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News from Batley & Spen MP Tracy Brabin

Welcome to the June edition of my e-newsletter. This month we passed the 10 week mark of the Covid-19 lockdown, and have seen restrictions starting to be eased, with schools and shops now able to reopen.

Since my last newsletter, thousands more people have died from Covid-19 across the UK, and my thoughts and condolences go out to them and all the families and friends who have been affected by this terrible virus. While the Government has loosened some of the regulations we have all abided by since the start of March, hundreds of people continue to die every day, which shows we must remain vigilant and continue to abide by social distancing. The last thing we want is a second spike or for the Government to have to bring tighter restrictions in again.

Throughout May I continued to fight for the people of Batley and Spen in Parliament, raising issues which are concerning and affecting so many people and calling on the Government to take urgent action. Now the social distancing regulations are less strict, schools and businesses are able to reopen, which will hopefully boost the economy in Batley and Spen.

I also visited a number of charities and community groups across the constituency who have been working flat out to support the most vulnerable people in our community. The photo, above, is from my visit to Morrisons in Heckmondwike with the Al Mubarak Foundation. Morrisons has been donating food to more than 10 local charities, and has also set up a phone ordering system to help vulnerable people get next day deliveries of essential items.

As always, for full guidance and advice during the Covid-19 crisis, please visit my website here, and if you need any help or support, please email me on [email protected]
Getting the support you need
In recent weeks I have held meetings with many local businesses in different industries to hear about the issues which are affecting our areas. What became clear to me was how three industries in particular; manufacturing, early years providers and travel agencies, have been badly impacted by the lockdown, and how they need bespoke support to ensure these vital local employers are still here once we get through this virus.

Manufacturing firms told me about the huge impact Covid-19 has had on all areas of their business. Following our meeting I wrote to the Government asking for the Business Rates Holiday to be extended to manufacturing firms forced to close by Covid-19, allow companies to defer VAT payments on orders made before lockdown began, and to make the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme more flexible to cover staff who are working reduced hours but have not stopped altogether.

I wrote to the Government following my meeting with local travel agents asking them to bring in a bespoke deal for travel agencies to both help customers get their money back and keep agencies in business. I called on the Government to allow agencies to access the furlough scheme while continuing to keep staff working to process refunds for customers whose holiday plans have been cancelled. This would have enabled people to get their money back while protecting the futures of travel agents which employ so many local people.

Local nurseries, pre-schools and early years practitioners also raised their concerns with me about how they can survive after the Government made an 11th hour U-turn on allowing them access to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The change has led to a quarter of early years providers fearing they will have to close in the next year. I wrote to the Government calling on them to support this vital sector that does amazing work, often on low wages, to give our children the best possible start in life and keep our brilliant nurseries and pre-schools open.

I hope the Government will listen to the plight of our local businesses and take action to ensure these successful companies can stay afloat and thousands of jobs are not lost.
My chosen charity of the month for May was the brilliant Al Mubarak Foundation, based in Soothill. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, its team of volunteers have worked tirelessly putting together and delivering food packs to the most vulnerable people in our community, to make sure they have enough food and also providing a friendly, familiar face. Last week I had the opportunity to join Saf Laher and his team for an afternoon, delivering food packs to Upper Batley High School (pictured) and hearing about the work the team have been doing since March. Charities like Al Mubarak are shining lights in Batley and Spen and are a fine example of the amazing community spirit we have in our towns and villages.
In June, my charity of the month is IMWS, who have likewise been doing amazing work throughout the lockdown period to support vulnerable people in our community.
Standing up for the self-employed

Since the Government brought in its Covid-19 restrictions, closing businesses across every industry, I have been repeatedly calling for the self-employed and freelance workers to be given the same support as PAYE employees.

Initially when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was introduced it allowed businesses to furlough staff, but there was no support for the self-employed. Thankfully, after sustained pressure the Government brought in the Self Employed Income Support Scheme to give this vital part of our economy much needed support.

However, many people still missed out on support and have seen work dry up for the foreseeable future. New starters, directors of limited companies who pay themselves through dividends, and those with profits of more than £50,000 have not been eligible for support. Unfortunately despite repeated efforts, the Government has not budged and these groups are still missing out on financial support which must be extremely stressful and concerning.

