The first gateway on the roadmap to recovery opened this week with all pupils now back at school. My thanks to the teachers and support staff whose hard work has facilitated the process. This, of course, has only been possible thanks to our collective effort to reduce transmissions and the success of the vaccine programme with both Saxmundham and Felixstowe East in the top three areas nationwide for percentage of adults vaccinated. I’ve also been lobbying the Vaccines Minister for more doses of AstraZeneca as unlike Pfizer it doesn’t have to be stored at such low temperatures and you can split the vials. I’m glad that’s starting to filter through with another bumper delivery scheduled within the next week. My continued thanks to all doctors, nurses, surgery staff and volunteers for organising the outstanding effort here in Suffolk.
From the Jabs Army to the Jobs Army – and although it’s been a week since the Chancellor’s Budget announcement, I’m still on cloud nine about the go-ahead for Freeport East. The Ports of Felixstowe and Harwich are already important to the local economy but by removing tax barriers and enabling more flexible trade, over 13,000 new jobs will be created. Many of which will also be highly skilled because of the focus on green energy. My thanks go to Hutchison Ports and their partners for putting together such an impressive bid. As Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, I was also delighted with many of the other measures announced in the Budget to protect jobs and people’s livelihoods such as the extension to furlough and the self-employment scheme, new cash bonuses to encourage apprenticeships and tax boosts for greater business investment. My department has also extended the temporary uplift in Universal Credit for another six months, helping those on low incomes.
Finally, I continue to engage in the Planning Inquiry determining Scottish Power Renewables’ application for huge substations at Friston and the associated cabling corridor from Thorpeness. If approved, the proposal would have a devastating impact on the local area including elements of the AONB. In light of the recent High Court ruling quashing permission for the Vanguard offshore wind farm in Norfolk because the cumulative impact wasn’t properly considered, I suggested to the inspectorate that a split decision should be recommended. Approving the offshore works as not to unduly delay the wind farm project but with a clear signal that instead of the current spaghetti like cabling that we could end up with in East Suffolk, holding off on an onshore decision until a coordinated proposal is put forward that complies with emerging government policy.