Wednesday, 8 April 2020
Thank you to those constituents who have sent me a copy of The Road Transport Association campaign email seeking further support for hauliers during the corona virus.
Road transport forms a vital part of the infrastructure of the UK and as never before we are relying on the key part played by this industry.
Haulage has always been a highly competitive business with a mix of results from different companies in terms of profitability. I know many have ceased trading over the years whilst others have run successful and profitable businesses. I understand that with the additional pressures caused by the medical crisis this adds considerably to the complexity and difficulties of running any business let alone a logistics company.
Some have been in touch to say part of the problem is there is now many occasions where vehicles are not fully laden which is an obvious further burden on costings, efficiency and viability.
The government has in record time introduced a range of measures to assist businesses. The aim of the government is that those that were viable before the medical crisis will be in a position to continue trading once it passes. The haulage industry presents unique circumstances and challenges and I will do all I can in making further representations to ministers to see what further help can be made.
Many will already be aware of the help the government is offering businesses in a multibillion £ effort with deferring taxes and VAT payments, rates relief, furlough wage provision and also the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. This has been considerably enhanced by the chancellor following feedback from myself and other MPs and even if you have applied with your lender before without receiving a helpful response or acceptable terms, I would urge you to reapply following his recent intervention.
Having been in business myself for many years I am acutely aware of the pressures that virtually all businesses are facing right now and whilst I will continue to petition for more help on your behalf. I also firmly support the provision made by the chancellor to date.
As we enter the third week of the lockdown we are approach a crucial point in this national crisis. When the Prime Minister announced we would need to take these drastic measure to try to halt the spread of this virus and ultimately defeat it, he stated it would be for an initial period of three weeks and would then be reviewed.
In addition, it is predicted that we will reach the summit of this outbreak in the coming days. This will be a critical point in the evaluation of whether or not the measures taken, and the degree to which they have been adhered to, is working or if further steps need to be taken.
As there is a time lag of 2-3 weeks before the impact of any measures put in place shows in the number of infections and people presenting to hospitals with serious symptoms, it does make these decisions challenging. But as the Health Secretary stated at the weekend, if too many people do not follow the rules then the government will have to take further steps to fight this virus. The onus remains on each one of us to stick to the very clear and simple instructions we have been give – to stay at home as much as possible and only go out for the few exceptions allowed and make sure we are not physically interacting with people outside of our household in any way.
The more people stick to the rules the quicker we can get through this and start to see life return to some sort of normal. Those who break the rules or push the boundaries are not doing any of us any favours. I posted on my Social Media accounts at the weekend that there is no point in clapping for our carers on a Thursday evening if we then spend the weekend flouting the rules and hanging out with our friends. The best thing all of us can do right now to support the NHS and all those who are working on the frontline in health and social care is to stay home as much as we can.
The fact that we learned on Sunday evening that the Prime Minister had been taken to hospital, we are told as a precautionary measure, was I am sure a cause for concern for us all. It goes go to show just how unpredictable this virus can be. Many are simply getting mind symptoms and recover fully in just a few days. For others, as we are seeing, it becomes something very serious which requires major treatment in hospital and for some it is fatal. There is a wide spectrum between these and no one can be sure how it affects us if we contract it. We are told that the reason for Boris Johnson’s hospital visit was due to his symptoms not clearing up in the expected time frame. I am sure we all wish him well and a speedy recovery.
I also just want to say a few words about all those businesses, employers and self-employed people who have had to make some really tough choices in the past weeks. I do not under-estimate how difficult this time has been for many. I have spent a great deal of my time in the last two weeks seeking to provide advice and support for our local businesses and employees. The government has put in place a comprehensive package to provide support for the economy. But I do appreciate there remain a number of gaps for those who are not covered by the schemes in place. I am pleased that the government continue to keep all these measures under review and have already made a number of changes in recent days that will enable more people to access the support available. I will continue to be available to any in our constituency who need advice and help so please do get in touch if you think any team and I can be of assistance in any way.
