The West Country Debate February: Roadmaps, businesses and buying local

  • Watch the full West Country Debate above

Talk this week is all about the Prime Minister's plan to bring the country out of the third lockdown and hopes we could be restriction-free by the summer.

Boris Johnson said a 'wretched year' will give way to a different and incomparably better spring and summer. 

What are the latest Covid-19 figures for the South West?

The number of Covid-19 cases in the West Country continues to fall.

ITV West Country Credit: ITV West Country

The vaccination rollout is also continuing. As of Wednesday 24th February:

  • 1,836,557 vaccines have been administered across the region

  • 1,774,826 of these are first doses

  • 39.2% of adults in the region have been vaccinated

How are businesses affected by the roadmap?

Despite plans being announced, many businesses across the region still have an uncertain future.

With social distancing until at east June, even those places which can reopen are having to change how they operate.

Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper is chair of the Covid Recovery Group of around 70 Conservative MPs which wants to see the unlocking accelerated:

North Devon MP Selaine Saxby says many locals "are reassured by the pace of unlocking".

"So many small businesses asked for time at the last unlocking to be able to plan, to get stock in, to get staff back from furlough - so I think [the current roadmap] does give the businesses a chance."

What about the Job Retention ('furlough') Scheme?

Figures published by the ONS and Treasury show the scale of reliance still on the Govenment's Job Retention Scheme. At the end of January:

  • 386,800 workers were on furlough in the West Country (compared to 654,800 in June)

  • 37,000 people have lost their jobs during the pandemic across the West Country

  • 127,000 people are currently unemployed across the region

The Government says Chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out the next steps of the support for businesses at next week’s budget.

Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy says much more financial aid needs to be given or "some really good, long standing companies that employ lots of people will go under".