As ever I keep in regular contact with all involved in controlling and monitoring the coronavirus situation locally, including our local authorities, Public Health Somerset and the NHS Trust to get a clear picture of what the impacts are on the ground. I have made the case to Government that local knowledge and action is invaluable in determining control measures given the granular level of detail available here about the latest situation.
I had an informative visit recently to Synlab in Taunton which is operating Covid-19 testing around the clock and has increased capacity dramatically, taking on extra staff. It demonstrates the highly professional scientific approach being dedicated to tackling the pandemic and the hugely important local contribution being made in this respect.
The Chancellor’s Job Support Scheme has been expanded to provide further support to individuals and businesses effected by localised restrictions, it will be open to businesses whose premises have been legally required to close as a direct result of Coronavirus restrictions set by one or more of the four governments of the UK and whilst fortunately locally we are not under more enhanced restrictions, this package provides reassurance should this occur. My recent zoom meeting with the Federation of Small Businesses, was a good chance to hear a wide range of views from some local businesses (all of whom welcomed the Government’s extensive support) about the current challenges they are facing. They reported a mixed picture with some businesses suffering badly but others, for example a local delivery service, thriving.
I am taking the opportunity during this Parliamentary recess to catch up locally including a virtual meeting with the Devon and Somerset Metro Rail Group on our Wellington Rail Station; I’ve received details from Western Power Distribution that the electric fast charging pilot which I was involved in securing for Taunton, is progressing; and I’ve had a lively and constructive meeting with the Taunton Environment Network. I shall also be dedicating much time this week to preparing for the return of the landmark Environment Bill to its committee stage in Parliament on November 3rd - this will set us on a trajectory for a more sustainable future in every respect and is long awaited by many.