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Email: michelle.don[email protected]
Telephone: 01249 704465
Write: Michelle Donelan MP, 61 New Road, Chippenham, SN15 1ES
** A letter to all constituents
In this edition of my e-news, you will find key information about our response to coronavirus, as well as non-coronavirus news from across the Chippenham Constituency.
As you will know, my immediate focus continues to be the safety of the public as we work to defeat the coronavirus. We are slowly taking steps forward back towards normality with businesses reopening but we must ensure that we remain vigilant due to the rising number of cases. This has made it more important than ever to follow the guidance set out by the Government on how to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
Our community response in Wiltshire also continues to be exceptional, with an army of thousands of volunteers keeping us going – from delivering food to the vulnerable to supplying urgent PPE to our NHS heroes. People of all ages and backgrounds have also become everyday heroes with small acts of kindness, going out of their way to look after their neighbours or even complete strangers who need a helping hand at this challenging time.
I want to thank everyone reading this for your hard work, your sacrifices and your resolve. I too have been working flat-out for everyone in the constituency, working on both coronavirus cases and non-coronavirus issues. It is very important to me that coronavirus does not stop us from tackling the issues that matter to us here in our Wiltshire market towns and villages. Policing, schools, jobs, roads, farming, the environment, trade and many more issues continue to pose challenges for us and I am determined to make sure our local voices are heard on these issues as well as on coronavirus.
To ensure I am fully aware of the situation from all perspectives, I am also still having weekly calls with Wiltshire Council, Wiltshire Police and our local Clinical Commissioning Group representatives. Most importantly, I have been and will continue to maintain my weekly surgeries with constituents to hear first hand how I can help.
Finally, in all of this I know that many people will be put in challenging situations where they may be concerned for their own health, the health of a loved one, the security of their job or the future of their business. I want you to know that both myself and this Government are doing everything we can to support you, to protect you, and to carry us all through these challenging times.
Michell Donelan MP
Local coronavirus statistics
At the time of writing, the South West continues to be the least-affected region of England by coronavirus with all factors considered. The current total for cases in the South West is 18,053. In Wiltshire, the total number of cases is 1,671 – translating to 334 infections per hundred thousand people in Wiltshire as a total.
At the time of writing, the South West has the lowest total of any region for deaths from coronavirus, with a rate of 33.8 per 100,000 residents. Recently corrected figures show a total of 211 people that have sadly died in Wiltshire from coronavirus, representing 42 people for every 100,000 residents. No part of our area is currently on the coronavirus watchlist as an area of concern for a localised lockdown.
NHS COVID-19 App
The NHS COVID-19 app is now available and is part of a large-scale coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and contact tracing programme called the NHS Test and Trace service. Thousands of people across Wiltshire have already downloaded the app and if you have a compatible phone, I would recommend doing so!
The app will be used, alongside traditional contact tracing, to notify you if you've come into contact with someone who later tests positive for coronavirus. It will help the NHS understand where and how quickly the virus is spreading, so it can respond quickly and effectively. The app helps the NHS track the virus, not you individually. The app is also very easy to use and only requires a few clicks to get started after being downloaded.
The app uses your smartphone's existing "Exposure Logging" feature to work out if you have spent time near other app users who have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). You can download it via the App Store ([link removed]) or Google Play ([link removed]) . Both of these are links so you can click these to take you out of the e-news and into the app stores directly.
Once downloaded, you will be able to check yourself in when visiting venues such as restaurants, pubs, museums or places of worship, by scanning the QR code on a poster that will be visible at the entrance of the place you're visiting. Wiltshire Council will also have the posters at all of our council buildings including our hubs in Chippenham, Salisbury and Trowbridge, libraries and leisure centres.
The changing nature of the virus in the UK requires us to keep up with it by implementing new measures where needed. The Prime Minister recently announced a series of new coronavirus-fighting measures that will limit the damage that a potential second wave could cause. You can read the full list of changes at the link below, but the key things to note are:
* Face coverings must be worn in private hire vehicles, hospitality venues (except when seated at a table to eat or drink) and by retail staff.
* Office workers who are able to work effectively from home over the Winter are encouraged to do so.
* Hospitality venues need to serve at tables and will be closed after 22:00.
* Support groups must be limited to a maximum of 15 people.
* Conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events will not be able to take place.
* The Police will be supported in their enforcement efforts by an initial £60million boost.
Read the full list of changes here: [link removed]
Many people have been in contact with me asking for advice on where to take complaints or concerns about local businesses if they feel that the guidelines are being ignored or not undertaken properly. If anyone has any concerns about how social distancing and COVID control measures are being managed at a particular business, they should contact [email protected]
Constituents have been sharing with me some of the false news regarding face coverings that they have seen circulating around social media, so I am keen to separate fact from fiction on this and ensure that we in Wiltshire have correct information.
