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Emergency Planning and Contingencies Government Announcements National Politics

COVID-19 Local Alert Levels 1-3 – what they mean and how they are triggered

Local COVID Alert Level – Medium

This is for areas where national restrictions continue to be in place. This means:

  • All businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-Secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law, such as nightclubs.
  • Certain businesses selling food or drink on their premises are required to close between 10pm and 5am. Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-thru.
  • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
  • Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place, provided the Rule of 6 is followed
  • People must not meet in groups larger than 6, indoors or outdoors.

Local COVID Alert Level – High

This is for areas with a higher level of infections. This primarily aims to reduce household to household transmission by preventing all mixing between households or support bubbles indoors. This means the following additional measures are in place:

  • People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • People must not meet in a group of more than 6 outside, including in a garden or other space.
  • People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible, or to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport.

Local COVID Alert Level – Very High

This is for areas with a very high level of infections. The Government will set a baseline of measures for any area in this local alert level. Consultation with local authorities will determine additional measures. The baseline means the below additional measures are in place:

  • Pubs and bars must close. They can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant.
  • Wedding receptions are not allowed
  • People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor or outdoor setting, whether at home or in a public space
  • People should try to avoid travelling outside the ‘Very High’ area they are in, or entering a ‘Very High’ area, other than for things like work, education, accessing youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if they are in transit.
  • People should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if they are resident in a ‘Very High’ area, or avoid staying overnight in a ‘Very High’ area if they are resident elsewhere.

How are the levels triggered?

  • Decisions will be made based on a number of factors including the rate of transmission, how quickly it is increasing and the effectiveness of current interventions.
  • That is why the government isn’t setting a benchmark for the infection rate per 100,000 for moving between Local Covid Alert Levels.
  • The government will keep the measures under constant review, including a four-week review point for interventions in ‘very high’ areas.
Categories
Climate Change National Politics Personal Blog Travel and Transport

Redditch e-Scooters answers to FAQs

As Deputy Leader of Redditch Borough Council please allow me to answer some of the frequently asked questions about the e-scooter trial and hopefully address some of the concerns some people might have.

Why don’t they cover the whole town?

The zone is restricted as part of the trial. The council and the Department for Transport needs to be able to measure success and observe the differences between areas that have e-scooters and those that do not. For instance, do the number of car journeys decrease as we expect them to?

How much do they cost?

It’s £1 to unlock the scooter and £0.15 per minute afterwards. They’re not designed for long-distance journeys – just those that a touch too long to walk. You know the ones – where you think “ah I’ll just jump in the car”. We all do it, and that’s what these devices are designed to help with.

Are they insured?

Yes, as part of the DFT-approved trial they are insured when hired. Click here for full guidance for riders from the DFT.

I’ve seen an e-scooter just dumped somewhere – aren’t they supposed to be parked in racks?

No. They’re supposed to be left in a safe and convenient position once finished with. When the rider finishes with the e-scooter they have to press ‘End Ride’ on the Bird app. Until they do this they’re being charged. Before they can ‘End Ride’ they have to take a photo of the e-scooter parked up properly to prove they’re parking appropriately. If the photo shows they haven’t parked properly the account is suspended.

This is a far greater set of controls than for people parking cars on the pavement for instance, and of course cyclists don’t have to take a photo every time they park either.

I’ve seen one blocking the pavement entirely – how are they able to do this?

I’ve seen cars blocking pavements entirely too – including parking over dropped kerbs. However, two wrongs don’t make a right and e-scooters should not be blocking pavements. As covered in the above answer there is a process the riders have to follow when finishing their ride that prevents this.

However, it’s also the case that some people are deliberately pulling the e-scooters over to block the pavement. Sometimes this is out of boredom and mischief, but sometimes it’s also because some people are against the e-scooters in general and want to undermine the scheme. Photos have been posted to social media that show e-scooters across pavements, but witnesses have reported the photos being staged.

Regardless of how they end up blocking the pavement they should not do so – please report any incidences to redditch@bird.co and they’ll come and collect the e-scooters. You can also make a report to the council. Officers are monitoring the situation closely and working hard to identify when the e-scooter has been sabotaged or when it was left across a pavement by a rider. If they find it was left there by a rider the account is suspended.

Can the scooters venture outside the zone?

They should not work outside the defined zone. Geo-fencing means as soon as the onboard GPS tracker detects the e-scooter is not where it should be the device will cut out completely. I’ve tested this myself and can confirm it does work – with an audio beep to confirm when you’re leaving the zone followed by a near-immediate loss of power.

