On Monday 22nd February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed the Government's four-stage plan to ease lockdown restrictions in England. The roadmap includes the re-opening of schools on 8th March; allowing six people to meet outdoors on 29th March; the reopening of non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality services from 12th April; allowing indoor gatherings and hospitality from 17th May; and the end to all legal limits on social contact being lifted from 21st June. Each stage will only proceed if four conditions are met, including the successful deployment of the vaccine programme, and the potential risk of new COVID-19 variants.
The Government has also launched a consultation on proposals for unitary local Government submitted by councils in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset. On Tuesday 23rd February. Labour leader Keir Starmer gave a speech at the National Farmers' Union where he announced that Shadow Environment Secretary Luke Pollard MP would be leading a review of Labour’s rural policy in the coming months, calling for the NFU to be part of the review. Environment Secretary George Eustice MP also delivered a speech at the conference in which he further set out his approach for future agriculture policy.
On Wednesday 24th February, COP26 President Alok Sharma MP tabled a debate around the Government’s plans to build back better from COVID-19, noting the Prime Minister’s 10-point green industrial revolution plan. Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay MP announced that communities will now benefit from at least £800 million investment by the Government for town centre and high street regeneration, local transport, cultural and heritage projects as part of the Levelling Up Fund.
On Thursday 25th February, the Government published new research from the joint flood and coastal erosion risk management research and development programme, aimed at understanding what causes ‘coastal squeeze’. The Department for Transport announced the introduction of E10 fuel, an eco-friendly blend of petrol and ethanol that could cut transport CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year, to be available by September 2021.
On Friday 26th February, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock MP (Con) announced that 19 million people in the UK have had a COVID-19 vaccine, 35% of all adults. He added that, this week, 10 more vaccination centres will be set up. Asked whether local lockdowns could return seeing as there is regional differences in infection rates, Hancock stated that the goal is to come out of lockdown ‘all together’, although he cited that the fact that one in five local authorities have seen cases rise in the last week means collective action is required to keep cases down.
The Government has challenged the rail industry to pioneer new ways of working that will halve the time and reduce the cost of delivering critical infrastructure projects. The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has realigned its Innovation Partner network to reflect the widely recognised economic regions of the United Kingdom used across Government and the private sector.
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