Finally, sadly we continue to see far too many people coming to Cornwall either to stay in holiday accommodation or to come to their second homes. The Government has been clear that everyone should remain at the primary residence and not travel to places such as Cornwall for a holiday, sort break, or come to their 2nd homes. Unfortunately some holiday accommodation providers are not helping with preventing this by continuing to make their properties available. I know this is something that greatly concerns many local people and I have continued to work with government ministers to push these companies to stop people from coming as well as get the message out loud and clear through the media. I am pleased that Cornwall Council are now also taking action to prevent firms letting their properties out to tourists and have set up an email address to report those breaking the rules - firstname.lastname@example.org If anyone is aware of holiday accommodation providers who are still taking booking please report them to this email address.
Stay safe, stay home and stay well.
Monday, 6 April 2020
Following feedback from constituents I have made representations to the Treasury regarding financial support for local businesses. Some have reported a helpful response from their bank with fair terms and low interest rates but that has not always been the case. Many of you have been in touch citing refusals to help or unfavourable terms and conditions. Countless businesses (who are the backbone of our Cornish economy) and running successfully up until a few weeks ago, now have little or no work and no income causing an immediate cash flow crisis. They face all manner of other problems too, so they clearly need urgent help and a fair response from their bank or other lender. I have made this known at ministerial level.
The Chancellor has acted swiftly so that any previously viable business that has seen trade affected by the coronavirus fallout can now directly go to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) rather than having to apply for a standard commercial lending product from their bank.
The revised CBILS scheme can provide loans and credit up to £5m for smaller businesses affected by coronavirus. Business can access different types of finance products such as overdrafts, invoice finance, term loans, and asset finance facilities. There are other types of help for business and there is more information in the link below. The changes to CBILS will mean many smaller businesses can access funding. These changes are made with immediate effect. The changes can be in certain cases retrospectively applied to existing CBILS loans.
The requirement for personal guarantees for these loans that are below £250,000 have also been removed. This has been a major worry for many businesspeople who faced having to offer their home or other assets as security to get a loan in what are extraordinarily difficult and unknown times.
Lenders are now banned from requesting personal guarantees on loans under £250,000.
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP has made it very clear where he stands on the help business needs and has said “We are making great progress on getting much-needed support out to businesses to help manage their cashflows during this difficult time – with millions of pounds of loans and finance being provided to hundreds of firms across the country. And now I am taking further action by extending our generous loan scheme so even more businesses can benefit. We have also listened to the concerns of some larger businesses affected by COVID-19 and are announcing new support so they can benefit too.
This is a national effort and we’ll continue to work with the financial services sector to ensure that the £330 billion of government support, through loans and guarantees, reaches as many businesses in need as possible.”
This is a national effort and we’ll continue to work with the financial services sector to ensure that the £330 billion of government support, through loans and guarantees, reaches as many businesses in need as possible.”
The Key points on changes to CBILS are:
· All viable small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 can now benefit (rather than just those that couldn’t access commercial finance)
· No personal guarantees for loans below £250,000
· Personal guarantees for loans above £250,000 limited to the 20% of the loan which isn’t guaranteed by Government
· Operational changes to speed up the processing of applications, particularly those for smaller loans
There is much more information on the significant changes made here:
More help and information can be found here:
For other business support, please go to: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/
I am grateful to all of you who have contacted me regarding your business. The feedback has been invaluable in making representations on your behalf. Apologies to those still waiting for a reply due to the huge number of emails, letters and calls received. I, along with my team will respond to you all in due course and I thank you in anticipation of your forbearance.
Wednesday, 1 April 2020
It is now over a week since the Prime Minister instructed the country into lockdown in our fight against Coronavirus.
For every single one of us this is a new experience – none of us have been through this situation before. It is affecting every single person in our country – every individual, household, community, business and public service. Life is very different from the open and free lifestyle we have all grown up with and have probably taken for granted.
