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Bill Wiggin MP

Member of Parliament for North Herefordshire

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Government announces extra £1.51 million for Herefordshire to continue providing vital services during coronavirus

  • Herefordshire to benefit from extra £1.51 million in funding announced by the Government
  • Councils have received £6.4 billion in additional direct support since April.
  • Local authority has been provided with £20.91m in extra funding since the pandemic began.

People living and working in North Herefordshire will benefit after Herefordshire was given a share of £900m in additional Government funding for local councils.

The money will be used locally to help the council cover coronavirus-related costs and ensure it has the resources needed to keep providing key services as we battle the Covid pandemic.

It means Herefordshire has now received £20.91m in direct extra support from the Government since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, North Herefordshire will benefit from a share of a further £100m established to support council-run leisure centres across the country, which are proving key to helping the health and well-being of people in the area.

The new funding means local councils will have £1bn extra in funding this winter to help maintain vital services.

And Bill Wiggin MP said the Government support is proving crucial to people living in North Herefordshire as it means Herefordshire can continue to provide the essential services needed.

“The £1.51 million announced today is hugely welcome and will ease financial pressures on Herefordshire and ensure it is able to continue providing vital local services this winter.

“Just like we said we would stand behind people whose jobs are at risk – with over £200 billion so far to project jobs, incomes and businesses throughout and beyond this pandemic – this Conservative Government  is keeping its promise to local authorities and ensuring they have the resources they need to continue supporting people”

The funding has not been ring-fenced, meaning local leaders will be able to determine how to spend the additional funding in order to best protect public health, local vulnerable people and the running of vital services. In total, over £4.6 billion of the £6.4 billion in additional government funding made available to councils has not been ring-fenced, reflecting the Government’s view that local authorities are best placed to determine local priorities.

This is the fourth announcement of extra direct support for local authorities since the start of the pandemic. It forms part of an unprecedented package of support for councils, which also includes up to £465 million through the new Local Alert Level system, £300 million to support Test and Trace and £30 million for enforcement and compliance. Councils can also claim funding through a compensation scheme for lost income from sales, fees and charges and further additional support will be made available to areas placed under Tier 3 restrictions.

Commenting, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said:

“Since the start of the pandemic, we have backed local councils with the funding they need to support their communities, protect vital services and recover lost income. 

“This extra £1 billion funding will ensure that councils have the resources that they need over the winter and continue to play an essential role on the front line of our response to the virus while protecting the most vulnerable and supporting local businesses.”

Commenting, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

“It’s vital that we keep ourselves fighting fit through the winter months and local authority leisure centres are crucial to this. This £100 million fund will help keep leisure centres across the country open. I urge leisure centres to bid for the money and people to make the most of these precious local facilities.”

Bill Wiggin MP welcomes latest figures showing support for businesses in North Herefordshire

  • 1,990 Bounce Back Loans worth £58,937,308 have been offered under the Bounce Back Loans Scheme in North Herefordshire
  • Also in North Herefordshire, 86 loans worth £24,623,520 have been offered under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
  • In total, more than £200 billion of Government support has been provided to help individuals and businesses in all parts of the UK.

New statistics showing the huge Government support to businesses in North Herefordshire have been welcomed by local MP Bill Wiggin.

Businesses across North Herefordshire have benefitted from £83,560,828 worth of loans since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. This includes 1,990 Bounce Back Loans – 100 per cent government-backed loans which are interest-free for the first 12 months – worth £58,937,308. The scheme ensures that small firms who need vital cash injections to keep operating can get finance in a matter of days, with no repayments due during the first 12 months.

In addition, 86 loans have been offered in North Herefordshire at a value of £24,623,520 through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme. This scheme has helped small and medium-sized businesses to access loans and other kinds of finance up to £5 million.

The Chancellor also announced on Friday that the government’s Job Support Scheme will be expanded to protect jobs and support businesses required to close their doors as a result of coronavirus restrictions, alongside increasing the cash grants to businesses in England required to shut in local lockdowns to support with fixed costs – worth up to £3,000 per month.

So far, the Government has provided over £200 billion throughout its economic response to coronavirus to support jobs and businesses in the UK.

