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COVID-19

We will get through this, together.

The last few months have been incredibly challenging for the whole community; specifically our health and care workers, and for those who have lost loved ones.  But, the fight isn’t over. We still are at risk of second peaks of Covid-19.

Now we face an economic crisis. I will continue to provide support and represent the interests of businesses and constituents to ensure we can all get through this difficult time.

Below are some resources around what the advice is, what support is available for you, and what I have been doing to represent your concerns.

Please get in touch with me either by filling out the form below or contacting me directly at matt.western.mp@parliament.uk if you have any further concerns and I will do my best to support.

You can see the Government's strategy here. Daily updates from the Government can be found here.

As we enter our third lockdown, I want to urge caution and adherence to the rules. It is the Government's catastrophic handling of the virus that has condemned us to yet further restrictions and curtailments on our civil liberties. We cannot trust this failing Government to get us out of lockdown - and must act responsibly ourselves.

In the meantime, we need fully funded measures to protect businesses and the most vulnerable including an extension to the eviction ban, suitable mandatory sick pay at National Living Wage levels and the retainment (and hopefully extension) of the Universal Credit boost set to be scrapped in April.

Below are my interventions over the previous weeks:

22/12/20:

On Sunday morning, together with other MPs, I spent almost two hours on a call with Michael Gove MP, Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.

I’m afraid it’s very clear the COVID-19 crisis is worsening. News of a new variant of the virus which could now have reached every corner of the UK is deeply concerning. I am aware this is the last thing constituents will want to hear as Christmas approaches, but caution is now more necessary than ever.

Warwick district cases per 100,000 people is now above the national average at 221. The area has seen an increase in cases of more than a quarter over the last 7 days - with many more asymptomatic cases yet to show up in the statistics. One area in Warwick has now reached a staggering seven-day rolling rate of 468 cases per 100,000. COVID-19 deaths in Warwick District have tripled in the last week and, as of December 17th, hospital admissions at the South Warwickshire Healthcare Trust are up 165%, rising to 53 new patients. This has risen since, I am told. Latest government figures show cases are up by nearly half in Warwickshire as a whole. As of last Saturday, UK case rates had increased by 50%.

The R-rating has increased once more and the government's top scientists are fearing the increase can be attributed to a new mutant strain of the Coronavirus. As of early December, the new variant of the virus is estimated to have been responsible for over 60% of all new cases in Kent and London - eventually leading to last week's imposition of the new Tier 4 restrictions in the South East. The government is thought to have known how serious the situation was long before it cancelled the relaxation of restrictions over Christmas. Early research suggests the new variant could be 70% more virulent, although this is yet to be confirmed.

Kent, which has been driving the recent rise in cases nationally, now has a rolling 7-day case rate as of December 17th of 704 per 100,000 people. East Sussex has seen a 150% increase in cases up to the 16th December, perhaps foreshadowing what is in store for the rest of the UK without an urgent culture change. We do not want to see Warwickshire reach levels anywhere near as high as this. We need to act responsibly as the new virus reaches our region if we are to minimise its impact.

The government's restrictions will not be strong enough on their own. That's why I am urging Warwick and Leamington residents in particular to go above and beyond the measures. Avoid contact with anyone outside your household, apart from on Christmas Day. But it is extremely risky even to do this. Tier 4 - essentially the same measures as November's lockdown - could be on the immediate horizon for Warwickshire.

I urge residents to make use of the new lateral flow rapid testing facility that has begun offering tests today from the Adult and Community learning site in Pound Lane, Lillington. It is vital asymptomatic cases can be identified before the virus is transmitted unwittingly by people who should be isolating.

Cases, rates and deaths are only getting worse. The new variant of the virus is said to be extremely virulent. Although initial effects on our hospitals were not as bad as had been feared, as of last week, that situation has changed. There is now huge pressure on our local health services.

Please practice social distancing. Please wear face coverings when you are in our town centres, not just in shops. Let us all do our bit and act responsibly to save lives and ease the pressure on our NHS.

Thanks and stay well.

If you are asymptomatic and want to book a rapid test, go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/.../leamington-covid...

18/12/20:

The government's tiered system of restrictions has failed to control the virus. Case rates are continuing to rise and the economy is being seriously impacted putting our communities at risk. A fortnight ago, with case rates looking extremely promising for Warwickshire, it seemed inconsistent and misguided for us to be placed in tier 3. As a result, our hospitality sector has suffered a devastating loss of revenue during its most crucial fortnight of the year.

Being grouped with Coventry and Solihull (note that both areas had higher case rates at the time… and this was at the request of Warwickshire County Council's Conservative leadership) surely condemned us to tier 3. And other local councils and representatives were undemocratically excluded from discussions with the government. I had hoped the national ‘lockdown' prior to December 2 had been successful in bringing down cases in Warwickshire to a level in which tier 2 restrictions would have sufficed.

But with cases once again rising exponentially in many parts of the country, those circumstances have changed, and we have to react as new data emerges. It was always going to be difficult to gauge the success of lockdown 'lite' due to the asymptomatic phase in virus infections.

