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Bill Wiggin MP

Member of Parliament for North Herefordshire

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Bill Wiggin MP welcomes £300 million cash boost to support community pharmacies during coronavirus

Community pharmacies are receiving a £300 million cash boost to ensure they can continue to carry out essential services during the coronavirus outbreak.

The funding injection will support pharmacies across England, including those in North Herefordshire and will help them to provide critical services to protect community health, including supplying medicines and providing medical advice to patients, during a period of unprecedented demand.

£200 million was paid on 1 April to pharmacy contractors, alongside their normal monthly payments from the NHS Business Services Authority, and a further £100 million will be allocated on 1 May 2020.

In addition to this funding, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has reduced the number of services that community pharmacies are required to deliver to allow them to prioritise the most important tasks, but they will continue to receive their full NHS funding.

During this period, pharmacies will not be required to pilot new services or carry out non-critical administrative tasks. DHSC is also working to increase the workforce capacity and flexibility, with calls to those pharmacy professionals who have recently left professional registers to return.

Welcoming this cash boost, Bill Wiggin, the Member of Parliament for North Herefordshire said: “Coronavirus has placed an enormous pressure on our community pharmacies, which is why I am pleased the Government is giving them a £300 million cash boost to help support the vital role they play as we deal with this disease.

“Whilst businesses and venues have been instructed to remain closed – pharmacies are an important exception to this, they can remain open and continue to operate as normally as possible. For people who are shielding or self-isolating, pharmacies can deliver prescriptions to their door, so that everyone can get the medicine they need without breaching social distancing guidelines.”

Minister for Health Jo Churchill said: “Every day, community pharmacies carry out critical work to protect the health of the public and support the wider NHS. This is even more important now as we face this unprecedented time.

“We hugely value the role of the community pharmacy, which is why we are backing them with £300 million of advanced funding to support them as we continue to assess the full additional impact of coronavirus on community pharmacy.

“To further support pharmacies, we have reduced the services they need to deliver during COVID-19 but have maintained their full funding.”

Voucher scheme will ensure pupils across North Herefordshire still get nutritious meals whilst they stay at home

Children across North Herefordshire who are eligible for free school meals will benefit from a national voucher scheme allowing them to continue to access meals whilst they stay at home.

Schools can now provide every eligible child with a weekly shopping voucher worth £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus.

Schools can continue to provide meals for collection or delivery themselves, but where this is not possible, the scheme will allow schools to provide vouchers to families electronically, or as a gift card for those without internet access.

The vouchers can be spent on food at a range of shops including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose and M&S, with the Department working to get more shops to join the scheme as soon as possible.

Commenting, Bill Wiggin the MP for North Herefordshire, said: “This is welcome and very reassuring news for many families across North Herefordshire and will help to ensure children get healthy nutritious meals out of school.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I recognise that the unprecedented action this Government is taking to protect the country from coronavirus, including closing schools, is dramatically affecting the lives of many families.

“I want to thank schools for the support they are continuing to provide to families during such uncertain times.

“No child should go hungry as a result of the measures introduced to keep people at home, protect the NHS and save lives. That’s why we are launching this scheme to make sure children who usually benefit from free school meals still have access to healthy and nutritious meals while they are not attending school.”

Parents will receive the voucher through their child’s school, which can then be redeemed online via a code, or sent to their house as a gift card and used at supermarkets across the country.

Schools will be emailed by the Department for Education’s chosen supplier, Edenred. Schools will then either be able to:

  1. Order vouchers individually online and have a code sent via email to each family. The family can then show the code on their phone at the supermarket; or
  2. Arrange a bulk order of multiple codes and receive an excel spreadsheet to help schools organise sending on to a family or create an eGift card for a preferred supermarket to be posted to a family if parents cannot get online.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), said: “This is welcome news for schools and families. This new system fills in one of the remaining gaps in the complex jigsaw puzzle of provision that has arisen from the Covid-19 crisis. There may be some kinks to work out of the scheme, especially as it has been developed at pace, but at least there is some certainty available now.

“The government has done the right thing by ensuring that vouchers can be used at a range of different shops, making it more practical for families to use the vouchers. Many schools had already developed their own schemes and local solutions, so it is good to see that they will be able to continue these if they’re working well or adopt the new scheme if they feel that would be better. We’ll be working with the government to make sure this system works as effectively as everyone hopes it will.”

Statement on coronavirus from The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care – 24 March 2020

On Tuesday 24 March, The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP made a statement in the House of Commons regarding COVID-19:

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on covid-19. The spread of coronavirus is rapidly accelerating across the world and in the UK. The actions that we took yesterday are not actions that any UK Government would ever want to take, but they were absolutely necessary. The goal is clear: to slow the rate of transmission in order to protect the NHS and save lives. Our instruction is simple: stay at home.

