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Bill Wiggin MP

Member of Parliament for North Herefordshire

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Coalition Council forced into major climb-down on Town Centres blocking plans

Herefordshire Council’s Coalition Leader, Cllr Hitchiner and his coalition suffered a humiliating climbdown when shopkeepers and residents shot down his ludicrous plans to close off our market town centres.

The sensible and vociferous opposition to the proposed Emergency Active Travel Plans, along with a dose of budget reality has saved our treasured market towns.

At a time when businesses need support from their local authorities, Herefordshire County Council’s plans were unnecessary, ill-judged and damaging, leaving many unanswered questions over the Coalition Council’s true allegiances.

Commenting, Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire said:

“I welcome this climbdown over the council interpretation of the Emergency Active Travel Measures.

Herefordshire County Council and their ridiculous, ineffective ‘Green’ agenda was seen off by the common sense of the local people.

Cllr Harrington, Cabinet member for Infrastructure and Transport, said on record that the Government would come in and act if he did not.

This is now proven to be, at best a misunderstanding, people must wonder how his statements can be taken seriously ever again.

The Council’s pathological hatred of roads, cars and prosperity are hard to fathom but after kicking the bypass into the long grass we now see this agenda pop up again.

This time they tried to use the Governments Covid handout to try to squeeze past unwelcome change under the electorates noses.

After all the worry, confusion and anger these plans have caused, in the end, they had to backtrack on road closures and now want to make our town centres 20-mph zones.

Unbelievably, we hear that the new speed limits will be unenforceable.

The tragedy is that this Government money could have been spent on a worthwhile project if properly managed but will now just be spent on a few signs.

It is laughable to suggest that the Government would have waded in to put some unenforceable 20mph signs up in our towns.

The £4.5 million Maylord Shopping Centre is now in the hands of Herefordsire Council, however, we still don’t know what they want to do with it.

Meanwhile this is the time of year when the dry weather allows for proper road works to be carried out.

Would it not be nice if they fixed the potholes in this County and whilst they are at it, reopened the Fownhope road.

Herefordshire County Council’s ruling coalition need to rise up to what the electorate expects of them. Sadly, this seems to be proving difficult for them.”

The finalised plans approved by Herefordshire County Council can be found here: www.herefordshire.gov.uk/covid19travelmeasures

Covid-19 update from Bill Wiggin MP

Following the Covid-19 outbreak at the farm in Mathon in my constituency, I had a most informative discussion with Health Ministers.

I was keen that other local food producers and fruit farms be given the Covid-19 virus test.

We have a large population of migrant workers and ensuring everybody’s safety is in all our interests.

While we are all washing our hands and taking sensible distancing precautions, I also discovered some rather worrying patterns.

Most food operations make their workforce wear PPE but recently the last six outbreaks have been in food processing plants.

The Government is concerned that the reason for this is that despite the PPE in use, the temperature in these places is much lower at about 6 degrees Celcius.

In the hotter months, we have been winning our battle against CV-19 but the Government fear that during the winter months when the temperature falls we will be much more vulnerable.

This is not wholly proven but the consistent outbreaks in temperature controlled environments despite PPE gives us reason to be concerned.

Coupled with winter flu and colds we could be very vulnerable again.

Therefore we must do all we can to be ready for the winter by reducing the opportunity for contact with infection.

That is why the facemask is necessary in shops and why even people like myself who have had the virus should wear them.

I was told that my own, hard earned, antibodies would only last for about ten weeks and that after that the protection afforded by our immune system may not be sufficient.

The blood plasma which contains antibodies, which I and many others volunteered to donate, is helpful to patients recovering from CV-19 but after some time the plasma does not contain enough antibodies to be worth collecting.

This is particularly alarming as this means a vaccine, if one existed, would require a boost every ten weeks or so.

This also means that we will need to continue to take precautions to protect one another for a lot longer.

Our age and our reaction to Cv-19 is also immune dependent.

