The Prime Minister made clear yesterday that Covid-19, the Coronavirus, is the biggest peacetime threat our nation has ever faced. In the coming days and weeks we all have a role to play, protecting our most vulnerable friends and neighbours and working together to halt the spread of an invisible danger which threatens every aspect of our way of life.
My team and I have been working hard over the last few days, trying to respond to as many individual constituents as possible, to answer their queries and concerns and where possible to provide reassurance and support. In such a fast changing situation this is not easy, which is why I will continue to share with you the Government’s daily briefings. I cannot under state the importance of following the advice given, to stem the spread of the virus, reduce the pressure on our healthcare service and keep our loved ones safe.
I understand the specific concerns of local businesses, particularly those in the tourist industry. They need to know what support is available and how to access the assistance the Government is giving. Small and medium sized businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and were at the heart of the stimulus package announced by the Chancellor at the budget and the £350bn of additional funding revealed yesterday. I have asked how our local businesses will be able to access this support and will, of course, work with colleagues in the House to ensure those businesses who need help get it.
In terms of Rate Relief, Councils continue to develop a system for processing claims. Progress will be announced on the Business Rates website at https://www.blackpool.gov.uk/Business/Business-rates/Business-rates.aspx or https://www.wyre.gov.uk/info/200372/business_rates. In both cases I am urging speedy action as it is particularly important that this translates into cash reaching people’s pockets as soon as possible. Government backed loans will be disbursed through banks and the most sensible first step is for businesses to make contact with the financial advisers at their current Bank as they must each develop their own systems also.
Equally, I know many individuals are concerned about how they will pay the bills over the next few weeks. For those who own their own homes the Chancellor has already revealed proposals for three month mortgage holidays, alongside measures to keep businesses afloat, allowing local people to weather the storm. Blackpool, of course, has a high number of privately rented homes and I welcome that, in the coming days, the Housing Secretary will be announcing measures aimed specifically at tenants. In the meantime I welcome the guidance given by the Residential Landlords Association urging leniency. Changes to statutory sick pay and to Universal Credit have already been announced and I expect more policy in the coming days to support individuals and families.
Many you will have been to the shops in recent days and seen for yourself the challenges retailers are facing in coping with increasing demand. The Prime Minister has made clear there is no need for panic buying and stockpiling and the National Retail Consortium has issued a clear statement that supply chains are robust. I would urge all constituents to think of others when they are shopping, particularly the elderly and vulnerable. For every stockpiling household, a more vulnerable individual may go without.
Together, as a community, we can pull through these challenging times.