While our understanding of how coronavirus spreads continues to grow, it is increasingly evident that the use of face masks in many settings slows the spread of coronavirus, in many cases very considerably so. This is the result of numerous studies and a large body of evidence that has been independently assessed by leading health organisations both here in the UK and internationally, most notably by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). A summarised list of some of the evidence can be found here: [link removed].
It is therefore vital that we all follow the guidelines on the use of facemasks, which are provably slowing the spread of the virus. You can read these guidelines here: [link removed].
Hearing from our heroes
Over the course of the pandemic, I have been privileged enough to be able to meet with many volunteers and frontline workers to hear their views first hand. Recently I held a public services surgery in which I spoke to doctors, military personnel, firefighters and other frontline workers in an open, group call. We managed to ascertain which aspects of the UK’s response worked well and which aspects worked less well, but I was delighted at the positive response from all participants on issues like PPE and Government support. Frank and open conversations like these are vitally important to making the most of our future response and fine tuning some of our plans, so thank you to all of those who took the time to join.
In early July I was also very pleased to be able to meet with volunteers of all kinds from across the constituency, including from Holt, Chippenham Link, Bradford on Avon HUB, Bradford on Avon Town Council, Westwood and Winsley and Melksham. Together these volunteers are keeping us all going by providing transport, food and medical support where it is needed. We should not underestimate the importance of ensuring that these volunteers have a voice in Parliament and I will continue to be this voice by meeting them regularly and sharing their experiences in Westminster.
Local Outbreak Management Plan
Although Wiltshire has not been affected by the coronavirus to the same extent as many other parts of the country, it is absolutely vital that we do not let our guard down and that we make sure a proper plan is in place if we do face a local outbreak of the virus. Wiltshire Council have published plans to help the county respond quickly and effectively should there be a local COVID-19 outbreak.
Wiltshire has been allocated £1.586m of government funding to work with the NHS and a range of local partners to ensure a joined-up local approach was in place in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. The Wiltshire Local Outbreak Management Plan (LOMP) sets out the approach for managing COVID-19 outbreaks locally to protect residents and support the most vulnerable.
The LOMP will build on local expertise and effective health protection processes that are already in place and outlines how the council and partners will positively engage with the public so they’re fully aware and supportive of the crucial part they have to play in the process.
The government has identified seven themes that are deemed essential to plans to manage an outbreak effectively. They are:
* Care homes and schools
* Identify high risk settings, communities and places
* Local testing capacity
* Contact tracing
* Data integration
* Vulnerable people
Wiltshire Council is also working with the Government to support test and trace services in local communities, taking a place-based approach to containing the spread of the infection as much as possible.
Ofcom have found that 46% of people have been exposed to false or fake news on the internet related to coronavirus. There continues to be widespread misinformation on social media and the internet about coronavirus and so we need to use the Government’s factchecked data and information as our base.
Stay updated with the daily press conferences which the Prime Minister and senior Ministers are running and also follow my social media channels through which I will be doing my best to publicise the latest announcements. You can also monitor the below web pages which are being constantly updated to reflect the evolving situation:
* NHS Coronavirus Guidance and Advice ([link removed])
* Guidance for Employees, Employers and Businesses ([link removed])
* Travel Advice ([link removed])
* Guidance for individuals as well as different organisations ([link removed])
* Information on the number of cases, including for each local authority ([link removed])
* Guidance on social distancing for everyone but also for vulnerable people ([link removed])
* Wiltshire Council Coronavirus Advice ([link removed])
Michelle Donelan MP Essential Information Page ([link removed])
How can you help?
As an individual: Many of us will want to help the national effort to beat coronavirus if we are able to do so. There are a number of safe ways that we can all help each other and the NHS at this time beyond following the isolation measures. The Government has created a list of ways you can help here: [link removed].
As a business: Businesses across Wiltshire will be temporarily closed or changing their usual work programmes to adapt to the circumstances. Some may well be in a position to help beat coronavirus, so please follow this link to see whether you can help: [link removed]. We are also calling on able businesses to help build the UK’s testing capacity, please see this link if you think you might be able to help with your business: [link removed].
Keeping in touch with me
I have been trying new ways of staying as accessible as possible during the coronavirus lockdown, both with constituents and will local organisations. If you would like to book a telephone surgery appointment, please contact me and I will arrange it for you.