A person’s immunity response diminishes quite significantly at about sixty years of age.

We therefore will need to keep shielding our loved ones although young people should not be too worried.

Because of this new information I can see why the Prime Minister believes that wearing masks should be compulsory.

Especially as we get into the cooler months where the disease is expected to resurge.

More positively AstraZeneca are hoping to have their new drug available in the autumn, all being well, although this will reduce the fatalities it does not protect the healthy.

I was left with the feeling that CV-19 will be with us for a while longer yet and that we need rigorous testing at airports as well as greater powers to isolate infected people.

I have therefore spoken to both the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Transport, both of whom were sympathetic and keen to ensure that effective measures are put in place.

I am not in favour of draconian steps but without a long lasting vaccine we will need to think hard about how we protect one another.

You can watch Bill in the House of Commons by clicking the link below and going to 14:52:53.

https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/819f7588-1a3c-4c1f-be78-0fe7bcb379de

A full transcript of the session can be found at the enclosed link:

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-07-14/debates/B1924131-B072-4DC1-8D52-A3C74C34DC65/PointsOfOrder#contribution-2DAF0A15-1157-40F5-90D0-CF5F88CA0BB2

Bill Wiggin MP statement on Mathon Coronavirus outbreak

Following reports of  a Covid-19 outbreak on a farm in Mathon, Bill Wiggin MP has made the following statement.

“As many people will have seen on the news, a number of Covid-19 cases were detected on a farm in Mathon over the last weekend.

73 people have tested positive of which 5 are believed to be symptomatic.

Public Health England have acted incredibly fast to locate the virus, test all those on-site and form a large ‘bubble’ at the farm.

I commend the action so far taken and I believe this has been a very good example of the effectiveness of the work done to combat and neutralise mini-outbreaks of Covid-19 not only in the County but also county-wide.

It is believed that a worker on the farm began feeling unwell on Tuesday 7 July.

Since that time, all workers on the site have been tested and now are completely isolated.

I continue to be in contact with Public Health England, Herefordshire County Council and the Government regarding the situation.

It is reassuring to hear that Public Health England have declared there is no immediate threat to the wider community, however, we must not be complacent.

The farm in question is incredibly rural and all those living on-site will remain isolated for the time-being.

Public Health England, Herefordshire County Council and Worcestershire County Council are working together to track and trace the movements of the workers.

I understand that residents of North Herefordshire will be keen to know if they may have come into contact with workers from the farm.

Worcestershire County Council have been informed that a minibus took workers to shop in 4 separate locations in Worcester and Malvern last week.

The shops and locations are:
Worcester: Primark, Iceland and the Romanian store.
Malvern: Morrison’s supermarket.

For further updates, please refer to local news agencies and my website.

Herefordshire remains well prepared for outbreaks like this and the response so far has been exemplary.

It is important that we all carry on observing social distancing, regular washing of hands and good hygiene practices when we are out shopping again on our high streets.

If you are feeling unwell and suspect you may have Covid-19 you must isolate, organise a test and only leave the house to go and get tested.

I wish to thank the people of North Herefordshire for their calm and resilient approach to this situation.

In particular, I wish to bring attention to those people who have come together to deliver essential supplies to the affected farm workers.

It is a tremendous testament to the kindness and good will of the people of North Herefordshire.”

The Time is Now 

Last week, Bill Wiggin MP met virtually with constituents as part of the climate change and environment lobby, ‘The Time Is Now’.

In a productive meeting, climate change activists from North Herefordshire discussed their concerns about how the UK better protects the environment. The discussions brought about a variety of key issues including, addressing the environment post-Covid, planting of more trees for carbon capture and more sustainable home building.

Commenting after the session Bill Wiggin MP said:

“I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to my constituents once again about this incredibly important issue. This year we could not meet face-to-face, however, technology allowed us to connect and for me to listen to their concerns about how we progress green issues going forward.

