John Hart: Temporary lockdown was needed, even in Devon

Cllr John Hart, leader of Devon County Council

Cllr John Hart, leader of Devon County Council - Credit: Archant

Devon County Council leader John Hart reacts to the second national lockdown

None of us wanted another lockdown but I fear it had become inevitable. The support of the vast majority of people in our county and the wider South West has meant that we have seen some of the lowest incidence of cases throughout this crisis, even with millions of visitors in the summer. But we have seen spikes here - at Exeter University for example - and our numbers have begun to rise generally as well, in keeping with the rest of the country.

We have obviously not been reaching the numbers that would have seen our area go into a local lockdown. But the figures that the Government produced show that our NHS services could have become overwhelmed. So I believe that this temporary measure was necessary even here. And I urge people to continue to follow the guidance and wear a face mask indoors, keep your distance and wash your hands.

I very much welcome the extension of the furlough scheme but our economy relies massively on small and medium companies and the tourism and hospitality industries and it is vital that the Government also provides support for these sectors.

It is also vital that the Government provides financial support for local government so we can continue the work we did during the first lockdown. I set up and chaired our emergency response group, Team Devon, which consisted of the county council, our district councils and other public bodies.

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Through this the county council transferred £1 million to our district councils and this was topped up with £757,000 we received from the Government.

This money was intended to help people whose income has been hit by Covid19 and East Devon’s share was £192,100. As of last week, nearly 200 people in the district had been helped and this fund is still available.

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We also made available more than £400,000 to a range of community groups and organisations during the initial lockdown to support local people through providing food, deliveries and helping with care and wellbeing. We hope to do this again if Government funding allows.

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