The Chancellor announced the details of his financial plan this week to get the country back up and running following the lockdown. It was disappointing both in its lack of reach and lack of understanding of how hard some people in the country have been hit by this crisis. We needed a Back to Work Budget, one that ensured that jobs would be created to replace those lost and that would support retraining for those who had lost their jobs and could not find a replacement. The £1000 per employee brought back from furlough will make little difference to those industries who are still not allowed to resume work and will lead to significant levels of waste given that many businesses will have brought employees back anyway without such an incentive. The ‘one size fits all’ withdrawal of the furlough scheme is likely to cause considerable crisis in sectors like the arts that cannot yet fully reopen.
The UK Government’s ‘Meal Deal’ falls far short of what we require to get people out and spending on the high street again. Without an effective and trusted test and trace system, many people will simply avoid restaurants and pubs and many families won’t even be able to afford to pay for half a meal. The UK Government seems completely unaware of how hard some families have been hit by this crisis. They also seem to have forgotten the heroes of this pandemic – our key workers. Throughout this crisis they have been phenomenal – continuing to work and support us despite inadequate supplies of PPE and low wages and there is nothing in this statement to suggest that the UK Government will rectify this and ensure that all key workers are paid a living wage.
The First Minister has today announced further easing of lockdown measures in Wales, with a number of changes expected in the coming weeks, covering hospitality, the beauty industry, tourism and leisure. It has also been announced this week that all children in Wales will be able to return to school in September, with an additional £29 million of funding provided to recruit teaching staff and help children catch up. As things change it’s even more important that we continue to practise good hygiene and make sure we are up to date on what we can and can’t safely do. You can keep up with Welsh Government announcements on their dedicated Coronavirus page.
It’s one of the most challenging times we’ve ever faced as a country and no sector has been untouched by this pandemic. Sport and physical activity has remained important despite clubs and community groups having to close during the lockdown. However, we now know the importance of physical activity, both for our physical health and for our mental health. There have been so many challenges from this pandemic – we heard reports that obesity could be a contributing factor to the severity of the virus and of course, the mental strain of being in lockdown away from friends and family cannot be underestimated. I’m so pleased to see that Sport Wales have launched a £4 million fund to support grassroots clubs and community groups to ensure that sport is kept alive and kicking in Wales. I cannot wait to get back on the squash court and I know that there are many children and adults across the constituency who want to get back in the pool, on the football pitch, the hockey pitch and the rugby pitch as soon as it is safe to do so. More information on the fund and how to apply can be found here.
On Thursday, Britain’s three steel unions, Community, GMB, and Unite launched a joint campaign to save the future of the steel industry in the UK. The UK Government must look to use steel in the country’s economic recovery plans in order to support the industry and all of the British steelworkers and their families who rely on the income. The UK Government has talked about the necessity to build, build, build and the British steel industry supports them in that goal; they just ask them to ensure that British steel is part of that building plan. Our steelworkers are world class and have been doing their bit throughout this crisis – they produce British steel for NHS hospital beds, and the packaging to ensure our shelves continue to be stocked with food. They are ready and willing to continue doing their bit for Britain, but they need the UK Government’s support.
There have been some concerning reports of growing anti-social behaviour in Neath town centre with South Wales Police making the town centre the subject of a dispersal order. Reports of street drinking, begging, and anti-social behaviour prompted the action from the police, which is in addition to the current Covid-19 legislation banning large groups. This behaviour is unacceptable at the best of times, but we are still not out of the woods with Covid-19 and we must do all we can to ensure that the rate of infection of the virus does not increase and that we do not put anyone at risk. I will be keeping in contact with South Wales Police on this issue.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 – keep washing your hands!