CAROLINE ANSELL MP: The race between vaccine and virus
I know many people in Eastbourne and Willingdon were as disappointed and frustrated as I was to hear that the lockdown roadmap had been paused until July 19.
This is a blow to our hospitality and tourism sectors here in the town that were looking forward to becoming restriction free on June 21. On the plus side, our town is in the midst of a staycation boom but ‘Freedom Day’ later this month would have boosted recovery from the carnage that Covid has brought to such important industries and big employers.
It was with a heavy heart that I voted for the 28-day pause but I did so to avoid any risk of easing now only to lockdown again later and after 15 long months, to buy four more weeks in the race between the vaccine and the virus. In the meantime, I will be in touch with the Treasury to make the case for the five per cent VAT reduction to continue until the end of the year and not end in September as originally planned.
With one in four jobs in Eastbourne dependent on tourism, I have lobbied relentlessly for support to help the sector build back better from the pandemic and last week the Government unveiled a Tourism Recovery Plan which has been welcomed by leaders in town.
The plan aims to recover domestic tourism to pre-pandemic levels by 2022 and international tourism by 2023 - both at least a year faster than independent forecasts predict. New initiatives include a £10 million National Lottery Days Out scheme to support attractions and a new staycationers’ rail pass to encourage domestic breaks and make it easier and more sustainable for domestic tourists to get around the country.
The new pass will build on the success of the BritRail pass, which is sold through VisitBritain and currently gives international visitors flexible travel across the country.
Wednesday marked the fifth anniversary of the murder of Labour Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox. I still remember vividly where I was when I heard the devastating news and days later, at the House of Commons, with my work experience students from Ratton and St Catherine’s, where we saw Jo’s husband and children moor a little rowboat filled with red roses, just below where we stood. It was a beautiful and heartbreaking moment. Division and hate are the enemies of democracy and progress; her legacy has been a campaign to highlight and hold on to what we have in common and it still has my support.
People have pulled together in the pandemic and that’s something precious for us to hold on to. I’m looking forward today to meeting the Eastbourne Society, Neighbourhood Watch, local social group Just Friends and this evening, the members of Eastbourne’s Chamber of Commerce. I will also be visiting the new vaccine centre at the old Mothercare - and not only to see the set-up and thank the team! The second dose is just as important as the first and this will be mine.
Take care and keep in touch.