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Coronavirus update from Ian Murray MP

*Please note that this is not a direct copy of the news bulletin and has been edited and reformatted slightly for ease of reading by MCC Communications and Media coordinator (merchistonmedia@gmail.com). You can contact Mr Murray and his team directly at ian.murray.mp@parliament.uk.

Good Afternoon and welcome to my 6th update since the outbreak of the coronavirus. In this update I will cover some of the updated health guidance in Scotland as well as some announcements from the UK Treasury on the economic support packages. If at all possible please do not reply to this update directly but send any correspondence to ian.murray.mp@parliament.uk please. The level of correspondence I am receiving is unprecedented and my team and I are working flat out to try and respond.

Previous updates can be found here.

Let me start by reiterating my sincere thanks for all of our key workers who are keeping us healthy, safe, and giving us access to services at this time. This is also not an exhaustive report but for information. It doesn’t contain all the issues that are currently on the front pages of the newspapers or on TV. It is more for information on changes rather than a commentary, as my normal eMagazine would be, on all the issues we are currently dealing with.

Follow my Facebook and Twitter accounts for a more comprehensive view of all my work. 

Scotland Health Advice

As you will be aware, as of Friday 29th May, Scotland moved into phase one of the coronavirus response. The main changes are more outdoor activity is permitted – such as being able to sit in the park, as long as physically distanced. Meeting up with another household outdoors is also allowed, in small numbers (max 8), including in gardens, but with the 2m physical social distancing required.

More details of the precise changes can be found here.

The Government criteria for moving to phase two is when the R number (rate of transmission from person to person) is below 1 for at least 3 weeks and the number of infectious cases is starting to decline. Evidence of transmission being controlled also includes a sustained fall in supplementary measures including new infections, hospital admissions, ICU admissions, deaths of at least 3 weeks.

We have had some wonderful weather of late and it is vitally important everyone sticks to the rules. Infringements will inevitably result in more infections and more deaths and will mean we stay locked down for longer – costing jobs and livelihoods. 

I will continue to make the arguments to both the UK and Scottish Government’s that the key to easing the lockdown measures is having in place a rigorous test, track and trace system. Thus far, despite knowing of the dangers of Covid-19 for 6 months, neither government has got this in place. Indeed, the level of testing in Scotland is one of the worst in the world. The World Health Organisation has been saying since the start of this pandemic that everyone should “test, test, test”. We are simply not testing enough people. In Scotland, we should be doing upwards of 20-25,000 per day but we are averaging just 5,000 and often fewer. There are over 300,000 people that work or are in our NHS and social care settings in Scotland alone. If we want to be able to successfully tackle the virus we need the testing infrastructure to do it. On that measure both Government’s are failing. I made this point on BBC Question Time which you can watch here.

We also need much more working together across the four nations. The 4 nation approach has broken down and it must be a priority to try and get it back on track. As an example, it seems ridiculous that in England you can meet 6 people at a time from a different household whereas in Scotland it is 8. This kind of muddled messaging serves only to confuse as the below graphic highlights. There should be much more focus on a four nations approach. 

I raised this on BBC Question Time last week. You can watch more here.

I continue to get a very large amount of correspondence from those that are still falling through the cracks of Government support and we are pushing the government hard on this. I also hear that we may have some movement on the £51,000 rateable value cut off for some businesses that may help many in South Edinburgh due to the higher rateable values in the constituency.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

After pressure from opposition parties and many within the Conservative Party the Chancellor finally announced an extension to the Self-Employment Support Scheme. Those eligible will be able to claim a second and final grant capped at £6,57 in August.

I will be pressuring the Scottish Government to also use the Barnett consequentials of this decision to continue the Newly Self Employed Hardship Fund for those who have recently become self-employed and do not meet the criteria for the above scheme.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme update from HMRC

From 1 July 2020, businesses using the scheme will have the flexibility to bring previously furloughed employees back to work part time – with the government continuing to pay 80% of wages for any of their normal hours they do not work up until the end of August. This flexibility comes a month earlier than previously announced, to help people get back to work.

Employers will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return, and will be responsible for paying their wages in full while working. This means that employees can work as much or as little as the business needs, with no minimum time that they can furlough staff for.

Any working hours arrangement agreed between a business and their employee must cover at least one week and be confirmed to the employee in writing. When claiming the CJRS grant for furloughed hours, they will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week. They can choose to make claims for longer periods such as on monthly or two weekly cycles if preferred. Employers will be required to submit data on the usual hours an employee would be expected to work in a claim period and actual hours worked.