As we enter out of lockdown following the dreadful Covid-19 outbreak, we have a unique opportunity. It gives the country a chance to readdress how it does business; perhaps fewer car journeys can be undertaken, and more people can work from home.

What we cannot do however is neglect our already damaged economy. That is why the Government is going to deliver an economy which is stronger, greener, more sustainable and more resilient.

On 8 June, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced a Green Recovery working group, bringing together businesses, business representative groups and leading academics, to unleash Britain’s growth potential and help the economy recover from the pandemic.

This group will explore how to capture the economic growth opportunities from the shift to net zero emissions.

The UK already plays a world-leading role in tackling climate change. We are the first country that has legislated to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050 and we are currently the fastest in the G20 to cut emissions. Since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds.

At the same time, the Environment Bill is being introduced to protect and improve the environment for future generations, enshrining in law environmental principles and legally binding targets.

North Herefordshire can lead the way in this fight. That is why I am so surprised that this supposedly ‘Green’ council is implementing plans that will increase carbon outputs by having people from rural communities drive further to get into towns.

If the council were as serious as they claim to be about climate change, £4.5 million would not have be spent on the Maylord Shopping centre and instead spent on fixing existing roads and improving public transport links.

I would urge constituents concerned about this issue to speak to their local County Councillor and discuss what they are doing at a local level to reduce carbon emissions and take on climate change.

More can always be done, and I welcome the constructive points my constituents have raised in how we continue to lessen our footprint.

Reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change will remain a priority for this Government and I look forward to engaging further with constituents on this most pressing issue”

You can contact your County Councillor on this issue here: http://councillors.herefordshire.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx

 

Emergency Active Travel Fund

Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire has voiced his growing concern over Herefordshire County Council and Balfour Beatty’s implementation of the Emergency Active Travel Funds, recently made available by the Government.

Mr Wiggin has been contacted by many residents and business owners of North Herefordshire this week, frustrated and worried that their concerns are not being heard and that actions are being taken by the Council without full consultation.

New restrictions imposed on Kington will require those travelling from the direction of Lyonshall to make a five mile detour and enter from the west in order to get into town. This extra road travel is hardly environmentally friendly and makes a mockery of the supposed ‘green’ agenda this Council proports to support.

To make matters worse Hereford and Worcester Fire Service have commented that the restrictions proposed in Kington could result in delay in response times which could lead to loss, injury or worst of all a fatality.

Jeopardising emergency response times for the sake of these restrictions defies belief.

Business owners in Ledbury are also feeling side-lined as plans for the town centre that were scrapped two years ago, have resurfaced under the guise of supposedly being a government directive. What nonsense and to suggest the Council plans are not their own rather undermines the purpose of going ahead.

Bill Wiggin MP is concerned that as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, Herefordshire Council risks hurting business owners, their staff and residents alike with these proposals.

Businesses must be promoted not sanctioned as we get North Herefordshire’s economy up and running again.

Commenting, Mr Wiggin said:

“The misinformation surrounding this directive is deeply worrying. The Emergency Active Travel Funds were recently made available primarily to discourage the use of public transport to get to work, where cycling could safely be done instead.

The funding amount was decided on census data based on how many residents in a Local Authority used public transport to get to work.

Given that the County as a whole is 95% rural, most people have no choice but to drive.

Hence, the first round of funding for these emergency works in Herefordshire is only £40,000.

There is an additional £160,000 in phase 2 for longer-term projects.

The proposals I have seen for market towns in North Herefordshire alone suggest that the Councils plans will cost a lot more than is to be made available.

Where will this additional money come from? Are the council even aware of how much they are due to receive?

The Council just purchased the Maylord Shopping centre for £4.5million.

They don’t yet appear to know what they want to do with it so perhaps no more council-tax payers money should be spent on unnecessary projects.

I urge all residents to contact their local County Councillor to have their opinions heard before plans are rushed through. ”

Information on how to contact your local councillor can be found here

https://councillors.herefordshire.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx

 

Bill Wiggin urges people to help tourism bounceback in North Herefordshire following reopening on 4th July

  • The Government has announced tourism and visitor attractions will reopen in England from 4 July.
  • Up to 570 businesses in North Herefordshire will benefit, following local MP’s support for reopening.

