I hope you will join me in commending the positive news that we now have a Covid-19 vaccine (Pfizer/BioNTech) and a comprehensive delivery plan is underway in Somerset. Heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in this achieving this tremendous step.
This doesn’t mean we can let up on controlling the virus on the ground. In this respect however, I’ve had some constituents querying the rationale for putting Somerset into Tier 2. This had been done as the overall rate remained relatively high and because the decision is also based on: case detection rate (in all age groups, but particularly amongst the over 60s, which is especially important in Somerset with its elderly demographic); pressure on the NHS; how quickly cases are rising or falling; and exceptional circumstances such as a local but contained outbreak. Both Somerset County Council and Public Health England locally, support the Tier 2 designation. I will continue to work with the Council and Ministers in Westminster ahead of the first review of the restrictions in order to help ensure we remain in the appropriate tier in future.
Meanwhile the additional funding for local authorities to make cash grants to businesses that remain open but are severely impacted by reduced demand caused by the restrictions is extremely welcome.
Without a doubt it has been a challenging year for business but despite this I was pleased to see that under new ownership, one of Wellington’s most long-standing businesses, Relyon Beds, is seeing buoyant trade. During an informative socially distanced visit I met many of the skilled staff and heard about Chairman Ian Topping’s ambitions to expand. Everyone is delighted Ian is back running the company he originally joined in the early 90’s.
All businesses are following the negotiations with the EU closely and at the time of writing the UK-EU Joint Committee have announced an agreement in principle on all issues, in particular on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Finally, do support our local traders wherever you can. I was out Christmas shopping on ‘Small Business Saturday’ recently, we have a wealth of great businesses and they need our support after this tough year.