The 17-day firebreak lockdown in Wales was supposed to bring Covid under control, leaving us free to enjoy Christmas. At the time, Welsh Government ministers congratulated themselves on moving more quickly than England. Unfortunately - and as predicted by many - as soon as restrictions were lifted a little, cases continued to rise. Wales is now facing a stricter lockdown than England with pubs, restaurants and cafes banned from serving alcohol and unable to open to customers beyond 18:00. The tiering system adopted in England is not perfect, but it does follow a certain logic i.e. lower levels of coronavirus mean less restrictions. Everyone has an incentive to follow the rules.
Small Business Saturday took place this weekend. Now in its eight year, the grassroots campaign has been a key annual moment to promote small businesses and champion what they do for our local high streets and communities. I was pleased to be able to visit a range of businesses across the constituency in support of this initiative. One thing is clear. Retailers of all kinds have suffered terribly because of the pandemic and need our support more than ever during these crucial winter months of trading. I hope we will all be reminded to shop locally wherever possible; and not just on one Saturday but throughout the entire year.
Back in October, I met with Transport for Wales (TfW) and students who travel to Hereford Sixth Form and other colleges in the city from Abergavenny. Students were being turned away from trains, despite owning costly season tickets, and put on replacement buses. The longer journey times meant some students were arriving late for lessons. To make matters worse, the buses were unable to get directly to the college because of some strange bureaucracy which prevents buses that are replacing trains from going to destinations other than the train station. The first bit of good news was that TfW decided to lay on an extra train and carriage, so far fewer students need to catch the bus. Now, the bus rules have been changed. When rail services are at capacity, the morning standby buses will run directly to the bus stop at Folly Lane (outside Hereford Sixth Form College) in closer proximity to the majority of educational establishments. Hopefully, this will help students make up a bit of lost time.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 9 December 2020 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 10 December 2020*