There was some confusion at the start of this week, as the Prime Minister announced changes to lockdown that only apply in England. Here in Wales, we are still only to leave our homes for exercise twice daily (a slight change from once daily) and be within walking distance of our homes, to go shopping for essentials, or for medical reasons. The changes in England mean that unfortunately policy now differs between England and Wales. It is inevitable there will be some confusion with the four home nations now following slightly different paths, but, as always, the Welsh Government has taken a decision in the best interests of the people in Wales, and we must continue to follow the social distancing guidelines to support the Welsh NHS and to protect our communities. I’ve received a number of questions from constituents about what they can and can’t do during the lockdown: Do I have to go to work if my employer says so? Can I still do my important voluntary work? Am I allowed to go fishing? The answers to these questions and more can be found on the Welsh Government coronavirus regulations guidance page here.
We did, however, have some welcome news from the Chancellor with the announcement that the furlough scheme has been extended by four months. This will mean that workers will continue to receive 80% of their wages up to £2,500 from the UK Government until the end of October should they be unable to return to work. This may change in August if more workers are able to return to work, but in Wales, this will remain dependent on the rate of transmission on the virus and whether the Welsh Government believes that it is safe to lift lockdown restrictions.
Last Friday First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that libraries and household waste recycling centres will be allowed to reopen, but that it would be up to the local authorities how and when this would happen. All the councils have agreed that they would only be reopened when an appropriate number of staff were available to operate the facilities and when sites could show that they could comply with strict health and safety requirements including sanitisation, social distancing, and implications for traffic management. I’ve had countless emails from constituents who would like to see the recycling centres opened in particular, and Neath Port Talbot Council have said that while the sites remain closed currently, they hope to reopen the sites as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, I’m pleased to confirm that bulky waste collections are resuming across the county, and you can find more information and book a collection online.
Plans have recently been released by Neath Port Talbot Council for a proposed new leisure centre complex, which will include a swimming pool, gym, and a café on the former Wilko and Tesco site in the town centre. The site will also include commercial units and space for a public library. The plans to regenerate the town centre will provide a fantastic place for young people to get involved in sport and fitness and could be a great addition to our town centre. We want people to be proud of Neath and for it to be a great place to live and spend time in, and I think a new leisure centre is a fantastic place to start.
This has been an incredibly strange and worrying time for us all, but I do particularly feel for young people, especially those who do not fully understand what is happening and why we have to stay indoors so much now that the weather is so lovely! For those who should have been taking exams, this must be an incredibly frustrating time as, although perhaps not the most enjoyable experience, we do recognise the importance of exams in our own development and for our future goals. The Welsh Government, Children’s Commissioner in Wales, Children in Wales, and the Youth Parliament for Wales want to know from young people how the lockdown has affected them and how they are feeling at this peculiar time. Their survey is open to anyone aged between 7 and 18 and should take around 10-15 minutes to fill in. There are no right or wrong answers and no one has to answer any question if they don’t want to. If you’d like to have your say, take part in the survey here.
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch, please do not hesitate to drop us an email on email@example.com or call us on 01639 630152. My staff are working from home to comply with the social distancing measures, but, as always, we remain there should you need to get in contact with us.
I hope you stay well, enjoy the weekend and, remember – stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.