Commenting, Bill Wiggin MP said:

“This year has been hugely challenging for businesses in North Herefordshire, but these latest figures demonstrate the scale of support that the Conservative Government has put in place to protect livelihoods and businesses.

“Never has the Conservatives’ agenda to level up the whole county been so important – and we will continue to focus on supporting hardworking families across North Herefordshire.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:

“Our support for businesses and workers has provided a lifeline to employers up and down the country, supporting people to stay in jobs and protecting livelihoods. “We will build on this as we move to the next stage of our recovery through the Winter Economy Plan, which will continue to protect jobs and help businesses through the months ahead.”

£100m Government Heritage package saves Shobdon Church

One of North Herefordshire’s most valuable heritage sites has been given a crucial lifeline thanks to a major Government scheme.

Shobdon Church has been awarded £15,000 after successfully applying to the Cultural Recovery Fund for Heritage, set up to help the country’s cultural gems survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Conservative MP for North Herefordshire, Bill Wiggin, said he was delighted at the award and how the money would protect a vital part of the area’s heritage and protect local jobs

The CRF is funded by the Government and delivered by heritage experts – the Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund – to support organisations in England across the heritage ecosystem that are local and national treasures but have fallen on hard times due to the pandemic.

Today Friday, October 9, more than £67m is being shared out among of 433 successful applicants from across England to help with key repair and maintenance work, and help sites operate and recover.

A raft of famous sites across the country have been awarded funding including historical areas, buildings, monuments, collections, museums, archives and places of worship.

Bill Wiggin MP said: “Shobdon Church is such a major part of the heritage of North Herefordshire and the country and I am thrilled this money will help it weather the covid storm and be therefore for future generations to enjoy.

“Not only can we learn so much and gain so much insight from our heritage, but it also provides jobs and a boost for the local economy in many ways.

“And as we get through this unprecedented pandemic, places like Shobdon Church and the tremendous work done there can undoubtedly play a part in our recovery.

“Huge credit must go to the Government for this invaluable support.”

The package of support is the first round of funding from the Government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund. Today has also seen a dozen organisations, including English Heritage, the National Trust and the Canal and River Trust share £34 million from the Heritage Stimulus Fund to preserve visitor attractions.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As a nation it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past.

“This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounce back post covid.  I’m so pleased that we have been able to help save Shobdon Church.”

Coronavirus Act

Today, Parliament voted on the extension of the Coronavirus Act for another 6-month period. North Herefordshire MP, Bill Wiggin refused to support this extension instead choosing to abstain.

Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire said:

“Following today’s announcement from the Health Secretary and the subsequent vote, it is with regret that I cannot support the Government in extending the Coronavirus Act.

There are concerns over the lack of scrutiny Parliament has had when wide-ranging decisions are made.

Though concessions were made, they did not go far enough.

In my speech on Monday (read here) I was clear that a 6-month extension was unnecessary and MPs must be given more opportunity to scrutinise decisions.

I said: “We need to remember that both sides of the House are united in wanting to beat the disease and I know we would be complaining if we sat on the other side of the House, so we need to involve all MPs to get necessary actions approved.”

My position on this has not changed because the concessions given today, although welcome, did not go far enough.

We could be 3 months from the roll out of a vaccine.

It is my firm belief that when we get the vaccine out to those most vulnerable in our society, we can begin to open up again.

The Government has secured 190 million doses with at least 100 million available by the end of the year.

We should be putting all efforts into vaccines as quick as possible and I will continue to push for this.

Bill Wiggin calls for MPs to have a say in future Coronavirus legislation and gives support to early rollout of vaccine

Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, last night called for MPs to have a greater say on Government powers in the Coronavirus Act. Speaking in a House of Commons debate on Coronavirus, Mr Wiggin said:

“Parliament granted the Government ​emergency powers, which at the time was a sensible course of action. Six months on, things have changed. The NHS has been saved and Parliament is sitting.

The press report further covid plans that, as a Conservative, I find possibly draconian, curtailing freedoms, but I am sure we would give parliamentary approval for life-saving precautions.”

