In My View: Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark

It has been a long, tough a year since Covid was identified in the UK and our first lockdown.

Many families have been touched by tragedy with the highest excess death toll of any country with 120,000 people killed by Covid, three times the number killed in the Blitz.

In London, more than 14,000 people have died and in the northern part of Southwark which I serve, we have seen unemployment double.

On top of this, most of us have been isolated from loved ones; I only saw my dad once in 2020 as he lives in Newcastle.

Despite the horror and hardships Covid has imposed, it has been amazing to witness the resilience and generosity of Londoners.

Time and time again over the last year people have shown that our strength is in our local communities and that we are a giving people, prepared to help neighbours in need.

Our NHS has proved our lifeline, reacting so quickly to treat everyone infected and now delivering the vaccine.

It is so disappointing that ministers did not think our NHS or any frontline workers deserved recognition in the Budget this week.

Time and again the Tories simply take our public services for granted, despite the damage inflicted on the NHS over the last decade.

When Covid arrived, there were 9,000 nursing vacancies in London alone for example, and PPE supplies had been binned despite a pandemic being the number one fear on the Government ‘risk register’ of potential threats to the UK.

Ministers ignored public servants in council public health teams and gave contracts for the test and trace system to companies with no experience and who ultimately failed to deliver.

Ministers also left our borders completely open to anyone with Covid until February this year and are still not policing arrivals properly.

Just this week we learned of someone infected with the Brazil variant wandering freely into the UK alongside the other 99 per cent of arrivals on our shores who do not follow quarantine rules.

The UK has seen the worst damage to any major economy in the last year but the Budget failed to acknowledge the scale of the challenges we face.

The Chancellor is failing to learn from the lost Tory decade of austerity and needs to fund shovel-ready projects now.

The land for extending the Bakerloo line along the Old Kent Road and out to Lewisham has now been protected but the extension needs funding.

The extension is backed by Southwark Labour, London businesses, councils and the public and will bring jobs, better transport connections and thousands of new homes.

Ministers could get it off the ground (well, under it!) tomorrow but are ignoring the boost this infrastructure could provide to the national economy.

As the vaccine roll-out continues, remember we are not all protected until everyone has had the full vaccine. Please continue to look out for one another, stay safe and take care.

 


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