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‘Let’s hope for a better 2021’

 
Created on 07/01/2021 @ 11:32
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While Powys education chiefs updated their message that schools will not be fully reopening “until further notice”, their boss has said that she expects them to be back in business “later this month”.

Earlier this week, conflicting messaging from Powys and Welsh education authorities confused parents and teachers who now seem resigned to providing home learning up to February half term.

But, in her New Year message, Councillor Rosemarie Harris, Leader of PCC, said that “our schools will not open normally until later this month”.

The changing nature of the pandemic makes it seemingly impossible to commit to any dates, but Cllr Harris’s comment underlines the county council’s wish to open schools up fully as soon as it is safe to do so.

The full address from Cllr Harris:

“A Happy New Year to all our residents. Let’s hope 2021 is better than last year and that we can soon get back to something closer to normal.

Last year was one of the most difficult I have known in local Government, the severe storms early in the year quickly followed by Covid-19 have had an impact on everyone’s lives. I doubt if there is a family in Powys that has not been touched by the pandemic either by illness or economic impact.

The situation across the country is very serious with dramatic increases in infection levels and a new variant which is causing great concern. Our health and social care services are under greater pressure than ever and we must do all that we can to prevent the spread of the disease.

Every part of the UK is under tight restrictions, residents are being told to stay at home, our schools will not open normally until later this month with education being delivered through online learning, non-essential retail and hospitality are again closed.

It is as important today as it was last March to stay at home, to stay safe, save lives and to protect the NHS.

There is some room for optimism, the country now has two vaccines, and a mass vaccination programme is already underway, but it will take time. The logistics of inoculating the country are very challenging and have to be carried out under the severest of pressures.

The most vulnerable, the elderly and those at risk from serious illness, will be a priority for vaccination. We know it will take time for the programme to reach wider communities, so we have to be patient and remain vigilant to prevent the spread of this dreadful disease.

January sees us look to the coming financial year and consider options for our budget. The county council received its provisional budget from Welsh Government just before Christmas. The announcement is crucial as the funding makes up more than 70% of our finance.

This year the County Council is set to receive an additional 4% in external funding next year which is a positive settlement and better than we expected. The additional funding will go some way to recognise the significant financial pressures we face, but we will still need to reduce our spending in some areas to deliver a balanced budget.

The increase in funding is welcomed and we thank the Welsh Government for the support but increasing demand and costs means there is still a great deal of work to be done and our transformation plans must continue at pace.

We continue to face a significant challenge in balancing our financial position over the coming years, there will be difficult choices to make, as the Council prioritises its resources to ensure it has a resilient and sustainable financial plan for the future.

The whole country is facing a difficult period, but I am confident that by working together we will get through it and be more resilient as a result. Stay safe.”

 

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