Petition launched to bar Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill from Headway fundraiser

James Marston meets Jo Churchill MP for Bury St Edmunds in Westminster.

James Marston meets Jo Churchill MP for Bury St Edmunds in Westminster.

Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill is facing a backlash over her “hypocritical” decision to vote for disability cuts and support a local head injury charity fundraiser.

A petition calling on Headway Suffolk to “snub” the Conservative MP was launched yesterday, after it was announced Mrs Churchill would be cycling at the 8th annual Headway cycling challenge in Ipswich.

Laura Derry, who set-up the petition, said: “It is hypocritical for Jo Churchill to be gaining positive publicity by participating in this organisation’s fundraising event for people who may be left worse off by this bill.”

The petition came after Jo Churchill, along with every other Suffolk and North Essex Conservative MP, voted for a £30 a week cut to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) for disabled people capable of minimal “work like activity”. The cut will effect new claimants only.

According to Mrs Churchill’s office she was in New York yesterday for a UN conference on women’s rights and was unable to respond to calls and emails sent by the EADT.

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Several Tory MPs across the country are also facing a backlash, with London Mayor hopeful Zac Goldsmith forced to resign as patron from disability charity Richmond AID.

Headway Suffolk’s chief executive Helen Fairweather, in a response to a letter by Ms Derry, described the vote by Mrs Churchill as “disappointing”.

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It read: “We were extremely disappointed with the decision by parliament to reduce ESA payments by £30 per week. As a charity that supports people that rely on this vital benefit in order to live independently, we know just how much harm this cut will cause some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“Headway UK, of which Headway Suffolk is an affiliate member, has published a robust statement criticising the cut to ESA. It... is firmly endorsed by Headway Suffolk.

“Headway Suffolk has a clear policy of engagement across the political spectrum. It is non-partisan organisation, not affiliated to one particular party or cause. Our role is to improve the lives of people in Suffolk living with brain injury, and support from the public and high-profile supporters helps us to achieve these aims.

“By engaging with politicians from all political parties, we can demonstrate the impact their policies have on our service users and will be asking Ms Churchill to meet with some of our service users so that they can explain to her the impact this cut will have on their lives.”

Mrs Fairweather did not comment any further on the issue before the print deadline.

Mrs Churchill’s office confirmed that the MP is looking to meet with Headway next week, but it is not known if she will talk to service users.

A lively debate on social media site StreetLife, which sparked the idea for the petition, saw many label Mrs Churchill’s support for the cuts “shameful”.

The Headway sponsored cycle ride will take place on April 23, with several people also writing directly to the charity to ask them to bar Mrs Churchill from taking part. The fundraiser starts at 9am at Headway’s Ipswich Hub at Epsilon House, on Ransomes Europark.

Mrs Churchill has previously spoken to the EADT, justifying the vote for ESA cuts on the grounds that disabled people need more help to find work.

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