It has been good to see the vast majority of people across mid-Cornwall following the instructions of the government and staying at home, apart from the exceptions allowed. As I have been out for my daily exercise walk it has been a slightly eerie experience to see the roads almost empty of traffic, shops, pubs and offices closed and only a few people out walking.
The fact that we have had to take such drastic measures in order to save lives - and ensure our NHS does not become overwhelmed by those falling seriously ill from this virus - should put into sharp focus for us all just how serious this is. I know there a few cynics around who still seem to think this is an over-reaction to something that most of us will only experience mild symptoms from. But we only have to look at the scenes from Italy to understand this is a fight for the lives of the elderly and vulnerable – our own parents and grandparents, and those who we know and love with underlying conditions, are the ones we are primarily doing this for.
How long we have to endure this phase is very much dependent one each one of us. If we all keep to the restrictions and play our part by minimising our trips from home and avoid all contact with those outside our household, then we stand a good chance of getting through this fairly quickly and seeing life begin to return to normal. But if too many people flout the rules, it will simply mean we all have to endure this for longer and quite likely see greater restrictions placed on us in the coming weeks.
So, I simply want to appeal to anyone who for some reason thinks these restrictions do not apply to them – stop being selfish! You are not only risking the lives of the people in your community; you are risking every one of us having to live under these conditions for longer than we need to.
A great example of the spirit we all need was experienced last Thursday when at 8pm millions of people across the country went to their windows, doorways or gardens to clap for our carers. This was a simple act to show respect and appreciation to all those working on the frontline in the battle against Coronavirus – the doctors, nurses, ambulance crews and support staff in the NHS; those who care of the elderly and most vulnerable, the local pharmacists providing essential advice and medicines and all those going to work under vastly increased pressure and putting the wellbeing and safety of others above their own.
I will admit I found it all quite emotional. Not only as I thought about all those people I know who are serving in these ways, but also because there was such a sense of unity – both locally and nationally. Our communities coming together in a very simple act that contained so much meaning.
Who knows what the coming weeks and months will bring. Both individually and collectively I am sure many of us will experience great challenges, heartache and even hardship. I know it is an overused cliché but it is true – we will only get through this together. It is by playing our part and behaving responsibly towards our neighbours by following the restrictions. By looking out for the elderly and vulnerable among us. By volunteering and making ourselves available to others and a thousand different acts of kindness, great and small, that we will pull through the coming weeks.
More than at any time in almost all of our lifetimes, this is the time each of us needs to put the wellbeing of our neighbours, our county and our country first. It is a challenge our grandparents rose to previously. Now it is out turn. Let’s do this together. Let us all play our part in beating this horrible virus. Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.
Friday, 27 March 2020
A number of you have contacted me about support for the self-employed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have included summaries of the new measures available to provide support for people who are self-employed at this difficult time, below for your convenience:
On 26 March, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a world-leading scheme to support the UK’s self-employed affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
· A direct cash grant of 80% of their profits, up to £2,500 per month
· latest announcement in an unprecedented package of government support to protect businesses and individuals
· Millions of self-employed individuals will receive direct cash grants though a ground-breaking UK-wide scheme to help them during the coronavirus outbreak, the Chancellor announced today.
In the latest step to protect individuals and businesses, Rishi Sunak has set out plans that will see the self-employed receive up to £2,500 per month in grants for at least 3 months.
Millions of people across the UK could benefit from the new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, with those eligible receiving a cash grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profit over the last three years. This covers 95% of people who receive the majority of their income from self-employment.
This brings parity with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, announced by the Chancellor last week, where the Government committed to pay up to £2,500 each month in wages of employed workers who are furloughed during the outbreak.
Cleaners, plumbers, electricians, musicians, hairdressers and many other self-employed people who are eligible for the new scheme will be able to apply directly to HMRC for the taxable grant, using a simple online form, with the cash being paid directly into people’s bank account.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said:
“Self-employed people are a crucial part of the UK’s workforce who’ve understandably been looking for reassurance and support during this national emergency.”
