Saturday, October 31, 2020

Economic support

 

Economic support

Over the past eight months of this crisis the government has have helped millions of people to continue to provide for their families.

But now - along with many other countries around the world - Britain faces a tough winter ahead. The government has always said that we will do whatever it takes as the situation evolves.

Now, as restrictions get tougher, the government is taking steps to provide further financial support to protect jobs and businesses. These changes will provide a provide a vital safety net for people across the UK.

  • Extend Furlough for November. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – known as the furlough scheme – will be extended until the end of November to cover the new restrictions with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked.
     
  • Support businesses forced to close. Business premises which are legally forced to close will receive grants worth up to £3,000 per month in England. 
     
  • Additional support for local authorities. £1.1 billion will also be provided to Local Authorities to enable them to support businesses.

LOCKDOWN

 I have received the following briefing about the measures announced by PM Boris Johnson this evening.


"NEW NATIONAL RESTRICTIONS: STAY AT HOME; PROTECT THE NHS; AND SAVE LIVES.

The second coronavirus peak that we have seen around the world has shown us all that we are going to be dealing with the coronavirus for the long-term. 
 

That is why over the past weeks and months we have been working on a long-term, balanced approach that protects the NHS, keeps children in school, lets the economy function as much as possible, and does not require constant changes. 
 

We had hoped we could manage the situation with our regional system of alert levels, and allow as many people to live as normal a life as possible.  That’s because a national lockdown is not cost-free - not only in terms of jobs, businesses, and livelihoods, but also the impact on mental health and loneliness. 
 

This is why we have been so determined to try and avoid another national lockdown. But over the last few days the situation has significantly deteriorated.

  • This is now clearly a national problem. While the virus is more widespread in the North West, it is doubling faster in the South East, and fastest in the Midlands. on present trends hospitals in the South West would run out of current capacity by the end of November. Other regions would follow soon after.
     
  • If the NHS were to be overwhelmed, it would mean non-Covid cases turned away from hospital because there is no room left; critically important surgeries and treatments cancelled and many left without treatment. We will increase NHS capacity as much as possible but even if we doubled NHS capacity, that extra capacity would also be full within a single doubling time of the virus.
     
  • Everyone can see that the situation in the UK, and across other parts of Europe, right now is incredibly serious. Incidence rates are growing and the NHS is under increasing pressure. 

We need to take action now to protect the NHS and to reduce transmission. We must do this to curtail the exponential growth in hospitalisations and deaths.

Next steps

Next week we will therefore take action across the whole of England, because there is no alternative. These restrictions will apply nationally for four weeks up to Wednesday 2 December, and will override the current Local Alert Level restrictions.

On Monday, the Prime Minister will set out our plans to Parliament. On Wednesday, Parliament will have the opportunity to debate and vote on these measures which, if passed, will come into force on Thursday.

  • We will tell the public that they must stay at home, and may only leave home for limited reasons, including: education; work or volunteering, if it is impossible for do this from home; exercise and recreation outdoors; medical reasons, appointments and to escape injury or harm; provision of care for a child – including informal childcare – or vulnerable person. There is no exemption for staying away from home on holiday – so people cannot do so in this country or elsewhere - but people can stay away for work where necessary.
     
  • Non-essential shops, pubs, bars, restaurants, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed – but will be able to provide takeaway. Essential shops will stay open: there is no need for people to stock up.
     
  • Workplaces should stay open where people cannot work from home – for example in the construction or manufacturing sectors.
     
  • Adults living alone will still be able to form support bubbles, and children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated.
     
  • Those who are clinically vulnerable, or over the age of 70, will be advised to be especially careful to follow the rules, to minimise their contacts with others, and not to go to work if they are unable to work from home. The Government will not ask people to shield in the same way again.

But there will be some differences compared to March:

  • These are time-limited measures. On the 2 December, we will seek to ease restrictions, on a local and regional basis, according to the latest data. 
     
  • Our priority remains keeping young people in education - so formal and informal childcare, early years settings, schools, colleges and universities will all remain open. Our senior clinicians still advise that school is the best place for children to be.
     
  • We will also keep provision for non-COVID-19 healthcare needs going. We will continue to say clearly to the public that unless their clinicians tell them otherwise they should continue to use the NHS, get their scans, turn up for their appointments and pick up their treatments.

This aggressive action allows us the prospect of a better December. The alternative would be even more stringent, and longer-lasting, interventions through December and thereafter." 


Nobody can regret that this has been necessary more than I do. No one with any sense wanted another national lockdown. I hoped the regional strategy would work and it has reduced the "R" rate and slowed the rise in infections and deaths - but not enough. 

The continued rise in infections and deaths over the last two weeks show clearly that without firm action we were headed towards another wave of massive numbers of premature deaths such as no civilised society could ignore or accept making no effort to try to stop.

Matthew Parris suggested in the Times this morning a new slogan for the government - "Bear with us: it's a mess but we're doing our best."

