Dear Friends and Residents, as the Westminster term comes to an end I thought it would be useful to give you an update.
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** Vicky Ford InTouch July 2020
Dear Friends and Residents
As the Westminster term comes to an end I thought it would be useful to give you an update.
It has been an incredibly busy time in Parliament, working not only on the many decisions that need to be made due to Covid, but also on delivering the commitments from our manifesto last December.
In recent weeks MPs have passed a number of different Bills through the House of Commons including the Domestic Abuse Bill which will help protect many thousands of victims and their children, the Immigration Bill, the Finance Bill which included more substantial reform of the tax system and the Divorce Bill which will simplify legal processes and reduce hostility.
We also passed the Trade Bill which enables the 40 free trade agreements which we have been party to though our EU membership to be transitioned and continue without change. The NHS is protected in these trade agreements, and the Government has committed that it will continue to be protected in all future trade agreements so additional language proposed by the Opposition in this Bill was not necessary.
Business and Jobs
It has been great this month to see Chelmsford beginning to get back to its usual self with many shops and businesses reopening and such great care being taken to prevent the spread of the virus. I would like to thank all the business owners, staff and customers who have taken time to talk to me in recent weeks. It is incredibly important that we continue to support our local businesses and local jobs at this time.
The Chancellor’s “Summer Economic Update” focused on protecting jobs and opportunities. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has supported over 12,700 people in Chelmsford who have been on furlough and the new Furlough Bonus will encourage employers to bring them back to work. Locally, 39,000 people have used the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. Additional Government funding to Local Councils has enabled business grants and just under £28 million in grants has been paid to support over 2,145 local businesses. It is estimated that the VAT cut for the hospitality, leisure and recreation sector will benefit 510 Chelmsford businesses. I do hope many local people will take part in the “Eat Out, Help Out” scheme to support local cafes and restaurants this August.
The Government also announced a new pay rise for doctors, teachers and many other public sector workers whose pay is agreed at a national level, this builds on the pay rises for nurses that had already been agreed in a three-year deal.
Children and Young People
We know that in the past it is often young people who are most impacted by an economic downturn, in the last recession in 2010 over one million 18 -25 year olds were not in employment, education or training. By contrast, this time the Government has put in place a new Kick Start scheme as well as more traineeships and apprenticeships which will help hundreds of thousands of young people.
It has been great to speak to the heads of Chelmsford Secondary Schools as pupils have been returning this term and hear their plans for a full return in September. Thank you so much to all our teachers and staff who have worked so hard. Seven schools in Chelmsford will benefit from funding to improve school facilities as part of a £434 million capital investment across the whole country. There is also an addition £1,000,000,000 being invested in a “catch-up” support program to help with missed education and well-being. The Government has published very detailed guidance on the safe reopening of schools which you can find here ([link removed]) .
As Minister for Children I have been making sure that there is support for vulnerable children, including those in care and those with special education needs and disabilities. We’ve also provided additional resources and training for teachers on mental health and well-being as we know this is so important. There is also a new 24/7 mental health crisis hotline available. Further details are here ([link removed]) .
Hospitals, Police and Other Public Services
I would like to thank our police, hospitals and the county council for staying so closely in touch with MPs during this time. We know that the virus puts pressure on the NHS frontline but many Chelmsford constituents have told me how they have appreciated the reopening of more NHS services and it has been good to help with individual cases. There are now 7,890 more doctors and 13,500 more nurses in our NHS than a year ago.
Congratulations to Essex Police who participated in the biggest ever law enforcement operation. The Police and National Crime Agency (NCA) took down an encrypted global communication service used exclusively by criminals. It resulted in the seizure of over 155k of Class A drugs and 13 arrests here in Essex. Our local community police team has also been invaluable during this time.
Thank you to the team at Essex County Council for their Essex Welfare Service which has helped tens of thousands of people and will now continue as an Essex Wellbeing Service. You can contact them here ([link removed]) . The Essex Coronavirus Action Facebook page ([link removed]) is also an excellent source of information. Thank you also to the officers at Chelmsford City Council who have been working so hard, especially the housing team.
Holidays and Leisure Activity
I know many people have really appreciated the gradual re-opening of more leisure activities. I popped down to the canoe club to find out how they are doing. Our Chelmsford Canoe club is the top ranking club in the country with many of its members competing at an international level, we are extremely lucky to have them.
As Minister I helped to prepare the detailed guidance on the reopening of out of school and holiday clubs. ([link removed]) Essex County Council is running over 21,600 holiday activity sessions across the county this summer. You can find out more on their website.
The planning for our second railway station and North East Bypass continue. Do consider dropping into the virtual village hall exhibition that shows the proposals. These are vital infrastructure projects for Chelmsford. You can find out more here ([link removed]) . I brought the Housing Minister, Chris Pincher to visit Beaulieu Park and this was an excellent opportunity to reinforce the importance of infrastructure in our local area.
Local highways teams are also continuing to work with the Department for Transport on the various different options for replacing the Army and Navy junction. This is a highly complex piece of work which will take time to deliver. They are also working on more improvements to the cycle network around Chelmsford.
As we work to recover from the pandemic it is important that this is a Green Recovery which continues to focus on the need to reduce damaging emissions and save energy. The Environment Bill which is passing through Parliament will lead to a step change in cleaner air, cleaner water and protecting biodiversity.
The Chancellor recently announced a new Green Homes Grant to upgrade the energy efficiency of homes across England. The Government will provide £2 billion to allow people to apply for a voucher, to fund at least two-thirds of the cost of upgrading the energy performance of their homes, up to a maximum of £5,000. Low-income households will be eligible for up to 100% of Government funding, up to £10,000. This measure will reduce energy bills, while helping to meet the Government’s goal of Net Zero by 2025.
The Government will also provide £1 billion to improve the energy efficiency of public sector buildings. This scheme will offer grants to public sector bodies including schools and hospitals to fund both energy-efficiency and low-carbon heat measures.
This week the Prime Minister announced a £350 million boost to cut emissions earlier this week. This funding will be used to help businesses to decarbonise across the heavy industry, construction, space and transport sectors.
Tree planting does play an important part of our strategy to reduce carbon. I was saddened to hear the story that the 2,600 trees planted by Chelmsford City Council in South Woodham Ferrers last year had not been watered in the hot weather earlier this year and that many have not survived. I hope this will not happen again.
Keeping In Touch
As ever please do stay in touch if you need help or advice. The easiest way to do this is by email, my email address is [email protected]
. I held virtual surgeries during the lockdown and recently I was able to do my first face to face surgery with social distancing measures in place. I will be taking a short holiday over the summer but otherwise am here to help.
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