich. He pledged to fight like a lion to get the Government to step in and save leaseholders from the prospect of costs of over £20,000 each for cladding replacement and fire safety works.
The issues around cladding at St Francis Tower was raised in one of Tom’s first surgeries with constituents as a newly elected MP. In that meeting and since, residents of the Tower have been in contact with him, detailing the great frustration and uncertainty they are still experiencing since the Grenfell tragedy in 2017 set off alarm bells about St Francis Tower’s cladding.
Tom plainly set out the issues which have made residents feel “trapped” to the Government in his speech. In respect to the huge costs faced by leaseholders to make the block safe, Tom made it clear that it must be the freeholders who did the dangerous refurbishment, not the leaseholders, who must take responsibility for the cost. While the freeholders are chased, the Government should expand its £200 million scheme for the removal of ACM cladding (the type on Grenfell tower) to include the just as dangerous ACM cladding which was on St Francis Tower. Tom said: “There is absolutely no logical reason why [residents of St Francis Tower] should be treated in any different way to those who live in properties where the cladding is ACM.” This is a crucial point of fairness for residents of St Francis Tower.
Tom also stressed the poor communication from Block Management, the company managing the building, to his constituents who live there. Hunt said Block Management’s communication has almost served to inflame residents’ anxieties and tensions rather than soothe them. This has compounded their ordeal.
Hunt conveyed the distress this ongoing issue has caused the residents of St Francis Tower. He told Westminster Hall how leaseholders had seen the price of their properties collapse and how the bill they are being told to pay is about a third of the cost of the properties themselves. Tom has heard from constituents who have savings and investments tied up in the flats and who are now unable to move home, get a return on their investment, or cash in their savings. Many of them are stuck, not just financially but also emotionally.
Following his speech, Tom said:
“Over 100 of my constituents live in St Francis Tower and they have had this issue hanging over their head for far too long. It’s clearly a process which has been emotionally and financially draining for them and that’s why I called on the Government today to step in. Money should be made available for the replacement of cladding of the type found on St Francis Tower on the same basis that money is available to replace the type of cladding that was on Grenfell Tower – especially given it’s just as dangerous.”
“This is what needs to happen in the short-term to provide residents with some much needed certainty but in the long-term I encourage the Government to track down the freeholders responsible for the dangerous refurbishments to recoup the cost. These are the people who were supposed to have knowledge of the issue and who should have obeyed the regulations at the time – not the leaseholders. It’s unjustifiable that it is now on leaseholders to pay the huge costs caused by this catalogue of errors which is entirely not their fault.
“I will continue my close contact with St Francis Tower residents and will not stop raising this issue with Government. I stand by them in demanding clearer communication from Block Management and resolving a situation where one of their most valuable assets is completely frozen.”