Fears grew last month when the CJRS was extended to October but no extension was forthcoming for the SEISS, leading many to fear the support they had relied on would run out on 1st June. I repeatedly called on the Government to extend the support for self-employed in line with PAYE workers, and much to the relief of many at the 11th hour the SEISS was finally extended, with the self-employed able to claim a second, and final, grant in August. This will be a relief for so many, but there are thousands across Batley and Spen who are still missing out.

Earlier this month I spent some time with local charities who have been supporting vulnerable people throughout the Covid-19 crisis, delivering food parcels to those unable to go shopping. These selfless volunteers have been doing such great work and it was a pleasure to join them and see the great work being done in Batley and Spen. I spent time with the Al Mubarak Foundation in Batley and Purpose of Life in Heckmondwike, who have both been doing amazing work over the past three months. I also spent an afternoon with Rev Brunel James who together with local volunteers has set up the Cleckheaton Community Support Fund, running a food bank and supporting people in the town.
Last week I visited the brilliant Rainbow Baby Bank who have helped so many young families during the Covid-19 crisis providing new and second-hand clothing for under fives and delivering formula milk to parents. I also spent a morning with the Moonlight Trust which has been providing vital food deliveries to the most vulnerable in our community. The Al-Hashim Academy and Batley Christian Fellowship Church have been working together, cooking hot meals with a hot pudding for more than 60 people every day, and it was great to spend some time with those volunteers.
Our amazing local charities are the bedrock of our community and I cannot thank every volunteer enough for the hard work they continue to put in to support the most vulnerable people in Batley and Spen.
Government must do more to protect BAME community
Last week we saw the long awaited publication of Public Health England's report on who is most affected by Covid-19. It confirmed what we already knew, that people from Black, Asian and other ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to die from this terrible virus than others.

The Government must now investigate why these health inequalities exist, and take action to address any causes to protect our BAME communities. We need to do all we can to protect everyone from this terrible virus to avoid any more preventable deaths.

Like all of you, I was extremely disturbed by the footage from the United States of George Floyd, an African-American, being killed at the hands of a police officer. The protests across America, and here in the UK, show there is great frustration and anger at the death of another black American at the hands of police, and racism in wider society that still exists today.

We can't lie to ourselves; racism is still a problem here in the UK and we all need to do more to educate ourselves about racism to create a fairer more equal society for all. I fully support the Black Lives Matter movement and will continue to speak out against racism.

The Prime Minister has promised a commission into racial inequality, focusing on education, health and the justice system, but provided no details on who will run the commission and what it will look into. We've had a number of reviews and audits into racial inequality in recent years, now is the time for action. The Government should deliver a race equality strategy that sets out plans to reduce the structural inequalities and institutional racism.

My thoughts go to George Floyd's family and all those who suffer racism every day.
Celebrate our community
At the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, before businesses were told to close down, I visited Birstall-based Banana Moon to hear about their concerns about what the impact of the virus would be for them.

After the visit, I placed an order for some bright tote bags to celebrate the amazing community spirit we have here in Batley and Spen. Over the past couple of weeks, while visiting local charities and meeting brilliant volunteers, I have donated some of the bags for the volunteers to carry with pride. They have done some amazing work since March, delivering food, cooking, shopping, picking up prescriptions, walking dogs or just being there to chat.

The bags are also now available to buy for £5, with proceeds going towards Batley Food Bank and Cleckheaton Community Support Fund. If you would like a bag, please email [email protected] with BAG in the subject line.
Earlier this month the Government eased the restrictions on vulnerable people who had been shielding due to underlying health conditions, their age, or both. For these people, like my 89-year-old mum Betty, that meant she hadn't left the house since the middle of March. The easing of these rules coincided with my mum running out of yarn for her knitting, so what better way to mark her first trip out of the house in almost three months than with a socially distanced visit to the brilliant Crilly's in Birstall for more supplies. It was such a boost to be able to nip to the shops, but we all need to remain alert and abide by social distancing so that we can get back to hugging our loved ones, sooner rather than later.
Write to me at:
Tracy Brabin MP
House of Commons

For details of my upcoming surgeries, call my constituency office on:

01924 900036

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