Bill Wiggin MP has welcomed the re-opening of the tourism sector on 4 July, giving a boost for up to 570 businesses in North Herefordshire, and called on people to show their support for businesses following a challenging three months.

Thanks to the efforts and sacrifice of the British people, we are bringing coronavirus under control and meeting the five tests set out by the Government needed for the safe reopening of parts of our economy. The Prime Minister has therefore set out further changes to lockdown measures in England, to ensure people can see more of their friends and family, help businesses get back on their feet and get people back to the jobs they love.

As part of this careful easing, from Saturday 4 July, pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen, providing they adhere to Covid Secure guidelines, and some leisure facilities and tourist attractions may also reopen if they can do so safely.

Bill Wiggin MP is urging people to show their support to businesses reopening in North Herefordshire, to help them bounceback.

The Government will also be publishing detailed guidance to help tourist attractions and accommodation venues to re-open safely, such as by social distancing and cleaning protocols.  A new industry standard will also be introduced by Visit England, so that the public can easily see if the venue is carrying out the new rules.

While the infection rate continues to fall, the Prime Minister has been clear that the public must continue to follow social distancing guidelines to keep coronavirus under control. The Government will keep all measures under constant review.

Commenting, Bill Wiggin MP said:

“Thanks to the efforts of the British people to control the virus, I am delighted we have created the space to allow people to take a much needed holiday and enjoy everything North Herefordshire has to offer.

“I hope people get out to support the tourism and hospitality businesses which are reopening and which are so vital to our local economy and jobs.

“Safety is of paramount importance and it is vital that social distancing rules and safety guidance are adhered to, and local people as well as our guests feel safe and I will continue to press that.”

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden said: 

“This is a significant moment for the UK’s fantastic tourism and hospitality businesses and the bounce back can now begin on July 4th. Across the country people have been looking forward to taking a day trip, weekend break or staycation following their efforts in lockdown over the past three months. Britain deserves a break and I hope people get out, support tourism businesses and enjoy a break safely.”

Bill Wiggin MP critical of Herefordshire’s Coalition Council plan for town centres

Bill Wiggin MP for North Herefordshire has voiced his concern over Herefordshire’s Coalition Council and Balfour Beatty’s plan to reduce access to Market Town Centres as the lock down is lifted.

The proposed plans involve timed closures of roads in the centre of the market towns throughout the constituency of North Herefordshire.

This will occur throughout the day, exactly when shops will be open and looking forward to welcoming new trade from near and far.

Only cyclists will be permitted to use the streets. Whilst this sort of plan may work in a city, North Herefordshire is an incredibly rural area where villages and towns are not easily linked.

Other proposed measures would include removing traffic lanes on wider roads, restricting roads to one way, adjustments to parking arrangements and the introduction of 20 mile per hour zones.

Mr Wiggin questioned the proposals, voicing his concern that this would harm shops that are just beginning to re-open following the coronavirus pandemic.

Commenting, Mr Wiggin said:

“Right at the moment when people are permitted to go shopping again and shop owners are looking forward to welcoming back trade, Herefordshire’s Coalition Council’s proposed measures will effectively put the brakes on this.

This Council must think again before changing our town centres. People wishing to travel in, not only from our rural areas but further afield will no longer be able to get in to the market towns and spend money. Instead, they will simply use big supermarket car parks.

It is my great concern that this will destroy what hope small, independent retailers have just when they need it the most.

Shops on the high street will eventually be replaced by yet more charity shops. Charity shops are eligible for 80% business rates relief and when you consider that business rates go to Council funds then this seems a damaging plan.

I understand that the Coalition Council are trying to get Government funding but I would ask, is it really wise to shut down our already suffering town centres just as retail is coming back to life?

