On the 17th of March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared that Coronavirus is not just a public health emergency, it is also an economic emergency. In the weeks and months which have followed, my team and I have been busy assisting constituents with lots of queries. We have tried our very best to assist all constituents who have been in contact with us. We have dealt with cases ranging from Universal Credit to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, and from support for businesses to assistance for places of worship and vital community facilities. I have also kept in close contact with the Department for Work and Pensions, the City of Wolverhampton Council, the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, and others. I am in awe of the dedication and professionalism these groups have shown throughout this pandemic. I would like to thank them for all the work that they have been doing.
As we start to plan for the economic recovery from Covid-19, it is all the more important that we all work together to ensure the best for Wolverhampton. In Parliament this week, I asked directly the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to make a firm recommitment to ensure that Whitmore Reans, Chapel Ash, Pennfields and all areas of our great city won’t just survive, they will thrive as we head forwards. I am delighted the Prime Minister not only accepted my request, he confirmed that Wolverhampton will benefit from around £270 million of the growth deal funding across the Black Country. This scheme, delivered through the Local Enterprise Partnership, aims to create 5,000 jobs and 1,400 new homes. I will continue to be a strong voice for Wolverhampton in Westminster and beyond.
These plans are part of the Government’s wider objective to return to our way of life as soon as possible. It means focusing not just on saving lives, but also livelihoods – protecting people’s incomes and ensuring people can pay their bills and put food on the table. In Wolverhampton South West, the Government’s unprecedented action has meant 9,100 jobs have been protected through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and 2,500 self-employed are receiving grants worth a total of £6,500,000 from the Government to help mitigate the impacts of Covid-19.
While social distancing measures start to be relaxed, it remains vital to avoid the risk of a second peak that might overwhelm the NHS. We must not waste the huge sacrifices made during lockdown to get this virus under control. At the same time, I know that many city centre businesses – pubs, shops, restaurants, and cafes – have experienced a loss of income due to this virus. That is why I am glad that Wolverhampton has been allocated its share of the £50 million Reopening High Streets Safely Fund. This will support a range of practical safety measures including new signs, street markings, and temporary barriers. It can also be used to develop local marketing campaigns that explain the changes to the public and reassure them that their high streets and other commercial areas are safe.
As we move through the second stage of our roadmap to recovery, I am determined that we kick-start the engine of our economy. To do this, it is essential that we train people with the skills that they need to succeed. Indeed, it is predicted that up to 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that do not yet exist. Early on in my time in Parliament, I asked ministers what is being put in place to support the creation of a new learning quarter in Wolverhampton. This imaginative proposal, being spearheaded by the City of Wolverhampton Council and its key partners, will provide a state-of-the-art learning environment for young people and adults in our City. I will continue to support this plan. At the other end of the spectrum, it is important that elderly people are included in the economic recovery. I am pleased that the Minister for Media and Data has praised the work of local councillors in Tettenhall Regis who are equipping over 65’s with digital skills, including online safety. It is also important that we continue to provide flexible support to those who need it. From the start of July, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time. Ultimately, my ambition is to see Wolverhampton emerge from this virus as strong as possible. I am fully dedicated to ensuring that this can happen.