Life is returning to a degree of normality for most of us in East Devon. More of us can safely go back to work. We're welcoming tourists back and every child will return to school in September. But things are, and will be, different.
Coronavirus hasn't disappeared, but it has significantly decreased and our NHS Test and Trace system is up and running.
Last week, I visited the Nightingale Hospital in Sowton. It is a fantastic facility ready to be used in a number of circumstances. It should help provide us with the confidence to start to live our lives more fully again.
It's incredibly important we get our children back to school to continue their education and equip them with the knowledge and skills they'll benefit from now and throughout life. Time out of school is detrimental for children's development, particularly for disadvantaged children. We can't expect parents to indefinitely juggle childcare and work commitments, while desperately trying to get their child to pay attention on a class Zoom call!
We should all expect schools to operate slightly differently come September. It was great to meet the staff and pupils at St Martin's Primary School in Cranbrook recently. The staff are working incredibly hard to make sure as many children as possible are safely back in the classroom and enjoying their first-class education in a superb local school.
We should never stop learning in life and I believe the last few months highlighted some issues in our society that we should pause and reflect on.
I spoke with local students and concerned older residents in a recent virtual surgery about the issue of racism here in the UK and the US. The shocking circumstances of George Floyd's death should trouble us all. It is incumbent upon all members of society, regardless of race or role, to relegate bigotry and unequal treatment to the pages of history books.
We should celebrate the diversity we have across our communities which enriches where we live. The history of every country is dotted with events that should be celebrated and others we'd perhaps rather forget.
However, we erase our history at our peril and instead should pause, reflect and consider the way we tell our story as a nation. Only then can we heal divisions and ensure everyone living in our communities feels welcome.
We've recently seen significant announcements about jobs, skills and infrastructure investment – kickstarting vital projects that have been delayed by coronavirus. That's why the government's latest announcement of £35 million of additional funding for shovel-ready projects in Devon and Somerset is so welcome.
I'm looking forward to seeing the final plans for this cash which I'm certain will help Exeter and East Devon by creating new jobs and opportunities to boost the economy across the region.
Alongside investment to create jobs in the region and putting the right plans in place to get our children back to school, we must also make sure those who look after us, protect us and teach the next generation are recognised.
It's right that public sector workers, including doctors, teachers, and police officers will see above-inflation pay rises – for the third year in a row in many cases. I'm also glad that pay for nurses, midwives and other NHS staff will be revisited for 2021/22 once the benefits from the existing three-year pay deal come into effect. It's only right that their pay awards reflect the enormous courage and sacrifice they and many others have made.
There's a lot of work to get on with. Let's get our children back to school safely and continue to secure investment for projects that create jobs. And then, let's make sure university isn't seen as the only route to a good job.
I didn't go to university and benefited from training in the workplace, learning my craft whilst earning a salary. I have no regrets.