North Herefordshire is not the same as Hereford City – people cannot easily use bicycles safely to travel in from rural areas and many of my constituents rely cars as their only means of transport.”

Bill Wiggin MP’s comments have coincided with his support for Independent Bookshop Week, adding:

“The last few months have been a very challenging time for businesses, and it is important that, with the easing of lockdown restrictions, we support our local stores.

This week is Independent Bookshop week, and I would encourage my constituents to get out there and shop.

Please pop in to one of North Herefordshire’s wonderful independent bookstores.

Let us hope that the Council’s restrictive plans will not dampen the appetite for people to get out and support our smaller retailers that are such an important part of our towns.”

Food Standards Commission – 05.06.20

Thank you to those who have contacted me regarding the setting up of a Food Standards Commission.

I think this is a sensible and positive suggestion which I would like to support.

The current Food Standards Agency is not accountable to Government and while it is funded by the Health budget I am sure we can do so much better.

As a farmer myself, I have always been a keen advocate and incredibly proud of the high food standards this country is renowned for.

I am optimistic that this improves as we leave the EU and enter the world stage.

It is my hope that a Food standards Commission could oversee the improvement of food labelling which informs and empowers us as customers.

If we know how and where our food is produced we can ensure the British consumer has all the tools at their disposal to buy quality British produce.

The government will stand firm in trade negotiations to ensure any deals live up to the values of our farmers and consumers.

All food coming into this country will be required to meet existing import requirements.

At the end of the transition period the Withdrawal Act will convert all EU standards into domestic law which is why the Agriculture Bill did not need amending.

These include a ban on using artificial growth hormones in both domestic and imported products.

Nothing apart from potable water may be used to clean chicken carcasses. Any changes to these standards would have to come before parliament.

Bill Wiggin MP praises scale of government support for Herefordshire during coronavirus

  • Total government support for local government and communities since the beginning of the pandemic is almost £27 billion.
  • This includes direct support for local authorities, emergency funding to support rough sleepers, business rates relief, grants for small business and support for local transport systems.
  • Local authorities have received an additional £3.8 billion to ensure they have the resources they need to respond to coronavirus and deal with additional pressures on social care.
  • Councils in Herefordshire allocated total of £11m to continue providing essential services and support to those who need it the most.

Communities and businesses across Herefordshire have benefited from £105m in government funding since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, helping to support some of the most vulnerable people, alongside the sectors that have been hardest hit.

In total, the Government has announced almost £27 billion for local communities since the start of March. This includes billions of pounds in grants for small businesses and business rates reliefs for industries such as hospitality and leisure that have not been able to operate during lockdown.

As part of this, local authorities across England have received an unprecedented level of additional support, sharing £3.2 billion in direct grants of which £11m has gone to Herefordshire, and a further £600 million to help prevent transmission in care settings. This has meant local councils have had the resources they need to respond to any additional pressures created by coronavirus and been able to continue providing essential services, such as adult social care and children’s services.

Commenting, Bill Wiggin MP said:

“The scale of the Government’s support for people in Herefordshire is very welcome and without question above and beyond what many would have expected when this crisis begun.

“Whether it’s the additional funding for councils or direct support to protect businesses that are vital for local jobs and our communities, this has already made a massive difference to the lives of many people and businesses in North Herefordshire, and I’m confident the Government will continue to do whatever it can to help our community get through this difficult period and to rebuild for the future.”

Commenting, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said:

“We said at the start of the pandemic that we would make sure our councils and communities had the resources they need to respond to the coronavirus, and that’s exactly what we have done.

“In total, we have provided almost £27 billion to help local communities weather this difficult period, providing additional financial support in the form of grants, business rates relief and direct support for councils on a scale that is unprecedented in living memory.

“Council workers across the country are working tirelessly to ensure this support gets to where it needs to be, helping local people and businesses to navigate this difficult period. They are the unsung heroes of this crisis and we are all incredibly grateful for the huge contribution they are making to their communities.

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