And, in the last week, we have seen a worrying rise in cases across Warwickshire and across all age groups which threatens to soon place strain on our local NHS services, at their busiest time of the year. The situation is even more grave given that restrictions are set to be relaxed over the Christmas period.

In my conversations with various pubs, many have indicated that it would have been too late to move into tier 3 this week: the costs of reopening and the loss of financial support from the government would be outweighed by the insufficient revenues that would have been gained.

Our communities need to show resolve and come together to bring cases down. The government must act now and do more to support Warwickshire's struggling businesses. And measures must be in place to protect the vulnerable from the worst effects of any further restrictions.

12/12/20

REVEALED: Warwickshire County Council made a request in November for the area to be grouped with Coventry and Solihull Borough Council - now confirmed.

Let’s be clear here.

Why were we placed in Tier 3? Because, I’m afraid, of the Conservative leadership of Warwickshire County Council.

The decision to place Warwickshire in Tier 3 under the government's latest system of restrictions has angered our communities, damaged our hospitality sector and caused significant damage to our local economy.

The attached letter shows that the Tory leadership of Warwickshire County Council asked for us to be grouped with Coventry and Solihull. This virtually guaranteed we’d be placed in Tier 3 given Solihull’s very high case rate.

The letter makes clear that the county council requested the government designate Warwickshire as part of a sub-region at public health, upper-tier level - and grouped with Coventry and Solihull.

Worse still, while this letter claims local leaders were involved in the decision, I can tell you categorically that I was not. I also doubt Kenilworth MP Jeremy Wright was consulted.

So now you know.

You’ll be aware that since the decision I have been pressing the county council and the government to share the data, analysis and rationale behind the groupings - but sadly my calls have fallen on deaf ears. It would show, I’m sure, how Solihull distorted our local picture.

I will continue - as I have since the decision was made - to press the government for a fairer solution. And I am confident, that with compliance, clear communication and the continued great efforts from everyone in the community, we will soon be taken out of Tier 3.

For the absolute avoidance of doubt, at the parliamentary vote on December 1 the government prevented any amendments from being tabled and so left MPs with a binary choice of no restrictions at all, or the heavily flawed tier system.

Given the safety and health of all UK citizens was the absolute priority, it would have been irresponsible to oppose these England-wide measures otherwise we would have had no restrictions in place at all. Some restrictions, however faulty, are better than no restrictions.

At the time, MPs had no idea of which tiers particular areas would fall under. And I certainly had no idea an intervention was made in November by the Conservative-run Warwickshire County Council requesting Warwickshire be grouped with Coventry and Solihull - which, at the time, had significantly higher case rates.

I want to make absolutely clear that placing Warwickshire in Tier 3 on December 2 was a decision made by the Conservative Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, after the local Conservative-led county council urged him to group Warwickshire with Solihull and Coventry. I, along with other representatives, were locked out of the decision making process. Fact.

12/12/20:

In Wednesday’s PMQs, I challenged the Prime Minister on why the UK has suffered greater economic damage from COVID-19 than other major European nations.

It’s too easy to talk about the economic impact in the abstract, namely a projected 12% fall in GDP from COVID-19 here in the UK - the worst among G7 countries. That’s why it's important to illustrate the reality of the government’s relative failure in more tangible terms.

We need to look at the detail of the damage to our economy - to our combined prosperity - and so I analysed the car sales data for the UK in relation to our major competitors. The results are extremely concerning.

The UK has lost the equivalent of 184,000 more car sales relative to those suffered by Germany from January to October this year.

Compared to France the UK has lost 93,000 more car sales over the same period.

Make no mistake, this is an indicator of how the government has failed to control the pandemic and in particular its failings on test and trace. These essential, basic measures would have ensured less disruption socially and to businesses allowing greater continuity of economic activity.

It was particularly telling just how quickly Germany and France were able to restart their manufacturing sectors compared to the UK. They also reopened car showrooms faster than here.

The UK car market - essential to the Midlands' recovery from the crisis - has seen a 31% slump this year compared to the last. This is the equivalent of more than 620,000 vehicles and a loss of £18billion to the sector.

Year on year, France’s car sales have declined by about 27% (equivalent to about 490,000 vehicles) and Germany’s by only 23% (or 707,791 vehicles).

For the Prime Minister to ignore this disparity epitomises the dismissive attitude of a government that continues to ignore the plight of manufacturing businesses. He said, ‘F*** business’: he clearly meant it."

To watch my question to the PM, click here.

03/12/20:

Yesterday, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Health again about Warwickshire’s placement in Tier 3 restrictions, and the devastating impact this will have on the local economy. I support the need for England and UK wide public health legislation - which must be the priority - and the intent and purpose of public health measures to protect residents' health and safeguard NHS capacity. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.

The vote earlier this week was seriously flawed as, had it fallen, there would have been no restrictions whatsoever in England, despite the high levels of the virus in certain regions. But the Government proposed unamendable legislation, so preventing common sense from being applied across the country.

The Government’s ‘Russian roulette’ approach to legislation is destructive. I don’t support the way in which the Government has implemented the Tiers, and has shut down proper scrutiny of their proposals. The Government has failed to publish their full evidence base for measures, or release their analysis of the five key indicators, which are being used to determine the level of restrictions in Warwickshire. They have also failed to provide residents with a clear roadmap out of restrictions, and they have failed to provide struggling local businesses with proper financial support.