I suspect he may have meant it ironically but they could do worse.

What happens next depends on each and every one of us. I join the Government in appealing to everyone: from the point these measures come into force on Thursday if you do not have an important reason to leave home such as those listed above - for example. to buy essential supplies, to work where it is not possible to work from home, for medical reasons - 

stay at home; protect the NHS; and save lives.




Sir Sean Connery RIP

On almost any other day the news that Sir Sean Connery has died at the age of 90 would have resulted in wall-to-wall press coverage.

A proud Scot who made his name playing an English spy, Sean Connery's repertoire was much wider than just James Bond.

Among his other credit were "The Man Who Would Be King," "The Name of the Rose," "The Untouchables," and he completely stole the show as the defecting Russian submarine captain in "The Hunt for Red October," the only film adaptation of any of Tom Clancy's thrillers which came anywhere near living up to the book.

 
He will be missed. 

Rest in Peace.

Saturday music spot: Haydn's "Insanae Et Vanae Curae"

Haydn's musical masterpiece, "Insanae at vanae curae" again seems appropriate this afternoon, not as a comment on any group of people but on the sort of year we are all having.

The words can be roughly translated into English as follows 

"A crazed and hopeless passion invades our minds, 
 Again and again madness fills our hearts and robs us of hope." 

"How can it profit you, O mortal, to seek for earthly riches but take no thought of Heaven?" 
"Yet if God is for you, all things are possible for you."

November meeting of Cumbria County Council

 Cumbria County Council will meet online at 10 am on Thursday 5th November.

The meeting will be live-streamed and the agenda plus link to watch the meeting can be found on the council website at

https://councilportal.cumbria.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=123&MId=10676&Ver=4

Most of the items on the agenda are reports. 

There is one issue which might possibly have been contentious had it proposed any change - the annual review of allowances payable to councillors - but in fact the recommendation of the independent panel is that the basic allowance paid to all county councillors, the Special responsibility allowance paid to county cabinet members and other senior councillors with specific responsibilities, and the travel allowances should not be changed. 

The only amendment proposed is to change the Dependent Carers allowance to the National Minimum Wage from April 2021 and subsequently uprate the cap on it in line with changes in the National Minimum Wage.

I would expect these recommendations to be approved unanimously - there is no justification for any increase in councillors' allowances at this time. The total cost to the taxpayer of councillors' allowances is in fact likely to drop dramatically this year because none of us are travelling from all over the county to get to council meetings as they are all now being held online. So there should be very few if any travel allowance claims.



Quote of the day 31st October 2020

(As the starships USS Enterprise under Captain Pike and Discovery under Commander Saru are about to go into battle against overwhelming odds to save all life in the galaxy) 


"Any, er, words of wisdom?"

(Ensign Tilly, played by Mary Wiseman)


"Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness;

Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness."

(Commander Saru, played by Doug Jones, quotes Sun Tzu, "The Art of War, part VI")


"Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate."

Former Terran Emperor Philippa Georgiou, played by Michelle Yeoh, finishes the line from Sun Tzu, and continues ...

"I am surprised that a Kelpian, of all beings, has studied Sun Tzu."


"I am surprised that a Terran is surprised by anything."

(Commander Saru)

Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday music spot: Christopher Tin's "The Dream of Flight" with appropriate video ...

Yellow flood warning in Cumbria and Lancashire this weekend

As Cumbria and parts of Lancashire are on a yellow weather warning from today, the Environment Agency is urging residents to be aware of flood warnings ahead of forecasts of very wet weather. 

The heaviest rainfall is expected across the hills of Cumbria and Lancashire today and over the weekend. The Environment Agency is urging people to check their flood risk and remain prepared to take action as the situation changes. The weather warning is expected to stay in place until Sunday.

Carlisle moves into Tier 2 restrictions from tomorrow

A Government update issued earlier today confirmed that Carlisle will be moved into Local Covid alert level "high" from tomorrow.

As a result of the new restrictions, the following will be in place in Carlisle:

  • You must not socialise with anybody outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place;
  • You must not socialise in a group of more than six outside, including in a garden or other spaces like beaches or parks (other than where specific exemptions apply in law);
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a Covid-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law;
  • Certain businesses are required to ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and must close between 10pm and 5am;
  • Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through;
  • Schools, colleges, universities and places of worship remain open;
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees;
  • Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors; these will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with or share a support bubble with. There are exceptions for supervised activities for under-18s, and disability sport;
  • You can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, for work or to access education, but should look to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible;
  • You must wear a face covering in those areas where this is mandated.

