This week’s announcement on Lifetime Learning by the Government is one of the best during my time as an MP in my opinion. Better access to skills and vocational training for adults has been something I have been campaigning for since before I became an MP and a great deal since as I think it is has so much potential to boost the economy of the South West and open up so many opportunities. It was also excellent that the Prime Minister chose the West Country to make the announcement, although obviously Yeovil College would have been a far better choice than Exeter.
As part of the Build Back Better plan, the Government will provide adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification the chance to take up a fully-funded college course. Loans for higher education will also become more flexible to allow for more options throughout life. Both measures will allow people to gain new skills, progress in their careers and retrain should they want to.
I would have loved this announcement to have come in better circumstances. However, we need a creative response to the damage caused by the pandemic and this is a really proactive step. I am looking forward to working through the detail with local stakeholders to see how we can best roll out these opportunities here in Somerset. With our heritage in skilled manufacturing in particular there will be some very exciting partnerships possible.
There has been a lot of coverage this week about MPs resisting Government renewing laws on Coronavirus restrictions. Lots of people have got in touch about this with the majority calling for the mandate to impose restrictions being reduced. It is certainly true that there is some tension between the public health response and the needs of the economy. I have been one of the MPs calling for a greater say in future measures because Somerset has a very low rate of confirmed cases but we are affected a huge amount economically because of our great tourism and hospitality industries. We need a focussed regional approach to avoid unnecessary economic and social harm in areas like ours.
I am continuing to press hard for sport clubs and in particular Yeovil Town FC to be allowed to have small home crowds. The Government is starting to listen in regard to the position of clubs like ours and we are hopeful for the announcement of a support package soon but again I would like to see areas with low rates of transmission treated differently to where there is clearly a much greater risk and I would love to see our fans back in the ground.
We can all help get life back to normal by downloading the NHS track and trace app which will greatly help in identifying areas where there is an outbreak. I successfully campaigned for tighter data security and peer to peer privacy by design within the app and people can use it with confidence their privacy is secure. As always, if you would like to get in touch please do email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01935314321.