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Coronavirus Update Tuesday 19th May

The Coronavirus death rate now stands at 35,341. Behind each number (and it is still growing) is a family devastated with grief. Many of those who have now died did not have to. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the collective lockdown effort is disintegrating.

The idea that ‘common sense’ will prevail is no substitute for strategic thinking, scientific and anthropological analysis and leadership. I know that there are many people who are still doing whatever they can to stay safe and stay indoors as much as possible. Thank you. We must not let the last eight weeks be in vain.

Universal Credit

The number of people claiming Universal Credit in Leeds North West is more than double the number that were claiming equivalent benefits this time last year. Leeds North West has 1905 actual claimants – 3.2% of the working age population. This is more than double the number of same month in the previous year which stood at 810. The leap is higher still for those aged between 18 and 24 who are seeing a 277% jump from last year.

These numbers are stark and each one represents individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet. I have been very supportive of the furlough and self-employed schemes which are helping a great many people, but there are many who are falling through the gaps and I hear from them every day.

This could include seasonal workers, workers who have recently changed employers or those who’s employers have chosen not to take up the schemes. The 18-24 numbers are particularly concerning as they are represented much more highly in occasional, casual or zero-hours jobs. If the Government do not get this right, we face a lost generation of young people who have been cast adrift in the midst of this crisis. Whilst these numbers do not account for UC rollout, they will be of great concern to my constituents and should be of great concern to the Government.

Leeds Schools

Leeds City Council have just released a statement regarding their approach to schools re-opening. You can read that statement here:

Immigration Bill

Last night I was proud to vote against the Government’s new immigration bill which will label many of our key workers as ‘unskilled’ and risks the future viability of our NHS as well as many of our key industries such as agriculture.

This bill lays the ground for an immigration system which treats those key workers as people to shut out, not to celebrate. Ministers want us to give them powers to put in place a flawed immigration system without parliamentary scrutiny. I cannot go out every week to clap our carers, then vote for a bill which could see them shunned. This crisis has shown us who the real key workers are – we must not forget that.

The Conservatives are attempting to rush through a Bill, which is deeply damaging to the NHS during the Coronavirus Crisis, in the face of significant concerns from organisations that represent many of the frontline workers in our NHS, such The Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Association and Unison. Furthermore, it sends an appalling message to many EU Citizens who have been working throughout this crisis to keep people safe and the country running.

I hoped to be called to speak in the debate but I would like to say clearly to all foreign nationals in my constituency who are working hard to pull this country out of this crisis that this bill is not in my name and we stand in solidarity with you.

Scientific advice must be published

The Government says they will determine everything by the science, which I support. We in Labour have asked them to show the scientific advice to reassure people. I am pleased the PM says he should publish the scientific advice, but so far they haven’t been able to produce anything.

It’s been over a week since the PM’s speech. They need to publish it now so people can take an informed judgement on their plan.

Consultation on emergency walking and cycling measures

Connecting Leeds have launched a consultation on proposed emergency measures to support safe walking and cycling during the coronavirus outbreak. Thank you for your feedback on these proposals. The consultation has had great engagement so far, with 1614 people contributing 6986 comments and ideas by Monday morning.

The proposed actions are intended to help people maintain social distancing while making essential trips, as well as extending the benefits we’ve seen during lockdown of increased active travel, improved air quality and reduced traffic and noise. Proposals include:

  • Creating more pedestrian space in public places through installing barriers. This has already begun in the city centre and is planned for local and district centres in coming weeks.

  • Creating more pedestrian and cycle space on main roads, including expanding the cycle network.

  • Increasing cycle parking provision at business and residential buildings.

  • Quieter residential streets, using point closures to create ‘low traffic neighbourhoods’.

  • Creating car-free space outside schools through installing temporary barriers, bollards and cameras.

Feedback on the proposals, as well any other ideas, can be submitted to the consultation here. This is separate to the longer-term transformation of the city centre which is continuing apace.


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