Times & Star Politics Column - 8th May 2020

With the Prime Minister expecting to unveil Britain’s exit plan from lockdown on Sunday, I want to make sure the Workington constituency is prepared- business, councils and individuals- to be able to take advantage of the ‘new normal’.
 
Many of us have had our lives disrupted over recent weeks and months. With many of my constituents home- working, children off school, holidays and events cancelled and the inability to meet face to face with friends and family.
 
On the flip side of this, there are care workers, NHS staff and key workers who have had to continue to work. This has enabled Britain to keep going and allowed many of us to continue with projects and work by providing much-needed resources to our door.
 
I, for one am very pleased that measures brought in by Government have ensured that our hospitals and GP surgeries have not been overrun to the point of collapse. The scenes from other countries have been truly horrifying. The NHS and our health workers have managed the situation remarkably well, creating a calm and resilience that has been enabled by people following Government guidelines.
 
However, we must not be complacent. The measures that Government brought in were not intended to be indefinite. True, no one knew how long they would last but there was always the intention that lockdown would be lifted. Lockdown was not the new normal- that phase is about to begin.
 
That is why when Boris Johnson outlines his plan to ease lockdown this weekend, we must adhere to our new normal as quickly as we adhered to lockdown- for the benefit of our economy and local jobs, as quickly as possible.
 
We need to take the opportunity that Government has given us. For weeks they have given financial assistance to businesses to assist them with bills, rates and staff costs. In addition those businesses that have needed them have been offered loans, either 80% or 100% backed by Government, depending on the size of the business.
 
These measures have provided businesses with an opportunity to retain staff and get access to cashflo. However the true strength of these businesses will be how they emerge from COVID- 19 lockdown. Of course this depends on the guidance that is provided from Government at the weekend. I would like to think that businesses in Workington constituency are now planning on what life after lockdown is like for them and that Furloughed staff are getting ready to return to work when the situation allows. It is important that this is a co-ordinated approach between businesses, schools and individuals and I have been making representations to Government regarding this.
 
As we have all worked together to follow Government guidelines during lockdown to ensure the NHS and Government were able to get on top of this virus, now must we work together to exit lockdown by helping each other to restart our businesses and services locally and find our new normal- living, at least in the short term, with the COVID-19 virus.