Economic recovery, nature & risk of future pandemics
I was struck by a warning given by scientists from the IPBES (an international group of scientists looking at biodiversity loss) about the “perfect storm” which we have created for emerging pandemics because of the way our economies are pushing the natural world beyond its limits. Deforestation, the relentless expansion of intensive farming, mining and infrastructure, and the exploitation of wild species are all making the spill-over of diseases from wildlife to people much more likely.
We are completely dependent on the natural world for our survival and it is vital that it is not sacrificed further in the pursuit of a quick economic rebound following the lockdown. I was joined by 25 other MPs, from most parties, in writing to the Chancellor urging him to put the protection and recovery of nature at the heart of decision-making over the rebuilding of our economy if we are the avoid increasing the risk of future pandemics. You can read the letter on my website here. It was also reported in the Guardian.
This was also the theme of my regular column in the Metro.
Care homes and PPE
I am still deeply worried about the Government’s failure to ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for care homes in Brighton & Hove. The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that more people are dying in care homes in the city than in hospital. Care home staff are not being properly protected from coronavirus, and the company which is supposed to deliver PPE supplies – Clipper Logistics – is failing to do so. I tabled a parliamentary question asking ministers why Clipper Logistics had not delivered PPE supplies in the Brighton & Hove area, when they would arrive and why Clipper was chosen to make the deliveries. It is worrying that the Department of Health and Social Care hasn’t so far provided a clear answer.
Together with other Sussex MPs, I stay in regular touch with the head of the Clinical Commissioning Group for our area, Adam Doyle, to hear about local healthcare capacity and priorities. He said that an action plan is under discussion with adult social care leaders, and I will be pressing for more details about this. I have also raised the issue of PPE supplies with the Council who run some of the care homes in the city.
Business support grants
I also raised the disbursement of business support grants with the Council, which has been much slower than other local authorities in paying out grants. While the Council did acknowledge that there were some concerns at the outset, it said these delays were being addressed. I continue to stress to council leaders that many local businesses are on the verge of collapse, and that the processing of the grants should be tackled as an immediate and pressing priority.
Impact of coronavirus on tourism & hospitality sector
Tourism and the hospitality industry are critical to our local economy, supporting around 21, 000 jobs. The industry has been shut down by the necessary social distancing measures announced by the Government. It’s so distressing to see so many shuttered pubs, many of which may never re-open if they can’t access the grans set aside for small businesses.
The hospitality industry will not fully recover by itself – there needs to be positive support from the Chancellor. I tabled two Early Day Motions in Parliament calling for VAT on tourism to be cut to 5% to cut prices, encourage visitors, and allow businesses to increase investment in these areas; and for a lifting of the £51,000 threshold for SMEs being eligible for the fund set up to support small businesses as it excludes so many individually-run pubs. I spoke to the breakfast show on BBC Radio Kent about this.
Thank you to essential workers
Lots of us have been joining in the #ClapforCarers on Thursday evenings. I wanted to say thank you too to our hardworking postal staff who’ve proved over the last few weeks just how much we rely on them.
Support for the self-employed
Even though the Government has a range of measures to support the self-employed, there are too many people who are falling through the cracks and have been left with no income at all. Those who are self-employed but paid via dividends, or also have a part-time job, or haven't been self-employed full-time for 3 years, are all being denied support. I tabled an EDM asking the Government to review the conditions for access to the SEISS scheme so that it properly reflects the reality of self-employed lives.
The lockdown has seen a sharp increase in the number of calls to the national domestic abuse helpline since the lockdown, and reports of a rise in domestic abuse killings. For too many people, home is not a safe place to be in lockdown. I had a meeting about the situation (via video link) with RISE, our fantastic local refuge in Brighton, and learned more about what they are doing to support people during this crisis.
Green steps to a better future
As we enter the seventh week of lockdown, there are reports that the Government will be unveiling its plans for a lifting of restrictions next weekend. I remain concerned that we need far greater investment in local track, test and isolate measures before starting to lift the lockdown. But when the time does come to ease restrictions, we cannot go back to business-as-before, which was intolerable for so many and steadily destroying our planet. So I’m setting out a series of steps (#GreenStepsToBetter) which we should take towards a better, fairer, green future. Please look out for them on social media over the next couple of weeks and on my website.