Written question – Access to cash [25/01/2021]

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what the Government’s timeframe is for bringing forward legislative proposals on protecting access to cash; and whether he has made an assessment of how those potential proposals are planned to interrelate with the existing work of the FCA, his Department and industry to protect access to cash. (140177)

Tabled on: 19 January 2021

Answer:
John Glen:

The Government recognises that cash remains important to millions of people across the UK and has committed to protecting access to cash for those that need it. The Government published a Call for Evidence on 15 October 2020 seeking views on the key considerations associated with cash access, including deposit and withdrawal facilities, cash acceptance, and regulatory oversight of the cash system. The Call for Evidence closed on the 25 November 2020. The Government is considering responses and will set out next steps in due course.

The FCA and PSR have also been leading a programme of work with industry, including engaging with consumer groups, to reach agreement on sustainable long-term solutions for cash access. HM Treasury has been closely involved in this work; the findings from which are being used to inform the Government’s approach on cash.

The answer was submitted on 25 Jan 2021 at 15:55.

Blind faith will get you killed but learned trust can save us all

I spent three hours today at my select committee listening to evidence from experts in human behaviour and data distribution. It was fascinating. It’s one of the privileges of my job to be able to take time to ponder and be guided by experts. Based on what they said this is my take on where we are now regarding lockdown.  

As we have progressed through the coronavirus pandemic, I think it’s fair to say that we have all learned a great deal. Mistakes have been made by governments, media and individuals too. At times the challenge ahead has been daunting and the lack of an obvious successful outcome is dispiriting.  

I was of the opinion that behavioural fatigue would result in more people breaking the rules. And that more people would simply ignore the guidelines but I was wrong. Non-compliance is not increasing. Many of the people that never complied are still not complying but the good news is they are not a growing cohort. The misconception stems from the media and flaws in human nature. When the report ‘one hundred people attended a house party’ that’s a memorable event that sticks in our mind. We don’t consider the millions of people that are not attending house parties. It’s the most memorable that forms our opinion, not the most frequent. And as humans we do tend to over estimate bad behaviour and forget it’s a tiny majority. 

At daily briefings we are given the statistics, including infections and deaths and they are crucial in determining where we are and what must be done. But decisions will have been made to determine how detailed that information is. Importantly, the more detailed numbers must be available if we are to retain trust but data overload will turn people away and make them risk averse. Trying to communicate risk is complicated and we need more than just statistics we need the stories of compliance too because they underpin our own sacrifice and reassure us that we are not alone. Lockdown is tough but it’s one of the most popular policies of the last 30 years. And it will remain that way while people understand the need. We must trust our fellow citizens. The public are the solution, not the problem.  

Greenock Telegraph 15th January 2021

One of the most often repeated football related sayings is ‘taking one game at a time’. It’s used when teams are doing particularly well or particularly badly. Their focus needs to be on the next challenge, they can’t get ahead of themselves or they will fall at the next hurdle. But by taking each game as it comes, they hope to cope with it as best they can and either win the league or avoid relegation. And here we all are in 2021 and COVID-19 has locked us down again. We are reduced to living in the here and now with very limited ability to plan anything long term. The distraction of looking forward towards possible summer holidays or even just longer warmer days has been denied to us because our focus has to be on today.

Almost one year since the seriousness of the pandemic was first becoming clear we are still required to work at the very basics of washing our hands, wearing a mask, socially distancing and isolating. The vaccine will help but in itself it is not a magic wand. We still don’t know if the vaccines that have been approved, are neutralising or sterilising (killing the virus in the Nasopharynx) and unless it’s the latter then people who have been vaccinated can still carry and spread the virus. Lockdowns are hard and speaking as someone who lives alone, I understand the added pressures of isolation and the detriment to mental health of loneliness. In a study carried out last year it was clear that long life and good health is greatly increased by social contact and that’s exactly what we can’t have right now. But the alternative to obeying the guidelines is unthinkable. From the very beginning I have preached individual responsibility and that hasn’t changed. Tough as it is, we all need to double down and accept that. But we need business owners and employers to act in a responsible fashion too. Stretching the laws or seeking to exploit loopholes is criminal and ultimately counterproductive. Any action that increases the likelihood of spreading this virus also increases the chances of people dying. No employer has the right to put their employees or the public at risk. While individuals are responsible, a cooperative community mindset must also be to the fore if we are to overcome this pandemic and at the same time retain our physical and mental health. 

Discretionary Fund

Background

  1. Inverclyde Council’sCOVID-19 Discretionary Fund is to provide financial support to Inverclyde businesses who have less than 50 employees and have been unable to secure any COVID-19 business grant support to date, or where they have had COVID-19 business grant support they can demonstrate that this has not been sufficient to keep them in a viable trading position.
  • Businesses can only apply once and to the Local Authority area in which their business operates.
  • Applicants will need to provide their last full years accredited accounts.
  • The Discretionary Fund is open to eligible businesses regardless of the rateable value of their business premises, and to eligible businesses who do not operate from fixed premises.
  • The Discretionary Fund is open to eligible businesses regardless of trading status, and is therefore open to businesses trading as Limited companies.
  • Grant support will not be provided if the business/individual are found to have breached any COVID-19 regulations.
  • Eligible Inverclyde businesses can apply to Inverclyde Council for a one-off grant payment of up to £10,000 for those who have not been able to secure any other COVID-19 business grant support to date, or up to £2,500 for those who have had other COVID-19 business grant support (this element of the fund will only be paid in exceptional circumstances).
  • The grant payment will normally be paid into a Business bank account.
  • Approval of a grant via the Discretionary Fund is at the sole discretion of Inverclyde Council.
  1. Where an application is unsuccessful, there would be a right of Appeal to the Council’s Head of Regeneration & Planning.