So again, I’m calling on the Government to immediately release the full data behind their proposals, urgently review Warwickshire’s placement in Tier 3, and ensure local businesses have proportionate financial support. Including retrospective payments for the damage these recent measures have caused. Their offer of £3000 is a pathetic sop to those businesses. If the Government does not publish their modelling of the Tiers’ impact on different economic sectors and job losses, the opposition will be forcing a vote on this issue.

Read my letter here.

27/11/20:

Earlier I spoke on Radio 5 Live about the lockdown tier system shambles...utterly bonkers.

The problem is that the Government has made Tuesday's vote into a binary vote which is unamendable and therefore we either have restrictions in England from Wednesday or we don't.

A ridiculous situation and I hope we can bring this to a screeching halt before it does untold damage to our local hospitality sector and the rest of our economy.

Hear my interview here.

27/11/20:

The impact of Tier 3 restrictions on local businesses, and in particular the hospitality sector, is deeply concerning. Alongside the Chairs of Leamington and Warwick Chambers of Trade, I have written to the Government to urge for the tier system to be urgently reviewed, and request immediate support for local businesses.

To view my letter, click here.

14/05

Why is it that Germany are testing twenty times as much as we are? I will keep pressing the Government to do more.

We are also severely lacking personal protective equipment for frontline NHS workers who may come into contact with patients who have coronavirus. This is putting our NHS staff at risk and will spread the disease in our hospitals. We also need many more ventilators. I have spoken on these issues in Parliament and will continue to do so.

I believe there is more we can do to prevent the spread of this virus and I have been raising this in Parliament. You can keep up to date with my contributions in the House of Commons here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/search/MemberContributions?house=Commons&memberId=4617

The Government also needs to urgently ensure we are producing enough ventilators and have enough of the proper protective equipment for frontline staff dealing with this crisis in our hospitals and elsewhere. I have raised these issues in the House of Commons already and will continue to do so.

13/05

We are beginning to see the timeline of continued failures from this Government on getting a grip on this crisis.

It began with the general pandemic preparedness operation ‘Cygnus’ in 2016 in which we failed the test to deal with an outbreak effectively – including the need to boost care home capacity. Now we know that the social care sector warned two years ago that we needed more PPE and a better solution to isolate cases and stop the spread.

We now know that these warnings were not acted on and exactly what was predicted has happened. We also know that we have been far too slow at testing residents, meaning many of these deaths will have died from Covid-19, but not reported as such.

These latest devastating figures shows there has been a 76% increase in deaths compared to the five-yearly average for the same period in the West Midlands. It just illustrates the failures in being able to isolate the cases in care homes and the continual failures in providing sufficient protective equipment for the staff treating these residents.

Shockingly, Public Health England’s guidance in March said that care homes were “very unlikely” to see an outbreak of Covid-19. At the same time, the WHO declared a global pandemic and people were already dying in the UK. Locally, Warwickshire County Council were slow to prioritise social care in important Covid-19 response meetings – omitting the issue of social care completely – until I intervened. This shows that the authorities have abandoned care homes from the beginning.

The Government and authorities have been failing to get PPE to the frontline. The Alzheimer’s Society found 43% of care homes are still not confident of their PPE supply. In the region, there are many businesses that I have been liaising with that are able to produce PPE at scale but have been stonewalled by the Government.

The answer is obvious; let’s requisition suitable empty properties (like hotels) and utilise the Birmingham Nightingale Hospital, instead of dismantling it, to treat and isolate Covid-19 cases, so they are away from others and will limit transmission, and ramp up British production of PPE.

I will continue to do all I can to shed light on the authorities’ failings with social care and provide solutions to genuinely save lives.

31/03

I have joined colleagues in asking for Parliamentary scrutiny digitally for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic. We must be able to question the Government's strategy in dealing with the outbreak.

24/03

I have questioned the Government in Parliament, calling on  them to provide FFP3 masks instead of the less useful surgical masks, in line with what Doctors are telling me all the time.

The Health Sec responded to my saying he will speak to the Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty, to see if this would be a possibility.

Later, in the Government’s daily press briefing, Hancock said frontline workers will get all PPE that they need.

If the Health Secretary is serious about giving frontline workers everything they need to be protected whilst fighting this virus, they need more than surgical masks; they deserve the best masks available.

https://www.facebook.com/MattWesternMP/videos/520997088846001/

SPECIFIC SUPPORT AND ADVICE

As we enter our third lockdown, I know many businesses are fearing for their futures. The Government's support so far for business has been wholly inadequate. I back the measures recommended by the Bounce Back Better Campaign and have urged business rates relief paid back by supermarkets to be reinjected into struggling traders.

Firstly, here are some key resources and contacts if you need specialist support locally and nationally:

Government Business Support Helpline (England) - 0300 456 3565  (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm) - https://businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/

Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub - 0300 060 3747 - https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/service/coronavirus-outbreak-information-and-updates.

Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce - https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/international-trade-blog/coronavirus-february-2020/

FSB Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull - https://www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.html

Warwickshire County Council Business Support hub - https://business.warwickshire.gov.uk/covid-19-guidance-issue

The following emergency support for businesses which are affected by the Coronavirus pandemic is available:

LATEST LOCKDOWN UPDATE:

10/01/2021:

For the latest business support from the Government go to: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support

For a detailed outline of all the support options for businesses of various sizes, click here.

The Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG (Closed) Addendum) supports businesses that have been required to close due to the national restrictions. Find out more here.

The Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG (Open)) supports businesses that have been severely impacted due to temporary local restrictions. Find out more here.

The Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) provides local councils with grant funding to support closed businesses that do not directly pay business rates as well as businesses that do not have to close but which are impacted. In addition, larger grants can be given than those made through LRSG (Closed). Find out more here.

A Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme that will see retail banks offer loans of up to £5m to support SMEs. The Government will cover the interest on these loans for the first twelve months. More information is available here.

A 'Bounce Back' Loan Scheme which helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. More information is available here.

For information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and to check if you can claim your employees' wages, click here.

If you are an employer looking to create 30 or more jobs placements for young people, apply for funding as part of the Kickstart Scheme. For more information, click here. And for 29 or less job placements, click here.

If you're an employer, find out if you can use the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme to claim back employees' coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). For more information, click here.

Find out how to pay VAT payments deferred between 20 March and 30 June 2020. You can pay now or get ready to opt in to the VAT deferral new payment scheme. For more information click here.

You can defer your Self Assessment payment on account due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Check what you need to do after 31 July 2020 if you chose to defer your second payment on account for the 2019 to 2020 tax year. For more information, click here.

100% Business Rate holiday for all businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector for one year in 2020-21. Eligible pubs will also be entitled to a business rate discount of £5,000. Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to our local authority.

Check if you can claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. If you're self-employed or a member of a partnership and have been impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19) find out if you can use this scheme to claim a grant. For more information, click here.

Apply for the coronavirus Future Fund. This scheme will issue convertible loans between £125,000 to £5 million to innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak. For more information, click here.

The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) provides financial support to larger businesses affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). For more information, click here.

Scaling up HMRC Time To Pay service, allowing businesses and the self-employed to defer tax payments over an agreed period of time.  The helpline for businesses in distress regarding their tax liabilities can be contacted on 0800 015 9559.

Cash grants worth:​

£25,000 to the smallest businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector.

£10,000 for all business in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) and Rural Rates Relief.

To apply for either, please visit https://www.warwickdc.gov.uk/info/20827/coronavirus/1553/coronavirus_information_for_businesses/2

For large businesses that need £5mn or more, the Bank of England’s Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) may be of assistance.

Applications can be made at applications@bankofengland.co.uk.

Further emergency financial measures will be announced by the Chancellor as necessary. I will be holding the Government to account to ensure they meet the challenge this virus presents to our local economy.

My representations:

27/12/20:

I received a letter from the government on Boxing Day announcing provisional support for high streets in (let’s see) “Leamington Spa Town" (?). The communities secretary has pledged a possible £10million for Leamington - but nothing for Warwick. Bizarre, no?

Of course, I welcome the possibility of much needed funding for Leamington amid this devastating pandemic. But it would have been appropriate for the government to inform us of its rationale and provide an explanation. The letter itself being sent on Boxing Day is also curious. This is interesting and potentially good news. But now we must ensure ministers deliver!

24/12/20:

The government must step in and urgently support the hospitality sector. Many businesses in Warwick and Leamington are fearing for their future and feeling let down.

In response, I am calling on the government to use the (minimum) £2billion in business rates relief, that has been returned by major supermarkets, to bailout smaller traders. It is the least ministers can do.

Three weeks ago, with case rates looking better for Warwickshire, it seemed irresponsible and misguided for us to be placed in tier 3 along with worse performing areas such as Solihull.

That grouping of Warwickshire with Solihull and Coventry - called for by the leadership of Warwickshire County Council - resulted in our hospitality sector suffering a devastating loss of revenue during its most crucial fortnight of the year.

But now many supermarkets have made the right decision to waive their business rates relief and pay in full after an understandable outcry over the size of dividends awarded to their shareholders. This was especially insulting as COVID-19 heavily damaged smaller firms in the hospitality sector while supermarkets performed better.

Also, I will call on the government to implement the measures of the Bounce Back Better campaign to help businesses recover from virus restrictions.

Read more here: https://www.leamingtoncourier.co.uk/.../business-rates...

16/12/20:

Soon we will learn whether our area remains in Tier 3 or indeed is 'downgraded' to Tier 2. Much of this will be decided on the basis of the social geographies chosen by the government.

And I have continued to urge ministers to use the lowest tier possible - whether that be in Warwick District, south Warwickshire or even Warwickshire - in designating the tier for our community.

After the Conservative leadership of Warwickshire County Council requested our region be grouped with Coventry and Solihull, it is the hospitality sector that bore the brunt. It meant that people could not go to cafes, pubs and restaurants and this has a social and human cost.

At the time, the high number of cases in Solihull likely condemned us to Tier 3 and businesses to losing vital revenue.

