Thank you for joining me today for my 12th live session recorded from the Barn Theatre in Cirencester. This week was a bit of a milestone for me as I was able to return to Parliament from the Cotswolds. I hope you are finding these discussions informative. This week I will be discussing finance and the local economy, with a brilliant panel of experts. Many thanks for joining me today:
Councillor Lynden Stowe. County Councillor and Portfolio Holder go Finance and Change
Yesim Nicholson. Growth Hub manager at South Cotswolds Growth Hub
Mike Davis - Managing Partner CJ Hole Estate Agents
Andy Robbins - joint MD of Baylis Vauxhall automotive group with dealerships in Cheltenham, Cirencester, Evesham and Gloucester
Dave Joynes - MD of Cotswold Markets responsible for Moreton, Fairford and Cirencester outdoor markets
Before I provide a brief local update, I have been contacted in the past couple of days by a number of constituents regarding the Black Lives Matters campaign. Racism is detestable, police brutality is unacceptable, and the death of George Floyd was completely tragic. I will of course reply to those who have contacted me individually.
The Discretionary Grant Fund supports small and micro-businesses that are not eligible for other grant schemes. You can get a grant of £25,000, £10,000 or any amount under £10,000. Applications opened on 1 June and will close on Sunday 14 June.
There is a limited fund available for the councils to allocate, so I would urge any business that qualifies to apply as soon as possible. The teams at both Cotswold and Stroud District Council responsible for processing and allocating this fund are working incredibly hard and will award confirmed amounts on Friday 26 June.
Go to the Cotswold or Stroud District Council websites for more information and how to apply.
Care Homes -
As I have discussed in a number of these live sessions, care homes are still in need of additional support. The work that has been done by the care home staff is highly commendable during this horrible period and I thank them for their dedication. I am working hard with care homes, the local authority, and Government to support staff and residents.
I am pleased that following discussions with GCC and Gloucestershire NHS trusts, that there is now a sustainable method for supplying PPE. The Gloucestershire’s Local Resilience Forum have worked incredibly hard to ensure deliveries and are modeling the ‘burn’ rate for PPE across social care so that adequate supply continues.
The ‘train the trainer’ scheme has seen 23 trainers working to secure PPE and testing for care homes across the county. The 229 homes in the county have now all been offered training, with an 80% uptake so far. The scheme will help care homes deal with ongoing COVID-19 issues. All those care homes who have not engaged with the trainers scheme provided by the county council should seriously consider doing so, I am getting reports back that it is a very useful scheme and will help provide better protection for staff and residents.
In Gloucestershire a new regional COVID-19 testing centre has been opened, operating at Hempsted Meadow in Gloucester from 5 June. The NHS website has more info on how and when to get a test.
Contrary to fears, the vast majority of Gloucestershire Primary Schools have now opened with a minimal amount of problems recorded so far. My sincere thanks to all the dedicated teachers who have made this possible.
For more information on any of the following announcements please go to the Government website www.gov.uk/coronavirus. There is an extensive amount of information and guidance available on the website, with a frequently asked questions page with all updated lockdown guidance.
Backing Councils –
I was in continual discussion with the council throughout the past couple of months and was aware of the additional costs of dealing with Covid-19. I fed all these concerns back to Government and was pleased with the unprecedented £3.2 billion in unringfenced funding provided to support councils during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Government is extending the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme for three months, so that people will be able to claim a second and final grant in August. The eligibility criteria are the same for both grants, and individuals will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus.
Regarding the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, from August, the level of the grant will be slowly reduced and employers will be required to top up the government payment to ensure employees receive 80 per cent of their normal pay, up to a monthly cap of £2,500, throughout.
From July, businesses can bring furloughed employees back part time. This is a month earlier than previously announced to help support people back to work.
Lockdown changes –
Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and have been ‘shielding’ can now go outside with members of their household or meet one member of another household if they live alone, providing a much-needed boost to people most at risk who have made huge sacrifices. Social distancing must be followed strictly at all times.
Public health measures were announced in Parliament this week, which will be imposed at the UK border from next week. On behalf of a significant number of constituents whose jobs are affected in the travel, tourism and leisure business, I asked the Home Secretary if she would seriously consider and review as urgently as possible establishing air bridges, particularly with countries where the rate of infection is lower than our own. I will continue to push Government on behalf of all those businesses in this industry.