Above: Helen Heyns of Love Lifestyle, a home relocation and decluttering service. Her business has been impacted hugely by Coronavirus but she has received no financial support. The business is close to closing.
Millions excluded from Coronavirus support
Coronavirus has hit people hard across the country. Financial support from the Government has helped many, but the Government has unfairly excluded thousands of local people, largely self-employed and small business owners, from receiving financial support during the Pandemic. Many people have sadly lost their jobs and many small businesses are closing, in a time when things are more difficult for everyone.
The new organisation Excluded UK has estimated that 10% of the country’s workforce were unable to access meaningful support and so fell through the cracks of the system. These were often the people who needed help the most. As of the writing of this paper, the Government has still not provided any support to these hard working people. We believe that the exclusion of these people from financial support during Coronavirus is hugely damaging both to the economy and people’s lives. Supporting them would be a good start to an economic recovery after Coronavirus.
The Government and councils need to work hard to ensure that our economy recovers quickly once Coronavirus is out of the way. This country needs more jobs and support quickly for the millions of people who have suffered as a result of Coronavirus.
After bringing the County Council to the brink of bankruptcy, the Conservatives now want to introduce a single council to cover all of Somerset. This would mean each councillor represents TWICE as many residents.
The Liberal Democrats have criticised the Conservatives for firing the starting gun on local government reform during the pandemic when councils had important new work to do. In Somerset, the Councils were, until recently, collaborating on how best to reform local government structure. The Conservative County administration walked away from negotiations, and decided to push ahead and publish its business case during the Coronavirus Pandemic. The District Councils, including Conservative Sedgemoor, have rejected these plans and published their own ‘Stronger Somerset’ proposal for two councils, East and West Somerset. These proposals help to reform local government without harming democratic accountability like the Conservative plans.
Unfortunately, it looks like the Conservatives are pushing ahead with their plan in order to cover up their financial mismanagement of the County Council. In November, the County Council asked the Government to cancel the planned elections next May, if they can abolish themselves before the next set of elections, and raid the District Council coffers while they are at it, then they can distract from them running the Council finances into the ground. We believe this is the wrong action at the wrong time.
The Government was forced to make an embarrassing U-turn on Free School Meals in November this year following a huge amount of pressure from footballer Marcus Rashford, supported by the Liberal Democrats.
The Conservatives had previously refused to extend Free School Meals to cover the school holidays for the duration of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Coronavirus has had a significant impact on people’s livelihoods with many people losing jobs and burning through their savings. Free School Meals are a lifeline for many families who would otherwise struggle to afford to feed their children. The Government stubbornly refused to provide this additional support until the pressure from the country became too much and they fortunately changed their minds.
Meanwhile, after Lib Dem pressure, Somerset County Council allocated £125,000 to feed the over 8000 Somerset children eligible for Free School Meals during the October half term. However, we recently discovered that they failed to spend even a penny of that allocation. The Lib Dems called on the Conservatives to step up over the Christmas holidays and we will be checking that they followed through.
We have been lucky in Somerset to have a low number of cases throughout the pandemic, a lot of this will be thanks to hard working volunteers. The local Liberal Democrats want to say a huge thank you, to hard working NHS staff, frontline workers, and to all of the volunteers who have helped get our communities through Coronavirus.
People have been delivering food, medicine and generally helping others who have been unable to leave their homes either because they are vulnerable or have been self isolating.
The NHS and other health workers have been fantastic throughout the pandemic and it is important that we keep following the guidance to keep case numbers down during Winter. The prospect of Coronavirus cases spiking at the same time as the Winter Flu season is one that is worrying many healthcare staff who know that it could seriously increase the pressure on the NHS. Social Distancing and wearing a mask will help to slow the spread of Coronavirus and will help the NHS.
There is no doubt that thanks to the positive action of people across Somerset the spread of Coronavirus has been limited. We need to keep being safe to make sure we avoid a new wave. There has been promising news regarding vaccines for Coronavirus and we hope that these will continue to develop and become more widely available. Hopefully any vaccine will be able to prevent any future spike in cases once it has been rolled out. If you need help with anything due to Coronavirus please use the contact details we have included in this piece to get it.
Where to find information on Coronavirus
The best place for medical advice regarding Coronavirus is the NHS website, please visit: www.nhs.co.uk/Coronavirus
For local advice from the council please visit: www.southsomerset.gov.uk/Coronavirus
If you need non-medical help during Coronavirus, please call the Somerset Coronavirus helpline on the number below: 0300 790 6275
Somerset County Council have spent a further £10 million refurbishing A Block of County Hall. This move was heavily criticised as a waste of taxpayer money.
The building is unfit for a modern council and it would have been cheaper in the long term to build new premises. The Conservatives decided to push ahead and waste your money.In the new Conservative plans for a single Unitary authority, the new refurbished building would be too small to fit all the new staff meaning they will have to spend millions more.
This was a disgraceful waste of taxpayer money and shows how out of touch the Conservatives are with the council taxpayers of Somerset.