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Bill Wiggin MP

Member of Parliament for North Herefordshire

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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.

Bill Wiggin MP statement on Dominic Cummings

Thank you to those of you who have contacted me about the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings.

I first wish to thank everyone for all you have done to observe the lockdown and to help us to defeat the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

I appreciate how hard it has been for everyone at this difficult time.

During the last two months I have been contacted by many constituents who have been struggling in many different ways.

Some of that correspondence has been about whether someone can see family members who are ill or in fact seek help from family members when ill.

In those cases, I have suggested that my constituents consult their GP and exercise their own judgement to whether their actions were in line with the Coronavirus lockdown guidelines.

I have had no dealing with Dominic Cummings and know nothing of his family circumstances.

Therefore, if he has broken the law then it is a matter for the Police and as I have no extra information, I believe it inappropriate to comment directly on his circumstances.

During this unprecedented time we have seen large and often painful reductions in our usual freedoms. Those making the laws must of course show leadership and follow the law.

The guidelines for staying safe during this virus have not changed.

It is crucial that we keep on abiding by these guidelines as we start to emerge from the grips of this dreadful virus.

I understand that some will feel aggrieved by Mr Cumming’s actions, but ultimately these guidelines are in place for your own and everyone else’s safety.

The health and well-being of the people of North Herefordshire remains paramount and I would urge you not to endanger yourself and others especially on account of Mr Cummings.

To those who have and are continuing to abide by the rules whilst making huge personal sacrifices in the process, I once again remain tremendously grateful.

Herefordshire to receive an extra £2,718,590 to support local care homes through the coronavirus pandemic

 

  • Government is providing an additional £600 million to help reduce the spread of coronavirus in care homes
  • Herefordshire set to receive £2,718,590 as part of this package
  • Part of wider support for care home residents and staff, including protecting wages and access to PPE training

The Government has announced that Herefordshire is to receive a share of a £600 million Infection Control Fund, launched to reduce the transmission of coronavirus on care homes.

Herefordshire will receive £2,718,590 to support local care homes. There are currently 2,118 care home beds registered in the area.

The funding will be used ensure that care homes can continue their efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus by helping them cover the costs of implementing measures to reduce transmission. This includes:

  • Rolling out training on infection control for staff
  • Reducing transmission by supporting providers to reduce workforce movements
  • Stepping up NHS clinical support to care homes

The fund comes on top of £3.2 billion that has already been made available to local authorities to support key public services, including social care, since the start of the crisis. It forms part of a wider package of support the Government is making available to care homes, which includes ensuring all care homes have they support they need with staffing and accessing PPE, and providing a named clinical contact from the NHS for every single care home. The named contact will assist care homes with weekly check-ins to review patients while helping staff with the use of equipment and medication.

The Government has also rolled out a new wellbeing package for social care staff, including two new helplines, led by the Samaritans and Hospice UK, to support care staff with their mental health and welling.

Commenting, Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, said:

“Care staff are the heroes of this pandemic – working tirelessly to support those in our community who need it the most.

“I do not underestimate how challenging a time this is for people living and working in care. This new funding will make a real different to local care homes in North Herefordshire.

“By putting in place stronger prevention, we can ensure that we continue to drive coronavirus out of our care homes, making them safer and better able to look after people who need it the most.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:

“This £600 million Infection Control Fund will help as we continue to reduce infections in care homes and save lives.

“From the very start of this outbreak, we have been working to protect our brilliant social care workforce and the most vulnerable in our society.

“Our package sets out clearly the extra steps local councils and care homes should be taking as we stamp out the spread of this virus.”

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said:

“We have already provided councils with over £3.2 billion during this pandemic so that they can respond to the immediate pressures they are facing, including supporting social care.

“This new funding will be distributed to councils based on the number of care home beds in their area and will be passed on quickly to care providers. It will fund new measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus in care homes, minimise infection, keep staff and residents safe and, ultimately, save lives.”

Businesses across North Herefordshire given boost with furlough scheme extension

Workers and businesses across North Herefordshire have been given a boost by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who has announced the current furlough scheme would be extended by a further four months with workers continuing to receive 80% of their current salary.

From the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff.

The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Our Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has protected millions of jobs and businesses across the UK during the outbreak – and I’ve been clear that I want to avoid a cliff edge and get people back to work in a measured way.

“This extension and the changes we are making to the scheme will give flexibility to businesses while protecting the livelihoods of the British people and our future economic prospects.”

New statistics published today revealed the job retention scheme has protected 7.5 million workers and almost 1 million businesses.

Commenting Bill Wiggin, the MP for North Herefordshire said: “The extension of the Job Retention Scheme will be welcomed by businesses across North Herefordshire.

“The scheme is a lifeline which has been hugely beneficial in helping small employers keep their staff in work and shows that the Chancellor is listening to them.”

The scheme will continue in its current form until the end of July and the changes to allow more flexibility will come in from the start of August.

The Chancellor’s decision to extend the scheme, which will continue to apply across all regions and sectors in the UK economy, comes after the government outlined its plan for the next phase of its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

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