Welcome To My September Newsletter

As we approach the end of September, we will see another reduction in the job retention (furlough) scheme, which then ends completely on 31 October. A recent report by the centre for cities cited Luton as potentially the second-worst affected town by the Coronavirus crisis. This is in part due to many of the town’s largest employers being within the wider aviation industry - which has been one of the hardest-hit sectors in the economy and will be one of the slowest to recover. This has been emphasised by the many employers I have spoken to over recent months. Thousands of employees have been furloughed and hundreds more are already facing redundancy. With the lack of any other targeted support, we could be facing an unemployment cliff edge in Luton South come November. 
The arts, creative and events sector has also been heavily impacted. With venues closed and performances cancelled, thousands of self-employed workers and freelancers in this sector have been simply unable to work. Many have also been excluded from government support schemes. To recognise the contribution the creative sector makes to our town, and to highlight the issues currently faced by local creatives, I have secured an adjournment debate in parliament on Tuesday.  
I have repeatedly pressured the government to provide sector-specific support to protect jobs and avoid an unemployment crisis. I have co-sponsored a backbench debate on aviation, I wrote to the minister calling for more support for aviation, questioned the government in parliament and supported trade union campaigns to save jobs. So far this has fallen on deaf ears and thousands of people in Luton are worried about their future livelihoods. Without proper government support, a recession could turn into a depression and those on lower incomes will be the hardest hit. I will continue to stand up for jobs and press the government for urgent action to protect workers their families.  

If you are struggling or are excluded from any support please get in touch and me and my team will do our best to support you. 

This week I have been contacted by many constituents who were extremely concerned about the lack of available COVID-19 tests in Luton. This included a report from a constituent that because a pupil at their child's school had symptoms, all children were then sent home and told not to return until they had had a negative test. However, there were no tests available meaning that the children and parents had to continue isolating at home. Another constituent told us they tried unsuccessfully online to get a test over 150 times. When other constituents were able to book a test they were asked to go as far away as Newport in Wales! This is totally unacceptable. 
Testing is absolutely vital to controlling and combating the virus, as we saw when Luton became an area of concern earlier this summer. I questioned the government about this earlier in the week and will continue to do so to ensure everyone who needs a test can get a test. 
Luton Town Football Club

This week it was great to visit Kenilworth Road and meet with Luton Town Football Club CEO Gary Sweet. He showed me the new social distancing measures they have implemented at the ground to keep players and staff safe, and I heard how the club is trying to manage the financial pressures brought on by COVID-19. I was pleased to learn that, despite the challenges and new environment brought about by COVID-19, the club remains confident of delivering the new stadium at Power Court as scheduled. The new stadium is vital to the redevelopment of the town centre and I will continue to support the project in any way I can. 
Planning and Housing

The government recently published a white paper on how it plans to reform the planning system. The current proposals have been condemned across the board as a ‘developers’ charter’ that will strip local democracy out of the planning process. The proposals would expand permitted development rights, meaning developers would not need to apply for permission before converting commercial premises to residential use. We have previously seen that this can lead to poor quality, overcrowded and sometimes dangerous accommodation. 
Given the housing crisis, both nationally and in our town, I believe the government need to bring forward proposals that would enable local councils to build high-quality sustainable homes, at affordable social rents, where they are needed the most. The consultation ends on 29th of October, you can have your say here. 

Survey Corner

In my last survey, I asked you about the economic effects of COVID-19. Here is what you told me:

- 88% of you believed that the government should create bespoke packages for the hardest-hit industries

- 1/3 of respondents had either been furloughed or lost their job since the start of the pandemic.

My next survey is about the impending end of the evictions ban and upcoming housing crisis. You can take part here.


Find out more

Active Luton

I was pleased to meet with Helen Barnet from Active Luton and see new COVID secure measures that has allowed for the safe return of patrons. It was also great to hear about the Total Wellbeing service designed to help people with specific mental and physical health needs.
Luton Train Station

On Thursday I questioned the government about the redevelopment Luton train station. The station is in a sorry state and with no disabled access, its redevelopment is vital to bring it into the 21st century.
Internal Markets Bill

I recently questioned the government on the Internal Markets Bill and the importance of preserving the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.
Tate Modern Strike

I recently showed solidarity with the striking workers at the Tate Modern who are protesting against 300 of the lowest paid employees being made redundant during the COVID-19 crisis. 
Rachel Hopkins MP for Luton South