Darren's Update Fri 20th March 2020

Dear people of Broxtowe

I am currently travelling by train back to Broxtowe and I am looking forward to being back after a busy week in Westminster. When I arrive back, I will be contacting local volunteers who will be giving up their spare time to help the most vulnerable in Broxtowe throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Volunteers play a critical role in the delivery of health and social care services and they especially help the most vulnerable in Broxtowe. I wish to thank them for what they have done, and for what they are about to do. The community spirit that they have shown and continue to show throughout this pandemic is truly impressive. I was delighted and proud that Aero Fabrications, Common Lane, Watnall, contacted me about assisting with ventilator production for the NHS. The 1st Nuthall Scouts Group are also doing there bit as mutual aid volunteers, which is excellent. 

Yesterday (Thursday 19th of March) the Emergency Coronavirus Bill was introduced to Parliament. This new legislation is required to tackle the virus head-on. I welcome that the Bill has extra employment safeguards for volunteers. The Emergency Volunteer Leave will mean that volunteers could have up to four weeks’ statutory unpaid leave. It also establishes a UK-wide compensation fund to compensate for loss of earnings and expenses incurred for those who volunteer. This is helpful, as it will ensure that those who volunteer in Broxtowe do not suffer financial hardship as a result of performing an essential public good and service. These extra volunteers will be bolstering the NHS and social care’s capacity to respond to the virus and to use the Prime Minister’s words “so that we can send coronavirus packing.” Without these public-spirited people, which Broxtowe seems to create, the much-need services that we rely on would not be able to function at full capacity. 

On Wednesday (18th March 2020) the Education Secretary (Gavin Williamson) announced schools, nurseries and colleges will be closed starting from today (Friday 20th March) for the majority of pupils until further notice. I quite understand that this will be challenging for parentas in Broxtowe. School places for the children of key workers will be provided. I will be putting up more information about school closures on my website. Here is the link again: https://www.darrenhenry.org.uk/coronavirus.   
Since my last update to the people of Broxtowe, I have been in contact with Matt Hancock the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and I asked him what reassurance could he give to the people of Broxtowe and what sort of things should we be doing? He said we should follow the Public Health, the NHS and the Government’s advice.

These can be summed up in three core themes:
1. Support each other
2. Stay at home
3. Wash your hands often

Public health is my number one priority, but I am also prioritising the people of Broxtowe’s finances. We have concerns about our money situation. So, I have been in contact with Mike Watkinson who is the Development Manager at Federation for Small Businesses (FSB), to discuss local business needs and to ensure that the communication channels are open. The Government and I are 100 per cent committed to businesses in Broxtowe. The Government has announced an unprecedented package of government-backed loans and guarantees to support businesses. I am pleased that businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors are now exempt from business rates for 12 months. In addition to this, small businesses in these sectors can apply for the new grant scheme which is worth up to £25,000 per business. I also urge people in Broxtowe who are self-employed and may be having difficulties with their tax affairs to contact HMRC’s Time to Pay service. The new dedicated COVID-19 HMRC’s helpline is up and running and the number is: 0800 0159 559. I am also pleased that IR35 reforms will be delayed for one year as part of the overall response package to help to those that who are self-employed during Covid-19. 

I have been in contact with Ruth Hyde, Chief Executive of Broxtowe Borough Council, and Councillor Milan Radulovic, Leader of the Council, to discuss local challenges and requirements. I will be working in lockstep with the Council as well as working across parties to serve the people of Broxtowe. As I have written before, the vulnerable and the health of you and your family is my number one priority and you can be rest assured that my team and I will be working around the clock to deliver for Broxtowe. I will also be working with strategic partners to get things done for you and your loved ones.

I am always here to serve you, your family and Broxtowe.