Excellent and very welcome news announced on Boxing Day is that Yeovil is set to benefit from £9.8 million of funding to help rejuvenate the town centre. I pushed hard for the creation of the Government’s new Future High Streets Fund which is granting this and to get Yeovil’s town centre regeneration scheme to be part of it.
Even without the effects of coronavirus, the changing face of retail has been tough on town and city centres across the country including ours. Competition from the internet is a huge factor and I will keep campaigning for a tax system that is fair to all retailers. We have had such a hard time with COVID-19 and the closure of some key shops locally so there couldn’t be a better moment for this backing of the town to come.
I will of course stay in close touch with the Government and local stakeholders during this exciting process. It is just the boost the town needs to help bring forward projects like the Cattle Market and make the town centre more of a destination.
As we start the New Year, the news on coronavirus is good and bad. We have vaccines being rolled out, the first country in the world to get there and latest estimates include that everyone over the age of 50 will have been vaccinated, should they choose to be, by late spring. The UK’s own vaccine developed by Oxford University has been approved and in addition to that, our understanding of effective treatments and stocks of PPE are now much higher. However, the situation in hospitals is serious and the new variant of the virus transmits more readily. Whilst I still support local, properly and regularly reviewed restrictions, I would urge everyone to stick to the rules to support the NHS and allow the vaccine rollout and frequent rapid testing in at risk populations to have an effect.
The year has ended with a notable success as the Government and EU have agreed a deal for our future relationship. Many said it couldn’t be done, and of course there are some areas of compromise, but the deal restores proper sovereignty as well as continuing tariff and quota-free trade. A majority in Westminster might have settled for less; for our laws and regulations to be made overseas. Colleagues and I who stood firm were greatly outnumbered and at times things looked bleak. Yet we will now have control of our laws, money and borders, with trade preserved including recent Canada, Mexico and Turkey continuity agreements, making over 60 trade agreements in all, and work well advanced for further agreements across the globe. The people of this country asked for this in 2016 and the message was clearly repeated in December 2019. I am proud to have played a part but this is just the start for our country outside the EU. We have our independence and now we need to show what we can do with it.
For those of us interested in politics and in a year desperately short on laughs, seeing the Liberal Democrats voting for a hard, no-deal Brexit does raise a smile. Let’s hope for plenty more reasons to be cheerful in 2021.
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