I’m sure that many parents across Stroud, the Valleys and Vale breathed a sigh of relief this Monday when schools reopened.
I have been concerned throughout the pandemic that so many school lessons have been missed and I am really pleased that classes starting again is the first step the country has taken out of lockdown.
I know some are considering longer school days and shorter holidays, but quite a few governors, teachers and parents in Stroud have told me any post-lockdown ‘catch up’ cannot be just academically focused. School is also about socialising, teamwork and physical exercise among other skills. I am feeding these concerns back to ministers.
Parents are understandably disappointed that many classes at Thomas Keble School are delayed due to issues with their buildings, but pupils’ safety must come first and they have the full support of the Department for Education. I will assist the school and families in any way I can.
Last week was the budget and I thought the Chancellor managed an incredible balancing act.
Rishi Sunak did a great deal to protect businesses and jobs in Stroud, look after the vulnerable, expand the economy and, importantly, start to pay the bill for the pandemic.
I had made my views clear to the Treasury about VAT and I am pleased the reduction will be extended, especially for tourism and hospitality in Stroud.
Business rates relief was extended until July with a 66% discount from July to December, which will do its bit to allow us to recover while protecting livelihoods.
I also made representations that the temporary £20 Universal Credit uplift should be extended.
I am acutely aware that many people have lost their jobs and are really struggling and not all of my Budget asks were met. I am continuing to campaign for changes and support for sectors most affected by the pandemic.