So this past week I have contacted various pubs across the area. Many have told me that they believe it is too late for Warwickshire to move into Tier 2 having lost crucial weeks of revenue in the run up to Christmas. Interestingly, the majority now tell me they would prefer to stay in Tier 3, with a great many fearing for their futures.

I am deeply concerned by the catastrophic losses some have suffered after being forced to remain closed since Warwickshire went into Tier 3 on December 2.

After the conversations this week, the overwhelming majority now say their anticipated revenues for December and January would not cover the costs of reopening, particularly with the loss of financial support and relief provided by the government.

The Newbold Comyn Arms owner Sarah Miller told me she was fearful for her business' future and said it would be no good reopening, stocking up and then closing again soon after. While January is also traditionally a difficult month for hospitality, particularly pubs.

Having spoken to other owners, I am quite sure her concerns are reflective of the general mood. I contacted various pubs in Leamington, Warwick and Whitnash. They desperately need financial support for their businesses.

Given we have seen a worrying rise in cases over the last week locally it is hard to predict how this decision will fall, particularly given that Warwickshire as a whole now has a very similar rolling case rate to Coventry and Solihull.

While I am still committed to ensuring Warwickshire is judged as its own region in the government's next tier review, I do want to urge caution in Warwick and Leamington in particular.

It is as yet unclear what caused the spike in cases in the district but I strongly urge residents to adhere to the restrictions and be extra safe as Christmas approaches.

With the government periodically reviewing the tier designations, it is up to our communities to show resolve and quickly bring cases down if we are to eventually get out of Tier 3.

//

To date, I have spoken to countless businesses directly and through organisations like the FSB and the Chamber of Commerce, where they have informed me of issues such as difficulties accessing much-needed cash. I have written to the Chancellor and the Council several times to ensure that our businesses get the support they need. I have also fed in local cases to the Labour frontbench who are lobbying at the highest levels.

The 'Bounce back' loan scheme and the announced greater flexibility of the furlough scheme is, in part, thanks to the representations of colleagues and myself to get the Government to listen to the concerns of business.

However, more needs to be done and I will continue to advocate for our great local businesses. We need specific sectoral support and ongoing state aid to ensure key industries can recover post lockdown.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT

The Government has announced a Coronavirus Retention Scheme, which will enable HMRC to administer grants to cover 80% of the salaries of workers not working but “furloughed” and kept on the payroll rather than being laid off. The grant will be up to £2,500 per month per worker.

NEW: The scheme has been extended until October, with employers beginning to contribute more to your salary over time.

I welcomed this move, having called in the House of Commons for a similar package to be introduced. However, I do think it’s important to point out who is missing from the package, and ways in which it may not go far or fast enough.

Aside from the ambiguity in who is a qualifying worker, there is no guarantee that employers will top up the salary. The cap of £2,500 a month means many individuals will take a pay cut. There is no guarantee from employers that they’ll keep workers in work.

Please get in contact with your employer if you have any concerns about how this will be calculated for your situation and to ensure they register for the scheme.

RETURNING TO WORK SAFELY (10/05)

As the Government have now announced their plan to reopen the economy, I am concerned that too many employees will be sent to unsafe places of work.

The current guidance for going back to work does not go far enough to enforce social distancing and where appropriate the provision of personal protective equipment. I have called on the Government to tighten these restrictions by carrying out inspections (a broken promise by the Prime Minister) and making PPE and social distancing mandatory (including on public transport if the employee has no other option). I would urge all employees to join a trade union at this time to ensure your right to safety at work is maintained.

NEW STARTER FURLOUGH (04/04)

If you started your job after the the 19th March, you are not eligible for the retention scheme, I believe this is wrong, and have called for the Chancellor to amend this.

I would urge you to ask your previous employer to enroll you on the scheme, as this has been successful elsewhere and is confirmed as allowed by the Treasury.

In the mean time, you can apply for Universal Credit. Go to gov.uk/universal-credit to sign up.

29/03

I have repeatedly called for businesses to enforce social distancing practices, and have signed a letter to the Government to make guidance much clearer. Where not possible and not essential to our effort in beating the virus, they should seize operations. If they remain open, employers should provide protective equipment to employees wherever possible. If you are concerned about your own situation, please email in.

 

After representations from myself and colleagues, the Chancellor has announced that self-employed people will be eligible for a grant of 80% of 3 months' average earnings, capped at £2,500 a month, based on your average profit over the past three years.

NEW: The scheme has been extended to cover an additional 3 months' loss of income, this time at 70%. Details to follow.

I welcome this move, but there are gaps in the provision, including those who have just become self-employed, those who operate within a limited company, and those who earn just over £51,000.

You can read about the scheme here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

The government is also providing the following additional help for the self-employed:

Deferral of Self-Assessment income tax payments due in July 2020 now due in January 2021

Grants for businesses that pay little or no business rates

The Government have opened up Universal Credit to more self-employed people -  go to gov.uk/universal-credit to sign up.

Business Interruption Loan scheme and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme. More information is here.

If you are a freelancer/owner-director of your own limited company, if you’re paid even in part through PAYE you may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme. More information is here.

MY REPRESENTATIONS

Self-employed support came after myself and colleagues pushed for it, which is hugely needed for so many families.