Below are some of the COVID-secure ways you can contact me:
Email: michelle.don[email protected]
Telephone: 01249 704465
Post: Michelle Donelan MP, 61 New Road, Chippenham, SN15 1ES
Facebook: [link removed]
BBC License Fee Changes
Following the recent announcement by the BBC to end free TV Licences for the over 75s from 1^st August, I have written to the incoming Director-General to express my strong opposition to this decision. This announcement is very poorly timed and will have a big impact on many of our most vulnerable members of society. While those eligible for Pension Credit will still receive a free TV Licence, this is not the end of the conversation about what the BBC can do to assist older people.
This decision appears to be an attack on the elderly at a time when we need to support them the most and I will continue to lobby the BBC to reverse this dreadful plan. This was the BBC's decision and not the Government’s, after Parliament legislated to give the BBC the full responsibility from 2020. This was part of a deal that the BBC signed up to over four years ago, which the Director-General described as a good deal that provided financial stability to the organisation! So my fight to get this decision overturned will continue and I am pleased to have the support of so many people locally who feel the same way.
Chippenham Hospital Radio Campaign
Recently I visited Chippenham Hospital Radio, which I am keen to promote as a fantastic local community resource and asset. Not only does Chippenham Hospital Radio provide an entertaining and informative station for the community hospital’s patients, visitors and staff but many listeners are simply members of the public in the local area who enjoy the station’s output. The station also airs online and through third party apps, like TuneIn, which means its audience has expanded well beyond Chippenham since its original conception in 1982.
On my visit to the station’s studios in Chippenham, I met with the team of volunteers and was shown the equipment and recording studio. This also gave me a chance to discuss fundraising issues facing the station.
Worryingly the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a decline in fundraising revenue for the Chippenham Hospital Radio, with the station staff now seriously concerned about whether they can stay on the air. I would therefore like to launch a campaign to help secure the financial future of the station and protect a major local asset from becoming a victim of the coronavirus downturn. I am calling on local businesses, and I have written to many, to help Chippenham Hospital Radio.
I feel very strongly that Chippenham Hospital Radio is a local resource that we need to protect and cherish – especially at a time when access to immediate, local information is vital. The coronavirus pandemic has meant that a number of local not-for-profit groups have faced a downturn in donations. So we need to come together and do our best to help these organisations get through this tough time so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy them in years to come.
If you think you can help, please contact my office [email protected]
or visit the stations go fund me on the following link:
Winter Economy Plan
With the protracted impact of the virus, we are committed to supporting viable jobs through the winter and so the Chancellor has announced a new Job Support Scheme to help businesses bring back their employees, directly supporting the wages of people in work and give businesses the option of keeping employees in a job on shorter hours rather than making them redundant.
A Grant Extension to the Self-employment Income Support Scheme on similar terms and conditions as the new Jobs Support Scheme has also been established to ensure there is parity across the workforce and a number of other tax related benefits have been introduced such as:
* The reduced 5% VAT rate for hospitality and tourism has been extended until 31st March 2021
* More time to pay for self-assessed income taxpayers
* New VAT deferral scheme for businesses
One of the most successful and useful parts of the financial support the government offered through the spring and summer were Bounce Back Loans, so access to the loan schemes have been extended alongside a “Pay As You Grow” plan for businesses who have taken out Bounce Back Loans. This will give them another four years to repay the loans, providing tailored support to those who need it the most.
Environment and our Green Recovery
As part of the UK's green recovery, the Government is providing a whopping £40million of funding to help charities and environmental organisations start work on projects across England to restore nature and tackle climate change.
The fund will help conservation organisations and their suppliers create up to 3,000 jobs and safeguard up to 2,000 others in areas such as protecting species, finding nature-based solutions to tackling climate change, conservation rangers and connecting people with the outdoors.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) is also recruiting for over 100 new posts in its Plant Health and Seed Inspectorate, including positions based right here in the South West.
Plant health inspectors have a crucial role in maintaining and promoting a high plant health status in England and Wales. Their work is valuable to Defra group’s purpose of protecting and promoting plant health within trade, agriculture and the natural environment.
The roles are varied and cover a range of interesting tasks such as: inspecting crops and fresh produce; helping to organise emergency measures to control outbreaks of pests or diseases; certifying items such as plant, seeds and grains for export; and ensuring required documentation is in order.
Chippenham LINK Transport Volunteer Drive
Last year, our LINK schemes made 31,351 health related journeys and completed 48,027 good neighbour tasks, including collecting prescriptions and shopping. However, due to Covid-19, Chippenham Link transport are short of drivers since a large number of their existing volunteers are unable to drive because of age or vulnerability. So they desperately need to recruit volunteer drivers and helpers to maintain this vital service.
