UPDATE: Bury MP pulls out of charity cycle ride after online petition over benefit cuts
Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill has pulled out of a charity cycle ride following a petition over her support for disability benefit cuts.
The MP signed up to take part in Headway Suffolk’s charity cycle on April 23 and news of her involvement broke as the Government was coming under fire for further planned welfare reforms.
Headway is a charity which supports people with acquired brain injuries and has nationally condemned some of the welfare reforms.
Mrs Churchill voted with the government for the £30 cut to the Employment Support Allowance payments to new claimants.
News of her participation in the cycle prompted former teacher Laura Derry, from Bury, to call on Headway to remove the ‘hypocritical’ MP from its list of participants.
The petition attracted 390 signatures and Mrs Churchill confirmed to the Bury Free Press on Friday morning that she will not be taking part in the charity cycle ride.
A statement issued by her office today (Tuesday) said: “Jo Churchill MP’s decision to take part in the charity cycle ride was made several weeks ago. Since 2006, Jo has been aware and an admirer of the fantastic work that Headway does across the country, particularly around the rehabilitation of brain injury sufferers.
“Jo’s active support of Headway Suffolk has never intended to impinge on its fund-raising events or disrupt the great work of the charity. As a result, Jo has withdrawn from the cycle ride, Headway Suffolk’s primary fundraising event, so not to detract from the charity.
“Jo has enjoyed a good working relationship with Headway and has visited the new centre, spoken to staff and service users. Her interest remains to support the outstanding work of Headway Suffolk, going forward.”
On Friday, Laura, 39, said: “I was amazed at how quickly something happened and really pleased that she’s actually listening to people now.”
Earlier last week, Laura told the Bury Free Press: “I had already taken time to write to her asking her not to vote for these cuts.
“Someone’s got to stand up and do something about this. It seems like they (the government) are just cutting to make as much as they possibly can and now people have turned round and started saying no.
“I’ve no problem with her fund-raising. The problem I had is that it appeared she was doing it mostly as a publicity stunt. If she wants to participate and raise money for charity that’s very laudable. But to publicly appear as a person who supports charity while signing her name to a bill which is going to remove money is just so hypocritical and an indefensible position.”
Helen Fairweather, chief executive of Headway, said they were ‘saddened’ that preparations for the eighth annual ride ‘risk being overshadowed by this issue’.
She said the ride raises vital income for the charity and brings together the community. She added: “Participation in the cycle ride is open to any individual or organisation with a desire to improve life after brain injury and we remain grateful to all those who have to date signed up to take part in what we’re sure will be a very positive and enjoyable event.”