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Julian Sturdy - Strong Voice for York Outer

Julian Sturdy

Member of Parliament for York Outer

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York Press column – Government must deliver on growth to maintain trust

There is no point pretending last week’s heavy by-election losses do not send a serious message to the government. Defeated in both a traditionally very ‘safe’ rural West Country seat and urban West Yorkshire, my party is clearly struggling to retain public confidence across a diverse swathe of communities. My thoughts on how our leadership

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York Press column – The End of the Pandemic is Finally in Sight

March 10, 2021

Since my last column, the Prime Minister’s roadmap to ease lockdown and the Chancellor’s Budget have provided the detail we have been longing for as to how we will bounce back after the pandemic. Both provide great clarity and offer optimistic reassurance to families, students, businesses and workers that 2021 will see normality return across the country. 

Having lobbied hard on the issue, I am particularly pleased that pupils across York have returned to school. Throughout the last year, I have been contacted by many parents who are worried about the long-term impacts of school closures on their children’s educational outcomes, development and mental health. While teachers have made incredible efforts to help their students adapt to virtual learning, nothing can replace engaging lessons within the classroom.  

At the beginning of the month, I shared my concern at Education Questions that the pandemic could lead to a lasting divide in educational outcomes most affecting those who were already struggling the most. I will closely monitor proposed plans to bridge this gap and ensure that no student’s potential is held back due to lockdown. 

Another area I have focused on throughout the pandemic is mitigating the impact of lockdown on York’s large hospitality and leisure sector. While the dates within the lockdown are not set in stone, they do allow for businesses to begin making plans for re-opening with greater certainty than before and I would like to encourage all residents to show their support by making an extra effort to drop-by a local café, restaurant or pub for outdoor service in April.  

I am relieved that the sector will be further supported by the Chancellor’s extension of the special 5% VAT rate until the end of September followed by a special 12.5% rate for a further six months after. This is alongside a lengthened 100% business rates holiday for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors until June, which will then see a phased reintroduction with an additional two-thirds rates discount for nine further months. 

I would have liked to have seen the introduction of some measures to address the unfair difference in business rates liability between high street and online retailers, and will continue to press the Chancellor on this issue. I will also be writing to hospitality businesses across York to ask their opinion of the support offered in the Budget as well as the Prime Minister’s roadmap for easing lockdown to help inform my lobbying efforts. I would invite any business owner who does not receive a direct letter from me but would like to contribute their thoughts to contact me via email.  

With the easing of lockdown, I can also begin to resume more frequent constituency visits and will be particularly interested to learn first-hand from businesses how they adapted to the pandemic and what challenges they had to overcome. 

Last week, I visited Ainsty Ales in Acaster Malbis to discuss the impact on lockdown on hospitality supply-chain businesses as well as issues facing breweries in general. It was fantastic to see strong entrepreneurial spirit in a local enterprise with a renewed focus on sales through their e-shop to counter the reduced business caused by pub closures. It was also encouraging to see such strong levels of support from customers who are buying direct from the brewery to get their real ale fix, many opting for collection via the brewery’s Friday afternoon drive-thru.  

While the Prime Minister’s roadmap and the Chancellor’s Budget has provided greater clarity, our incredible vaccine rollout continues to be the driving force behind our renewed optimism that normality is not far away. I had the pleasure of visiting the Askham Bar vaccination site and to discuss with Prof Mike Holmes how local vaccination efforts were protecting the most vulnerable residents. 

I was particularly impressed with how many different organisations have come together to help operate the centre, with NHS staff being joined by Armed Forces personnel, St John’s Ambulance volunteers, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue crew, newly qualified dentists as well as local residents. This exemplifies our city’s approach to the pandemic, and I hope our experiences of pulling together to overcome the adversities we have faced can continue into the future. 

In the coming weeks we will see more milestones in our vaccine rollout and further levels of lockdown easing but for now I am greatly encouraged as it appears that the end of the pandemic is finally in sight.