The article below first appeared in Westminster Extra. Nickie writes a monthly column for the paper.
Since writing my last Extra column, non-essential shops have reopened, children in key year groups have begun returning to school and places of worship have been allowed to open for individual prayer, all subject to the adherence of government guidelines.
This Saturday, lockdown is being loosened further. A host of other types of business including pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will also be able to reopen, again all subject to clear guidelines. I know that many local people and amenity societies particularly in the West End who have concerns about possible legislation to allow off sales after 11pm for those premises with later licenses. I am lobbying Ministers to ensure that their concerns are heard, and plans are put in place to ensure our neighbourhoods remain safe.
I feel that more businesses should be allowed to reopen, such as beauty salons, subject to any ongoing public health considerations. The government has rightly moved to protect jobs through measures including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The scheme though will only have been effective if there are jobs for people to return to.
For many businesses, despite support, if they do not reopen soon, they will not reopen at all. This includes our theatres and cultural venues, the loss of which would not only affect the fragile ecosystem of the West End but would have a significant economic impact across our Two Cities. I have been working with the cultural sector to lobby Ministers to allow them to open as soon as it is safe to do so and secured a Prime Minister’s question this week on the subject.
It’s crucial that we support our businesses. Small independents will be particularly vulnerable. The Two Cities is home to hundreds of unique independent business that add so much character to our neighbourhoods.
All businesses must stick to government guidelines and take steps to mitigate the risks of reducing social distancing from 2-metres to 1-metre plus, which also comes into force on Saturday. They, as we all, must continue to do their bit to prevent Coronavirus from spreading.
A consequence of businesses reopening will be more people using our roads to commute. To prepare for workers’ return, TfL has been making changes to road layouts to accommodate people choosing to walk or cycle rather than use public transport, including a number of temporary cycle paths on roads including Park Lane and Grosvenor Road.
I have had more correspondence about these changes than anything else in the last couple of weeks. The increased number of people choosing to walk, or cycle is welcome – the individual health and clean air benefits for us all are obvious - but in too many places TfL’s measures are causing congestion and adverse effects on air quality. And worse still, local people and their solutions to allow more cycling, protect our air quality and keep traffic flowing have been ignored by TfL.
I have written to the Mayor of London about these issues. I will continue to encourage the Mayor listen to and respond constructively to the views of local people.
If TfL’s temporary measures have caused any issues for you, or you have any other concerns that you would like to raise with me, please do not hesitate to get in touch.