In aid of recruiting desperately needed volunteers, I have launched a local campaign where I will be helping to find those who want to volunteer and get them signed up. I have been contacted by a huge number of local people during the coronavirus pandemic who have volunteered to step forward and help with our community response to the virus. It is simply incredible just how many dedicated volunteers for all sorts of causes we have here in Wiltshire and I am tremendously proud that we are a community who values volunteer work.
I very much hope that my campaign to find new drivers for the Chippenham Link Transport service is successful and that we can make a real difference to those who rely on the service. If you could spare some time, or for more information please contact Community First on 01380 722 241 or email [email protected]
Business Cyber Centre
Recently the Prime Minister announced the creation of a £900m ‘Getting Building Fund’, for shovel-ready projects across the length and breadth of the country. This month, these projects have been announced. I have been pushing the case for investment in a local site which will now be getting a stunning £3.7million.
The new site is still to be confirmed publicly but I can proudly announce that it will be here in the Chippenham Constituency. I have long championed Wiltshire as a hub of STEM and digital innovation and I have pushed for more investment in Wiltshire to lead the way in cyber. This money from the Conservative government will create 250 job and 1700 training opportunities a year. The development will attract further investment and other businesses will hopefully see a positive effect from the arrival of the Business Cyber Centre.
At the intersection of the Cyber Valley, Western Gateway and MOD cyber centre, the Business Cyber Centre unites industry, Military, National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and Academic expertise. Three capabilities will drive growth: a cyber response team; an academy and employment hub; and an accelerator. This Centre of Excellence assures small med enterprises cyber resilience and helps close the cyber skills gap. It will complement existing courses and qualifications available in Wiltshire and in the Chippenham constituency and help attract more specialist expertise to the area.
The training element will proactively seek candidates from under-represented groups and re-skilling military leavers. The Centre facilities will allow for flexible workforce by opening up remote-working employment opportunities. The Business Cyber levels-up the UK Cyber presence as a rural hub for businesses and is really exciting news for the county.
New £2 billion Kickstart scheme will create thousands of new jobs for young people, including here in the Chippenham Constituency
For many young people, finding a route into work can be a difficult task and the coronavirus pandemic is making it even more difficult for youngsters to find their first jobs. I regularly speak with the Department for Work & Pensions and get updates on the numbers of people on Universal Credit in the Chippenham Constituency so that I know work out how best to support them finding their way into work if they are able to.
But there is great news - an innovative new scheme to help young people into work and spur Britain’s economic revival was launched by the government. Businesses are now able to sign up to be part of the landmark £2 billion Kickstart scheme, giving unemployed young people a future of opportunity and hope by creating high-quality, government-subsidised jobs across the UK.
Under the scheme, announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of his Plan for Jobs, employers can offer youngsters aged 16-24 who are claiming Universal Credit a six-month work placement.
The government will fully fund each “Kickstart” job - paying 100% of the age-relevant National Minimum Wage, National Insurance and pension contributions for 25 hours a week. Employers will be able to top up this wage, while the government will also pay employers £1500 to set up support and training for people on a Kickstart placement, as well as helping pay for uniforms and other set up costs. The jobs will give young people – who are more likely to have been furloughed, with many working in sectors disproportionately hit by the pandemic - the opportunity to build their skills in the workplace and to gain experience to improve their chances of finding long-term work.
Great news for Wiltshire Drivers with a crackdown on private parking firms to stop unfair fines!
Parking continues to be one of the key issues raised with me and as many residents will know, I have proudly been a strong local campaigner to end Sunday parking fees and crack down on unfair parking tickets. Last year I handled nearly 100 parking-related queries and cases.
This month I have some excellent news! The Government is proposing new rules for private parking firms to tackle unfair penalties, including grace periods and new maximum caps for parking fines.
Under the rules, there will be a tiered approach to parking fines - with less serious offences attracting lower fines, but increased charges for those who park dangerously. Drivers who make a genuine mistake or have mitigating circumstances will be able to appeal their fine and have it reduced or cancelled. Further measures proposed include:
* Clearly displayed pricing and terms and conditions, including contact details and information about how to appeal potential charges.
* A "crackdown" on firms using aggressive or pseudo-legal language to intimidate motorists.
* A five-minute cooling-off period where motorists can consider the terms and conditions before deciding whether to park.
* A 10-minute grace period before firms could charge a late penalty.
* Banning aggressive private parking operators from using DVLA data, making it difficult for them to issue penalties.
Email: michelle.don[email protected]
Telephone: 01249 704465
Write: Michelle Donelan MP, 61 New Road, Chippenham, SN15 1ES
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