People should only leave their home for one of four reasons:

  • first, to shop for basic necessities, such as food, as infrequently as possible;
  • secondly, to exercise once a day, for example a run, walk or cycle, alone or with members of the same household;
  • thirdly, for any medical need, or to provide care or help to a vulnerable person; and
  • fourthly, to travel to and from work, but only where it cannot be done from home, and employers should be taking every possible step to ensure that staff can work remotely.

Those four reasons are exceptions to the rule.

Further guidance is available on the gov.uk website.

I want to be clear that where people absolutely cannot work from home, they can still go to work. Indeed, it is important that they do so in order to keep the country running. Key workers, for example in the NHS and social care, pharmacists and those in the medicines supply chain, should go to work, unless they are self-isolating because they or someone else in their household has symptoms. We will be publishing guidance later today to explain the steps that employers must take to ensure that employees are safe, including making sure that there is a 2-metre gap between workers wherever possible.

In addition, all non-essential shops and community centres are closed as of today, and gatherings of more than two people in public must stop. These measures are not advice; they are rules. They will be enforced, including by the police, with fines for non-compliance starting at £30 but up to unlimited fines.

I want to update the House on the shielding that was introduced yesterday. We are writing to up to 1.5 million of the most vulnerable people in the UK to advise them that they will need to shield themselves from the virus in the coming months. We will provide targeted support for all those who need it so that they have the food supplies and medical care they need to make it through. Guided by the experts, we will look at the evidence and continually review the effects of the measures.

We are engaged in a great national effort to beat the virus. Everybody now has it in their power to save lives and protect the NHS. Home is now the frontline. In this national effort, working together, we can defeat this disease. Everyone has a part to play. I commend this statement to the House.

Click here to read the full debate in Hansard.

Letter from The Prime Minister regarding flooding – 17 March 2020

A copy of the letter I received from The Prime Minister regarding the unprecedented levels of flooding across Herefordshire.

LetterfromPM-170320

Budget 2020

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced some very exciting new spending commitments which will have a positive impact for the people of North Herefordshire.

Coronavirus/ Covid-19

The NHS in this Budget has been given a £5 billion Initial COVID-19 Response Fund and £40 million for COVID-19 research

We are all rightly concerned about the Coronavirus or Covid-19 and I recommend that we follow Health England’s guidance and regularly wash our hands.

The Government will also contribute up to £150 million to the International Monetary Fund’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust to help the effort to stop further transmission, including in the UK.

Statutory Sick Pay will also be available to all those advised to self-isolate, even if they are not symptomatic.

Together, we will make sure the damage from Covid-19 is limited and we must all do our bit to mitigate these risks.

Flood Defences

North Herefordshire has suffered more than most counties from flooding. The water may have receded but now the work must begin as quickly as possible.

That is why I welcome the commitment of £5.2 billion, £1.2 billion more than was promised in the manifesto to re-build, maintain and create new flood defences.

It is essential that the devastation we witnessed does not happen again and improving our flood defences will help.

In addition to the flood defence money, £120 million more will be allocated to the Environment Agency.

Roads and potholes

The Chancellor has pledged a very welcome £640 billion of capital investment in roads, railways, communications, schools, hospitals and power networks.

Importantly for North Herefordshire, the national pothole fund will reach a total of £2.5 billion over the course of this Government. That is will allow us to fill in 10 million potholes every year.

It is therefore imperative that the Council and their contractors use the money provided to them to end the scourge of potholes.

Connectivity

The Chancellor today announced a £5 billion funding commitment to support gigabit-capable broadband in the hard to reach areas.

For North Herefordshire this is a very welcome announcement.

It is time we were brought up to the same connectivity level as the rest of the country.

I fully understand how many businesses now rely on strong internet connection and this commitment will bring internet speeds 40 times faster than the current output to our county.

To add to this, £1 billion will be invested in the Shared Rural Network bringing 95% of the UK onto high quality 4G mobile phone connectivity.

Red Diesel Relief

This Government will continue the Red Diesel Relief for agriculture.

This is good news for North Herefordshire’s farmers who are already lowering their emission outputs

Cider/Beer/Wine Duty

The Chancellor has made a very welcome commitment to freeze the duty rates on wine, spirits, beer and cider and as North Herefordshire is famous for its hop and cider production, and for our beautiful pubs. All of these businesses will benefit greatly from the freeze.

This Government was given a clear mandate and it is committed to levelling up North Herefordshire and truly making us open for business.

Advice for constituents concerned about Coronavirus

I have just received the news that the first case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been confirmed in Herefordshire. Whilst there is no need to panic unduly, it is vitally important that we all continue to practice good hygiene and prevent the further spread of the virus.

