Steve Darling: Virus has destroyed lives and businesses - we must not become complacent

We want to improve partnership working and community-based action in Torbay to make it a better plac

We want to improve partnership working and community-based action in Torbay to make it a better place for everyone - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As we head towards Christmas it’s heartening to finally enjoy some early festive cheer.

It is pleasing to see that the vaccine is starting to roll out so that we can begin the long marathon of building up immunity among our population in the UK.

We have also heard that we can have the opportunity to spend time with loved ones in a festive bubble when some restrictions are relaxed over Christmas.

However, we must not become complacent. This coronavirus has destroyed lives and businesses and continues to do so.

It is important that we don’t let our guard down too soon and enable the virus to continue to spread when we have done so much to bring it under control.

We’ve been putting measures in place in Torbay so we can reopen our local economy safely in the run-up to Christmas.

We have extended our ‘pay for an hour, stay for the day’ parking scheme and we are distributing grants to businesses that are legally required to stay closed under the current Tier 2 restrictions.

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Other businesses which are likewise struggling under the Tier 2 restrictions could also be eligible for discretionary grants to address their hardships. Please get in touch and make an application via the Torbay Council website.

We want to help support as many local businesses as possible through this very difficult time.

Our hospitality sector, in particular, is facing a real struggle, so I and Darren Cowell, the deputy leader of Torbay Council, have written to the Prime Minister to express our concern that local businesses need more support.

Of course, if the Government had invested adequately in the West Country the likelihood is that we would have been within the Tier 1 restrictions, meaning that the economic impact would have been significantly reduced.

Everyone has worked hard to keep going during the lockdown and many are still feeling the impact in what should be one of the busiest times of the year.

We can all do our bit to help our struggling economy by supporting these businesses and shopping locally for Christmas gifts and goods.

So please, anything you can do will really benefit our local communities.

The one thing that we do not want to happen is to see a rise in coronavirus cases.

If we all do our bit and take the precautions necessary to protect ourselves and our loved ones we can avoid this.

On December 16, the Government will carry out its first review of tier areas and we do not want to move into Tier 3.

If there is one fact that the pandemic has helped us to recognise, it is that by working together and looking after each other we can do great things.

This must be a lesson we remember as the pandemic continues and we look to the future. We have proved that pulling together as communities can achieve so much.

We are at the start of the journey and really want to hear how you think we can do this, so I you haven’t already, please have your say on our draft engagement and empowerment strategy which is out for consultation.

We want to improve partnership working and community based action in Torbay to make it a better place for everyone.

Our hope is that this strategy will encourage you to get involved in your local community and across Torbay.

Let us know your views on our ideas and how we can translate this into real ‘on the ground’ change. We are focussing on six key areas:

• working differently

• keeping you informed

• asking what you think

• deciding together

• acting together

• supporting independent community initiatives.

We would really value your input and contributions, so please visit the consultation section of our website. You’ve got until December 20 to give us your feedback.