Following the announcement last night of another national lockdown, South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrats have welcomed the news, but questioned why the Government is continually waiting until too late to act.
Reacting to the Prime Minister’s announcement, Cllr Claire Young, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council’s Opposition Liberal Democrats, said:
“We welcome the Government’s realisation that they have lost control of the spread of the virus, but we cannot understand why yet again they have taken so long to act.
“The decision to switch all schools to remote learning, as the Liberal Democrats have been calling for (and the Conservatives locally mocked) is the right one, but it should have been made before any schools were forced to re-open following the holidays. Only on Sunday the Prime Minister was urging parents to send their children back to school, even as he warned that new tougher measures would be needed.
“School leaders have spent the holidays planning for mass testing and a staggered return to school – time we now know could have been better used planning high-quality distance learning for the coming term, making plans for vulnerable children and children of key workers, and putting in place necessary pastoral care. Parents have been left wondering until the last possible minute whether their children can go to school, which for many has a huge impact on whether they can work and earn money. Most importantly the students themselves have yet again been plunged into uncertainty.
“It’s not just education – the Government’s dithering and lack of planning leaves many other questions unanswered. How will businesses be supported? What will be done for “The Excluded”, those people who have fallen through the cracks of Government support so far? Where are the extra resources to support people’s mental health?
“Whilst we welcome this announcement, the Government’s delay in making it gives us little confidence that they understand the true scale of what it needs to do to get the situation under control.”
Cllr Claire Young, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council's Liberal Democrat opposition, has called for all local primary schools to temporarily move to remote learning, until at least the 18th January.
Councillor Young said:
"It is clear that the Government has failed to get on top of the spread of the new variant of the virus.
"Throughout the pandemic, the Government has dithered and delayed making necessary and inevitable decisions.
“Many parents and teachers have been calling for schools to remain closed this week since before the holidays, and yet still this Government is saying that schools outside London must reopen as normal.
"It is impossible to believe that, given what we now know about how quickly and easily the new variant of the virus spreads, transmission will be brought under control and safety of staff and students can be ensured without a temporary closure of schools.
“By refusing to make unpalatable decisions until the last minute, the Government is letting down teachers, parents and most importantly students. Without knowing whether or not schools will reopen, teachers are unable to plan how best to deliver education, parents do not know if they will be able to go to work and children are left in limbo.
"Locally and nationally the Liberal Democrats are calling on Government to act now.”
Earlier today, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and Education Spokesperson, Daisy Cooper MP, called for all primary schools in England to remain closed for the next two weeks and for the Department for Education to publish a credible plan for schools to reopen safely later in the month.
Here’s some useful information about opening times and other changes over the festive period:
South Gloucestershire Council
You can find information about the council’s Christmas and New Year opening times and service changes on their website.
The Sort It recycling centres will be closed on 25, 26 December and 1 January. They are open as normal on the 27 to 31 December. Find a tip or recycling centre.
More information on using the recycling centres during Covid-19.
Waste and recycling collection changes
From 25 December until 11 January, your normal collection days will change. You should have had a bin hanger with the details of the changes and the schedule for the next year. You can also check the changes to collection days on the council’s website.
Recycle your real Christmas tree
If you have a real Christmas tree, you can recycle it. If you have a garden waste subscription you can cut up the tree and put it in your green bin, or you can put the whole tree next to your green bin if it is under 6ft tall.
If you do not have a garden waste subscription, you can buy a garden waste sack from your local library (£2.30) and attach it to your tree with string (no plastic) and request a one-off garden waste collection. Alternatively, trees can be recycled at the recycling centres.
The Active Centres’ Christmas and New Year opening times are online.
Councillor Claire Young, Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition on South Gloucestershire Council has written to the Conservative Leader of the Council, asking for urgent clarification of the rationale behind today’s Government decision to keep South Gloucestershire in Tier 3, whilst moving Bristol and North Somerset down into Tier 2.
In an open letter to Councillor Savage, Councillor Young has asked the Leader of the Council to press the Government to urgently release the rational behind today’s decision.
Councillor Young said:
“Over the course of the pandemic the Government’s communication and messaging has been confused and confusing. More and more people are struggling to understand which rules they are meant to be following. Today’s decision, without explanation, will do nothing to bolster public confidence in the rules.
“I am asking the Leader of the Council to urgently clarify with his colleagues and friends in Central Government, why the decision has been taken to place South Gloucestershire and Bristol in separate Tiers.”Read more
Lib Dems urge Chancellor to increase support for South Gloucestershire's 6,610 Universal Credit claimants
Stephen Williams, Lib Dem candidate for West of England mayor, has condemned the Chancellor for failing to introduce a comprehensive plan to save jobs. 31,595 people in the West of England - 6,610 of whom live in South Gloucestershire - are currently on Universal Credit.
Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine criticised Rishi Sunak's "constant chop-and-change approach", urging him to put in place a proper plan to protect jobs as the Government still struggles to get a grip over rising cases of coronavirus.
The figures revealed that 5.1% of people of working age in West of England, and 3.7% of those in South Gloucestershire, are on Universal Credit.
The Liberal Democrats urged the Conservative West of England Mayor Tim Bowles to join their calls for the Chancellor to ensure that the furlough scheme remains in place until at least June 2021. The Lib Dems also want the Government to overturn their decision to ignore the 3 million individuals still locked out of any Government coronavirus support schemes.
This follows the Liberal Democrats' call for the Prime Minister to negotiate a 6 month Brexit Adjustment Period to give local businesses crucial breathing space when the transition period finishes on 31st December.
Stephen Williams, Liberal Democrat candidate for the Mayor of the West of England said:
"These unemployment figures reveal just how many people in the West have been let down by this Conservative Government. Too many families will be worrying about how they're going to put food on the table this Christmas thanks to Rishi Sunak's failure to keep his promise that no-one would be left behind.
"That is why the Liberal Democrats have urged Tim Bowles to join us in urging the Chancellor to roll out more support for people in the West of England. Unfortunately, the pandemic is far from over and it is crucial we see the Government step up to support the most vulnerable in the coming months."
Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:
“The Chancellor's constant chop-and-change approach to the furlough scheme and his inability to put together a comprehensive plan to save jobs is taking a huge toll.
“The Government must ensure furlough stays in place until at least June – and extend support to the three million people who still remain excluded from any support whatsoever. Just as crucially, Ministers must ensure there is an Adjustment Period for businesses before new trade rules begin, to avoid a second spike in redundancies.”Read more