I firmly believe that the only way to ensure no one is left behind, the Government should introduce an emergency basic income support payment for everybody. I have made representations to this regard and will continue to urge the Government to do so.

I have urged the Government to close the gaps in support for self-employed people, including by feeding in local cases to the Labour frontbench, and will continue to do so.

I hve written to the Chancellor, asking him why he has excluded Company Directors from the support packages. I've also joined the All-Party parliamentary Group (APPG) for the ExcludedUK group, looking to represent all those who have missed out from support at no fault of their own.

The Government has now announced that schools, colleges and early years settings (such as nurseries) will remain shut for an indefinite period. However, a skeleton service will remain in place for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

I support this action to protect children, staff and the wider public.

Assessments and exams will not be going ahead this year. I know pupils and parents will be concerned by the implications of this and I will seek clarity from the Government on this as these issues are considered in Parliament.

Parents will also need support to be able to look after their children, as they may withdraw from employment. I am urging the Government to clarify how they see this working.

SCHOOLS SET TO REOPEN IN JUNE (13/05)

The Government have announced its plans to reopen schools for pupils in years 1-6. I support the National Education Union's 5 tests campaign, which calls for all five key safety measures to be met before schools should reopen.

I have wrote to Warwickshire County Council, urging them to only open schools when it is safe to do so.

Vulnerable people no longer have to shield.

Here is the advice from Age UK for how to best support older people.

If you or someone you know is extremely vulnerable, you can request assistance from the Government here.

I pay tribute to all key workers like the health staff working in our NHS who worked tirelessly to help deal with the virus.  They need to be protected and have priority testing and sufficient PPE.

I have spoken with our main local healthcare providers to ensure I can represent their concerns to the Government.

We must celebrate the heroism and bravery of our key workers. They deserve a fair pay rise.

07/05

I've recorded a tribute to health and care workers doing so much for us all despite their tough circumstances and lack of testing and PEE

https://www.facebook.com/MattWesternMP/posts/1508531752648946

04/04

Too many key workers are not getting personal protective equipment - from those in hospitals, care homes, to supermarket workers and bus drivers.  I am still calling on the Government to give everyone who has a public facing role protective equipment.

 

The Government must extend protections fro renters in this time of crisis.

The Chancellor has also announced an increase to the Local Housing Allowance to support private renters with paying their rents.

I am calling, alongside the Labour Party, for the Government to act swiftly to stop all evictions and protect renters by ending the bedroom tax and the benefit cap.

27/03 

The Government have listened to concerns from me and others about renter evictions. They have changed its approach and is now introducing a FULL ban on evictions, giving much-needed protection for renters at this critical time. Shocking that people were being threatened with evictions during this lockdown.

25/03

I have had constituents get in contact with me to tell me they have received notices to leave their house just before the new legislation was adopted. This is simply shameful and heartless. If you are facing eviction during this crisis, please get in touch by using the form at the bottom of this page.

https://www.facebook.com/MattWesternMP/videos/639821209896788/

The Government have announced that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice. This is in addition to the change announced by the Prime Minister that SSP will be payable from day 1 instead of day 4 for affected individuals.

People who are advised to self-isolate for COVID-19 will be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note to cover this by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor. This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence.

Those who are not eligible for SSP, for example the self-employed or people earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week, can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance:

Self-employed people will be able to claim a Statutory Sick Pay equivalent through Universal Credit.

People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre if they are advised to self-isolate

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable, at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating in line with advice from Day 1 of sickness, rather than Day 8.

While I welcome these steps taken by the Government, there unfortunately appear to be major problems, with nothing for those without a contract of employment, and no suggestion that sick pay levels will be increased.

Together with the rest of the Labour Party, I am calling on the government to:

Raise statutory sick pay in line with amounts in other European countries

Introduce rent payment deferment options and ban any evictions of tenants affected by the outbreak, which has since been announced by the Government

Reduce the wait time for first payment of Universal Credit down from five weeks

Support local authorities working with food banks in the purchase and distribution of food stocks

 

03/04

The Labour Party have been lobbying the Government on your behalf to raise the issues that are most pressing for Britons stranded abroad. You can see the letter our Shadow Foreign Secretary sent to Dominic Raab here: https://www.facebook.com/EmilyThornberryLabour/posts/3149030668480292

30/03

The Government has today announced that they will be flying back more Britons. Where commercial flights are no longer available, the Government will be putting on chartered flights with select airlines to bring those home. This is welcomed news and comes after lobbying by myself and others to get to this position. If this intervention is still not enough, I will be pressing the Government to begin requisitioning flights.

The Governemnt have said:

Special charter flights for countries with no commercial routes will be prioritised according to the number of stranded British travellers and their vulnerability, including an assessment of the local health provision. In some places, access for flights to land and the ability to move around within the country to assemble for return flights will also be decisive factors.

Charter flights are already up and running to Ghana and Tunisia. We will add more countries this week with the aim of bringing people back from countries such as India and South Africa where large numbers of British travellers are stuck and commercial routes are completely suspended. We are negotiating intensely with countries around the world to secure permissions for return flights where airspace has been closed.

