Last Friday I was delighted to join 38 million other British people who have now received a COVID vaccine. When I got the notification I booked my first jab at the Grantham Meres and feel very fortunate indeed. I would like to thank all the vaccinators and administrators for making the experience quick and easy as the entire process took just twenty minutes. I urge everyone to accept the offer of a vaccine when it is your turn.
More broadly, while we are making good progress in re-opening the economy, we have seen the continued spread of a variant of the virus that first originated in India called the ‘Delta variant’. This variant is said to be more transmissible, and so the Government is taking additional measures to mitigate the risk, such as accelerating the provision of second doses to the over 50s and clinically vulnerable, new targeted activity to accelerate vaccine take-up and enhanced testing and contact tracing.
Ultimately though, we must continue to get tested, get a jab when eligible, and exercise caution and common sense.
Covid aside, I decided to take advantage of this superb bank holiday weather and visit local constituent, Hannah Westropp, to meet her and her lovely horse, Flash, to discuss the safety issues owners face while riding on the roads. This is not a subject we often read much about, but for horse owners in our local area, they will tell you terrible stories about their experiences while riding on the roads.
Riders often have no choice but to ride on the roads because they need to reach bridleways and other off-road facilities. Nationally, the Department for Transport has been working with interested groups to conduct a review of The Highway Code focused on improving safety for horse-riders and the results are set to be published shortly. I hope they will provide reassurance to horse-riders and look to improve safety.
I have also been out and about with the team at InvestSK, which is the part of SKDC responsible for distributing Government financial support through the crisis. I learned that they oversaw £51m in support to over 3,000 local business and so it was a good opportunity to thank them for their hard work. We also took a walk around town to discuss where the recently confirmed £5.56m awarded to Grantham through the Future High Streets Fund will be spent.
I was delighted to see for myself the transformational impact the funding will have on the approach into the town centre from the train station and I look forward to seeing the plans become reality in the months and years ahead.
Young people have been hit particularly hard by the crisis and so a key focus is now on boosting more employment opportunities for the young. This week the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, therefore announced that employers of any size can now apply for extra funding to help them take on new apprentices. The boost to the apprenticeship incentive scheme means that local businesses can now claim £3000 for each new apprentice hired as a new employee from 1 April until 30 September. I hope our local businesses will take up this new scheme and help expand opportunities for jobs in the town.