Like almost every other Member of Parliament, I’ve returned to Westminster since I last wrote this column and for the first week at least it was strange being in Central London, walking along the busiest roads in the capital without seeing anybody, no black cabs, no tourists and just a handful of key workers, wearing masks heading to work. Jump forward three weeks and crossing roads is almost as difficult as it was before the lockdown, we’re seeing our cities and towns re-emerge, shops begin to re-open and most importantly shoppers returning to them, keen to make the most of the post-covid discounts.
Fridays and Saturdays are, for me – at least when the House isn’t sitting – are the days when I can get out across Warrington South. I’ve realised quickly that this is the best part of the job, I get to hear about the lives of people here in Warrington, the issues that matter the most to them and hopefully I can make a difference in both the casework I undertake on their behalf and by raising important causes in Parliament.
During one of my first constituency day since lockdown started – I was approached by a family who were concerned about the future of Chester Zoo… after that the emails and social media messages flooded in.
Speaking with the Zoo’s CEO it became clear that there was a real risk of the zoo being unable to continue to maintain its conservation and environmental work if Government didn’t step in. Getting Ministers to understand the issues the Zoo faced and making a positive impact on the timescale for re-opening has been a huge community effort which I’m pleased to have played a part in. It was brilliant to hear from Zoo staff, who live locally, who’ve been able to return to work, see families enjoying a day out, and hear back from the Zoo’s Trustees who can now plan with a little more certainty for the good work they continue to do.
Last Friday I spent the day in the town centre, meeting businesses who had been able to re-open. I heard shopkeepers telling me of brisk trade; again and again independent retailers talked about cautious optimism for the sector – “shop local” seems to be resonating clearly.
On Saturday afternoon I called into shops in Stockton Heath, I wanted to get a feel for the support offered by Government through the darkest of times; businesses told me of their gratitude for the schemes put in place, furlough for staff, grants made available to retail and hospitality and received from the Council in a matter of days. The Government had been responding to the greatest threat of our generation had given them the hope that they can bounce back.
Members of the public stopped me on the high street to talk about support they had - and I make it clear that the Government haven’t got everything right – but they now wanted to give back their support to the local economy, a true sense of coming together supporting our local economy.
To put this into context, over the last few months the Government has stepped in to help businesses survive here in Warrington in a way it has never done before, £34,640,000 being claimed in the form of small business grants, helping 2,735 firms across Warrington. And for those whose criteria was outside of this scheme, I was really pleased after lobbying with colleagues that some changes would be made for more organisations to apply such as sports clubs and leisure facilities who would have previously sat outside of the scope. 13,000 Warrington based jobs have been protected by the Chancellor’s Furlough scheme and Government have supported 3,100 self employed workers.
Getting our children back into School is also high up on the agenda for me and I know how frustrated some parents have been with the Council’s late decision to delay opening. This week the Education Secretary has given more guidance to schools so that every child can return in September.
I really enjoyed my visit to Cobbs Infant School last week, meeting the brilliant Head Teacher Mrs Glass and her team of teachers and assistants, they’ve worked really hard to create class bubbles so that children are as safe as possible, her number one focus has been getting children back into school so they’re learning again.
Recognising the time children have missed the Prime Minister recently announced £1bn of “catch-up” funding for children that haven’t been in school. I’ll be pushing hard to make sure that the money is allocated to our local schools so that head teachers can use it to focus on children who most need support.
As always, if my team or I can assist you in anyway please do not hesitate to contact me via email@example.com. You can also follow my regular updates on my website www.andycarter.org.uk, and on social media by visiting my Facebook page.
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