If there are no commercial options, they should visit the travel advice pages and sign up to alerts for their location and follow embassy social media and email updates. When special return flights become available, these will be advertised by the embassy and British nationals on Travel Advice Pages and Embassy social media and those who have registered for updates will be contacted via email. British nationals will be asked to register their interest through our booking agents CTM.

Where people are in real need, our consular teams will work with them to consider their options. As a last resort, the Foreign Office will offer an emergency loan."

More information can be found here.

25/03

After repeated lobbying to the Foreign Office, I have now received this further update for those stranded in India:

The British High Commission in New Delhi has moved into crisis mode and has setup a dedicated email address for British nationals who wish to return urgently to the UK.

Email Conqry.Newdelhi@fco.gov.uk with your full name (and names of any family members), Date of Birth, passport number, visa status, date of arrival in India and you contact details.

The FCO also advises all British people in India to:

Check the latest FCO travel advice for India

Follow @FCOTravel and @UKinIndia on twitter, and UK in India on Facebook, if possible

Refer to the latest guidance for UK citizens travelling overseas during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Stay up to date with and follow the latest restrictions by local authorities, including lockdown.

24/03

The Govt should repatriate all Britons abroad by requisitioning airlines.

Here's my question to the Foreign Secretary where I highlighted 2 residents' cases. I will continue to do all I can.

https://www.facebook.com/MattWesternMP/videos/662306424528777/

Warwick and Leamington COVID-19 vaccinations - useful links and information:

The South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group says vaccines are our best defence against the virus. The vaccines are said to be 95% effective in preventing the virus causing symptoms, and they are currently being rolled out across Coventry and Warwickshire to priority groups (those who are aged 80 and over, care home residents and staff, and some NHS staff).

See the CCG's latest guidance here.

Local vaccination centres: 

Leamington North and South PCN from Lisle Court:

Clarendon Lodge Medical Practice

Croft Medical Centre

Cubbington Road Surgery

Sherbourne Medical Centre

Spa Medical Centre

Warwick Gates  Family Health Centre

Waterside Medical Centre

Whitnash Medical Centre

Kenilworth and Warwick PCN vaccinating from Warwickshire Golf Club:

Abbey Medical Centre

Avonside Health Centre

Castle Medical Centre

Chase Meadow Health Centre

Priory Medical Centre

Vaccination eligibility:

The CCG says the vaccine is currently being offered to those aged 80 and over, care home residents and staff and some NHS staff.

It adds that the vaccine will then be offered to the wider population in order of priority. You will be invited to attend for a vaccination, therefore please do not attempt to book a vaccination appointment or attend a vaccination centre, unless you have been contacted and received instructions to do so.

Please if anybody over the age of 80 hasn't received their virus by Sunday, November 17, please contact my office.

Warwickshire County Council vaccine Q&A: 

Questions and Answers: Covid-19 vaccinations

Information supplied by Warwickshire County Council and produced in conjunction with the NHS. Information correct as of 12 January 2021.

Q: What are the different ways members of the public might be contacted to get their vaccination?

A: There are four ways:
1. Local hospital services – you might be contacted either to have the vaccine as an inpatient or at an outpatient appointment.
2. Local GP services – practices in your area are working together to contact and offer the vaccine to as many people as possible. This may be at a different surgery than you usually go to, or at a venue we have set up
specially to deliver vaccines.
3. Through your care home – GPs and their teams are also arranging to vaccinate care home residents directly, in their homes.
4. A letter from the NHS Covid-19 Vaccination Booking Service to book online or by phone. Booking through this service will give you the option of having the vaccine at a special Vaccination Centre, or potentially a community
pharmacy depending on whether these are available locally.

Q: Which members of the public are being offered the Covid-19 vaccine at the moment?

A: The NHS is currently in the process of offering the vaccine to people aged 80 and over, those who live or work in care homes, and frontline health and social care staff. When everyone in these groups has had the chance to get
their first dose of the vaccine, the programme will expand to other people that are at risk either due to their age group or medical condition. This is in line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation
(JCVI).

Q: I’ve already had my first jab. How do I get my second?

A: If you have had your first jab already through a hospital or GP services, the local NHS will contact you in the next few weeks about getting your second.

If you have received a letter from the national booking service and you have already had your first dose of the vaccination, please ignore the letter. The national booking service will require you to book appointments for both doses of the vaccination at the same time so because you have already had your first dose this service does not apply.

Q: I’ve contacted the national booking service but I can’t travel to one of the locations that are available, what should I do?

A: More locations will become available in the coming weeks so you could try again later. Alternatively, you can choose to wait until your local GP service invites you for the vaccine. If you are housebound and unable to leave the house to travel to any appointment, and cannot arrange for someone to help you, your local NHS services will be in contact with you.

Q: I have received a letter but I have already booked or attended an appointment at a local GP service. What should I do?

A: If you already have a vaccination booked through your GP please ignore the letter – there is nothing you need to do.

 

Q: I have the letter but don’t understand how I book my appointment?

A: If you have received a letter from the national booking centre inviting you to book your Covid-19 vaccination, you can do this online or on the phone using the details on the first page of the letter. You will need your name, date of birth and NHS number to book. Your NHS number is on the top of your letter.

