Coronavirus and the arts

Lambeth and Southwark are both home to world leading theatres, and British theatre is one of our most successful exports abroad. I have been contacted by many constituents working in theatre and the performing arts.

Theatres and other performance venues in England receive very little public funding, unlike in other European countries, and rely on ticket sales to stay viable. With no clear date or plan to allow theatres to reopen, many performers, designers and technicians face the threat of redundancy.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to call for immediate action to help theatres throughout the closure but little support has so far been announced.

Last week, I wrote again to urge the Minister to consider acting to ensure British theatre survives. You can see my letter here>>

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Helen speaks in debate on Covid-19 and inequalities

Yesterday marked the third annual Windrush Day, on which we celebrate the enduring contribution of the Windrush generation to life in the UK. This celebration must never be sentimental, it takes place in the context of the reality of the structural racism and injustice that BAME people still experience today. Whether the government’s failure to deliver justice and compensation for the victims of the Windrush scandal, or the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on BAME residents in the UK, Windrush Day is a celebration but it must also be a time for deep national reflection, a redoubling of our commitment to address racial inequality once and for all and an urgent call for action. I spoke last week in a debate in Parliament on the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on BAME communities.

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Update on Nour Cash and Carry

Many local residents have been involved in the campaign to save a wonderful local independent shop in Brixton, Nour Cash & Carry. I’m delighted to share that yesterday Nour Cash & Carry reached an agreement with their landlord which means they have a secure, long term future in Brixton at a level of rent they can afford.

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Helen speaks in debate on free school meals

I pay tribute to the powerful work of Marcus Rashford and other campaigners in forcing the Government to act to stop the 1.3 million children eligible for free school meals in England from going hungry over the summer holidays. It is shameful that childhood hunger is such a huge issue in the UK after ten years of austerity, made worse by coronavirus. This problem has been getting worse for many years, but the Tories have refused to act.

As we begin to rebuild our country following the coronavirus, there cannot be a return to business as usual. Our recovery strategy must reform housing and social security, address low pay and insecure work and ensure that no child has to go to bed hungry again. You can watch my speech here>>

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Statement on Southwark Metal's Windsor Grove planning application

I have been contacted by many constituents in Gipsy Hill and West Norwood about the planning application by Southwark Metals for a large metal recycling centre on Windsor Grove. I share residents’ concerns about this application and believe that Windsor Grove is an entirely unsuitable site for a large waste facility. I have written to Lambeth Council to object to the development.
 
My concerns focus on the impact this application would have on traffic and air pollution in the local area. Windsor Grove is a narrow cul-de-sac, bordering a housing estate and visited frequently throughout the day by pedestrians visiting the Royal Mail delivery office to collect post and parcels. The high number of heavy goods vehicles visiting the recycling facility throughout the day would increase risk for pedestrians and cyclists including residents of Windsor Grove Estate entering and leaving their homes.
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Black Lives Matter - Coronavirus and the deaths of Belly Mujinga and George Floyd

The Government has this week published a review into the tragically high number of covid-19 deaths within BAME communities, after much delay and with a key chapter setting out the responses to consultation missing. This review provides the devastating quantification of what many families knew already – that people from BAME backgrounds have an increased risk of death from coronavirus – twice the risk for people of Bangladeshi ethnicity and high for other Asian, Caribbean and black ethnicities too.  Statistics just add to the pain unless they are used as the basis for action.  The government must now use this report to save lives – we need a detailed plan setting out the action that will be taken to safeguard people who are at increased risk and prevent further heartbreak. Today I called on the Minister to deliver justice for Belly Mujinga and her family, who died from coronavirus after a spitting attack at Victoria station where she worked, and to ensure all BAME workers are protected from coronavirus in the workplace.  

This report is published at the same time as the horrific footage of the death of George Floyd in America has caused outrage across the globe and has resonated with many in the UK who have also suffered the multiple injustices of racism.  It is sickening that Donald Trump is inflaming this situation rather than listening to the anger and pain and making a genuine commitment to root out racism once and for all. 

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Save Nour Cash and Carry

I moved to Brixton in 1996 and I have known Nour Cash and Carry since that time.  It is a wonderful local shop providing both a wide range of fresh and staple foods at affordable prices, and a huge range of ingredients from across the world.  It is a joy and an inspiration to shop there, both in culinary terms and because Nour is an expression of the diverse communities it serves.

I was horrified to learn that Nour Cash and Carry had been served with an eviction notice by the owners of Brixton Village and Market Row, Hondo Enterprises earlier this year.  I proactively arranged to visit Nour as soon as I was able to back in February and discussed the events that had preceded the eviction notice.  I was clear then, and I am clear now that the eviction of Nour Cash and Carry is completely unacceptable and the eviction notice should be withdrawn.  This is further exacerbated by the subsequent coronavirus pandemic, which has created so many challenges for local businesses and throughout which Nour has been supporting our community with generous donations to our local Foodbank.

I have written to Hondo Enterprises on multiple occasions since February, repeatedly asking them to withdraw the eviction notice.  Hondo say that they need to move Nour Cash and Carry in order to build a new substation which can only be located in Nour’s unit.  If this is the case, Hondo must provide indisputable evidence of it and place this in the public domain.  Again, I have been clear about this and I have written to Hondo to say so.  Along with the local Coldharbour ward councillors, I have met with Hondo twice to date to represent the views of Nour Cash and Carry and the strength of feeling in our local community.

We need to save Nour Cash and Carry.  More widely, local independent businesses need more protection from government.  Just as we need reform of the private rented sector in housing, we need to find ways to strengthen the national protections and support for independent businesses which are the heart and soul of our communities.

I stand with Nour Cash and Carry in a battle they should not have to be fighting to remain in their premises. 

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Statement on Dominic Cummings and Coronavirus Lockdown

Thank you to everyone who has written to me in the past few days regarding the Prime Minister’s special adviser Dominic Cummings. I share the anger of local residents at Mr Cummings behaviour and the Government’s response.  Mr Cummings’ decision to travel from London to Durham while his wife had symptoms of coronavirus, and to then travel over 30 miles to visit Barnard Castle. This was clearly in breach of the guidance, which the vast majority of people across the country were following.

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Coronavirus update - Education

The Covid-19 pandemic has had huge impact on the normality of all of our lives, and this is especially true for children and young people. The closure of schools, whilst necessary to limit the spread of the virus, has left young people without their usual routines and created uncertainty about their education and future. I have been in regular contact with our local schools and I pay tribute to the hard work of teachers and other school staff who are continuing to support their students in these challenging circumstances. I have been working hard to raise the concerns that teachers and young people have raised with me with the Government.

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Helen challenges the Chancellor on the Coronavirus Job-Retention Scheme

I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement this week that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will be extended to October, avoiding a dangerous income cliff-edge for many people.  However, there are still far too many people who are falling through gaps in the government’s support, both in relation to the Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Self-Employed Income Support. I am continuing to raise my concerns about the schemes with the Chancellor and to call for action to ensure that anyone who is at risk of financial hardship because of the pandemic receives the support they need to get by.

Yesterday I called on the Chancellor to ensure new starters who are currently ineligible for the furlough scheme because their employer had not yet notified the Inland Revenue of their employment can prove their employment and access the furlough scheme by presenting a signed contract of employment. It isn’t acceptable that anyone is denied support because of the timing of a change of job. 

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