The end of a year is a time to reflect back and look forward.  The recent temporary closing of the borders because of CoVid shows the type of pressure our infrastructure across Kent and Medway could come under in our new relationship with the European Union.  Medway voted to leave the European Union but nobody voted to make our economy weaker and regrettably that is looking increasingly likely.  As I’ve said repeatedly we have around 7,000 jobs in Medway linked to our membership of the European Union, time will tell whether the last minute deal will be enough to protect those jobs moving forward.

Of course the main focus will be the continuing pandemic with the number of individuals who have lost their lives as a result of CoVid19 in Medway now over 400 – my thoughts are with every single family who have lost a loved one.

We must also reflect and recognise that things could and should have been done differently both here in Medway and across the country.  I am resolute in my view that keeping schools open rather than having online learning was a massive contributor to the rapid increase in community levels of CoVid19 in November and December – it is hugely regrettable that Medway Council, the Regional Schools Commissioner and ultimately the Department of Education under Gavin Williamson failed in their fundamental duty of care for the people of Medway with their decision making.  We saw a 1200% increase in teenagers being diagnosed with CoVid19 in Medway in November and December – we must not make the same mistake again otherwise we could see unnecessary deaths as a result of that policy.  Online Learning, with the same exceptions we saw at the start of the pandemic, should be the default until we are out of Tier 4.

We also know that the last minute decision making by Rishi Sunak meant that people lost their jobs at the end of October despite the announcement of furlough being extended just a few days later.  That’s without the support needed for the three million excluded individuals, many of whom live here in Medway, not getting the support they need at this time.

2021 will of course be a challenge as we hope for a speedy and successful roll out of the vaccine and it is wonderful to see residents and health and social care professionals already starting to receive the vaccine here in Medway.

We start 2021 in Medway in Tier 4 so must all continue to do the important basics of staying at home as much as possible, wearing a mask, washing our hands and socially distancing.

The Medway Labour & Co-operative Group are ready to support individuals & families as we continue to take on case work, help communities have their voices heard, work with vital local organisations to make Medway an even greater place despite the challenges we face and of course hold the Conservative administration to account, working with them where there is consensus but pointing out where they are taking the wrong approach as we have sadly seen all too often.

On behalf of the Labour & Co-operative Group I wish everybody a safe and positive 2021

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