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On Wednesday, the Chancellor delivered the new Budget. He promised a £3,000 cash grant per business for any firm that is currently eligible for the small business rates relief, and stated that business rates will be abolished this year for firms with a rateable value below £51,000. He added that the ‘extraordinary measures’ outlined in the Budget due to coronavirus represent £7 billion to support the self-employed, businesses and vulnerable people, and he will also be setting aside a £5 billion emergency response fund to support the NHS and other public services. Other key announcements include:
On Wednesday 11th March, Kit Malthouse (Con) answered a question from Alicia Kearns (Lab) on what recent assessment the Department has made of the potential merits of prioritising police resources on tackling organised crime in rural areas. He stated that it is the responsibility of Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables to ensure that the police priorities reflect those of their communities and that resources are deployed accordingly.
Also on Wednesday, Rebecca Pow (Con) answered a question from Jackie Doyle-Price (Con) on what assessment the Government has made of the potential effect the proposed ban on burning coal in domestic settings on fuel poverty. Pow said the Government want to see a move from bituminous coal to less polluting fuels in the domestic setting. They will facilitate this transition by only allowing the sale of smokeless coal (or anthracite) and low sulphur manufactured solid fuels for the purpose of domestic combustion.
Rachel Maclean (Con) answered a question from Derek Thomas (Con) on what steps the Government is taking to increase access to charging points for electric vehicles in rural areas. Maclean said the Government will invest an additional £1 billion in charging infrastructure, ensuring that everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid charging station. Maclean said that the Government is already investing nearly £1.5 billion between April 2015 and March 2021 to support the transition to zero emission motoring and have put in place a range of grant schemes to support the installation of charging infrastructure that are available in any urban or rural areas across the UK.
Jeremy Hunt (Con) asked what assessment the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made of the implications of the recommendation that NHS England should consider extending the review of requirements to sustain safe provision to other services working in remote and rural environments. On Wednesday, Helen Whately (Con) answered that in the 2016/17 clinical commissioning group allocations, NHS England made a change to the allocation funding formulae for remoteness. In part, this funding recognises that services in remote areas, including maternity services, have unavoidably higher costs because the level of activity is too low for services to operate. Furthermore the Government knows that the challenges faced by services in remote areas are broader than funding which is why it committed in the NHS Long Term Plan to develop new operating models for rural hospitals, as well as to reduce geographical and specialty imbalances in medical posts. As part of this, NHS England and NHS Improvement is working with 35 smaller acute hospitals and local systems leaders to identify and accelerate the spread of new delivery models through peer learning and in partnership with national stakeholders, including the Care Quality Commission and Royal Colleges.
On Thursday 12th March, during the Business Statement, Andrew Jones MP (Con) asked for a debate about changes to cash access and cash use.
On Friday 13th March, during a reading of the British Library Board (Power to Borrow) Bill in the Commons, Kevin Hollinrake (Con) argued for devolution right across Yorkshire, Leeds and Bradford, but also York and North Yorkshire - and welcomed the Bill and the Government’s agenda to level up through the distribution of jobs and facilities throughout the UK.
The session will examine the effectiveness of current devolution deals in England, including the role of elected mayors and the quality of scrutiny and the impact they have in their regions. It will also look at broader issues of how devolution deals can be designed to boost cities, towns and rural areas, and whether the current practice of bespoke deals is enabling change at the right rate.
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