Barn Theatre Q&A
‘How do we get the Cotswolds to build back better?’
15 March 2020
On Monday Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP for the Cotswolds hosted a live Q&A hosted by the Barn Theatre in Cirencester. The show is available to watch again on Sir Geoffrey’s Facebook page.
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Livestream 15-03-2021
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Livestream 15-03-2021Posted by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown on Monday, 15 March 2021
The talented panel of experts enthusiastically demonstrated that excellent vocational training lead by apprenticeships and T levels will help provide an innovative and energetic future work force to propel companies to recover after the pandemic. Principal Jim Grant, and Sarah Helbrow, Apprenticeship and Employer Engagement Manager at Cirencester College demonstrated the high quality opportunities available for students in the constituency.
The scale of damage to business in the Cotswolds, which is highly concentrated on the hospitality, leisure, and tourism sectors, was also discussed. Mark Henriques, CEO of Cripps & Co, amply explained the situation many business owners are experiencing and the need for clarity from Government on the roadmap. However, he was optimistic that his business would bounce back quite quickly and looks forward to hosting some 1800 weddings in the next year or so.
County Councillor, Lynden Stowe outlined how Gloucestershire County Council are fully helping businesses and people, with their £1m Restart Fund, enormous help for the adult and social care sector, and by supporting green measures such as the bid for the fusion power station and more cycle ways in the county including around Cotswolds Water Park.
Finally, Anne Marie Thurgood and Steve Collins provided an overview of the work from businesses in the Cirencester Chamber of Commerce and the range of measures agencies including Visit Gloucestershire are introducing to attract people to the Cotswolds after lockdown.
Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown commented:
“On tourism, the aim in the future is to build on the existing pull that the Cotswolds and the Forest of Dean have for tourists to put the Cotswolds Water Park well and truly on the tourist map.
“Thank you to the panel who joined me on Monday, it was an interesting discussion that highlighted the connection between a really well trained local workforce and business recovery. I have taken the points raised regarding the difficulties certain businesses are still facing with restrictions and have raised them with Government. Overall an optimistic view of recovery post Covid.”
Thank you for joining me today as I discuss with the panel how we can get the Cotswolds to ‘Build back better’ with a plan to support economic growth and the road map for re opening the country starting with the schools who went back last Monday, 8th March and running through to 21st June when the country will be out of lockdown.
I will provide a short update on some of the announcements from Westminster and then I will introduce you to our panel.
I am delighted that the Government is now in a position to start easing lockdown restrictions. Schools re-opening is good news, as is the plan for catch-up classes announced by the Government, which will be available to pupils over the summer.
The roadmap announced by the Prime Minister provides individuals and business with target dates, which will provide certainty. The roadmap is however extremely cautious. The logic of the PM’s route map is based on the data, so we should use the opportunity at each review date to see if the data shows we can unlock different sections quicker than the existing road map.
Thankfully it appears that the data is moving in the right direction, Covid cases are dropping quickly and hospitalisation rates are coming down. We should use the data to review when possible the roadmap dates and there will be an opportunity to do this.
Restrictions will be eased in four steps, at all stages, any easing of restrictions will be guided by the latest data, not dates, to assess the impact of previous steps, ensuring restrictions do not have to be re-imposed.
There will be four tests that must be passed before progress onto the remaining steps can be made: the vaccine deployment continues successfully; vaccines are reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated; infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS; and the assessment of risk is not changed by new Variants of Concern.
All of this has been made possible with the fantastic vaccination programme, with Gloucestershire leading the country. Over 24 million people have now received their first dose of the vaccine.
All 9 priority groups down to 50 year olds are on course to be vaccinated by Mid April, invitations for under 50s to come for their first vaccine will start to be sent out soon. Huge congratulations to the NHS and volunteers for all their hard work on this program, from my own experience of being vaccinated at Cirencester hospital it was efficiently and smoothly managed.
We will have the opportunity to discuss schools in more detail later with our expert panel. Being in face-to-face education is the best place for pupils and students. I am pleased that returning children and young people to face-to-face education is the first step in easing this lockdown.
New measures have been introduced, designed to minimise the spread of COVID-19. In addition to the already established rapid testing regime and regular testing of staff, twice-weekly testing of secondary school and college pupils has been introduced, initially with on-site testing and then home testing.
Additionally, all households with children of school age have access to 2 tests per person per week to use at home.
In Gloucestershire 97% of early year pupils are back at school and 80-90% of secondary school pupils. These figures will increase as the phased return continues and nationally Gloucestershire is above the national average, with very low levels of Covid-19 detected with school testing.
Ministers have committed to providing a huge programme to help recover lost learning, recognising that the disruption of this year has had a major impact on children. This will involve a further £300 million on tutoring programmes, building on last year’s £1 billion COVID-19 Catch Up fund, as well as potential plans for summer schools developed in partnership with the education sector.
The vaccine programme in Gloucestershire has been going extremely well and I play tribute to all those NHS workers and volunteers who have made it such a success. Invitations for under 50s to come for their first vaccine will start to be sent out soon.
As of 5 March, 100% of Gloucestershire’s aged 75+ population have received their 1st dose of the Covid vaccination and 92.0% of people in Cohorts 1 to 4 have been vaccinated
Testing is also going well in Gloucestershire, this week we will be celebrating reaching 1 million delivered tests.
I continue to have my fortnightly virtual health briefings with senior NHS Gloucestershire officers; these calls include my fellow Gloucestershire MP’s, and County Council officers who update us on social care homes and schools.
On track and trace, through my role as Deputy Chair of the Public Accounts Committee I have taken part in a recent enquiry into the system. Recommendations from the committee have requested the Government justify the “staggering” costs of the scheme and continued reliance on thousands of “expensive” consultants.
It is extremely important that the system is effective, as it will help prevent lockdowns or schools having to close for long periods again. Back in October I called for a more local involvement I the scheme to help improve it, which I think is still important.
I spoke last week in the Budget debate and called for extra support for small businesses in the hospitality, leisure and the tourism sectors and for the Government to accelerate the reopening of sectors such as outdoor events. The Budget was strong on enterprise, innovation, and recovery.
Some of the key announcements include:
- Restart grants of up to £18,000 to get our retail, hospitality, leisure and personal care businesses going again
- Providing local councils with £425 million discretionary funding to support other local businesses
- Business rates holiday extended for 3 months, before tapering for another 9
- Extending the VAT cut to 5 per cent for a further six months, before tapering for another six
- Continuing our stamp duty cut for another three months, before tapering for another three
- £700 million for arts, culture, and sports
Finally, I would like to thank all those who watched and participated in the annual flood meeting held on the 5 March with the help of the Barn Theatre. It was an interesting and productive meeting with plenty of positive action agreed, including a follow up meeting to be held end of October.
If you would like to sign up for regular flooding updates, please visit my website cliftonbrown.co.uk where you can sign up for the newsletter and find the minutes of the latest flood meeting. You can watch again on social media.