Categories
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
Personal Blog

Increased parks usage across Redditch

Visits to parks across Redditch surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, and remain currently at 51% higher than usual.

Whilst I welcome the increased usage of our fantastic parks it’s a situation that also comes with challenges.

There’s more litter for starters and we need to empty bins more often. Footfall might be up, but the staffing budget isn’t.

We’re also seeing increased car parking demand, resulting in overflow to nearby businesses and people parking on the grass verges, which also cost money to our right.

We’re getting reports of anti-social behaviour, even camping, which is currently prohibited.

I want to assure all residents that as the council’s portfolio holder for parks I am monitoring the situation closely and liaise regularly with officers. We are working on a number of things that we hope will help, and I look forward to sharing more details in due course.

If you are interested in getting more involved with parks and open spaces across Redditch as a volunteer please email me on mike.rouse@redditchbc.gov.uk

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
Blue on Blue

Blue on Blue Podcast

As shared on Twitter, I’ve decided on a name for a new podcast-style series.

The name “Blue on Blue” is not based on a Burt Bacharach song, but rather a twist on the contemporary political usage of the word. The twist is important.

Collins defines it and points to an example like so:

Despite the prime minister’s refusal to engage in ‘blue-on-blue’ debatescabinet ministers are clashing at every opportunity.

Sunday Times 2016

A “blue on blue” therefore is generally known as a debate or clash between members of the Conservative Party in the UK.

The twist is important, remember. My podcast won’t be a “blue on blue” attack series or seek to criticise the Conservative Party. It will be ‘blue talking to blue’ or ‘people of a blue political persuasion on policies and decisions from the blue persuasion’.

Just in case any of my colleagues were getting jittery about the name.

“Blue on Blue” will be a conversation-style series where I hope to cover topics in a more human style. We’ll talk about things as humans rather than look to stage interviews – we’ll discuss the ins and outs – and we’ll have time to delve into the detail more than most.

I hope that given I am a fellow Conservative I might be able to attract guests to join me for a friendly show where the aim is to get the best out of our guests, not try to trip them up. I want to hear what they’ve got to say, and I want to explore the topic from a more Conservative perspective.

All episodes will be uploaded to YouTube with podcast platforms being announced once I have the first episode in the can.

I’ve got some guests lined up – but always on the look out for more – and I’m definitely interested in adhoc co-host opportunities for people who are interested in this line of work. Email me: mike@mikerouse.uk

You can subscribe to the YouTube feed here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdIiFqdG3kPCZqO8Hysmsng

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
Redditch Borough Council Thought Pieces

Rubicon Leisure Reopening from 25 July 2020

I’ve got to admit that COVID-19 scares me, because if I catch it my chance of surviving it is around 20% for one simple reason.

Obesity. Turns out it really is one of the factors that makes it a lot worse. Like a lot of other people I’m carrying extra weight – so much in fact it’s now dangerous.

That’s why I’m pleased the gyms and swimming pools are starting to open from tomorrow.

Yeah alright, you’ve got to book in advance, and yeah it’s going to be a very different experience (e.g. capacity management in all spaces), but you know what – this is the moment to use these facilities to put yourself in good shape to fight COVID-19 if you catch it.

Not just COVID either. Turns out being fit and healthy helps you fight other illnesses and diseases too. COVID was a brush too close for my liking.

Therefore I was genuinely pleased to join the Deputy Mayor Julian Grubb and representatives from Rubicon Leisure today to tour their work at the Abbey Stadium Sports Centre ahead of tomorrow’s reopening.

They’re ready. Boy are they ready. They’ve put a lot of work in to keep everyone safe. The whole site has undergone a full viral deep clean and internal decoration. When I say clean I mean CLEAN. The place is sparkling!

But you’ve got to work with them too – it’s on all of us to each take responsibility and be responsible.

The same applies to the obesity problem. There’s people out there working hard to help us, but we’ve got to help ourselves. Me included. Me especially.

I am conscious and aware of my role to set a good example, and I fully intend to do so. Please feel free to join me on this journey – I’d love to hear your stories and I’d love to hear how we can all work together to make Redditch healthier because today ‘healthier’ also means ‘safer’.

For the latest updates, what to expect and how to book check the link below

Categories
Government Announcements Press Releases

Government announces gyms and pools to reopen safely

Outdoor pools can reopen to the public from 11 July followed by indoor gyms, pools and leisure centres on 25 July.

The Government has outlined the measures that will allow outdoor pools to reopen from 11 July and indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities to reopen from 25 July, ensuring millions of people can get back into more sport and fitness activities.

The guidance, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has been compiled with input from the trade body ukactive, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, Sport England and other sports bodies, and in consultation with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive.

It includes advice for providers of pool, gym and leisure facilities on cleaning, social distancing, and protection for staff to help venues get back up and running safely.

It also supports the re-opening of sports halls which are vital to the return of play for many sports, including badminton and volleyball. Guidance produced by National Governing Bodies will complement the government guidance and help ensure indoor sports can be played safely from July 25.

Venues must ensure they can enable customers, staff and volunteers to maintain social distancing before, during and after participation.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

The reopening of gyms is the news millions across the country have been waiting for with many people desperate to jump on a spinning bike or dive into a pool.

Our comprehensive guidance will ensure gyms, pools and leisure centres have the support they need to reopen safely for their customers and staff.

Helping people return to gyms safely will also help the nation get match-fit to defeat this virus.

Measures set out in the guidance include:

  • Limiting the number of people using the facility at any one time, for example by using a timed booking system;
  • Reducing class sizes and allowing sufficient time between each class to avoid groups waiting outside during changeover;
  • Ensuring an appropriate number of people are in a swimming pool at any one time;
  • Spacing out equipment or taking some out of service to maintain social distancing;
  • Enhanced cleaning and providing hand sanitizer throughout venues;
  • Considering how the way people walk through their venue could be adjusted to reduce contact, with queue management or one-way systems;
  • Ensuring adequate ventilation;
  • Encouraging the use of outdoor spaces for individual, team or group activities, making sure to comply with the latest restrictions on public gatherings;
  • Exercise or dance studios should have temporary floor markings where possible to help people stay distanced during classes;
  • Customers and staff should be encouraged to shower and change at home wherever possible, although changing rooms will be available.

Today’s announcement follows a recent visit by government, Sport England and public health officials, led by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, to a series of ukactive member sites. This allowed officials to see first-hand how the sector is preparing to reopen safely.

Leisure centres and indoor gyms, along with swimming pools and other indoor sports facilities, have been closed since Saturday 21 March as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Rules on exercise were initially relaxed from 14 May, to allow people greater access to local, outdoor physical activity. This allowed the public to go outside for unlimited exercise, alone or with their household, or one other person while adhering to social distancing rules. It also permitted outdoor sports facilities such as golf courses and tennis courts to reopen, with strict safety measures in place.

On 1 June the Government published guidance which allowed people to exercise outside with up to five others from different households, provided that strict social distancing guidelines were followed. This meant that people who play team sports could meet to train together and take part in conditioning or fitness sessions, although anything involving physical contact was not allowed. It allowed parents to accompany their children to coaching sessions carried out on a one to one basis or in small groups.

Outdoor gyms were permitted to reopen from 4 July while ensuring social distancing.

This latest guidance is part of the Government’s carefully-designed package to ease the burdens of lockdown in a way that is expected to keep the R rate, the average number of secondary infections produced by 1 infected person, down. The phased approach is outlined in the Prime Minister’s roadmap for easing lockdown. As the Prime Minister has always said, the Government keeps these measures under review, and will not hesitate to apply the handbrakes if required.