Since my last column the Prime Minister has published the road map out of lockdown which will see the cautious easing of restrictions over the coming months and lead us back to life as we all know it. This is in part due to the success of the vaccination rollout, alongside falling infections and hospitalisations. Good progress is being made in Warrington, with daily average cases well below 50, as opposed to over 200 per day back in January, and over 70,000 residents have now received the coronavirus vaccine. Progress is also due to the patience of members of our community who have been complying with lockdown restrictions, refraining from seeing family and friends and to the hard work of our local emergency service and care workers.
This week we took the first step on the road map, allowing schools to re-open for face to face classes for all students and children. It has always been my firm belief that getting children back into school should be the Government’s top priority and I want to thank Heads, teachers and volunteers who’ve helped to coordinate the testing procedures and also to mums and dads who’ve played their part in home schooling in the last two months. I know from my own experience that working full-time while also schooling can be challenging at times, and has added new dimension to our normal routines. I’ll be pushing hard for support to be given to students who need extra assistance to catch up in the coming weeks. The Government has announced £1 billion of funding to support children and families with this as part of the ‘catch up fund’. With assessments taking place differently this year, teachers also need support to ensure they’re able to give the right grads which reflect the level of achievements and I know schools are working to ensure this is fair for all.
The changes to restrictions over the last year have understandably left many local businesses feeling worried and anxious about their future. The unprecedented support has been a lifeline for many, but I know this road map will provide local businesses with the certainty they need to plan for the months ahead, and critically for those that have been closed to get back trading again. I welcomed many of the measures announced in the Budget last week, particularly those designed to help small businesses alongside the extension to support schemes such as furlough and SEIS.
In the coming week I’m hosting the first-round table event with businesses in Warrington South who are looking to start down the path of exporting. This is a joint event with the Department for International Trade and is designed to give insight for businesses who are ready to extend their customer base beyond the domestic market. Places are still available and can be reserved by contacting my office.
Supporting young people to move on from ‘generation rent’ to ‘generation buy’ with 5 per cent deposits and an extension of zero stamp duty was something I am particularly pleased to see included in the Chancellor’s speech. I know how hard it can be to save a deposit while paying rent and the steps being taken by the Chancellor to give future generations a chance to buy their own home are very welcome.
The North West’s is also to get its first freeport, taking full advantage of global Britain by promoting free trade and powering forward our industrial revitalisation – we know that Freeports can have a significant benefit to an area creating jobs and encourage new business start-ups. Freeports benefit from a wide package of tax reliefs, simplified customs procedures, streamlined planning processes to boost redevelopment, and government support to promote regeneration and innovation. This type of approach to business renewal will tie in well with plans to invest in new forms of energy, such as a the Hynet scheme which will benefit the wider Cheshire and Merseyside region, creating thousands of jobs and setting us on the right path to achieving net zero by 2050 by investing in hydrogen technology.
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