The coronavirus pandemic is understandably dominating headlines, public services and government announcements. It is a rapidly changing
situation, with emergency legislation to be considered by Parliament next week. This is some of what I have been doing to try to support people in Brighton and Hove. There is also a dedicated Coronavirus section on my website, with pages which are being regularly updated, giving information about what’s happening and the support available in our city.
The impact of the coronavirus on Brighton businesses
Our city has been hit hard by the virus, with the hospitality sector – hotels, restaurants, clubs, pubs and entertainment venues – seeing one of the biggest impacts so far. Thousands are losing their jobs and small businesses are facing bankruptcy. Some of them have been in contact with me, telling me
about the really difficult decisions they are having to make over letting go their staff, and their fears about whether their businesses can survive.
One of the problems has been the PM’s failure to call for the closure of the sector (albeit with an exception for take-away services), which made it difficult to access insurance. I raised this issue with the Prime Minister at a meeting with him on Friday, calling on him to ensure both that the insurance industry steps up, and that support is given to cover the wages of affected staff, later speaking about it
on the BBC.
I was very glad that the Prime Minister listened, and that a few hours later he announced that all pubs, restaurants (with exception of take away services), gyms, cinemas and other leisure facilities had to close. I hope he will now makes sure that the insurance industry delivers on its responsibilities to those businesses.
More support for the hospitality sector
I wrote to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, on Thursday calling for a Coronavirus Marshall Plan for the hospitality industry, going far beyond what he proposed earlier in the week. The text of the letter is here. In particular, I said there should be an immediate suspension of all business taxes (so not just rates for smaller enterprises) and a scrapping of VAT on tourism. Most importantly, the Government should introduce a Universal Basic Income for every UK citizen so that everyone faced with reduced hours or the loss of their jobs has a financial safety net. I also added my name to a cross-party parliamentary motion calling for a
UBI. The story was reported in the Guardian.
The Chancellor has now increased his support for workers, with a very welcome pledge to pay 80% of a worker’s wage up to £2,500 a month to try to encourage employers to keep their staff. But I’m concerned about people who have already lost their jobs - and how quickly money is reaching businesses that need it.
Moreover the self-employed - a hugely important sector here in the city - have been almost completely overlooked. In a phone call with Treasury minister Stephen Barclay on Friday night, I pushed hard for them to be included in the Job Retention Scheme (where they’d be eligible for grants worth 80% of average salary, instead of being left with just £94/week). I’ll continue to do all I can
to ensure this is addressed.
Support for renters
Generation Rent too has been overlooked. Extending local housing allowance to cover 30% of market rents does not protect renters nor give them the support they need - LHA needs to be set at median rental levels. Those with mortgages have been given a three-month mortgage “holiday”. Renters need the same, especially when they need to self isolate, and there must be a freeze on all evictions in the private
and social sector, together with a ban on rent rises for at least the next 12 months. Acorn are doing a brilliant job supporting tenants and is organising local volunteers to help people through the coronavirus. You can sign up, either to help or to get support, on their website.
The community response
On a positive note, the community response in Brighton and Hove (and elsewhere) has been brilliant. So many Covid_19 Mutual Aid groups have sprung up, offering help with shopping, dog walking or simply human company to those who can’t leave their home because of the virus, whether it’s because they are disabled or elderly, or because they are self-isolating. I am listing many of the local
organisations offering advice, information or support on my website. If you’d like your organisation to be included, please email [email protected]
It’s currently very hard to see the light at the end of the Coronavirus tunnel, but I believe that if we lay the foundations for a different kind of economy in the way we respond now, we could come through this crisis as a better society, finding connections with each other that were previously ignored. I wrote about this in my column in Metro.
A fundraiser for the Trussell Trust
Some organisations which already help those most in need like food banks are struggling because of people’s panic-buying and a collapse in
donations. They are now having to buy food and other essentials which were previously donated. I have started a crowdfunding appeal for the Trussell Trust to help them through this crisis. Please support it, if you can.
Holding the Government to account
The need for emergency legislation and a radical response to this crisis doesn’t stop the need to hold ministers to account for what they are doing. I have been doing that by questioning them about their response to the epidemic, and bringing to their attention the actual experiences of people and businesses in Brighton and Hove. You can see a list of the questions I have been asking on my
One of the issues I have raised is private nurseries which are facing financial ruin following the Government’s advice that they close, except for the children of NHS staff and other key workers. The Early Years sector needs support to survive this crisis, or there will be inadequate childcare provision when people are eventually able to return to work.
I have had to stop holding face-to-face surgeries because of the advice about social distancing. But I am holding telephone surgeries, so please get in touch in the normal way.
Finally a heartfelt thanks to all those working on the frontline of this crisis, particularly in our NHS and care sector. We are so grateful for all you do - and will do everything possible to ensure you are given the equipment and support you need to continue to do such extraordinary
If you are a local resident and need help with case work or to find out more about my activities locally please do contact me at the office of: Caroline Lucas MP, Brighton Media Centre 15-17 Middle Street, Brighton BN1 1AL. Tel: 01273 201 130. Email: [email protected]
I hold regular surgeries across the constituency. If you would like to book an appointment at a forthcoming surgery please call Liz Collis on 01273 201130. She coordinates my constituency office and is able to help with most local enquiries.
If you would like to know about my parliamentary work please get in touch at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Tel: 020 7219 7025. Email: [email protected]
You can also keep up to date with my news on:
My Website: www.carolinelucas.com
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