Luton petition sets off for Parliament: 10,000 signatures call on government to provide crisis fund for council

A small delegation from Luton is taking a petition to Parliament signed by over 10,000 residents calling on the government to provide a crisis fund for the town.

Tuesday, 7th July 2020, 12:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th July 2020, 12:02 pm

The petition was organised by community activist Fiona Martin and it will be presented in Parliament by Luton South MP Rachel Hopkins before today’s evening session.

As it contains more than 10,000 signatures, the government has a duty to formally respond to the entreaty.

Luton Borough Council has described the "sharp, sudden and shattering" loss of commercial income from Luton Airport due to Covid-19, with a £49m shortfall in its finances this year.

(Left to right) deputy leader Cllr Sian Timoney, Fiona Martin, Luton North MP Sarah Owen, and council leader Cllr Hazel Simmons

An emergency budget is scheduled for July 14 where councillors are expected to agree to £22m cuts to frontline services and over 350 job losses.

Petition organiser Fiona Martin said she wanted to show the strength of feeling about the potential damage to Luton residents if there is no emergency fund to cover the loss of airport income.

Ms Martin, who works as a heritage officer at Luton Irish Forum, said: “We provide vital services to the most vulnerable, this is about how we can best protect and support our people.

"Today our voices will be heard, it shows if we work together we can make things happen.”

The party gathered outside the Town Hall this morning for media interviews before the journey to London. Among those present were Fiona Martin, Luton North MP Sarah Owen, and council leader Cllr Hazel Simmons and deputy leader Cllr Sian Timoney.

The group will now take the petition to London, handing the petition over to Rachel Hopkins in Parliament Square in readiness to be presented to parliament before the evening session.

Councillor Hazel Simmons said: “What we are talking about here is not simply a blow to the council’s budget, but savage cuts to frontline services.

"We have repeatedly called on the government to look at Luton as a special case given what Covid-19 has done to the airport.

"No-one could have predicted this and we are simply asking them to keep to their promise to help a local council who really needs it to get through this pandemic.

“Fiona’s petition shows that the grass roots people of Luton care deeply about this town and recognise that without this money they are the ones who will suffer.

"By travelling to London we want to place Luton’s plight within the gaze of parliamentarians, in the hope that the government will realise the desperate situation that awaits the town if they fail to act.”

To view the petition, click here.