“The package for the self-employed I’ve outlined today is one of the most generous in the world that has been announced so far. It targets support to those who need help most, offering the self-employed the same level of support as those in work.”
“Together with support packages for businesses and for workers, I am confident we now have the measures in place to ensure we can get through this emergency together.”
The scheme will be open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.
To qualify, more than half of their income in these periods must come from self-employment.
To minimise fraud, only those who are already in self-employment and meet the above conditions will be eligible to apply. HMRC will identify eligible taxpayers and contact them directly with guidance on how to apply.
The income support scheme, which is being designed by HMRC from scratch, will cover the three months to May. Grants will be paid in a single lump sum instalment covering all 3 months, and will start to be paid at the beginning of June.
Individuals should not contact HMRC now. HMRC will use existing information to check potential eligibility and invite applications once the scheme is operational.
Those who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not covered by the scheme but will be covered for their salary by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if they are operating PAYE schemes.
The scheme has been designed after extensive engagement with stakeholders including the TUC, the Federation of Small Businesses and IPSE - The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed.
Self-employed individuals are already benefitting from a series of measures announced by the Chancellor to boost household incomes and will be able to access these while the new scheme is being rolled out.
These include a strengthening of the welfare safety-net with a £7 billion boost to Universal Credit, income tax and VAT deferrals, £1 billion more support for renters and access to three-month mortgage holidays.
More information on the scheme and how to claim for it, can be found via the below link:
Self-employed people can also apply for Business Interruption Loans, more information on which can be found below:
Thursday, 26 March 2020
During these difficult times the Government has made its guidance very clear:
- Stay at home, at your primary residence
- Avoid unnecessary travel
You may have seen my open letter, along with the Leader of Cornwall Council, which was published on 20 March. I have included a link below for your convenience.
I also made several posts on social media that were seen by nearly a million people, as well as national and local interviews on television and radio, one of which you can see via the link below:
As of 23 March Government has now closed all hotels, campsites and caravan parks, along with cafes, restaurants, pubs and other venues and told people they should avoid all unnecessary travel and remain at their primary residence. Strong measures for these unprecedented times.
I have included a list of all premises that have been advised to close below:
I hope this will further stop people coming on holiday or travelling unnecessarily.
If you believe anyone is breaching these rules, then it is a police matter and I suggest you call them to report it on 101.
I will continue to do all I can to ensure these messages are communicated clearly, but if there is anything more you want assistance with, do get in touch and I will do what I can to help.
Wednesday, 25 March 2020
As I am sure many will be aware, coronavirus is a new and highly infectious illness which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared as a global pandemic. I am receiving an exceptionally high volume of correspondence from constituents who are understandably concerned about this virus. I will be writing a series of blog posts covering the common issues raised me with to provide advice, information and useful links. I will update these as regularly as I am able to.
For this post, I would like to focus on social distancing and self-isolation.
Social distancing are steps we should all be taking to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 23rd March, everyone in the UK is expected to remain at home except for one of four reasons:
- shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
- one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.
- any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
- travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.
These four reasons are exceptions - even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household. These measures must be followed by everyone, however separate advice is available for those individuals or households who are isolating, and for the most vulnerable who need to be shielded. This is to reduce the risk of spreading the illness and everyone should avoid travelling unless it is absolutely essential and falls into one of the above four reasons.
Put simply; stay at home.
Essential travel does not include travelling to socialise such as visiting friends or family, to purchase non-essential items, for holidays or to visit a second home. Keeping in touch with friends and family is of course essential for all of our wellbeing, especially in these challenging times, however you should utilise remote technology to keep in touch such as making telephone calls, using the internet and social media.