Can the scooters be ridden through the town centre?

Yes – in some parts. Though the scooters are not legal for use on pavements they are legal for use on designated cycleways and cyclepaths. These do run through the town centre along the ‘yellow road’ that goes past the estate agents and down to the Palace Theatre.

There is also a designated cycleway through the market and past the library on onwards to the Palace Theatre.

Map showing designated highways areas through the town centre.
The areas highlighted in yellow show the routes are actually designated for Highways through Redditch Town Centre – meaning you can take a cycle or e-scooter along these routes. However, you should not take the e-scooters into the churchyard without the owner’s permission.

However, speeds are limited to no more than 7mph in these spaces.

Are they being cleaned between use?

They’re not being cleaned except when called in for recharging. That’s on users to do with a common sense approach. Worth noting the virus does not survive on these kinds of surfaces in an outdoor setting for long.

How many are there available?

There’s 200 available for the town as a whole but not all are deployed all the time. They deploy as the market demands.

Can they be stolen and tampered with?

There’s certainly scope for abuse as with anything and we’ve got to balance the risks overall. It’s a 12 month trial and ultimately if there’s too many issues we’ll just have to pull the plug. They are very difficult to steal, damage or vandalise but that’s basically on the operator (Bird) and they have insurance in place for that as well as various counter-measures. For instance they’re all GPS tracked and very difficult to steal or damage.

Can children ride them?

No, but there are two circumstances I can think of where children might be able to obtain a free ride.

  • If a parent or other adult sets up the app for them on their phone, using their card details and driving licence. This would be extremely stupid however as there’s no way to stop the child wasting all of your money on e-scooters and it would also be illegal and subject to action by the police against the parents.
  • If a rider forgets to ‘End Ride’ on the app and just walks away from the Bird scooter. Again, that’s pretty stupid as you will continue to be charged and you’ll be held responsible for any mishaps that happen as a result of your account usage.

When will the trial end?

30 September 2021. Before this date the council will agree whether or not to extend the trial, roll-out to the full town or terminate the scheme.

Why are people against the scheme?

Some people believe the scooters might injure them for instance, however it’s important to note they’re not legal for riding on the pavement.

Categories
National Politics Personal Blog

Welcoming the suspension of the ‘get back to work’ campaign

I welcome the postponement of the ‘get back to work’ campaign the government was looking to launch, which sought to encourage workers back into the cities. The news comes as research reveals as many as 4 in 10 people who used to drive into work are still working from home. Amongst senior management that figure is even higher.

But 4 in 10 is still very significant, and poses a risk to cities. Not just to coffee shops, sandwich bars, and dry cleaners, but to the much bigger issue of real estate – if there’s fewer people in the office does the company need to pay for such premium city centre offices at all?

We also have to ask about the impact on the transport sector – with train passenger levels at 28% of pre-lockdown levels. It’s a similar story for buses. What is the knock-on effect of less revenue for the train operating companies?

Whilst I recognise the risk to cities, I also recognise the opportunities for towns like Redditch. The government said, just before lockdown, that it wanted to “level up” towns like Redditch. COVID-19 may well have helped to achieve this.

In a letter to our town’s MP I pointed out the increased usage of our parks and open spaces, but our amenities have seen increased usage too as people heed the message to ‘shop local’.

A lot of people commute from Redditch into Birmingham every day – or used to. They’re now staying in Redditch, spending their money here and demanding more amenities.

As conservatives we believe in market solutions – and the market is certainly adapting to the “new normal” here.

Here’s a copy of my letter to Rachel Maclean MP on the topic.

Categories
National Politics Travel and Transport

Pavements could be made safer for people with disabilities, and families, under new proposals to ban antisocial parking unveiled by the government

  • New plans set out to boost safety and make journeys more accessible for disabled people and parents
  • Review found third of people with visual impairments and almost half of wheelchair users were not as willing to go out because of antisocial pavement parking
  • Consultation will set out proposals to make transport more accessible and help more people to choose active travel as part of UK’s green recovery from COVID-19
Categories
National Politics

A-Level & GCSE Predicted Grades to Apply

I was pleased to hear that Ofqual has listened to public opinion on the issue of A-Level and GCSE results and issued a statement, which includes:

We understand this has been a distressing time for students, who were awarded exam results last week for exams they never took. The pandemic has created circumstances no one could have ever imagined or wished for. 

