HAYES IN THE HOUSE: Spalding area should and must be in Tier 2
Throughout this unprecedented crisis, the Government – faced by extraordinary challenges – has been forced to make difficult
decisions; seeking to safeguard the livelihoods, wellbeing and health of our people, whilst protecting the lives of the elderly and clinically vulnerable. From the outset, I have supported the Prime Minister in his determination to ‘follow the science’.
However, the number of cases per 100,000 in South Holland and South Kesteven are very considerably lower than in dozens of areas soon to be within ‘Tier Two’. So, the people of Lincolnshire are bound to conclude that administrative simplicity has supplanted rational consideration of medical data as the Government’s primary determinant of policy.
Here at home in South Holland as we moved from Tier One into national lockdown, we sacrificed much of the fraternity and fulfilment that brings solace and solidarity in difficult times. Now that we know we will emerge in Tier Three; confidence and resolve is bound to diminish. What’s just as disturbing is that reduced adherence to restrictions may also result.
Given the size of our county and the distribution of its population, most of those living in areas of South Lincolnshire – Spalding, Holbeach, Long Sutton, Sutton Bridge and numerous villages spring to mind –have very little contact with distant East Lindsay or Lincoln and little more with Boston. As far as Crowland and The Deepings are concerned, Covid hotspots are more distant still.
All this explains why I have written, along with other local representatives, to the Prime Minister, urging him to reconsider present Tiers. Instead, in large counties like Lincolnshire, restrictions should be based on district boundaries. Disproportionate and self-defeating measures must be replaced by the tailored, targeted approach necessary to control the virus. Our area should and must be in Tier Two not Tier Three – it’s as simple as that.
In more positive, national news, the Chancellor made it crystal clear in his Spending Review that, though tough decisions are inevitable, there will be no return to punitive austerity.
Spending on public services and infrastructure will increase dramatically over the short to medium term; with the core health budget growing by £6.6bn next year to assist the NHS’s recovery from Covid-induced burdens; £2bn in additional transport investment; £4bn to create more prison places and bolster the criminal justice system; £3.5bn to help those unemployed for more than a year find new work; £3bn to local councils; £2.6bn to support devolved administrations and £250m to help tackle homelessness. In addition to all this, a £4bn ‘Levelling up Fund’, alongside a UK infrastructure bank, will enable local areas to bid for funding to support local projects.
Prioritising the lowest paid workers during tough times should always be a top priority, which is why I am delighted that the minimum wage has been extended to those aged 23 and over, increasing by 2.2% to £8.91 an hour.
As we look to the future, hope is on the horizon in the form of three viable Covid-19 vaccines, all of which, when administered optimally, are effective. The Government has already procured or ordered tens of millions of vaccines from seven providers.
Whilst the task of mass vaccination will be a challenge, detailed and comprehensive plans have been compiled by the UK Vaccine Taskforce, designed to enable everyone who wants a vaccine to have received one before the middle of next year.
Living is more than existing, and people simply want to enjoy fulfilling lives once again. Though the consequences of this crisis will endure for some time, we can begin to see the first shafts of light emerging through the Coronavirus clouds.