If you need essential items, such as food or medication then you can go out to pick up these items however I would strongly encourage you to do this as infrequently as possible. The recommendation is to shop once per week, or less if possible. If you are self-isolating or are considered vulnerable, you should ask someone else to do this for you.
If you are going outside for a walk or exercise you can do so, however I would strongly recommend you do so taking the necessary precautions including, but not limited to, keeping at least 2 metres apart from others, regular hand-washing and/or using hand sanitiser and avoiding public transport where possible.
You are also permitted to travel to work, especially if you are a critical worker (provided you are unable to work from home). Critical workers and parents of vulnerable children may also leave the house to take their children to and from school or their childcare provider. Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.
All non-essential shops and services, such as cinemas, theatres, leisure centres, pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants have all been asked to close as a preventative measure with only food takeaway services still allowed to operate during this time.
All businesses are being asked to consider the safety and wellbeing of their staff and the general public if they are choosing to remain open and are not required to close as per government guidance. Where possible, businesses should introduce and facilitate home-working. If you have any concerns about working, particularly if you have any underlying health conditions, I would strongly recommend you discuss this directly with your employer and explore what reasonable adjustments can be made to protect you during this time, including allowing you to cease work if home-working is not an option. If you need further advice, the government has produced advice on keeping employees safe, which is available here:
Additionally, if you have a specific health condition or disability, many organisations and charities have produced guidance regarding coronavirus and working published on their websites and social media feeds. If you are still unsure, you can contact 111 or your local GP for further advice.
Further guidance on these new measures is also available online using the following link:
More information regarding social distancing, particularly with regard to vulnerable individuals, is available online via the following link:
Self-isolation is a more extreme form of social distancing. This involves all members of your household remaining at home at all times. If you, or anyone in your household experiences any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, they must stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms started. Symptoms of coronavirus which would trigger isolation include a high temperature and/or a new continuous cough. If anyone else in your household goes on to develop symptoms, they must remain isolated for 7 days from when their symptoms began. For anyone without symptoms in your household, they must remain isolated for 14 days, counting from the day the first person within the household became unwell. If you have coronavirus symptoms, you must not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.
I understand this guidance has caused some confusion and the BBC have produced a useful graphic which illustrates how this should be followed, a copy of which I have included below:
No one in the household should leave for any reason, and this includes leaving for essential items such as food or medicine or taking walks outside. If you are isolating, you must stay at home at all times. The government in collaboration with the NHS has produced the following graphic which summarises this advice:
Any essential items, such as food or medication can be delivered to you taking the necessary precautions such as leaving them at your front door, by friends/family or local organisations and community volunteers. If you do not have a support network locally, there are a number of local organisations able to provide help, the below list is by no means exhaustive:
disAbility Cornwall & Isles of Scilly
Tel: 01736 759500
Tel: 01872 265305
Many local taxi firms are also offering medication and food deliveries to those in isolation and there are local community groups on Facebook offering support if any of the above organisations are unable to help.
If you are, or become, unable to manage your symptoms at home or your condition gets worse, in the first instance you should access the online 111 coronavirus service via the NHS website (http//www.111.nhs.uk/covid-19) which will advise you what you need to do or, if you do not have access to the internet, phone 111. If you or a member of your household is in need of emergency medical care, you should dial 999 however you must make the call handler aware that you and your household are isolating due to symptoms of the coronavirus.
Full guidance on self-isolation is available using the link below:
I have a page on my website which is regularly updated with the latest information - https://www.stevedouble.org.uk/information-coronavirus-covid-19 I will also be sending out regular email updates and you can sign up to receive this here - https://www.stevedouble.org.uk/
I would also recommend that anyone with concerns about anything relating to the coronavirus should check out the government hub online using the following link:
One final note, my team and I are currently overwhelmed with emails asking for assistance and information. We are prioritising those in most need first, but will try to reply to everyone as soon as possible. You can still get in touch at email@example.com and messages left on 01726 829379 will be picked up. Thank you for bearing with us at this time.