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.”