This is my last column of 2020 and I’m sure I am not the only one glad to see the back of a year that has seen the UK become the worst affected country on our continent by COVID in terms of excess deaths and damage to our economy, writes Neil Coyle…
Some of the damage could have been avoided if measures had been taken more swiftly and I hope 2021 sees a full inquiry into our pandemic planning, the government’s response and future risk management.
I want to thank everyone in Southwark for the sacrifices made this year. Whilst our infection rate is relatively low, other parts of our capital see far larger numbers and London is by no means safe yet so please continue taking care and looking out for one another – especially older or more vulnerable family, friends and neighbours.
Whilst it is fantastic that a vaccination is now becoming available, please do not take risks. I will be having the vaccine as soon as possible and hope everyone interested in our collective safety will do the same; there is no greater action you can take than getting a vaccine as soon as it is offered.
It has felt like a real treat to get back inside a pub after the second lockdown and our local hospitality sector has taken vast strides to be safe.
When the reopening was announced, I was heartened to see local businesses receive huge numbers of reservations, with The Mayflower in Rotherhithe taking 750 bookings! This will help businesses, employees and our local economy.
After the vaccination has been rolled out, our economy will also need a shot in the arm and it is good to end the year with positive news about a campaign I’ve been pushing alongside our council for years: I had it confirmed in the House of Commons that the land has now been safeguarded to ensure the Bakerloo Line extension can be built. This should mean new jobs, homes and brilliant new transport links for Southwark, but I will keep pressing ministers for the resources to ensure construction begins on time in 2024.
Sadly, the chancellor missed an opportunity to provide a more immediate boost to our economy in the government’s spending review.
Instead of rewarding the care workers and teachers who have valiantly worked on the frontline to keep crucial services and support running throughout the COVID crisis, their pay has been cut in real terms and it seems the Tories’ pledge to ‘end austerity’ was another false promise. Taking money out of people’s pockets is no solution to the dire straits our country faces as a result of the twin damages of COVID and Brexit, with the ‘oven-ready deal’ also proving to be another Johnson fantasy.
His legacy as Prime Minister could be the worst, with our economy trashed, national security undermined and the future of the United Kingdom hanging in the balance with Johnson’s every utterance propelling support for the divisive SNP in Scotland.
There is much to be concerned about regarding our country’s current travails, but I hope this Christmas brings some peace and joy to everyone after the tumultuous 2020 we have all been through.
Merry Christmas, best wishes for 2021 and please continue to stay safe!