In the first of a new regular column, North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker talks about the next stage of the lockdown easing, how the economy is rebounding and why we don’t need to worry about an influx of summer visitors.
On Monday we see the next step on our roadmap as the country continues to emerge out of lockdown. Step three is a significant one for us all, including our businesses, particularly those in hospitality which is a mainstay of our local economy.
Restricted from seeing our friends and family for so long, not only will we be able to see more people outside, but the rule of six or two households will enable us to meet friends inside and importantly stay overnight. After so many months this will be a huge relief to those that have not seen one another and missed out on those cherished hugs we’ve gone without.
The 17th May also marks a significant step for our businesses. Whilst the government continues to support businesses with furlough and the like where necessary, our restaurants and pubs will finally be able to serve customers indoors. Our theatres and cinemas can open and our remaining accommodation providers can begin to get back to normal.
It is understandable that in our communities some people will be wary of these relaxations. Indeed, we expect vast numbers of people to holiday domestically this year and North Norfolk will be a prime attraction.
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Residents have expressed anxiety to me over this, but let me reassure you, I am not worried. Yes, we have a great number of older residents, and yes, society opening up creates risk, but we have vaccinated over 92pc of our over 70 year olds thanks to our world beating vaccination programme.
Here in Norfolk we are one of the leading areas in the country due to the quite incredible dedication of our medical teams, doctors and army of volunteers.
North Norfolk will bounce back, and it will bounce back quickly. Every week I hear from innovative and imaginative business owners who are excited about what the future holds.
They may have diversified in the last year or started a new business, but they are all optimistic. The economic forecasts match this optimism.
The Bank of England expects a faster than expected recovery with growth predicted to be over two percentage points better than the forecasts made at the start of the year.
Unemployment, which at one point was forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility to peak at a rate of 12pc, is today expected to peak at nearer 5.5pc by the autumn. One should bear in mind the rate was 4pc, pre-pandemic.
I had always stood on a platform to drive jobs and growth in our local economy, but when I became the MP for my home of North Norfolk, I never expected that 100 days into the job, I would have to tackle a global health crisis. In life there is little more important than having the means to put a roof over one’s head and food on the table.
I know that for many the pandemic has been immensely challenging but the recovery we forecast will create jobs and help those suffering most, get back on their feet.
It is quite simple. History teaches us many things: in politics a government that ruins the economy is one the electorate will not forgive. It appears, even the most pessimistic of observers recognise that the mood is confident and as such North Norfolk is poised once again, to fare better than most.