Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Newspaper column 15 July 2020 - Police, tax cuts and COVID-19

It does feel, at the moment, as though every week there is a great deal happening that I could write about – and this week is no different.

Away from COVID-19, I was able to lead a debate in Parliament last week highlighting the work of Devon and Cornwall Police. I was able to place on record my thanks, and the thanks of many of us, for the proactive and pragmatic approach they have taken to Policing over the period of the lockdown. It was also an opportunity to present the unique set of challenges our Police face in the far South West – from our geography being a peninsula, the many rural and coastal communities covered by the force, as well as the length of our minor road network. Of course, we also face the biggest seasonal influx of tourists of any UK Police Force with the additional demands this places on our local officers.

I was told this was the first time these challenges were presented to Ministers in such a comprehensive way and it gave me the opportunity to make the case for additional funding for D&C Police.

Once again it was a significant week in our progress against the Coronavirus. We saw further easing of the restrictions and more announced for the coming weeks which will allow more businesses to open. As we see the numbers of infections, hospitalisations and deaths continue to fall it is right we allow the economy to open up, whilst of course continuing to keep to the guidance on social distancing, hand washing and avoiding large gatherings.

The biggest news was of course the Chancellors financial statement on Wednesday which laid out further measures to support jobs and businesses as we begin the process of rebuilding the economy. One thing I particularly like about Rishi Sunak as Chancellor is that he does not hide the challenges we face nor that every decision and economic measure taken will have both ups and downs. There is no doubt we are in for some tough times in the coming months and possibly years. Avoiding job losses are unavoidable following the sudden shock to the economy caused by the outbreak of the virus and the lockdown that was necessary to control it. But the measures announced this week are aimed at lessening the impact as far as we can, seeking to save jobs and enable businesses to get through the coming months. Of course, at some point all this money will have to be found and repaid but that is for another day. Right now, the focus is rightly on saving as many businesses and jobs as we can.

Particularly welcome to hundreds of businesses in our constituency will be the cut in VAT for hospitality and tourism to 5%. This was something I know the sector had been calling for and it was good that the Chancellor had clearly been listening. This measure is aimed at supporting businesses and help them to increase their margins through the next 9 months. I know that some people are now expecting to see a cut in the cost of their holiday or price of a meal out but I think we need to appreciate this is not what the cut is aimed at. These businesses have lost 4 months of income in what would have been some of the busiest weeks of the year and this additional income, that they can keep rather than pay to the government, will be a big help to enabling them to make it through this winter.
The other headline grabbing announcement was the cut in stamp duty which will benefit anyone looking to buy a house until the end of March. The housing market is a key part of the economy that supports many other businesses in the supply chain from construction, trades, estate agents, home improvements, new appliances and furniture and DIY –  all are dependant on a thriving housing market. So, this step will do far more than just help people buying properties.

Along with the job retention bonus that will be paid to businesses who bring people back from furlough and keep them in jobs, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme that will encourage us all to go out to eat in August or the Kick Start programme to help young people into work, there was lots of support for businesses and jobs which is going to be crucial.

We should not be in any doubt as to the big challenges ahead of us to recover our economy. We will all have a part to play in the coming months but it was very good to see the Chancellor stepping up and playing his part.

As always my office staff and I are here to help and if any constituents have any questions or concerns about the announcements this week or any aspect of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis please do not hesitate to get in touch. You can email me of or call 01726 829379.