Gradual Lifting of Restrictions

Although we are by no means out of the woods yet, it is clear from the ongoing lifting of restrictions designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus infection that we are moving gradually back towards normality. That includes the progressive re-opening of shops and other businesses on our high streets. Despite the help that has been made available to them, in grants, staff wages and rates relief, there is no doubt that these businesses desperately want and need to open again, and we should all want that too. I know how concerned many people are to retain flourishing high streets, with a good mixture of different enterprises and strong representation of smaller, independent retailers and trades. As these businesses are allowed to reopen, they need our help. Some restrictions are likely to continue, so the customer experience may not immediately be the same as it was pre-Covid, so our patience and understanding will be needed, most of all though our wisdom is needed. If you can go out safely, please visit local shops and businesses. I hope you have missed them; I know they have missed you.

Of course, for some sectors of the economy, re-opening will take longer and be more difficult. Tourism and hospitality are important parts of our local economy and they face particular challenges in trading viably while complying with an ongoing threat. It is a delicate balance. It is also tough for the creative industries, which locally and rationally provide and increasing percentage of our national wealth. For theatres for example, from the Talisman and Priory in Kenilworth to the RSC in Stratford. Social distancing at any distance is really difficult.

The next few weeks therefore will need to involve a combination of re-opening where it is safe and feasible to do it and ongoing support for organisations in sectors of the economy where, for now, it is not. That is what I have argued to Ministers and what I will continue to argue for.