I am sure I was not the only one shocked and appalled at the scenes from Washington as legislators were confirming the result of November’s Presidential election. The actions of rioters seeking to disrupt the democratic process in the US are disgraceful and utterly indefensible.
America has a very proud reputation as a beacon of democracy across the world, and Wednesday’s events were an absolute low moment for American history. Trump has failed repeatedly to accept defeat gracefully and assist with the peaceful transition of power – a stark contrast to the way the Obamas behaved when Trump became President Elect.
There will always be political differences, and sometimes an election will not have the outcome you want – and in that case it is vital that we accept and honour the democratic will of the people with dignity. Our democratic processes need to operate a balance between robust & constructive debate, and peace, especially during times of change and transition. We all have a duty to ensure this.
It is also important to realise that words matter, especially if you are in a position of power or prominence. Just as much as words can inspire hope and understanding, they can also incite hatred & violence. We must be conscious of the rhetoric we use, and ensure we are working to unite rather than divide. This must be a priority for every single person in 2021 – whilst we may disagree strongly on issues, we are all equal who deserve to be addressed with respect.
As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, in November the Government set out its economic package to support businesses over the Winter, including monthly grants for closed businesses worth up to £3000 per month, extending the furlough scheme and support for the self-employed until April. The furlough scheme alone has helped protect 12 million jobs.
However, given the further national restrictions announced by the Prime Minister this week to prevent further spread of the virus, the Government has announced it will provide additional support to the most affected businesses, worth £4.6 billion across the UK.
Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses forced to close can claim a one-off grant of up to £9,000, depending on rateable value. This one-off grant is in addition to the existing monthly closed grants of up to £3,000 per month that businesses continue to be eligible for. These grants are worth over £1 billion in total per month.
Local authorities, including Swindon Borough Council have been given a further £500 million for discretionary grants to provide support to local business. Cllr David Renard has confirmed details of how to apply for this which will be published in the coming days on swindon.gov.uk. I know how vital the previous £1.1bn of discretionary funding has been to local businesses across the country.
I hope that each of us can do our bit to continue supporting local businesses where possible as I know many have adapted so well to the circumstances from local pubs offering takeaways to independent shops doing click and collect.
Finally I want to thank all of those who continue to go to work in order to keep society going – from supermarket workers to nursery staff – without them we would all be really stuck and we owe you a huge debt of gratitude.