Showing posts from October, 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 authoriti


 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 t

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 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

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 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

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 deli

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

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 o

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 fre

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

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 h

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


 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,

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

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-op

Quote of the day 29th October 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.

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 War

Quote of the day 27th October 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.

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 mainta

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 Housin

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.

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-