Of the six districts in Cumbria, the current position is:

1) Two districts - the City of Carlisle and the Borough of Barrow in Furness are in Tier 2 (High)
2) The other four districts: Allerdale, Copeland, Eden, and South Lakes - remain in Tier 1 (Medium)

Major improvements at West Cumberland Hospital and CIC under "Hospitals for the Future"

A statement was issued this week by North Cumbria Integrated care about the building works at both District General Hospitals, West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) and the Cumberland Infirmary at Carlisle (CIC) as part of the "Hospitals for the Future" programme. It can be found on the NCIC website here and reads as follows: 


"If you have visited either the Cumberland Infirmary (CIC) or West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) sites, you will notice that there is significant work taking place at the moment in addition to the building of the cancer centre in Carlisle and the demolition at WCH

A range of improvements are being undertaken with the £4m funding we have secured nationally to prepare for the winter in addition to the £8m that has been secured to replace the CT and MRI scanner at the CIC. 

  •  Our teams are doing their best to ensure there is minimum disruption across the sites and once complete, the works will ensure we are able to significantly improve the environment for delivering patient care. 
  • As part of the £4m funding we received to get hospitals ready for the winter we are undertaking: Significant upgrade for the paediatric facility within Accident & Emergency at CIC. 
  • Work on this starts this week and will utilise the space that was occupied by the site co-ordinators and discharge teams to make way for three consulting rooms, a triage area and an improved waiting area. The site co-ordinators have moved into the medical records space opposite and the discharge teams have moved to the Pillar Building at CIC. 
  • Work is also being planned to create 9 additional rooms in the A&E department. 
  • The introduction of Same Day Emergency Care at the Cumberland Infirmary which went live in August, with the building works due to complete by December. The dermatology service has been relocated to Hill Top Heights and further updates will follow 

We are making changes to some of the inpatient areas in CIC in order to increase the number of single rooms we have access to. This will help with isolating patients where this is required, while maintaining our bed capacity. This includes utilising Aspen as an inpatient area with surgical pre-admissions moving into a temporary area on the ground floor in the day surgery and endoscopy areas and displacement of some consultant and SAS doctors rooms which we are looking at options for. Work has already started in Larch C to provide an additional room that enables us to isolate patients for infection prevention and to improve the environment for patients on the ward. 

  • A refurbishment of ward 4 at WCH has taken place with a, new air conditioning unit, lighting, nurses station and medicine cupboard being fitted. This brings a much improved environment for both patients and staff. 
  • A refurbishment of ward 3 starts this week. 
  • £1.75m has been allocated to improve the flow of Urgent & Emergency Care services at WCH. This will allow for improvements for the same day emergency care facility and moving Ambulatory Care to a modular building which will accommodate treatment areas, doctor’s room and a procedure room. 


This work is all in addition to the planned work taking place to provide a new diagnostic suite on the ground floor of the Cumberland Infirmary site. A new CT scanner was recently delivered and an MRI scanner will be installed mid-November. The new facility will house the new scanners as well as an increased ultrasound capacity and is expected to be up and running in December. It is the first stage of an £8m investment which includes an upgrade to the current facilities on the first floor of the infirmary and once the work is fully complete it will mean services will no longer rely on the mobile units. It will also significantly increase capacity and provide much improved diagnostic quality which will also support patients accessing the new cancer centre on the site. 

All works are expected to be completed by spring 2021. Anna Stabler, chief nurse said: 

'This has been a significant piece of work and I know it has involved moving and disrupting many teams to facilitate this often at short notice and I’m very grateful for the support and patience with all the moves. Ultimately, this will ensure we are ready for this winter and will significantly enhance the environment and facilities available to us for delivering patient care across the Trust.'”

A further note on police numbers

The Home Secretary has announced that 5,824 more police officers have been recruited in the last year, putting us ahead of schedule of our target of 6,000 by March 2021 as the Conservatives deliver on our promise at the last election.

  • Getting more police officers on our streets is a priority for the British people, and at the last election they put their faith in us to deliver the 20,000 additional officers we promised.
  • Here in Cumbria the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall took action to start recruitment as soon as the increase in numbers was announced and as a result the first tranche of fifty new police officers are now on the beat in Cumbria, the very first new officers into action under this government initiative.
     
  • Our recruitment drive is well underway and we are on track to hit our target of 6,000 by March 2021 & 20,000 over the next 3 years. This will mean more bobbies on the beat, cutting crime and keeping our communities safer.
     
  • We are committed to keeping our streets safe and supporting our Police will always be at the heart of that commitment.

West Yorkshire

The Health Secretary has announced that West Yorkshire will move to the Very High Level from Monday, as we continue to take the necessary steps to stop the spread of the virus in communities across England, protect the NHS and save lives. Similar restrictions across Nottinghamshire, announced earlier this week, will come into force at midnight tonight.

  • Since the introduction of the “Alert Levels” system the rise in the case rate has slowed, but with the R number still above 1 and hospitalisations still rising, further action is needed. 
     
  • Cases are not evenly spread, with infection rates rising more rapidly in some areas than others, which is why a national lockdown for the whole of England would be the wrong solution but decisive action is needed now to stop the spread of the virus in the most affected areas and save lives. With infection rates in West Yorkshire amongst the highest in the country and continuing to rise rapidly, the government has agreed with local leaders a series of tough local measures which will come into effect just after midnight in the early hours of Monday 2 November. 
     
