Welcome To My October Newsletter

Welcome to my October Newsletter. It’s been another month working hard for Luton South. I was proud to hold my first Adjournment Debate on Grassroots Arts and Culture in Luton where I had the opportunity to champion the brilliant work of the many local artists and creative organisations in our town. 

I believe passionately in the positive contribution the arts and creativity make to our lives and to society. Creative Industries are embedded in the fabric of our day-to-day life and are a vital national export. When we are not working, we all enjoy TV, films, reading, online content, events and so on. The creative sector contributes £111.7 billion to the UK’s economy and employs over 2 million people. 

Like many other sectors, the coronavirus and the accompanying health restrictions have devastated the creative industries. It’s virtually impossible for creative businesses to make a profit when they must adhere to social distancing and local restrictions, and can barely operate, if at all. Consequently, thousands of those people have been unable to work since March as the government has either closed or highly restricted their industries. Many workers in the sector are freelance and are not eligible for the furlough scheme or other forms of limited government support. While health restrictions are necessary to protect life, they must be balanced with increased economic support to protect creative workers’ and businesses’ futures.   

Throughout the pandemic, I have stood with the creative sector in their calls for more support. This month, I joined the #WeMakeEvents protest outside Parliament to show solidarity with workers excluded from support. While the government has allocated some welcome funding to some of our local creative organisations, it has still not come forward with a package to help individuals and freelancers through the crisis. 
Test and Trace

In May, the government promised that they would establish a world-beating test, track and trace system that would contain the virus and avoid a second wave. The government has given a £12 billion contract to a private company called Serco to set up a new national test and system from scratch. A system that has never achieved its weekly contact targets, a system we later found out was being run on outdated spreadsheet software and a system that has failed to contain localised outbreaks. The system has failed, and now it is time the government handed control of test and trace to local councils along with the funding needed to make it work. Luton Council is an example of why we should be empowering local councils and utilising their expertise. The government should fix testing and handover track and trace to local authorities. 
Community Nursing Teams

I was pleased to meet with two of Luton’s community nursing teams who I have nominated for the NHS Parliamentary Awards.  During my visit, I heard about their vital work which takes place outside of the traditional hospital setting. By working closely with NHS 111 the children’s urgent response team can quickly treat potentially serious problems. The adult TB team have also worked closely with local charity NOAH to reach members of the community who often do not engage with medical treatment.  It was an important reminder that there are heroes in the NHS doing important work every day, not just during the pandemic.
Safeguarding Apprenticeships

Last week, I was pleased to support my colleague Mary Foy MP’s Private Member’s Bill pass its Committee Stage in Parliament. The Education and Training (Welfare of Children) Bill is designed to extend statutory safeguarding duties to all providers of 16-19 education and training. Currently, there is no legal safeguarding duty upon some apprenticeship and independent training providers. Rather that it is only part of their funding agreement. The new bill would close that loophole and ensure that any provider in receipt of government funding for 16-19 education has the same legal obligation to comply with safeguarding duties. This is a small piece of technical legislation, but a very important one that ensures the legal safeguarding of all children in 16-19 education and training. I hope to see it pass its 3rd reading and come into law in future. 
Survey Corner

In my last survey, I asked how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected your housing situation. The results were as follows:

- 7% of you told me that the economic effects of the Pandemic left you at risk of losing your home.

- 20% of you said that the pandemic had meant that your household debt had increased. 

- 14% told me that they had not been able to access support to help with this.

In my next 'Luton South Says' survey I want to hear what you think about the proposed changes to the planning systems contained in the government's planning White Paper. You can take part in my survey by following the link here.

If you would like to contribute to the planning white paper consultation you can read it here and comment here.

Supporting the Local Coach Industry

Last week I visited local Luton coach hire business Theobalds / CoachHire4U which employs around 60 people. We discussed how they have been significantly affected by the impact of COVID-19, having seen a large amount of their business dry up overnight.  Whilst the rail and bus sectors have received government bailouts, the coach industry has received no specific support. The government should recognise that this will have a detrimental impact on our tourism industry and should take action to support them through the pandemic. I will continue to stand up for supporting local jobs under threat in our town. 

Find out more

MacMillan Coffee Morning

Last month, I hosted a virtual  MacMillan Coffee Morning and heard from nurses and patients alike about how the pandemic has impacted cancer diagnosis, treatment and support. You can see me raise these issues in Parliament here.
Meeting with the local pub trade

Last week, I met virtually with publicans from across the town and heard how they felt their businesses had been unfairly impacted by the imposition of the 10pm curfew. I have written to the government to ask it to publish the scientific evidence behind this decision.
Planning debate

Last month I explained how the government’s planning White Paper would take local democracy out of the planning system and lead to poorer quality developments. See me express these concerns in Parliament here.
East Asian Racism Debate
Earlier this week I supported my colleague Sarah Owen MP (Luton North) in her Westminster Hall debate on Chinese and East Asian communities' experiences of racism during the covid-19 pandemic.  In my speech I condemned racism of all forms and voiced my support for anti-racism education charity Show Racism the Red Card and Wear Red Day 2020.
Rachel Hopkins MP for Luton South