The next few weeks will be crucial as our roadmap to recovery is set out by the Prime Minister and followed up by the Chancellor with the Budget in March.
Next week, the Prime Minister will explain the plan to unlock the country. As you can imagine, questions about when we’ll see pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and barbers re-open are regularly dropping into my inbox. The latter is increasingly important in my case!
We must get this right. We cannot afford another lockdown and if we unlock too quickly, we could end up back in regional tiers. The vaccination programme is succeeding at speed to help make us safer and I have every hope that normality is closer than ever.
Next month, the Chancellor will deliver his Budget. It will take steps to balance the books in difficult circumstances. I recently spoke with the Chancellor and warned that many businesses in East Devon won’t survive without further support, particularly hospitality, tourism and high street shops. We must keep the cut to 5% VAT which has helped hospitality and continue to provide business rates relief to give many employers across East Devon a welcome boost as they re-open.
The government has provided a vast range of financial support to help businesses protect jobs through the crisis. Much of that money was allocated to East Devon District Council and distributed from there.
We can’t afford to stifle our local recovery by putting barriers in the way. It saddens me that despite all the economic steps taken by government, East Devon District Council are looking at hiking up the price of parking across the district, risking a hammer blow to businesses the council should continue to support.
Now is not the time to line council coffers. A local MP has no control over parking charges but I urge the current Independent administration at EDDC to scrap plans to push up the cost of parking across East Devon. We will all pay a dear price if they don’t.
This column first appeared in the Exmouth Journal on Wednesday 17th February 2021 and later in the week in the Sidmouth Herald and the Midweek Herald.