Angela Richardson MP pays tribute to volunteers and Guildford support networks in Commons speech
In a speech to the Commons and contribution to the COVID-19 debate (2nd November 2020), Angela Richardson MP paid tribute to the “thriving voluntary network” in her constituency.
Angela Richardson MP started her speech by saying “It has been a rather sombre debate this evening, and the subject matter is very serious, but I hope the House does not mind if I inject a bit of positivity for the next four minutes.”
Surrey coped incredibly well during the first lockdown and that is due, in no small part to volunteer networks across the County.
The resident’s network is sure the county will cope just as well during the second lockdown that begins today (5th November 2020).
Surrey is much better prepared than last time but we do think it is right that our MP’s recognise the enormous contribution volunteers play in keeping our communities safe and the lives of our vulnerable residents more tolerable.
Here is her speech in full:
Rt Hon Angela Richardson MP (Con Guildford)
It has been a rather sombre debate this evening, and the subject matter is very serious, but I hope the House does not mind if I inject a bit of positivity for the next four minutes. I will start by highlighting the enormous financial package that has supported businesses, organisations, charities, arts and culture—a package that has sustained services run by our local councils and has helped our health providers continue to care for us. In my constituency, over £92.5 million of bounce back and business interruption loans have been taken up so far. The ability to furlough staff and take advantage of the self-employed grants has been lauded by everyone I have spoken to, and I am pleased that the Chancellor has extended furlough and announced the doubling of the self-employed income support scheme today, as we look to implement national restrictions to help support our NHS and save lives.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been generous in its support for my two local councils, with funding so far of over £1.8 million for Guildford Borough Council and over £1.5 million for Waverley Borough Council. These figures sit within the generous support there has been at county level to deliver councils’ statutory services. Rough sleeping is an issue that I have been focused on locally, and the several tranches of funding to address it, including the recent £770,000 for long-term accommodation as the days get colder, are hugely welcome. The Royal Surrey County Hospital has received £500,000 to prepare for winter, and well prepared they are under the excellent direction of chief executive Louise Stead, with a new 20-bed ward specifically for a second wave of the virus and medical professionals who have learned much during the first wave that will benefit patients in this autumn wave of cases.
I could go on and on, because the support has gone on and on, but it is important to recognise the fact that we in Guildford, Cranleigh and our villages were already well prepared for the impact of lockdown earlier this year, because we had in place a thriving voluntary network. These volunteers, including Voluntary Action South West Surrey and Cranleigh’s Street Champions—put together by Liz Townsend, the chairman of Cranleigh Parish Council, with support from many who continually volunteer in Cranleigh—must be recognised. The response to my Unsung Hero campaign was heart-warming: Debbie Foster in Fairlands received over 25 nominations for mobilising volunteers, and Adrian Whitehead delivered 100 medical prescriptions a week in Fairlands from his mobility scooter.
Special recognition must be given to Nick Wyschna and his wife Charlotte, who run the Guildford Fringe, for their drive to pull together excellent online comedy shows and live performances to bring the community together in fundraising efforts for the Royal Surrey County Hospital Charity and the Wysch Foundation, which works to make arts accessible to everyone. These Facebook live events were very successful and well supported, and I see that the Guildford Fringe has already adapted quickly and moved a performance online for the end of this week. Siobhan Fox and Scott Kerr, both pilots anxiously waiting to hear what would become of their jobs, put their own worries aside to serve refreshments as volunteers at the Royal Surrey County Hospital.
During lockdown, there was fantastic and incredibly helpful cross-party engagement. We work well when we work together, and that was my experience; it is the best way to deliver quickly for residents. Hope is so important right now. There is fatigue and anxiety, and we are concerned for those we know and love, for their jobs and their mental health. We cannot ignore any of these issues and we do not. This Government and all of us in our communities are defined not by the easy times, but by the times when we have to dig into those extra pockets of reserves that we never knew we had, to keep going, and to keep fighting and not giving up. I pay tribute to the incredible energy and courage of everyone involved in tackling this pandemic, including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, all the Health Ministers, our chief medical officer, his deputies, the chief scientific advisers and those working at all levels of our NHS for the work that they have done and continue to do for us all. It truly is a national health service, which is why it is right—right now—to introduce national restrictions to ensure that all health needs can be cared for.