 Mr Wiggin also called for an early rollout of vaccines that are in the final steps of the regulatory approvals process, saying:

“Vaccines for covid-19 are the key to eliminating the virus. The faster one is distributed, the more likely we are to protect the most vulnerable in our society, and that is the area we should be working on. Do we really need to wait till the end of the year?

The Government have been right ​to pre-book the vaccines: 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford vaccine, 30 million doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, which is the next one in evaluation stage 3—we should have doses by the end of 2020 for that—and 60 million doses from a company called Valneva, whose vaccine will be provided in the second half of 2021.”

Mr Wiggin closed by praising the Government’s work on vaccine development, but called on them to restore parliamentary democracy and to offer hope, saying: “In these difficult times, my constituents want hope. After the sacrifices they have made, the vaccines that we have funded and the lives that have been saved, we all deserve it.”

To read the full debate in Hansard click here.

To watch Bill’s speech in full click here and go to 19:43 on the agenda for Monday 28th September.

Latest figures demonstrate the scale of Government support for self-employed North Herefordshire

  • 3,300 self-employed people in North Herefordshire have received support through the second grants available through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
  • 4,500 self-employed people supported in total
  • In total, more than £160 billion of Government support has been provided to help individuals and businesses in all parts of the UK

New statistics showing the huge Government support to self-employed workers in North Herefordshire have been welcomed by local MP Bill Wiggin.

3,300 self-employed people in North Herefordshire have accessed £8.6m worth of Government grants through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme’s second tranche, which brings the total number of people supported since the pandemic began to 4,500. These grants do not need to be paid back and will help to cover lost earnings.

This is in addition to the support given to self-employed workers through the first grant – worth £14.8m in North Herefordshire.

Self-employed people have had six months of income support during the coronavirus pandemic – one of the most generous schemes in the world.

  • A first grant, covering up to 80 per cent of average monthly profits was made available for March-May
  • There has been a second grant covering up to 70 per cent of average monthly profits, available for June-August.  

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the Conservative Government has provided a huge and unprecedented package of economic support to protect both lives and livelihoods – worth more than £160 billion.

Commenting, Bill Wiggin MP said:

“I know this year has been hugely challenging for self-employed workers in North Herefordshire, and these latest figures demonstrate the scale of support that the Conservative Government has put in place to support their livelihoods. “Never has the Conservatives’ agenda to level up the whole county been so important – giving our entrepreneurs the confidence they need as they look ahead to the future.”

Bill delighted with Historic England funding for Leominster

After the trouble our High Streets shops have had with the Councils ill-judged road restrictions and closures, Bill Wiggin MP is delighted that Historic England have announced that Leominster will be receiving money through the High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) programme to aid local economic recovery.

Bill commented: “This is just what we need and I am delighted that Historic England have made £1.8 million of government funding available for the revitalisation of Leominster’s high street.

Leominster is a beautiful town with a wealth of important historical buildings and our main shopping streets need to reflect this.

I hope this money will go a long way towards both restoring and preserving the heritage of our town Leominster for residents, visitors and future generations.”

Bill Wiggin Press Release

Enclosed is a letter I have written to the media in North Herefordshire highlighting my concerns about links between the Green County Councillors on Herefordshire Council and the law-breaking Extinction Rebellion group.

Also enclosed is an email shared by Dr Chowns with all County Councillors.

Bill Wiggin MP letter:

I am writing with concern that Green County Councillors on Herefordshire Council have appointed the group Extinction Rebellion to consult on the environmental future for our County.

In a recent email Cllr Ellie Chowns described how a Steering Group formed by the Council had deliberately appointed to its membership individuals belonging to the local chapter of Extinction Rebellion.

Surely such connections between elected officials and Extinction Rebellion are at best unwise, especially given the latter’s recent activities, including the blockading of printworks, and the attempt to disrupt the newspaper industry.

This extraordinary and alarming political alliance between Green Councillors and the law-breaking group cannot be in the best interests of Herefordshire.

After all, David Attenborough is quoted in The Sun on Extinction Rebellion’s illegal protesting saying:

“I don’t think it is sensible politics to break the law… If you are any good at all, some of your demands will be met and then you will be demanding people abide by those new laws. You can’t have it both ways.”

If you are any good at all – you can’t have it both ways!