Roger Taylor, Chair of Ofqual

I think it’s very important to remember that the situation was not of the government’s creation – a system of results was needed without exams taking place – something had to be created. It’s understandable that a system of predicted grades would cause worry amongst bureaucrats and the wider educational sector, allowing teachers to essentially give out whatever grade they liked for a student. But that worry was mis-placed and belied a level of distrust towards the professionalism of teachers and their ability to act in a fair-handed manner.

The system was proven to be broken too with as many as 40% of grades being adversely affected. With an “error rate” that high the algorithm was clearly not fit for purpose.

There are questions for Ofqual to answer over its handling of this catastrophe in education, and wider questions will rightly be asked too. No public body is beyond scrutiny and I am proud we have strong scrutiny systems across our country – including the ones operated by the public.

I am also proud that many parents and young people used their voice to marshal public opinion on this issue. We can also be proud to live in a country where the government listens and responds. It’s not always easy and it makes for a degree or turbulence, but I would rather a government that listens than one that crushes dissent.

Categories
Government Announcements National Politics Personal Blog Thought Pieces Travel and Transport

The Conservative Case for Active Travel

Background and Context

The government has had what might be argued as a road to Damascus conversion to the benefits of active travel. Others might argue Boris has always been keen on cycling. Either way, Boris wants us all to get fit and he likes cycling as a means to get about.

Categories
National Politics Redditch Borough Council

Statement to clarify confusion regarding Morton Stanley Park

I am aware this is a very sensitive issue, but I do have to correct campaigners who have incorrectly named Morton Stanley Park in Redditch on a ‘hit list’ for toppling of statues, which was then published by the Metro and The Sun newspapers and others. Efforts are being made to correct these sources.

I want to make it very clear that the Morton Stanley Park in Redditch is not named after Henry Morton Stanley. It’s named after a local fish hook and needle entrepreneur called William Morton Stanley who had nothing to do with the abhorrent slave trade. He purchased land, which he then generously bequeathed to the people of Redditch in 1924 to be used as a park.

Furthermore, as a former new town that’s just over 55 years old, there are no statues of anyone at any of the parks in Redditch anyway, though the idea of a memorial to William Morton Stanley has been brought up in the past.

As the council’s Portfolio Holder covering culture, parks and open spaces I am keen to stress that Redditch has a rich historic and cultural background with strong working class roots. We are a town that thrives on equality of opportunity and benefits from cultural and ethnic diversity. I don’t think we have ever thought it would be appropriate to glorify figures in history who are marred in human controversy, and if we have ever done so I can commit to bringing these forward for review as soon as they are brought to my attention.

On a personal note, I am fully sympathetic to the debate around our nation’s cultural history. As someone who was raised in a mixed race household it was not until we encountered prejudice that I even noticed as a child my brother was supposedly different to me. In my heart he has never been anything other than my big brother, and I can only hope that our society as a whole can heal and come together with true and long-overdue equality in our hearts and real opportunity for all as the outcomes of our mutual love.

Categories
National Politics

A CLEAR WARNING ON REDDITCH PARKS – ENJOY RESPONSIBLY

RISK OF CLOSURE

If there’s evidence of continuous failure to comply with public healthcare guidance I will not hesitate to ask for an urgent decision that all public parks across Redditch be closed.

Categories
National Politics

CCA Board Elections

If you are a Conservative Councillor you should have received an email from the CCA about elections for the CCA Board. I would be grateful for your support to become its Deputy Chairman.

I believe it is time for a new generation of Conservatives to step forward into these roles so that our party, at all levels and in all places, can start to become more representative of the diverse electorate that just gave the Conservative Party a mandate to govern the UK.

Passionate about activist training, mentoring and enabling the talent within our party to achieve great things, I believe I am well placed to help the CCA engage with more Councillors in a more constructive way, especially as we have new and more diverse Councillors coming into the party.

I seek to change the clumsy processes Councillors must embark upon to access training, support and advice. I will champion more self-service and peer-powered systems, enabling Councillors to “level up” to borrow a phrase.

If you have not received your e-ballot, please email the CCA team at cca@conservatives.com or call them on 020 7984 8144.

You have until midday on Thursday 20th February to cast your vote. Results will be announced at the CCA Annual Conference on Friday 28th February.

As you know from my previous election victories, every vote counts, so please share this message with any Conservative Councillor colleagues you feel might be receptive.

Categories
National Politics

Rachel Maclean returned as Redditch MP with over 16,000 majority – more than doubling her 2017 figures.

Delighted to have managed the campaign here in Redditch that has seen Rachel Maclean returned as MP with a doubled majority. Here’s the numbers from Wikipedia …