  • The briefing I have received says, quote, "We are grateful to the people of West Yorkshire and communities across the country, who continue to show real resilience, consistently working together to follow the rules and help bring down rates of infection." 

Quote of the day 30th October 2020

"The Labour Party made a commitment to zero tolerance for antisemitism. Our investigation has highlighted multiple areas where its approach and leadership to tackling antisemitism was insufficient. This is inexcusable and appeared to be a result of a lack of willingness to tackle antisemitism rather than an inability to do so. 

 "It is encouraging to see the Party’s new leadership has committed to implementing our recommendations in full. If the Party truly wants to rebuild trust with its members and the Jewish community, it must acknowledge the impact that numerous investigations and years of failure to tackle antisemitism has had on Jewish people, and take swift, sincere action to improve. 

 “Politicians on all sides have a responsibility to set standards for our public life and to lead the way in challenging racism in all its forms. There have been recent examples of behaviour from politicians of various parties that fall well below the standards we would expect. While freedom of expression is essential to proper political debate, politicians must recognise the power of their language to sow division. Our recommendations provide a foundation for leaders to make sure that they adhere to equality law and demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion through their words and actions.”


(Caroline Waters, Interim Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, statement accompanying the publication of the EHRC findings in their investigation into Anti-Semitism in the Labour party.)

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Thursday music spot: Philippe Jaroussky sings "Music for a while" by Henry Purcell

I don't usually have any difficulty telling a counter-tenor like Philippe Jaroussky from a mezzo-soprano like Janet Baker or Katherine Jenkins by the sound of their voice alone.

Mr Jaroussky is an exception to the rule. But he has a lovely voice. 

Here he sings Purcell's delightful aria, "Music for a while shall all your cares beguile" 

The lyrics come from Oedipus: 

Music for a while,
Shall all your cares beguile.

Wond'ring how your pains were eas'd,
And disdaining to be pleas'd,
Till Alecto free the dead,
From their eternal bands,
Till the snakes drop from her head,
And the whip from out her hands.

Music for a while,
Shall all your cares beguile.



Corbyn suspended as Starmer says Anti-semitism report is "day of shame" for Labour

There are lessons for all the political parties, not just Labour, in the devastating report of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into Anti-Semitism in the Labour party, released today, which found that, quote, 

"the Labour Party has committed unlawful acts

in breach of the Equalities act which the party itself put onto the statute book.

The Labour Party is now legally obliged under the terms of its own legislation to draft an action plan to tackle the findings of unlawful actions made by the EHRC, which should be based on their recommendations.

Once the action plan is agreed, The EHRC will continue to monitor it and, if Labour fails to live up to its commitments in the legally binding action plan, may take enforcement action.

The Interim chair of the EHRC described the failure to tackle anti-Semitism as "inexcusable."

The EHRC says that, quote, 

"The investigation has identified serious failings in the Labour Party leadership in addressing antisemitism and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints. 

The Party is responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act (2010) relating to: 

  • political interference in antisemitism complaints 
  • failure to provide adequate training to those handling antisemitism complaints 
  • harassment 

The equality body’s analysis points to a culture within the Party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it."   

The EHRC also found two individuals - one of them former Mayor of London and Labour NEC member Ken Livingston (relating to conduct prior to his resignation from the Labour party) and the other a Labour councillor in Rossendale, to have displayed anti-Semitic conduct while acting as agents for the Labour party to a degree amounting to "unlawful harassment," and added that, quote,

"These cases were only the tip of the iceberg."

You can read the full report here.

I want to stress that nothing that I have written above is "Tory Propaganda." 

While I often publish material on this blog supplied to me by Conservative HQ and I make no apology whatsoever for doing so, not one word of this post comes from that source.

Every quote, every fact above comes from the website of the official Equalities regulatory body set up under legislation passed by a Labour government. The Labour party themselves set the standards and set up the mechanisms under which they have been judged and found wanting.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Labour has also today suspended its immediate past leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and removed the whip from him, for responding to the EHRC report by saying

“One anti-Semite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media."

The present Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, called the report a "day of shame" for Labour, said that he was "Truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused" and promised to implement all the recommendation of the report in full.

Asked about Jeremy Corbyn's response to the report, Keir Starmer replied

“I’ll look carefully at what Jeremy Corbyn has said in full. 

“But I’ve said a moment ago, and I’ll say it again: those who deny there is a problem are part of the problem. Those who pretend it is exaggerated or factional are part of the problem.”

I wrote at the beginning of this post that the EHRC report has lessons for all political parties, not just Labour. 

As I said in the speech which I successfully proposed that Cumbria County Council should adopt the IHRA definition of Anti-Semitism, a non partisan speech which was able to gain unanimous support, no party is completely free from Anti-Semitism and none of us can afford to be complacent about Anti-Semitism or indeed any form of racism. And there are other forms of racism including prejudice against Muslims about which we should all also be concerned, and the same applies.

