James Wild: Time to push the economy forward
North West Norfolk MP James Wild's weekly column during the coronavirus outbreak, Friday, June 19, 2020
£100 billion. That’s a chunk of change in anyone’s book.
It is the huge amount of economic support that has been given to individuals and businesses as part of the Government’s response to Covid-19.
Nine million jobs have been supported by the Job Retention Scheme. Nearly 100,000 people across Norfolk have been furloughed with 10,400 people in North West Norfolk. 2.4 million people have had support under the Self Employment Income Support scheme including 3,600 people in North West Norfolk.
This generous support has helped firms during lockdown. Now we need to re-open our economy and move people back into work.
As part of that move, on Monday more of our retail sector opened their doors. The borough council, the Business Improvement District, and local traders have done an impressive job in putting measures in place to allow us to shop in stores safely. Supporting local businesses will be a crucial part of getting West Norfolk’s economy moving again. It felt good to be back in a bookshop after so many weeks and I encourage everyone to shop locally.
The next phase of the recovery plan is the opening up of our hospitality sector from 4 July subject to it being safe to do so. Businesses need guidance on steps they need to take for safe re-opening. That’s something I keep pressing ministers for as I understand how frustrating the lack of certainty is and the eagerness of firms and employees to get back to work and welcome customers.
It is possible to continue the phased plan to re-open the economy as the R rate is under control. After many tragic deaths, QEH has not reported any Covid-19 related mortalities this month. But it’s important we are not complacent, and that people continue to follow the social distancing guidance.
Local councils have also been at the sharp end incurring additional costs and also losing income. This week as a member of the Public Accounts Committee I raised the position of Norfolk County Council which is forecasting a £20 million shortfall on Covid-19 related costs. The Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government responded by assuring me that the need for additional funding for local government was well understood and a further package of support is being developed.
After a lull, sport is also back, behind closed doors although the games will be televised. The position on the National League and the Linnets’ promotion remains unclear, however, Norwich City are back in action tonight against Southampton. In the midst of the crisis I had forgotten that we have a FA Cup quarter final to look forward to against Manchester United. On the opposing side will be Marcus Rashford (pictured) who led a brilliant campaign, based on his upbringing, that I supported to ensure that children getting free school meals will continue to receive them during the summer holidays.
It will be strange not being in my seat at Carrow Road but I’ll be cheering on at home. I’m up for the cup.