Will the County Council now ditch Extinction Rebellion from their Steering Group and publicly condemn this law-breaking organisation or perhaps they support law-breaking?

Email from Dr Chowns to Councillors:

Dear colleagues

I’d like to update you on Council work to tackle the climate and ecological emergency.

As you know, on 8 March 2019 the Council unanimously adopted a declaration of climate emergency.  We’ve committed to become a zero carbon council and county by 2030.

We’re making excellent progress towards our Council-specific goals. Herefordshire Council’s emissions are down nearly 50% on 2009 levels, and our Carbon Management Plan sets out how we will get to zero by 2030.

However, the council itself is only directly responsible for about 1% of county emissions. Tackling the other 99%, to become a zero carbon County, is more challenging.

At the start of this year, a steering group was formed to help the council address this challenge. Membership was drawn from key stakeholder groups with experience of previous climate-related work in Herefordshire:

•             Herefordshire Business Futures, Herefordshire Business Board

•             Farm Herefordshire, Herefordshire Nature Partnership

•             Herefordshire Council

•             Herefordshire Extinction Rebellion

•             Herefordshire Green Network

•             Herefordshire Wildlife Trust

•             National Farmers Union

The Steering Group has two objectives:

1.            Steer and oversee the development of a new collaborative countywide Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Action Plan for Herefordshire, to be published in December 2020.  The CEE Action Plan will aim to achieve net zero carbon, and a significant increase in biodiversity, in Herefordshire by 2030.

2.            Establish a representative and accountable governance structure to oversee and support the delivery of the CEE Action Plan from January 2021.

The CEE 2030 action plan and future stewardship

The Action Plan won’t be a ‘blueprint’ that just sits on a shelf. Instead, we want it to be an inclusive, iterative process. We need to engage as many people as possible in Herefordshire, across all walks of life and sectors of activity, on an ongoing basis.  The council can support and encourage action for zero carbon and abundant wildlife, but ultimately it is the actions of others that will determine whether we can meet these goals collectively.  So we need to engage people to create a shared understanding of what the issues are and what needs to be done, when, and by whom. 

The Action Plan that will be created by the end of this year is the first step. Going forward we also need to establish a body to steer this work sustainably over the long term – a formally-constituted Stewardship Board that will keep on bringing people together around our shared climate and ecology goals, and will keep on encouraging & evaluating action.

I’m deeply grateful to the members of the Steering Group and subgroups who’ve volunteered their time and expertise to help shape this work so far.  In the coming months we will consult widely on both the Action Plan and Stewardship Board.

What the action plan will focus on

In recent months, subgroups – each engaging a wider range of key local stakeholders – have been developing draft ‘chapters’ on key topics:

•             Transport

•             Housing and buildings

•             Energy

•             Agriculture and land use

•             Food

•             Waste

•             Community engagement

These chapters include:

•             A summary of the issues and the scale of the challenge

•             Mapping of key stakeholders

•             Good practice that we can build on & learn from

•             Ideas for action.

The chapters are intended to be a starting point for broad public consultation – a basis for an informed conversation.

Next steps

We plan to upload this background work to a dedicated website shortly, and to launch a broad public consultation process in the autumn. Here’s what I hope the timetable will look like for the next steps:

Sept       •             Draft chapters and consultation questions uploaded to new website

Oct         •             Key stakeholder meetings and public consultation meetings

•             Online consultation

Nov        •             Finalisation of the chapters and sector-specific Action Plans

•             Finalisation of Stewardship structure

Dec        •             Stakeholder and public meeting to finalise the overall Action Plan & Stewardship structure.

Jan         •             Formal launch of the Action Plan & first meeting of the Stewardship board.

I will of course let you know as soon as the website and consultation go live. Please do get involved, and encourage others to do so too!

I do hope that, like me, you are excited about the potential this work has to engage people across the county in our joint journey to zero carbon and abundant nature.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please do let me know!

All the very best,

Ellie

—–

Dr Ellie Chowns

Herefordshire Council

–              Ward Councillor for Bishops Frome and Cradley Ward

–              Leader of the Green Group

–              Cabinet Member for Environment, Economy and Skills

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

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