Robert's Weekly Column - 24th June 2020

The Prime Minister announced yesterday that thanks to our progress in tackling the coronavirus, we can now go further and safely ease the lockdown in England. 

Given the significant fall in the prevalence of the virus we are now in a position to change the two-metre social distancing rule from the 4th July. Where it is possible to keep two-metres apart, people should continue to, but where it is not, the Government will now advise people to keep a social distance of one-metre.

From the 4th July, two households of any size will be able to meet in any setting, inside or out. This does not mean they should always be the same two households, meaning that it would for example be possible to visit one set of grandparents one weekend and visit another set the following weekend.

We will also be able to open restaurants and pubs, and the Government’s guidance will encourage minimal staff and customer contact.

The Government will also allow hairdressers to open with appropriate precautions, including the use of visors. We intend to allow some other close contact services such as nail bars to reopen as soon as we can be confident they can operate in a covid secure way.

From the 4th July, provided that no more than two households stay together, people will be free to stay overnight in self-contained accommodation, including hotels and bed & breakfasts, as well as campsites, as long as shared facilities are kept clean.

Most leisure facilities and tourist attractions will be able to reopen if they can do so safely, including outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs and community centres.

Places of worship will be able to reopen for pray and services, including weddings with a maximum of 30 people all subject to social distancing.  Many people have been asking me about weddings, so this is good news for couples who are anxious to tie the knot.

As ever, I have been working on local issues too.  As a local parent who has used the Hop, Skip & Jump service myself, I understand just how vital it is for parents of children with disabilities to have a few hours of respite which this service provides.

I and many others have been fundraising to help support this local charity and I am extremely sad that despite this, Hop Skip & Jump has experienced problems unrelated to the Swindon centre which meant that it went into administration some weeks ago.  The positive news is that like me, the Council fully understand the importance of this service for parents of children with disabilities and they have indicated that they are going to carry on the service at Upper Shaw Farm. They are in the process of tendering for a new provider, and the Council have informed me that they will be making a decision about the new provider as early as 13th July.

Swindon is home to some fantastic and innovative groups which involve many young people. Sadly, this crisis is a real threat to their existence, that is why I am delighted that £78,922 has been awarded to 5 creative practitioners (£5,000) and 5 organisations (£73,922) here in South Swindon. This money is coming from the Arts Council’s Emergency Response Fund which is designed to help alleviate the immediate pressures faced by artists, creative practitioners, museums and libraries over the summer. The additional funding will help support them as they continue to serve our community during this crisis and afforded them the time to stabilise and plan for the future.