Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council
Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council

Summer is at last here. And we’ve all been enjoying a little extra freedom as things have slowly opened up over recent months.

A year or so in and out of lockdown has made many of us appreciate the little things.

Days out, like the trip to the Zoo I had with my niece and nephew.

Live music at the back of pubs where we can enjoy a pint.

Visiting family and friends. I’m looking forward to visiting my brother in Wales for the first time in 18 months.

Football hopefully coming home.

A degree of normality is good. After the past 18 months, the little things have increased in importance and we should not take them for granted.

But we cannot and must not go back to the old normal.

Over the past 5 years, even before COVID, child poverty in Cherwell was the worst in the County.

Banbury has for years one of the worst road in terms of air pollution, in the County at Hennef Way. Bicester and Kidlington each have one not far behind.

Then there are things that we know COVID has made worse.

The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership have drawn up an Economic Recovery Plan. In it they have identified Cherwell and West Oxfordshire as the most exposed to economic hardship from the pandemic. This is down to the reliance on tourism, retail and hospitality in those areas.

The continuing uncertainty, heightened by the extension of the ending of restrictions by the Prime Minister this week, will make the pain felt in these areas even worse.

Couples looking to wed unsure whether they can have dancing at their wedding. What does this mean for DJs let alone the hotels and venues being used?

Not closing the borders earlier, when the Delta Variant was confirmed as here on 1 April was clearly a massive error.

I have always been broadly supportive of the government’s strategy on lockdowns. Saving lives and protecting the NHS have been rightly priorities. So I am not opposed to this extension.

But the government need to start being more honest with people about what their aim is for being able to fully lift restrictions.

Is it herd immunity? Is it getting towards a certain percentage of people having been vaccinated? Is it bringing the death rate down to a specific level?

They need to explain what needs to happen for normality to resume. If that means we wait another year, though I really hope not, then so be it. Say that and provide the ongoing financial support for those businesses that need it.

But constantly moving the date as well as the goalposts is destroying livelihoods. With the end of Furlough in September and the eviction ban now lifted, this has serious consequences for people.

This lack of clarity and certainty is also making people who were previously fully on board, less and less willing to keep obeying the restrictions.

This won’t just cost livelihoods, but could also cost lives.

Bicester Advertiser column from Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council

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