Off the back of a rushed announcement last Saturday, the nation is now entering a second lockdown. The impact of this cannot be underestimated and I share the feelings of frustration and concern that I know so many have expressed in the last week.
However, I do know this: our fantastic communities can once again rise to this important challenge to protect our most marginalised and our loved ones. The fact remains that our actions can and do save lives.
The incredible efforts of those in the city to bring down coronavirus earlier in the spring shows what can be achieved. Now we once again need to find strength to protect each other.
This, of course, is about more than just the risk of catching covid-19. The stress we place on our local NHS can stand in the way of supporting people with other life-threatening illnesses – or treatments being administered to those who need urgent support.
Our efforts together can make sure the doctor we need is not off unwell or that a hospital bed someone needs isn’t unavailable due to covid-19.
Our city has shown we can act together – and I know we can build on the bonds we have created this year to help us now.
The robust networks set up to deal with the pandemic the first time round are still in place. This week, I met once again with local MPs, universities, business leaders, the voluntary sector and opposition councillors to discuss what the latest lockdown means for our city.
Our joint work means we can put measures in place to support residents and businesses and to understand what steps we can take together. We’ll continue to work across the city to provide the support and information everyone requires.
As we moved quickly to support residents before, a reminder that the council’s community hub can still provide support with energy bills, organise emergency food and help with other essentials including mental health support referrals.
Our services will speak to you without judgment and are here to help. I want to take this moment to also stress the advice that anyone facing injury or harm, such as domestic abuse, is allowed to leave their homes.
I also know we are not only being tested by a global health pandemic – but by a mental health and economic crisis too. While even at this critical point too much is being left unanswered by the Conservative government.
I am clear that there must be solid commitments from government to ensure that vital industries in our city are protected.
The arts, culture, tourism and hospitality businesses are our city’s lifeblood. Yet many were failed by the last business grants scheme.
I also remain concerned about the impact of a second lockdown on the self-employed and I join trade unions and business leaders urging the government to halt the planned cut in universal credit support payments to self-employed workers.
For many of our valued independent businesses this will be an especially gruelling time – Christmas often accounts for more than half of the year’s sales.
We will be doing what we can to support local businesses and employees while pushing for the strongest support from government in the weeks ahead.
Twice this week we have been briefed by ministers and pushed them on our concerns. If we find that what the government is offering falls short of what our city needs, we stand ready to speak out.
As before, I am continuing to push for greater resources for a local track and trace system which has proven to be far more effective than the bungled national scheme managed by private companies already hitting the headlines for a litany of errors.
However, as we face testing times once again, I know there is also cause for hope. Our city has to date escaped some of the worst rates of this pandemic in comparison to other parts of the country.
And while there is more to do, we know our actions have already saved lives. The hard work of so many across our city has ensured community support is available when people need it, while many businesses have weathered the storm.
Just this week members of the creative arts and cultural sector in our city joined forces to develop a new support service and website for others in the industry.
Our NHS and local public services as well as other key workers continue to put the city’s best interest at heart – over and over again.
Brighton and Hove’s communities have already shown steely commitment. I will never stop fighting for our city. Thank you for all that you are doing and, I repeat again, let’s pull together – and stick together – to save lives. We can do this.
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is the Green leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.
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