If employees are unable to return to work, or employers do not have work for them to do, they can remain on furlough and the employer can continue to claim the grant for their full hours under the existing rules.

Employer contributions

From August the government grant provided through the job retention scheme will be slowly tapered.

  •         In June and July, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 as well as employer national insurance (ER NICs) and pension contributions for the hours the employee doesn’t work. Employers will have to pay employees for the hours they work.
  •         In August, the government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500, but employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions. For the average claim, this represents 5% of the gross employment costs that they would have incurred if the employee had not been furloughed.
  •         In September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee does not work. Employers will pay ER NICs, pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500.
  •         In October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee does not work. Employers will pay ER NICs, pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500.
  •         The cap on the furlough grant will be proportional to the hours not worked.

Many smaller employers have some or all of their employer NIC bills covered by the Employment Allowance so will not be significantly impacted by that part of the tapering of the government contribution.

Around a quarter of CJRS monthly claims relate to wages that are below the threshold where employer NICs and auto enrolment contributions are due, and so no employer contribution will be required for these furloughed employees in August.

IMPORTANT DATES: 

It’s important to note that the scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June. From this point onwards, employers will only be able to furlough employees that they have furloughed for a full three-week period prior to 30 June.

This means that the final date by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time will be 10 June, for the current three-week furlough period to be completed by 30 June. Employers will have until 31 July to make any claims in respect of the period to 30 June.

Local Updates:

Recycling centres 

Recycling centres will reopen on an appointment only basis on Monday 1 June. Residents will need to book a time slot using a new online booking system on our website, which will be available from the afternoon of Thursday 28 May. The contact centre staff are continuing to focus on emergency calls so it won’t be possible to book an appointment over the phone. The  sites will  be busy and the booking system will help to minimise crowding and help staff and customers maintain physical distancing. 

Traffic management systems will be put in place at each location to help manage queues. This includes reverting to the old entrance at the  Seafield recycling centre on Fillyside Road for the first three weeks. The council will be writing to local residents who may be affected to advise them of this and the temporary local diversions and road closures which will be in place.

Traffic management signage will also be in place in streets around all sites as well as signs to ensure residents are aware that they must book an appointment to use a recycling centre.

Bulk uplifts will also resume from 1 June.

New Community Police E-mail Addresses:

In order to simplify the way Edinburgh residents can contact their Community Policing Team we have established four new mailboxes for each locality plus a dedicated mailbox for the City Centre.

The new mailboxes will be monitored by more officers and provide a clearer single point of contact for email correspondence in each area. Contact can be made with immediate effect at:

· North West Edinburgh – EdinburghCPTNorthWest@scotland.pnn.police.uk

Council Wards: 01 Almond; 03 Drum Brae/Gyle; 04 Forth; 05 Inverleith; 06 Corstorphine/Murrayfield

· North East Edinburgh – EdinburghCPTNorthEast@scotland.pnn.police.uk

Council Wards: 12 Leith Walk; 13 Leith; 14 Craigentinny/Duddingston; 17 Portobello/Craigmillar

· South West Edinburgh – EdinburghCPTSouthWest@scotland.pnn.police.uk

Council Wards: 02 Pentland Hills; 07 Sighthill/Gorgie; 08 Colinton/Fairmilehead;

09 Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart

· South East Edinburgh – EdinburghCPTSouthEast@scotland.pnn.police.uk

Council Wards: 10 Morningside; 15 Southside Newington; 16 Liberton/Gilmerton

· City Centre – EdinburghCPTCityCentre@scotland.pnn.police.uk

Council Ward: 11 City Centre

Until now there has been 17 Community Policing Team mailboxes in operation across Edinburgh’s four policing sub-divisions. This can cause confusion for those seeking to contact local officers and lead to delays in responding to queries.

More information on Council services changes can be found here

Marie Curie

Marie Curie do fantastic work providing end of life care to tens of thousands across the UK. However, Covid-19 has meant unprecedented challenges to they way they work and fund raise.

So this year Marie Curie’s annual Blooming Great Tea Party has gone virtual. Click here to see how you can get involved and set up your own tea party.

Edinburgh University Community Grants Scheme

Edinburgh University are awarding small funds to groups responding to the pandemic. If you know of any group that could benefit from awards of up to £500, please pass on the information here

Best wishes,

Ian 

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