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Policy and Intelligence Newsletter - 2 February, 2021

The articles below have been drawn together by the policy and analytical community within the Council. Information is correct at the time of writing, 10am on 1 February.

Covid-19

  • As of 31 January, a total of 12,408 people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have tested positive for Covid-19. A total of 323 people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have sadly died within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19. (Please note that fatality statistics are provided by Public Health England, and differ from those generated by the Office for National Statistics, which record all instances of Covid-19 being listed on the death certificate, even if there is no positive test result.)  
  • The number of deaths recorded as associated with Covid-19 in the UK has now exceeded 100,000. 
  • The most recent Government Statistics on NHS Test and Trace (14 - 21 January) show that the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 decreased by 17% compared to the previous week. However, in the most recent week, twice as many people tested positive compared to the start of December. Turnaround times for in-person swab tests under Pillar 2 (for the general population) have substantially improved in comparison to the previous week, and are shorter than they were at the beginning of December. 71% of in-person test results were received the following day, compared to 54% in the previous week. 7% of the close contacts of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 were not reached by NHS contact tracers, the same as the previous week. 
  • New measures relating to international travel have been announced, with anyone wishing to travel out of the UK having to declare a valid reason for doing so. Reasons will be checked, and travelers may be sent home and fined if invalid reasons are given. A review of travel exemptions is currently underway. People arriving in the UK from countries subject to the travel ban, who have a right to enter the country (such as citizens or permanent residents), will have to quarantine in “isolation hotels” for 10 days. Travel corridors are currently temporarily closed and anyone coming to the UK must have had a negative Covid-19 test in the previous 72 hours. 
  • UK trials of a new Covid-19 vaccine, from US company Novavax, have shown 89% efficacy. The UK has bought 60m doses, to be manufactured in Teesside. MHRA approval will now be sought.

Devolution

  • On February 2, the Leader of Cornwall Council, Cllr Julian German, will give evidence to the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee as part of their inquiry into The Evolution of Devolution: English Devolution. A transcript of the evidence session will be published subsequently. 
  • West Yorkshire’s £1 billion devolution deal has now been signed into law. A mayor and Mayoral Combined Authority will be created, overseeing new powers relating to transport, housing, regeneration and adult education. 

Economy

  • The University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute is hosting an online event titled "Banking on a Just Transition: Why Small is Beautiful and Money is Mutual". The CEO of South West Mutual, Tony Greenham, will ask what kind of bank is best suited to facilitate a socially just transition to a net zero society. Discussion points will include why money is a social relationship, not a commodity, and why smaller banks can serve the parts of the economy that big banks cannot reach. South West Mutual is seeking to establish the region’s first purpose-led mutual bank. Thursday 4 February 1 - 2 pm, registration is free. 
  • The unemployment rate during September - November 2020 was 5%, 1.2 percentage points higher than a year earlier and 0.6 percentage points higher than the previous quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics. In the three months to November 2020, the redundancy rate reached 14.2 per thousand, a record high. 
  • Provisional Job Retention Scheme figures for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly show that 33,300 employments were furloughed as of 31 December, representing 15% of eligible employments. This is proportionally higher than in the UK as a whole, where just over 3.8 million employments were furloughed as of 31 December, representing 13% of eligible employments. 
  • Provisional Self-Employment Income Support Scheme figures for Cornwall show that 20,500 claims were made up to 31 December, representing a 51% take-up rate. This is proportionally lower than in the UK as a whole, where just over 1.9 million claims were made, comprising a total take-up rate of 57% of the eligible population. 
  • HM Revenue and Customs figures on the Eat Out to Help Out scheme for Cornwall show that 863 restaurants made claims for a total of nearly 1.9 million meals. This is the second-highest total number of meals claimed by a Local Authority area in the UK, behind Birmingham. Cornish restaurants claimed just under £10.7 million, an average of £12,300 per outlet. The average discount per meal was £5.66. These figures only apply to businesses with 25 or fewer participating outlets nationally, which served 107 million meals of the 162 million meals claimed by restaurant chains of all sizes
  • A call has been issued for projects providing research and innovation support in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. £3 million of funding, with a minimum value of £500,000, is available from the European Regional Development Fund. The deadline for outline applications is 8 February 2021. 

Education

  • The Prime Minister has announced that the Government hopes to begin allowing in-person teaching from 8 March. Current arrangements for free school meals will be extended for eligible pupils until they are able to return to classrooms. £300 million of new funding will be provided to schools to help with tutoring, with the Government planning to develop a summer schools programme. 

Environment

  • Key findings from the State of Nature: Cornwall 2020 report have been released, ahead of the full report’s launch in early spring: they show that much of our local wildlife is in decline. The report, resulting from a collaboration between Cornwall Council’s Environmental Growth Team, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the University of Exeter, is based on huge volumes of local species and habitat data collected largely by volunteer ‘citizen scientists. Nearly half of terrestrial mammals are found in fewer places in Cornwall than in 1980 and nearly half of our breeding birds are in decline. Whilst the report paints a generally gloomy picture, it does include some good news, detailing where concentrated conservation efforts have brought species back from the brink of local extinction. These findings are key to Cornwall’s Local Nature Recovery pilot, one of only five national pilots testing a new approach for nature, as set out in the Environment Bill. You can have your say on what is needed for nature’s recovery by completing the Nature Recovery Plan survey before 14 February 2021

Equality and diversity

  • Citizens Advice has warned that one in six households are finding it hard to afford broadband during UK lockdowns, effectively shutting people out of access to online services such as applications for support. The organisation is calling on the Government to force broadband providers to offer affordable tariffs: currently, just 3 out of the 13 biggest providers offer affordable tariffs for people on low-income benefits. 

Housing

  • The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, has announced plans for local communities to be given the authority to set design standards for every new development. Builders and developers will be required to ensure properties are in keeping with the character of the surrounding area, and planning applications which do not meet these criteria can be automatically rejected. A new Office for Place will support the implementation of a national design code, to be followed by councils when considering planning proposals.

Consultations and campaigns

  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is calling for evidence on how the exemptions from the requirement for an electricity licence currently operate, and whether changes to the regime are needed to reflect Government aims and objectives. Deadline 01 March 2021. 
  • The Family Procedure Rule Committee is seeking views on proposed amendments to Part 6 (Service) and new rules in Part 7 (Procedure for Applications in Matrimonial and Civil Partnership Proceedings) of the Family Procedure Rules 2010. Deadline 02 March 2021
  • HM Treasury is seeking stakeholder views on the Government’s assessment of the VAT challenges created by the Sharing Economy, where businesses and individuals connect with customers directly through digital platforms. Deadline 03 March 2021. 
  • The Department for Education is seeking views on proposed changes to the statutory guidance on Keeping Children Safe In Education with a view to making changes for September 2021. Deadline 04 March 2021. 
  • HM Revenue and Customs is seeking opinions on the potential design of the Making Tax Digital system for incorporated businesses and other organisations within the charge to Corporation Tax. Deadline 05 March 2021. 
  • The Cabinet Office Disability Unit is seeking the views and experiences of people with disabilities, as well as carers and parents, or anyone with an interest in disability issues. Opinions will feed into the development of a new National Strategy for Disabled People, planned to be launched in Spring 2021. If you are unable to complete the survey yourself or need alternative formats, information to support this is available. Deadline 23 April 2021
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