I hope that ALL the UK's political parties will take a hard look at both their own current practices and the recommendations made today to the Labour party by the EHRC and seriously consider whether they too need to adopt any of them, in respect of Anti-Semitism or any other form or prejudice.

Swimathon 2020

I finally managed to complete the first half of Swimathon 2020, after a six month delay caused by COVID-19.

Swimathon is the world's largest swimming charity fundraising event. the original expectation was that between 27th and 29th March, I would have been one of more than 21,000 swimmers who head down to their local pool, or one of more than 600 swimming pools around the UK which are taking part, to raise money for two incredibly important charities.

Sadly because of the pandemic and the first lockdown the original series of events had to be postponed. Swimathon 2020 was eventually reconfigured as a Virtual even which each participant making their own arrangements.

Because of current COVID-19 safety rules I was not able to do the whole swim in one session so I booked two, one for first thing this morning and one for Saturday, both at Copeland Pool in Hensingham, Whitehaven. I set myself a target to swim 100 lengths in an hour on both occasions, and managed to complete the first hundred lengths first thing this morning.

I have taken part in the Swimathon every year since 1994 to help a wide variety of important causes, but there is none more important than helping people living with cancer.

Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading cancer charity is dedicated to saving lives through funding research to help prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Cancer Research UK are the only charity fighting over 200 cancer types but don't receive any government funding for their work, so their progress is all thanks to the support of people like you.

Marie Curie provides expert care, guidance and support for people living with any terminal illness, and their families. Around 2,100 Marie Curie Nurses work day and night, in people’s homes all over the UK, providing hands-on care to people when they need it most.

Together those who take part in and support events like Swimathon 2020 can make a difference.

Please sponsor me or other participants to help find more effective cures for cancer and to help people who are living with the condition.

My Swimathon 2020 fundraising page is here and is still open.

Thank you again to everyone who has sponsored me for past Swimathon events (and those who had already sponsored be before the pandemic) and thank you in advance to everyone who sponsors me or other participants this year and in the future.

Police numbers: keeping our promise to recruit 20,000 more police officers

 

  • Today the government has announced that nearly 6,000 extra officers have been recruited across England and Wales since the launch of our major police recruitment drive one year ago.
     
  • This confirms that we remain fully on track to deliver on our manifesto commitment to recruit 20,000 more police officers by 2023, and are ahead of schedule to have the first 6,000 in place by March 2021.
     
  • Getting more police onto our streets is one of the people’s priorities – and even in the face of unprecedented challenges, this People’s Government is continuing to deliver on our promise to keep the British people safe.


The Conservative government is giving our police the powers and resources they need to keep us safe by:

  • Recruiting 20,000 new police officers, keeping our streets safe. Recruitment is well underway to recruit 20,000 extra officers by 2023, with a new national campaign underway backed by £750 million to hire an initial 6,000 officers by March 2021. 5,824 officers are already in place, and over 100,000 people have applied to join the police so far.
     
  • Boosting police funding by £1.1 billion this year, ensuring our officers have everything need to keep us safe. This is the biggest funding increase for the police in a decade, and includes £150 million to fight organised crime and online child abuse, £39 million to tackle serious violence including county lines drug dealing, and £90 million for counter-terrorism policing.
     
  • Increasing police pay by 2.5 per cent this year, ensuring policing remains an attractive career for everyone. This is the second consecutive year that police pay has risen by 2.5 per cent, which is equivalent to a constable receiving an extra £1,100. This is the largest pay increase for forces since 2010.
     
  • Enshrining a new police covenant into law, enhancing support and protection for our frontline police officers. The initial focus of the covenant will be on physical protection, health and wellbeing, as well as support for families. It will also create a statutory duty for the Government to do more to support the police, both those currently serving and retired.
     
  • Toughening up sentences for assaulting emergency workers, recognising the debt of gratitude the public feels towards them. In line with our manifesto commitment, we are bringing forward legislation to double the maximum sentence for those convicted of assaults on frontline staff including police officers, firefighters and paramedics.
     
  • Equipping over 8,000 more officers with Taser devices, ensuring they have the resources they need to keep themselves safe. We have delivered £6.7 million for 41 forces to purchase 8,155 Taser devices, and allocated £150,000 to train up Taser instructors. We have also approved a new Taser 7 model for use, which is more accurate, faster and compact.
     
  • Introducing personalised stop and search powers, helping officers to target persistent offenders. SVRO’s are court-imposed orders which will apply to individuals previously convicted of carrying a knife or an offensive weapon. Police will be able to stop and search those who are subject to an SVRO to check if they are carrying a knife or offensive weapon again.
     
  • Cutting crime by 9 per cent over the last year, delivering on our promise to the British people to keep them safe. Between March 2019 and March 2020 – before the coronavirus period – crime levels fell by 9 per cent. This includes a significant 12 per cent fall in theft, and a 13 per cent fall in criminal damage.
     