Since January, public health teams and world-leading scientists have been working continuously on the coronavirus response. The Health Secretary has assured colleagues that the Government is working hard to contain the virus and that the NHS is well prepared for the outbreak.

The NHS, Public Health England (PHE) and local authority public health across the country are working hard to support everyone in need of advice, testing or treatment.

It is important that everyone should keep up to speed with the latest information about the situation in the UK, along with guidance for what to do if you think you are at risk, on the Government website: www.gov.uk/coronavirus

The best way to protect yourself from infections like coronavirus is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use a sanitiser gel, as well as always carrying tissues and using them to catch coughs and sneezes, then putting the tissue in a bin.

If you have symptoms, the Government is encouraging people to call the NHS 111 helpline, available 24 hours a day, or visit the NHS 111 service online: www.111.nhs.uk

I am confident that our wonderful sense of community here in Herefordshire will ensure that those who are concerned or feeling vulnerable will be looked after.

Flooding update – 2 March 2020

Flooding causes terrible disruption and misery. That is why the Bellwin scheme was used to compensate Councils for the extra costs that dealing with the damage creates.

Bill Wiggin MP for North Herefordshire said “Despite the Government activating and extending the Bellwin scheme to provide local councils with the funding they need to deal with the flooding, Herefordshire remains in a state of disarray.

The coalition of Green, IOC and Independent Councillors ruling the County Council in coalition need to start delivering rather than complaining that it’s not their fault.

Constituents are quite rightly upset that, although the rain has stopped falling, they still find themselves in very difficult situations. The people who write to me know that there is nothing one can do about Mother Nature but feel that the local authorities could have and should have done better.

For those trying to get in or out of Fownhope, the road collapse and closure is deeply frustrating. This needs repairing fast so that the businesses and residents can get on with their lives.

As a Conservative MP, I am used to all failures being blamed on austerity, and I expect similar accusations will wrongly be made this time around. However, since the last Council’s unpopular but wise decision to sell Council-owned farms, there has been enough money for Councillors to spend.

In 2019 the Government approved £182 million to be spent on the proposed Hereford bypass to relieve the terrible traffic that all-too-often brings the city to a standstill. Yet now, in 2020, the delaying tactics by the Council have meant that not an inch of tarmac has been laid.

The Council has given up appealing access to the new housing estate by Ledbury Viaduct, yet the ward member is also cabinet member for finances! So when the Council say they cannot afford to appeal, who was the decision maker?

Meanwhile despite Government money our potholes continue to frustrate!

I hope that the Council will use the money provided to it by the Government to resolve the issues our County is currently facing and do everything in its power to ensure that we do not face this level of disruption and devastation again. I will do my part by continuing to lobby the Government to provide extra funding to get the job done. The rest is up to them.

An update from George Eustice MP regarding the Government response to Storm Dennis and Ciara – 24 February 2020

A copy of the letter I received from George Eustice MP, Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, regarding the response to Storm Dennis and Ciara.

DEFRA-240220-Flooding-1DEFRA-240220-Flooding-2

Flooding update – 20 February

Further to my update earlier this week, I have been grateful to both the Environment Agency and Herefordshire Council for their briefings as the flooding situation develops.

I have been contacted by concerned residents in Hampton Bishop which has suffered dreadful flooding in recent days. A multi-agency response is in action and the Environment Agency say that they are not concerned about the integrity of the flood defences, although they will have to wait for levels to drop before they can fully check the situation.

Water is still being over-pumped out of the village and residents are being evacuated until access is restored, which is expected to be in the next few days.

Herefordshire Council believe that river levels are dropping, and they are monitoring the weather closely. They currently do not expect flooding from further wet weather like we saw over the weekend.

I am aware that many areas have been affected both now and in the Autumn flooding. It is impressive to see communities such as Walford setting up their own flood groups to combat future situations.

Many of us have had journeys disrupted because of extensive flooding to our road networks and it will take time for the highways team to assess and repair any damage such as the road subsidence on the B4224 north of Fownhope.

Even when a flooded road is passable, the impact of the wash caused by vehicles passing through also has a damaging effect on properties, as is the case in Eardisland.

If you are concerned about flooding the Environment Agency have published advice on how best to prepare which you can read by clicking this link.

The Government has activated the Flooding Recovery Framework and the Bellwin Scheme which provide grants to both households and businesses. In addition to the framework, DEFRA have announced the activation of the Property Flooding Resilience Grant, where flood-hit homes and businesses can receive up to £5000 to safeguard against future flooding. If you have been affected, please don’t hesitate to check your eligibility with Herefordshire Council here.

I am remain on standby if I can be of assistance to anyone who has been affected.

Best wishes
Bill Wiggin MP

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