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Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson on the vaccination programme, the importance of businesses to the community ahead of the Budget and rough sleeping

Julie Marson, MP for Hertford and Stortford, writes for the Indie...

Jabs, jabs, jabs! I have been delighted to be able to celebrate regularly our local and national vaccine rollout, and it was astounding to pass the 20 million people vaccinated mark over the weekend.

The huge effort has turned the tide of the pandemic and created hope and the tangible roadmap for the future, but up until now I haven't had quantifiable data to share about our local progress beyond my own positive experiences visiting the vaccine centres.

I'm pleased to say that last week I received the first figures for our constituency-wide rollout of the vaccine. Of our total population of 115,492, an incredible 24.8% have already had their first dose. As of last week, that's 28,638 people in Hertford and Stortford who have had their first vaccine to protect them against the virus – and that figure has in all probability now exceeded 30,000.

I thank, once again, all the teams and volunteers who are leading and contributing to our local efforts. Jab by jab, we are getting closer to the restoration of normality for our community and our country.

The Prime Minister's roadmap out of lockdown has laid the ground for that restoration of normality and has given businesses and people a base to plan from. The details have been all over the news so I won't repeat them here, except to say that I found the announcement to be quite a moving moment.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock delivering a video message in which he thanked Bishop's Stortford for its efforts to implement the Covid-19 vaccination programme
Health Secretary Matt Hancock delivering a video message in which he thanked Bishop's Stortford for its efforts to implement the Covid-19 vaccination programme

In Parliament we have regularly debated support for businesses and, as the Chancellor announces his Budget today (Wed), I thought it would be a good opportunity to discuss the value business gives to our community and my priorities as someone with a background in business and finance, and as a member of the Treasury Select Committee.

It has always been clear to me how important small and medium-sized businesses are to the social fabric of our communities. They are certainly the lifeblood of Hertford and Stortford, providing incomes for families and a service to people that is rooted in our communities, high streets and town and village centres.

We have seen a marked increase in how much customers are influenced by the values of the businesses whose products and services they choose, and this may well become even more pronounced in the post-pandemic world.

In Hertford and Stortford we have a great story to tell, with a great number of businesses going above and beyond to help our community. Those such as Home Instead in Sawbridgeworth, who created the 'Be A Helper to A Senior' programme, supported in these pages last year, which delivered supplies to vulnerable people and provided company over the phone. Countless others raised money, donated time and supported people in their moments of need.

The good that small businesses do for our community is just one reason why the Chancellor's numerous interventions over the last 12 months have been so crucial to our recovery.

The Chancellor has always been upfront that he cannot save every business or job. Just this week I have been speaking to businesses in the hospitality and travel sectors that have made use of Government support but still face extremely uncertain futures. The resolve with which they have endured the pandemic is remarkable, but we are not out of the woods yet and I continue to make representations to the Government on their behalf.

The Budget is an opportunity to kickstart our recovery. I am hoping to see a focus on growth in the parts of the economy that can be unlocked, whilst maintaining support for those still restricted. Some details have already been reported to this end, including a £5bn Restart grant scheme to help the high street recover from the pandemic. With grants worth up to £18,000 aimed at businesses most affected by the crisis, like shops, pubs and hotels, the Government is trying to align economic support with the roadmap for lifting restrictions.

I have not seen other details of the Budget yet but have been in regular contact with Treasury officials to give ideas and represent constituents. When I have discussed concerns raised by constituents with officials in the past, they have always been very receptive, so I am hopeful for continued support.

My priority for this Budget centres on enabling job creation in Hertford and Stortford. This means encouraging more investment in local companies, providing opportunities for people to progress and protecting sectors that are still viable but unable to operate because of Covid-19.

The final area I'd like to touch on is rough sleeping. The annual rough sleeping snapshot published last week showed significant progress tackling homelessness across the UK. The number of rough sleepers is down by 43% since 2018, and a further £750m will be invested next year to tackle homelessness and deliver 6,000 new long-term homes for rough sleepers, so that no one returns to living on the streets. This is great progress but there remains a lot of work to do. In 21st-century Britain, no one should be forced into rough sleeping.

As ever, please do get in touch with my office if we can assist you in any way. Drop me an email at Julie.marson.mp@parliament.uk and we will respond as quickly as possible.

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