Eligibility

Only one grant is payable to a business who meets ALL of the eligibility requirements detailed below.  To be eligible for this Fund the business must:

  1. Operate within Inverclyde.
  • Employ less than 50 employees.
  • Provide their last full years accredited accounts.
  • Have not received any other COVID-19 business grant support, OR if COVID-19 business grant support has been received it has been insufficient to maintain a viable trading position.
  • Have lost business due to Coronavirus and be experiencing financial hardship as a result.
  • Confirm they have taken steps to limit business expenditure and costs.
  • Have not been found to have breached any COVID-19 regulations.

How To Apply

Applications must be made on Inverclyde Council’s COVID-19 Discretionary Fund application form, found here: https://www.inverclyde.gov.uk/covid-19/business-support

The following supporting documentation MUST be e-mailed along with the completed application form.  Failure to do so will hinder the progress of the application:-

  1. Last full year’s accredited accounts.
  • Copy of a business bank statement (dated within the last 3 months) for the account you have given details of in the application form. The Statement must clearly show the Name of the Account Holder, the Account Number and Sort Code.
  • Evidence of active trading up to 30/3.20.  Evidence can be in the form of:
  • A supplier or reseller trade account (active).
  • Valid business insurance.
  • HMRC Unique Taxpayer Reference (if registered).  If not yet registered, copy of correspondence/other details showing registration is being sought/or provide further details to explain position.
  • VAT Registration Number.
  • Marketing materials, eg business website, active social media – provide web links.
  • Other evidence of business activity (eg correspondence with customers or suppliers).

Where To Send The Application Form & Supporting Documentation

Applications must be emailed by the applicant, along with all supporting documents, to employabilityandskills@inverclyde.gov.uk

Application Assessment

Applications will be assessed by Council staff against all of the eligibility criteria.  If the applicant is eligible for the grant the Council will aim to make payment within 10 working days from receipt of a fully completed application.  A fully completed application includes receipt of all the additional information and supporting documentation requested by the Council.

https://www.inverclyde.gov.uk/covid-19/business-support

Letter to Greenock Telegraph [11/01/2021]

While agreeing with the premise of MC Barry’s letter in the Greenock Telegraph (6th January 2021), that ‘more resources are required to tackle drug problems’ and ‘This is a complex problem rooted in poverty’ I can’t agree with his claims that it’s entirely the fault of the current SNP government. The increase in drug related deaths, the increase in criminal prosecutions and incarceration, the increase in violent crimes related to the control of production and sale of illegal drugs can be traced back to the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. Prior to that the ‘British system’ looked upon misuse of drugs as a health-related issue. When we made it a matter for the criminal justice system we marginalised and ostracised people who are self-medicating. We drove them into the arms of criminal gangs, and they have been paying the price ever seen. This is a U.K. wide Bill that helps to fuel a worldwide problem. The Scottish Government has acknowledged that it has made mistakes and recently has taken action to address the known issues.

However, if the U.K. parliament was to decriminalise personal drug possession then the role of our law enforcement agencies would change dramatically. Early intervention would be easier and non-judgemental. Diversion to health services would become the norm. The U.K. government could change the law to legalise Drug Consumption Rooms. They could reschedule cannabis and permit the import of medical cannabis. The scandal has been ongoing for over 50 years and it won’t be changed overnight and while I acknowledge mistakes have been made in Scotland, what we need is cross party support for change, not political point scoring. At Westminster, I am Vice-chair of the All-party parliamentary group on drug policy reform and that is where progress will be made. Individuals parties will have internal pressure groups to influence their own party thinking but only by working together will we solve the problems that has been doing damage to our community for decades.

Ronnie Cowan MP

20 Crawfurd Street, Greenock

Written question – Finance [11/01/2021]

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what recent discussions he has had with stakeholders on access to cash; and which stakeholders he has met on that issue in the last six months. (130780)

Tabled on: 16 December 2020

Answer:
John Glen:

Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery.

Details of ministerial and permanent secretary meetings with external organisations on departmental business are published on a quarterly basis and are available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hmt-ministers-meetings-hospitality-gifts-and-overseas-travel

The answer was submitted on 11 Jan 2021 at 09:07.

Community Climate Asset Fund

I’m delighted to learn that a number of projects in Inverclyde have received funding from the Scottish Government, through Keep Scotland Beautiful, for addressing climate change and building a greener country.

Having worked alongside a number of the organisations who’ve received this much needed funding, I know it will bring about positive change and help towards a just transition to net-zero emissions by 2045.

I look forward to catching-up with said organisations in the future and seeing their continued progress.

https://www.keepscotlandbeautiful.org/ccaf