Please do not call your GP practice.

At the time of booking you will be asked to book your first vaccination and your follow up vaccination for 11 to 12 weeks’ time.

 

Q: I have received a letter about booking my appointment. Can I contact my GP to do this?

A: No, please do not contact your GP surgery. We cannot help you to book into the Vaccination Centre. Please use the details in the letter to book your appointment directly.

 

Q: I have received invites to get vaccinated from both a local GP service and the national system, but haven’t booked with either yet. Can I choose where to go?

A: Yes. Please choose the location that is most convenient and safest for you.

 

Q: Will people who have had their vaccination through a hospital, GP or care home still receive a letter to book
through nhs.uk or by ringing 119?

A: This may happen in a small number of cases. If people have had their first vaccination through a hospital or GP service, of if they are in a care home, this information will flow through to the national NHS system. If this is recorded on the national system before the national booking letter is printed then it will flag not to send that person the national booking letter. There are likely to be cases where the letter is printed to be sent and then
person subsequently has their vaccination recorded and therefore is sent the national booking letter. The booking letter explains this and says that if people have already had their first dose to not book through the website nhs.uk or
119.

Q: My neighbours/friends have received a letter from the national vaccination centre to book their jab. Why haven’t I received mine?

A: The NHS is inviting people for vaccinations based on expert advice on who would benefit most. This has been set by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). At the moment we are focusing on people aged 80
and over, people who live or work in care homes, and health and social care staff. If you are in one of these groups, you will be invited to book your vaccine soon.

A vaccination programme of this size and scale will still take some time to roll out in full. Please be assured that everyone who needs the vaccine will be offered it. The NHS will be in touch with you when it is your turn to be vaccinated. Please don’t call us before you are invited.

 

Q: What if I can’t get to the Vaccination Centre?

A: People who are housebound will be contacted by their GP services about alternative ways to get vaccinated. People can also wait until more locations closer to where they live become available. The NHS will follow up with people that haven’t booked their appointment, as a reminder.

Q: I’ve received a letter but someone I live who is the same age hasn’t yet. Can we get vaccinated together?

A: The NHS is inviting eligible people in a phased basis as supplies of the vaccine allow. It is important that you wait for your letter from the NHS, and you will not be able to book without one. If you have received a letter and live with someone who is also eligible but has not received a letter, it is likely that theirs will follow shortly. If you like you can wait and book at the same time.

My latest interventions on vaccines:

15/01/21:

Mass vaccinations will mean beating the virus and returning to normal life. I am hopeful but far from expectant the Government will deliver on its pledge to vaccinate 2million people per week. We face a race against time if we are to vaccinate all the over-70s, older care home residents and staff, frontline healthcare workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable by the mid-February target.

We quite simply cannot rely on this Conservative Government. Therefore Labour's #LetsVaccinateBritain campaign is calling on volunteers to help the roll out. The labour movement and our collective solidarity is needed now more than ever to defeat COVID-19. I will be putting myself forward to volunteer and help.

Please consider getting involved and help in any way you can and give up as much time as you can - however insignificant it may appear. Local GPs will be seeking help, needing stewards in vaccine centres or to support outbound calling to patients. Mass vaccination is our route out of this crisis. And we must do all we can to help the national effort - while simultaneously holding the Government to account.

If you are interested in signing up, go to: https://nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk/

To read more about Labour's #LetsVaccinateBritain campaign, go to: https://labour.org.uk/.../lets-vaccinate-britain-keirs.../

Would you also send me an email notifying me if you sign up. I would like to have a database of willing volunteers so we can apply pressure to the Government to find jobs for those who want to help in Warwick and Leamington.

Please contact me at matt.western.mp@parliament.uk or call my office on 01926 882006.

14/01/21:

Urgent vaccinations update:

Please DO NOT call your GPs or other healthcare providers. They will contact you when a vaccine is available.

Dozens of elderly and vulnerable residents have written to me concerned about letters from the NHS instructing them to travel to Birmingham for the vaccine.

People travelling to Birmingham risks their safety and will put many off receiving the potentially life-saving vaccine. We need local vaccination sites open and available as soon as possible.

Elsewhere, many GPs are complaining they do not have access to as many vaccines as they'd hoped - and certainty over deliveries remains a problem. I will be pushing for local supply lines to be improved and for health professionals to be assisted.

The government has opened seven mass inoculation centres across the UK, including one in Birmingham.

It needs to be as easy as possible for people to receive the vaccine. We need many more local centres like this to increase the rate of vaccination and inoculate everyone in our area as quickly as possible.

NHS leaders in our region hope to have vaccinated all those aged over 80 by the end of this weekend.

The target for Coventry and Warwickshire by the end of March is 420,000 people aged over 50. As of last Friday, 24,000 vaccines had been administered in the region since the beginning of last month.

For more information go to: https://www.facebook.com/groups/warwickleamingtoncovidhelp/permalink/399683067952781/

Finally, if any residents over the age of 80 haven’t had a vaccine by Monday, please contact me at matt.western.mp@parliament.uk or call my office on 01926 882006.

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Contact Matt about your COVID-19 concern