  • Successfully dismantling serious crime groups through the UK’s biggest ever law enforcement action, Operation Venetic. In July, the National Crime Agency carried out Operation Venetic, which led to 746 arrests, as well as the seizure of £54 million of criminal cash, 77 firearms and over two tonnes of drugs. This operation shows our commitment to working closely with the NCA, and giving them the resources, powers and tools they need to keep our country safe.

Nottinghamshire

 I have received the following briefing this morning about Nottinghamshire:

"Yesterday the Health Secretary announced that Nottinghamshire will move to the Very High Level from Friday, as we continue to take the necessary steps to stop the spread of the virus in communities across England, protect the NHS and save lives.

  • With infection rates amongst the highest in the country and continuing to rise rapidly, we have agreed with local leaders in Nottinghamshire a series of tough local measures, which will come into effect from 0001 on Friday 30 October. 
     
  • The rate of COVID-19 infections is rising rapidly across the UK. The weekly case rate in England stood at 201 people per 100,000 from 15 October to 21 October, up from 100 people per 100,000 for the week 25 September to 1 October. 
     
  • We never take these decision lightly  as we understand how difficult life is for communities living under these restrictions, and the impact that they have on families and businesses in the county, which is why we have worked together to agree an extensive package of support to help local people and businesses through the ongoing challenges this pandemic brings. 
     
  • We want to thank local leaders for their continued support and extend our gratitude to the people of Nottinghamshire, and communities across the country, who continue to show real resilience, consistently working together to follow the rules and help bring down rates of infection."

Building new homes to fix Britain's rough sleeper problem

Today the Housing Secretary has announced the investment of over £150 million to provide more than 3,000 new homes for rough sleepers across England, as we deliver on our commitment to end rough sleeping by the end of this Parliament and build Britain back better

  • The "Everyone In" Plan to get rough sleepers off the streets at the start of the pandemic has helped support over 29,000 vulnerable people, and Conservatives want to sustain that progress. 
     
  • That is why the Conservative government is committing more than £150 million to deliver 3,300 new long-term homes across England for the end of March 2021 for rough sleepers. This is part of our £433 million investment to deliver 6,000 new homes for rough sleepers by 2024.
     
  • This funding also sits alongside the £91.5 million we are providing councils to support vulnerable people and provide short term accommodation over the coming months, as well as our £10 million Cold Weather Fund to help councils to keep rough sleepers safe this winter.
     
  • As we build Britain back better, Conservatives are determined to ensure some of the most vulnerable in our society have the stability and security a longer term home can provide as they start to rebuild their lives.

Government to invest £12.7 million on improving the A595 at Grizebeck

Residents and businesses in West Cumbria will benefit as the government announced this week that £12.7 million is to be spent improving one of the worst bottlenecks on the A595.


  • Under plans drawn up by Cumbria County Council, the multi-million-pound investment will see the A595 road upgraded at Grizebeck – with a new 1km stretch built to replace the existing section at Dove Farm. 
  • The upgrades will also include the installation of a new crossing for farm vehicles and cyclists, as well as more space for those walking and cycling along the route. 
  • The new stretch of road will see the A595’s capacity and connectivity with other major link roads boosted, helping local businesses grow and supporting residents to access more work and employment opportunities. 
I have spoken or asked questions at every single full council meeting since my election to Cumbria County Council about the need to improve the A595 - specifically mentioning the need for the county council and the government to co-operate to resolve the problems at Grizebeck in some of those questions. 

I am very pleased to see that action on one of the worst stretches of the road finally confirmed. I will continue to fight for further improvements to the A595 including at the junctions at Moor Row and High House Hill and at the Pelican.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: 

"When I visited Cumbria last November, I heard about frustrations with local infrastructure, including the bottleneck at Grizebeck. I promised then that we would take action and I’m pleased today to deliver on that. 

"It joins other investment in Cumbria – including £7.5 million to help support development plans to upgrade the coastal railway between Carlisle and Sellafield, and £1 billion to dual the A66. 

"We’re committed to delivering for Cumbria and unleashing every part of the Northern Powerhouse."


Subject to final approvals, work is due to start by July 2022. The total cost of the A595 scheme is £14.9 million, with the Department for Transport’s funding of £12.7 million contribution forming the majority of the total scheme costs. 

Simon Fell, MP for Barrow and Furness, said: 

"I’m beyond delighted that this project now has the green light after years of relentless campaigning by local people and businesses. It beggars belief that the main A-road from Barrow to Sellafield is through a farmyard. Finally that situation can be righted, making the road far safer and much more reliable for locals and commuters alike, and Furness a more attractive place to do business. 

"I’m hugely grateful to the Department for Transport, Lancashire Evening Post and Cumbria County Council for backing and funding this scheme, and the A595 Action Group for keeping the pressure up over the years." 

Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: 

"Reduced journey times make businesses more efficient and productive, and create new opportunities for work, learning and leisure. 

This scheme will bypass the notorious bottleneck at Dove Farm. It will benefit commuters to BAE "Systems and Sellafield, and improve links to Millom. It’s long overdue and businesses will welcome it wholeheartedly."  

The government is also committed to investing in other transport links in Cumbria – including £7.5 million to help support development plans to upgrade the coastal railway between Carlisle and Sellafield. 

This week's announcement further underlines the government’s commitment to level up transport infrastructure across the entire country, including throughout the Northern Powerhouse. 

Alongside recent investment in roads such as the A630, the government has set up the Northern Transport Acceleration Council to work with local leaders to drive forward progress on schemes meeting the needs of their communities.

Quote of the day 29th October 2020

 




Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Protecting Britain's seas and marine wildlife

The government has announced a call for evidence to help us advance our protections of England’s seas and marine wildlife even further – safeguarding them for future generations. 

  • Now we have left the EU, we can introduce stronger measures and new powers to better manage and protect our precious marine environment. The Fisheries Bill proposes new powers to better manage and control our Marine Protected Areas.
     
  • The UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30 per cent of our waters - but we know there is more to do to allow our seas to fully recover. This call for evidence will help us better protect our most precious offshore habitats, ensuring our marine life can recover and thrive. 
     
  • Together, we can help protect these vital sites – using these new protections and our Fisheries Bill to safeguard our seas and marine wildlife for future generations.

Quote of the day 28th October 2020

 


Midweek music spot: Mozart's "Queen of the Night" area from the Magic Flute..

Tragedy in the channel

 

Our thoughts are with the loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives in the Channel yesterday.

  • We are truly saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life in French waters yesterday. Our thoughts are with their families and loved ones at this time. The Prime Minister has offered the French authorities every support as they investigate this terrible incident.
     
  • We have a proud record of providing safety to those who need it and continue to be one of the highest recipients of asylum claims from unaccompanied children across Europe. We have granted protection and other leave to more than 44,000 children seeking protection since 2010.
     
  • However, this tragic news highlights the dangers that come with crossing the Channel and we will do everything we can to stop callous criminals exploiting vulnerable people - we can’t be complicit in a system where things like this can happen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Barrow in Furness among the first towns to benefit from £3.6 billion towns fund

Today the first seven towns set to benefit from almost £180 million from the government's £3.6 billion Towns Fund, have been announced. 

The first seven towns include Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria; other towns in the North-West which are included in the first seven are Blackpool in Lancashire and Warrington in Cheshire. 

Here in Copeland, Millom and Cleator Moor are among 101 localities in line to benefit from the fund. 

This fund will help to level up and spread opportunity, unlocking the full potential of our towns and their communities as we build back better from coronavirus. 

  • Conservatives are committed to repaying the trust put in us at the last election. One of the first things the Prime Minister did when he came into office was to announce a £3.6 billion Towns Fund, to unleash the economic potential of 101 towns and drive future growth and prosperity. 
     
  • The government has today announced that Barrow-in-Furness, Blackpool, Darlington, Peterborough, Norwich, Torquay and Warrington are the first of 101 places, listed here, to be offered a share of the Towns Fund – and work will now begin with these areas to confirm final funding. 
  • Barrow-in-Furness has secured £25 million to pursue the Town plan aimed at developing a new learning quarter, community wellbeing hubs and improving the local cycling and walking infrastructure. It is also planned to run a housing renewal programme to address the lack of high-quality housing in the region.  
  • This marks the start of important, locally designed, regeneration projects in towns across the country that will boost skills, employment opportunities, connectivity and so much more. If your town - like Cleator Moor and Millom - is one of the 101 places, you can see further guidance here about how this works
     
  • Backed by almost £180 million of potential investment these first seven deals will give these towns the opportunity to drive economic growth and improve prospects for their communities. Similar opportunities will be provided in the remainder of a hundred towns around the country: this will help Britain to build back better from coronavirus.

Quote of the day 27th October 2020

 


Monday, October 26, 2020

Quote of the day 26th October 2020

 "Santa is a key worker"

(Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, presumably speaking in jest.)


Keeping our seas safe

Yesterday Britain's police and armed forces secured a ship in the English Channel that was subject to a suspected hijacking, safeguarding the lives of those in danger.

  • In response to a police request, the Defence Secretary and Home Secretary yesterday authorised armed forces personnel to board a ship in the English Channel that was subject to suspected hijacking.
     
  • Our armed forces successfully gained control of the ship and detained seven individuals. Police investigations will now continue.
     
  • I am sure we are all thankful for the quick and decisive action of our frontline police and armed forces who were able to bring this situation under control, guaranteeing the safety of all those on board.

Monday music spot: "We Shall Wear Midnight" by Steeleye Span

The Cultural Recovery fund

The government is boosting dozens of iconic arts venues and cultural organisations with £75 million from the Cultural Recovery Fund – protecting jobs and securing the future of Britain’s culture.

  • More than £500 million has now been allocated from our £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to nearly 2,500 cultural organisations and venues of all sizes, to help them plan for reopening and restarting performances and programmes. 
     
  • On Saturday the government awarded grants of up to £3 million to places that define culture in all corners of the country, from Shakespeare’s Globe to Sheffield’s Crucible, providing jobs, supporting the wider community and engaging the public through innovative means during the pandemic.
     
  • These places and organisations are irreplaceable parts of our heritage and what makes Britain a so strong in cultural and "soft" power.  This vital funding will secure their future and protect jobs right away.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Hospital Food

The Health Secretary is unveiling huge changes tomorrow to the food provided while people have to stay in hospitals – ensuring patients get healthy, tasty food.  

  • Our NHS hospitals need to be beacons of good health – places where staff and visitors, as well as patients, can look after their own health, setting a healthy eating example for the whole community.
     
  • That’s why tomorrow the Health Secretary will launchg the findings of our trailblazing independent hospital review, led by expert advisers. The panel has been to hospitals, found examples of excellent food and great facilities, met with clinicians and drawn up an exciting menu of ideas for the future.
     
  • And in the longer term, the government has already started a £3.7 billion hospital building programme – the biggest in a generation – with 40 new hospitals projects by 2030, which will incorporate catering facilities fit for patients, visitors and staff.
     
  • A key lesson from this pandemic is how vitally important it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is our chance to level up hospital food: improving quality, instilling the highest food safety standards and ultimately improving patients’ recoveries.

Helping the vulnerable during the pandemic

The government is giving unprecedented support to help those most in need during the pandemic – backed by £200 billion.

  • Throughout the pandemic, the government has stood behind families that need our support.
     
  • Free school meal vouchers were provided during the closure of schools – the first time any UK government has ever offered this type of support to children. But Britain is now in a different position – with over 99 per cent of state schools back open to pupils – and fully committed to supporting the children most in need with meals throughout term time. 
     
  • This has been a challenging time for everyone. That’s why we have boosted benefits, allowing low-income families to choose how they spend their money and on what, rather than government choosing for them through providing supermarket vouchers. This support includes:

    • Income support schemes that have helped more than 9.2 million people stay in employment.
       
    • Increasing Universal Credit by £1,000 per year.
       
    • Increasing Local Housing Allowance and providing £180 million for discretionary housing payments to help families with their rent.
       
    • Creating the £63 million local welfare assistance fund so councils can help those struggling to get hold of food and essentials.
       
    • Providing £16 million for food charities.
    • Here in Cumbria the most recent wave of this support include £555 thousand to Cumbria County Council to help those struggling to afford food and essential supplies.

My final "Build Bach better" post: "Komm, Jesu, komm"

No collection of Bach music would be complete without one of his superlative chorales, so here is the motet "Komm, Jesu, Komm. (Come, Jesus, come.)

Quotes of the day 25th October 2020

"Holding to account and threatening rape are two very different things."

(Marcus Rashford MBE)

The footballer had posted a statement (below) saying that posting "unacceptable abuse" against people who had different opinions about child poverty and how to address it was not the way to help hungry children. 

The above quote was his response to someone who had responded that MPs should be "held to account."

This was the very measured and reasonable statement from Marcus Rashford about this on Twitter:

































Whatever our disagreements on whether food poverty for children is best addressed via asking schools to provide free meals or through the Welfare system, surely we can agree that Marcus Rashford is right on two important points:
 
1) we need to feed hungry children 

2) personal attacks on people who have a different view on how to do it are not the best way to achieve that.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Clocks go back tonight!

British summer time ends at 2am on Sunday morning (25th October 2020) and all timekeeping devices which are not sophisticated enough to do it for themselves automatically need to be put back an hour.


I imagine there is a divide between those who would like to put the clock back to January this year and those who would like to put it back to January 2016, but I'm afraid we don't have either option!

Build Bach Better:-Concerto for three harpsichords in D minor

Supporting jobs and businesses

This week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced new measures to support jobs and businesses through the heightened COVID alert levels put in place to control the spread of the virus.

  • The government has already set out our economic package of support for businesses who are legally required to close, including the expanded Jobs Support Scheme, more generous and frequent cash grants, and more help for the self-employed. 
     
  • But the economic situation is damaging even for some businesses who can stay open. That is why the chancellor announced a package specifically for those businesses which are not forced to close, but face reduced demand due to additional social distancing restrictions:  

    • A more generous Job Support Scheme: employers contributing significantly less, the government a lot more 
       
    • Cash grants for hospitality and leisure businesses in Tier 2 – worth up to £2,100/month and backdated to August 
       
    • A doubling of our third self-employed grant from 20 per cent to 40 per cent of self-employed people’s profits 
       
  • Alongside the Winter Economy Plan, these announcements will give businesses, whether they are open or required to close, the flexibility to adjust and plan over the coming months – and comes on top of the £200 billion package of support we have committed since the beginning of the crisis.